A 1904 Wilson-Pilcher, an important British four-seat veteran, built by an inventor credited with co-developing the first military tank, nicknamed Little Willie, a descendent of which saw action in World War I, will go under the hammer at Bonhams’ sale of veteran cars on November 2nd, ahead of this year’s London to Brighton Run, which takes place two days later. This extremely rare car, that is considered to be the sole surviving example and it has never been sold, has an estimate of between £180,000 and £220,000 ($290,000-$350,000).
This 12/16hp car was built by Walter Wilson (1874 – 1957), a mechanical engineer, inventor and member of the British Royal Naval Air Service, and is believed to have remained at his factory as a fire tender. Factory apprentices restored the car in the ’40s and later gave it to the founder’s son, and was then handed down through the family to its present owner. Records show that it was run in the London-Brighton Run in 1952.
The car had a 2.7 litre water-cooled flat four engine mated to an epicyclic gearbox with four forward and four reverse gears. The combined unit is suspended within the chassis on pivots to isolate the occupants from vibration and the rear axle similarly dealt with by radius rods. The result according to a 1904 ‘Automotor Journal’ road test was “remarkably smooth and silent running”. It has been displayed in a number of significant museums including The Tank Museum in Dorset and what is now the Coventry Transport Museum, and more recently cared for by the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.
Tim Schofield, director of Bonhams’ UK Motor Car department, said: “This rare car, one of the earliest successes of one of the most important engineers and inventors this country has ever seen, is a fantastic addition to our annual veteran car sale. We are expecting around 15 London to Brighton-eligible cars for the sale, some of which are offered with entry to this year’s Run – so collectors can buy on the Friday and take part in the event on the Sunday.