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Mike Branson
UV825 A 1936 Railton

Ever since I was a boy, I have had the “family” interest in cars – albeit that I had to wait a while before I could do anything more than look at old photos of my father’s cars that he had when he was younger back in Leeds prior to WWII.  My first car when I was around 15 was a 1936 Hillman Minx – a full rust bucket given to me by a schooltime girlfriend’s grandfather.  It kept me amused as I sought to strip it down and find out how things worked.  However, it was too far gone for any prospect of resurrection.  Eventually, my parents sold it – but I still kept the enameled radiator badge.

I currently own a small number of mostly British cars – the Railton almost being the exception.  My family are all very supportive of this interest, as much of family activities and large proportion of our friends have come about through our classic car interest.  The earliest of this group of cars started just over 15 years ago with an Austin Healey 3000.  It is a 2+2 model, as I have generally sought to have cars that although sporting, have been generally available to use with the family.  As my children are both in their teenage years now (Lucy is 13 and James is 17), it is the Railton that now proves to be the most comfortable in the rear – but the car that I use least (as I want to keep it in its current pristine condition and it is not really suitable for many activities that we undertake in this modern day and driving conditions).

As for the Railton, my wife, Jane, calls it “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” as she doesn’t quite “get it”. However, as we use it more often, she finds it comfortable and less engine noise than my other vehicles.

 The project started in 2000, and took around 7 years to finish and somewhere around 2000 hours. 

I am not sure what to do with it now, other than use it on suitable opportunities and care for it between times.  The undertaking of the project was a great exercise, although it was a challenging process as I was living overseas in Tokyo for most of the time, and then back in Sydney, whilst the car was down in Melbourne.

So what was UV 825?

My Railton (or what I know of it). I must confess that prior to hearing about UV 825, I knew little if anything about Railtons. I had been giving some general thought about undertaking a “pre-war” project, but typically Riley, Alvis and similar marques generally sprang to mind.  It was during one of these “hypothetical” discussions that David Lowe, a gentleman of extensive experience and knowledge about pre-war cars told me about a car that had been languishing in a shed for almost a decade.  He then explained to me the intrinsic benefits of Railtons over other contemporary English offerings – a very light chassis with a powerful straight 8 side valve engine.

 

 

The seed had been sown.  This was a project that now had legs.  We negotiated a price with the current owner, and within a few weeks the car was collected.  I shall leave the story of what has been happening since to a later date.  I am sure we all love surprises!!!  Cars recognised in the Railton Owners’ Club (“ROC”) have tended to be known by their original registration numbers.  Although UV 825 is a UK bodied car, it very early ownership history is unknown.  UV 825 dates from when the car was first known to be registered in Australia, probably around 1949 in Victoria.

UV 825 was a 1936 model “pillarless” coupe (Sports Saloon), built by Ranalah.  This model was first launched and displayed on the Ranalah stand at the 1936 Motor Show.  No production records for Ranalah survive, and it is not known whether more than one of these models was ever produced.  Early owners, and the ROC, consider UV825 to be that unique model shown.

The 1936 British Motor Show, held at Olympia in October 1936, is understood to have been the first of three British motor shows at which Ranalah exhibited, the others being the remaining pre-war shows at Earls Court in 1937 and 1938.  At the 1936 Show, Ranalah exhibited a six cylinder Terraplane vehicle (also known as a Special Sports Saloon) and two Railton vehicles – the Ranalah Continental Coupe, a 3 seater (drop head) coupe body with a double dickey seat, and the Ranalah Special Sports Saloon, believed to be UV 825.  Both Railton vehicles were priced at £730, a substantial premium over other Railton body styles.

 

The 1936 British Motor Show Guide had this to say about UV825:

Stand 28 – Ranalah Limited, Morden Road, Merton, London, S.W.19.

8-Cylinder RAILTON-HUDSON Ranalah Special Sports Saloon

Low built 4/5 seater Saloon Body by Exhibitors, having no side view obstruction from front pillar to rear of body; overall height of car 5 ft.; individual front seats with hinged backs. Full width rear seat with squab adjustable for rake and three armrests; all in ash frame work, with panels, shuts, side-valenced wings and bonnet in aluminium; flush sliding roof; built-in luggage accommodation with lid folding out for grid giving a supported platform of 4ft. 9in.; tools individually fitted into tray in lid; lid and boot floor French polished and fitted chromium-plated strips; boot fitted with automatic light with master switch; all safety glass, screen opened by mechanical winder, door glasses winder-operated and centrally pivoted; winder-operated no-draught ventilators in front; quarter lights sliding horizontally, winder-operated; veneered Walnut cabinet work with built-in cigar lighter; cushions specially shaped and formed from a combination of horizontal springs, pneumatic bags, and rubberised hair, giving exceptional comfort with low seating position; Vaumol hide upholstery and deep pile carpets; four wheel jacks, wheel discs, spare wheel cover, built-in rear number plate.  Price, complete as shown, £730.

 

As can be seen from the photos of UV 825 at the time of purchase (see left), many of its features may only be determined by extrapolation of early information or just straight reasoned guesswork.  Much has been lost through the ravages of time and weather, or removed and lost or disposed during the period UV 825 languished without care or attention.

Bodywork was made from aluminium over an ash-frame.  Pressed metal flooring appeared to have been retained from the Hudson production model.  A removable panel in the front passenger side floor allowed access to the battery hanging from the chassis rail.  The bodywork, once painted caramel and chocolate brown, was subsequently painted silver and then stripped for rebuilding.  Various sections of the fenders, when removed, revealed some of the original paintwork colour.  Under the bonnet, there was evidence of a number of modifications, replacements, etc undertaken over the years.  Changes included installation of twin coils, altered air filter arrangement, windscreen washer bottle (similar to Aston Martin), replacement voltage regulator and fuse-box, possible non-original wiper motor, non-original fuel pump, to name but a few.  The bumpers fitted to the car appear to be the factory optional “harmonic dampener’ bumpers.  The overriders are not an optional extra for standard Railton vehicles and are considered to be uncommon.  In fact, photographic records of UV 825 from previous owners suggest that the overriders were not originally on the car in the late 40’s to early 50’s.  They may have been fitted by a later owner or during the rebuilding process undertaken by Mills in the later 50’s and early 60’s.  Many Hudsons of the late 30’s, however, were fitted with overriders, some of a similar design to these.