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Rare Leicester-built vintage car returns to city

Published on Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A VERY rare vintage car which is one of only a handful ever made in Leicester has returned to the city.

The Clyde car, which was manufactured in 1908 at a workshop in Belgrave Gate, is the oldest of one of only three surviving examples known to exist.

Now it is due to take pride of place at Leicester’s Abbey Pumping Station after its last owner contacted the city council’s museums service to ensure the car was returned to its home city. 

The vintage car was made by Leicester engineering firm G H Wait, which also made bicycles and motorbikes, and marketed under the name of Clyde. It is thought only about 250 were ever made between 1901 and 1930.

Its original owner was a local doctor who bought the car for £245, and then sold it back to the company’s founder George Wait two years later as a part of a trade in for an updated model.

The firm kept the Clyde car, by now dubbed ‘The Old Grey Mare,’ as a promotional item and company car, appearing across the city in various gala events and festivals up to the 1940s.

The business moved from Belgrave Gate to Queen Street, and had offices in London Road.

The Clyde car was eventually sold by Mr Wait’s daughter to a private collector in the 1960s, and taken to South Wales, where it remained until its owner offered it back to Leicester’s museums.

The car cost £25,000 to purchase with the bulk of the money coming from the Arts Council England’s PRISM fund, which helps the preservation of industrial and scientific materials.

The remaining cost was met by the Leicester Museum of Technology Association, the City of Leicester Museums Trust and Friends of Leicester and Leicestershire Museums.

The Clyde car is now being fully cleaned and will need to undergo some maintenance, with the possibility that it could run again briefly on special occasions. Records show the car was renovated between 1964 and 1966, including new paintwork and upholstery, but all the major components are original, with a Veteran Car Club certificate to confirm its authenticity. 

The car features an unusual three-cylinder engine made by White and Poppe of Coventry, which is extremely rare to find in working order.

It is likely to be on show for its first public appearance at Abbey Pumping Station’s Christmas Steam Day event on Sunday, December 4.

It will later be displayed in a dedicated gallery space at Abbey Pumping Station, where it is expected to go on show from February 2017. 

The display will focus on the Clyde car’s importance both technically and in terms of the social changes that the motor car brought to Leicester.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is a fantastic part of the city’s industrial heritage, as well as being an extremely rare vehicle in its own right. 

“G H Wait is one of a number of firms listed as being in the motor engineering trade in Leicester in the early 20th century, but no other Leicester firm is known to have actually produced a complete motor car for sale - certainly no other examples survive.

“We are incredibly grateful to the car’s previous private owner to make this available to us, and the organisations which funded this unique purchase, so that ‘The Old Grey Mare’ can continue to be part of the story of the city’s industrial and manufacturing past.”