The potential for punning badinage to accompany an image such as this is extensive. A comment from a salesman to the possible purchaser of a vehicle so equipped could be: “May I give you a tip sir;” followed by the rejoinder: “If you feel so inclined;” is but one example of a wander into the world of whimsy. However, putting this aside, and taking a more level-headed view of the matter, attention can be focussed on what it is that we actually see here.
The car is a Talbot probably from late 1905, either a 3-litre 16hp or possibly the larger 20hp of 3.7-litres, and on the side of the footboard riser it carries the CT logo, indicating that the maker was the London firm of Clement-Talbot, although somewhat confusingly it is the latter word that is prominent on the radiator badge. Whilst the builder of the landaulette body is not identifiable, there is information available about the mechanism for the lifting of it.
Motorcar owners had in some cases from the turn-of-the-century period used different bodies made to fit the same chassis – a tonneau or waggonette with some form of closed body as an alternative was not that unusual – the one not in use often being hung by ropes from the rafters of the coach-house. But body changing is not the situation in this case. On show is ‘Thomas’s Patent Elevator’, a body-raising system also known as ‘Thomas’s Spring Lifting Apparatus’, although made and supplied by Grice & Harrison, axle and carriage fittings manufacturers of Birmingham.
Fairly obviously the coachwork is hinged along the rear of the chassis and supported by the two telescopic steel tubes containing coil springs. So, once the retaining fastenings were released, as the advertising said: “a man can tilt the body with one hand”. Having achieved this, the fellow was then presumably in a position to carry out any necessary work on the car’s chassis.
All well and good, but there is nothing in the promotional wording that gives any indication of how it was possible for ‘a man’, once his work was done, to force the bodywork down again onto the chassis when the “strength of the springs is ample to keep it in the raised position”.
The ‘life’ of Mr Thomas’s elevator system was but brief.