We are taking a big risk with our identification of the car in this Snapshot from just before the Second World War. It is literally a snapshot: pasted into a handwritten history of Rover Scouts in Wombwell, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. This picture was taken around March 1939, and shows the proud members of the Wombwell Auxiliary Fire Service, of whom 10 members were from the Rover Scouts.
The caption to the picture, dated June 23rd 1939, tells us that: “Of the ten Rovers who joined Wombwell A.F.S. in March 1939, only four are still active members: four have been called up.” The history goes on to tell of the long hours put in by all members of the team after war broke out on September 3rd 1939 – mostly on night duty.
No mention is made of the car in the picture, clearly commandeered to tow the fire pump. At first, we thought that it might be a Humber: the bonnet louvres are very similar. But everything else was not quite right – from the painted radiator shell to the quarter-lights to the straight bottom edge of the front wing.
We therefore tried one of the wonderful series of American reference books published by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide – in this case “Cars of the Classic ‘30s – A Decade of Elegant Design.” And there it was. A 1933 Buick. Almost certainly a Series 50 (119-inch wheelbase) Model 57 Sedan. The next step is pure speculation – but the car in our Snapshot appears to be right-hand-drive. So we suggest that it is a McLaughlin Buick.
Robert McLaughlin started up the McLaughlin Carriage Company in a blacksmith’s shop in Enniskillen in Canada, in 1869. The company made many thousands of carriages, and in 1907 began the manufacture of automobiles, using parts, including engines, from the Buick plant in Flint, Michigan. McLaughlin had a healthy business exporting right-hand-drive McLaughlin Buicks to the Antipodes, Africa and Britain – trading on Canada’s status as a member of the British Empire. Popularity in Britain was further enhanced by a very famous owner of these cars during the 1930s: King Edward VIII.