Car Restoration Projects
The rare Clyno
In England during the ‘Roaring Twenties’, Clyno was a competitive rival to the giant Morris and Austin motorcar manufacturers, but poor marketing tactics, underfunding and the Great Depression sent the company into bankruptcy.
Historic vehicles’ Jim Gibson first saw a car with a ‘Clyno’ badge at a car show in 2018 on the NSW South Coast:
‘I thought I had a vast knowledge of cars and trucks from many eras and countries of origin, but, like many well-versed automobile ‘experts’ I had never heard the name ‘Clyno’, other than for an association with variable-pulley drives on old motorcycles.”
The owner of this fine 1926 example of motoring history, Mazza Grasa told Gibbo that Clyno was the third largest manufacturer of cars in England during the 1920s and Jim confessed to thinking: ‘Yeah sure, pull the other one’.
Upon giving the car a detailed visual inspection along with some tutorage from the owner, Jim started his own intensive investigation of the marque. This became an extensive journey, contacting people in England, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
The investigation confirmed what Mazza had claimed: Clyno was indeed the UK’s third largest manufacture of cars behind Morris and Austin during the mid-1920s.
The Clyno brand history is detailed in the accompanying Historic Vehicles website section – Car Brands.
So, how did Mazza find his Clyno?
He and his partner Maxine Aplin bought the Clyno from an advertisement on a website in 2017. Both of them are are lovers of older cars and Mazza had restored a number over the years, but never one almost 100-years-old.
Maxine was trawling the ‘cars for sale’ section on her computer, when she spotted the Clyno and said to Mazza: “This old car looks interesting and it would be a challenge to bring it back to life – what do you reckon?”
Mazza had never heard of the name, nor had he ever thought of restoring a wooden-frame car. He’d been a plant mechanic and always worked with things mechanical, but not wood.
However, the ‘dynamic duo’ took the plunge; dialled the owner’s contact number and headed out to St Marys in western Sydney to take a look.
A deal was done and, after trailering it home to the Shoalhaven region of NSW, they began to investigate the background story of this rare piece of automotive history.
While Maxine was busy Googling for info, Mazza had the toolbox open.
Step one was to get the engine running, in order to assess its condition. He found it was in good shape and the four-cylinder, side-valve, 10.8hp engine bores were found to be in good condition.
The carburettor and magneto were reconditioned and the car’s 12-volt electrical wiring needed refurbishing.
The four-wheel braking system required overhauling and the wheel bearings were replaced.
Mazza wanted to repaint it in its original paint colour, which he found was Rolls Royce red and found a perfect match, called Bandford Claret.
Mazza then had local old-school painter and panel beater, Julian Caruana, flow the acrylic mix to a gleaming finish, which highlighted the Clyno’s radiator cowl and associated brassware.
“The springs needed attention,” Mazza told Jim Gibson. “With some height adjustment required on one corner.
“The woodwork was in good nick, but, again, some realignment was required.
“It was obvious that two different workers had assembled each side, because of the different quality in the left and right sides’ fit and finish.”
During the restoration, Maxine and Mazza teamed up on some of the finer points and there isn’t any doubt that their attention to authenticity and detail is a joy to behold.
The couple took the Clyno to the 2019 National Motoring Heritage Day, which is run by the Shoalhaven Historic Vehicle Club, held annually at the Berry showground each May.
To their amazement ,the Clyno received a Merit Award for Outstanding Presentation in the ‘A Salute to European Vehicles’ category.
As a result of this first Clyno resto effort, the couple have become keen Clyno groupies, adding two more complete cars – one ute and a 1928 roadster – to their collection.
But wait; there’s more.
They have also picked up a rolling chassis with part-bodywork, to make their Clyno hoard three and a half vehicles, possibly making them the only Clyno fleet owners in Australia.
1927 Clyno in the National Museum
We’ve covered the sad Clyno history in great detail in ‘Car Brands’, but a brief precis is in order here.
With a background in innovation in the fledgling motorcycle industry in the early 1900s, two UK Smith family cousins saw a future in the growth of the car manufacturing business.
“Price level as low as any car of like rating in the world and a value vastly higher.” That was the proud boast of the Clyno Engineering (1922) Company, whose meteoric rise and fall in the 1920s was one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the British motor industry.
Taking on the might of established British manufacturers, Austin and Morris, at their own game, Clyno attempted to build a better-quality, value-for-money car for the masses; somewhat Henry Ford-esque.
With a volume of 12,000 built in 1926 Clyno soon became the third-largest car manufacturer in England during the ‘Roaring Twenties’. The company achieved a great deal during its seven short years of production, with more than 45,000 cars produced and exports to several countries, including Australia.
However, the family company was under-financed and over-committed, so by the time the effects of the ‘Great Depression’ hit in 1929, Clyno was insolvent, and the end was nigh.
Jim Gibson summed up the situation:
“Clyno was a valiant effort with British Bulldog spirit and determination, by a family who fought to establish an automotive manufacturing company during the Roaring Twenties – culminating when Flapper-music was silenced by The Great Depression.”