Ex-Ivy Cummings & one of just two examples designed and produced in Italy to contest the
Brooklands 200 Mile Races,
1923 Newton 1,100cc Four-Cylinder DOHC Competition Two Seater
Chassis No. A 3001
Registration No. YM 71
Presented for sale here is a highly original and incredibly rare Anglo-Italian racing car. Funded by a British family, yet both designed and constructed in Italy, the Newton was built with the intention of contesting the 200 Mile Races at Brooklands in 1923 and 1924.
In 1922, Manchester businessman John Newton, of Newton-Bennett Shock Absorbers and a director at Ceirano, (Formerly S.C.A.T.) sent his son Noel to Italy in order to design a light car to compete with the then new, popular and commercially successful Austin Seven. The not inconsiderable sum of £6,000.00 was set aside for the project and the task of designing the car handed to Olivio Pellegatti and his team of engineers based in Milan.
Whether it was Noel Newton who got carried away with his father’s cheque book or he was influenced by Pellegatti is unknown, but somewhere along the line the decision was made to create two voiturette racing cars to contest the 1923 JCC Brooklands 200 Mile Races. In essence, the idea of competing against the likes of Austin, Alvis, Wolseley and other light car producers was not a bad one, save for the fact that they would be competing against companies showcasing examples of their existing products, albeit highly modified, rather than a totally new design – slightly the egg and chicken situation. Whilst the end product was clearly not a commercially viable option, the design of the Newton racing cars was utterly beautiful. The engine was a twin-overhead camshaft four-cylinder unit of 1,100cc with no less than five oil pumps feeding all areas of the complex engine. The power was estimated at circa 70bhp and this unit was mated to a four speed centrally mounted gearbox driving the rear wheels. The chassis was a light-gauge design with a lightened front axle featuring front wheel brakes operated by a chain and cog system from the driver’s foot pedal. The streamlined body was also beautiful and the long tail section reminiscent of the Grand Prix FIATs, Alfa Romeos and Sunbeams of the time.
Photographs, on file, show the hastily finished cars outside the Pellegatti works with Pellegatti and Noel Newton in the cars while Newton senior looks on with a thunderous expression on his face. It is possible that Newton senior pulled the financial plug there and then, but for whatever reason, neither car made the 1923 installment of the 200 Miles Race. One car did make it to Brooklands for the 1924 200 Mile Race but did not run. A tragically ignominious career for two beautifully designed motorcars that could have achieved so much – as proved by numerous historic competition events today where the Newton will regularly better well-known machinery such as the Bugatti Type 37s.
It is thought that just three Newton cars were produced, the two racing cars and a saloon which was displayed alongside one of the racing cars on the Olympia Motor Show stand in 1923. A brochure was made for the cars, denoting them as “The Newton 10hp” and gratifyingly there is a copy of one such brochure in the extensive history file offered with the car. It is likely that this car is the one that made it to Brooklands in 1924 as it was subsequently sold to Sydney Cummings, presumably for his famous daughter Ivy to race at Brooklands, although no records of Ivy Cummings racing the Newton can be found. The Newton was registered YM 71 in Ivy Cummings name in 1926 and the original log-book with her name on it is also offered with the car. The log-book shows that the Newton was painted blue by that stage, although the original colour was red. Having given up on the project, John Newton had instead become the main importer for Ceirano motorcars which were badged as the Newton-Ceirano. Presumably to make the Newton more recognizable it was registered as a Newton-Ceirano, although there was no real connection with the Ceirano factory save that the Newton had been designed and built in Italy with John Newton’s backing.
In 1927 the Newton passed to Arthur Cecil Wells who promptly part exchanged the car with S.H. “Sammy” Newsome for a new Riley. It is unlikely that Newsome ever drove the Newton as by March 1927 it was in the hands of Henry Longden-Ollier. Longden-Ollier did compete in the Newton at the Southport Beach races but without a great deal of success, presumably never managing to get the complex and under-developed engine to run properly without the aid of John Newton’s cheque book. Once again, it is sad that such a beautifully designed machine never had the opportunity to really show what is was capable of.
In an article entitled “It’s Marvellous – and it’s Mine!,” the well-known exponent of Ceirano motorcars in the UK, Nick Sloan, recounts how, in 1963, he came to hear about the Newton racing car through an advert he’d placed in Motorsport seeking any parts or information relating to Ceirano motorcars. Ogden-Ollier had gifted the Newton to his workshop manager and said workshop manager had subsequently sold the Newton to a family in the Manchester area. Sloan was offered the chance to go and see the 1,100cc racing car in a warehouse in Manchester. Photographs from that visit show that the Newton was remarkably complete and original. Whilst the car sat on deflated beaded edged tyres and a layer of aluminium oxide covered much of the body, the earlier blue paint was still visible and the original log-book gave some indication as to the history of the car. Undeterred by the condition and utterly transfixed by the beautiful design, Sloan agreed to purchase the Newton and thus brought it back, somewhat, into the public eye.
The Newton resided at Sloan’s premises in Middlesex, until it was purchased from him by another well-known VSCC man, Geoff Hare. During Geoff Hare’s ownership, the Newton was treated to a full and thorough restoration – a brave task to take on by anyone’s standards! He was assisted in this monumental task by Reg Nice. James Cole repaired the original body and made a new bonnet and under trays while Peter Gibson made a superb replica of the bulkhead mounted oil tank, complete with cooling tubes. Bill May was entrusted with rebuilding another original Newton engine which had been discovered by Julian Berrisford in the 1960s, and which, had been purchased from Julian Berrisford by Geoff Hare. It is thought that this engine possibly came from the motor show saloon. Bill May rebuilt the spare engine with a totally new, one piece crankshaft, and new engine internals. The original engine was set to one side and remains with the Newton and is included in the sale of the car.
The project was completed in the mid-1990s and Geoff Hare competed at numerous VSCC hillclimbs and sprints as well as other events. He continued the historical research that Nick Sloan had started and the car featured in Motorsport in January 1994 with a beautifully written article by Geoff Hare (copy on file.) The Newton was acquired around ten years ago by the current owner, a highly gifted and talented engineer. Following significant competition use by Geoff Hare, the current owner again rebuilt the engine, using the same crankshaft but replacing the connecting rods, pistons and valve gear. Another VSCC man he has lent the Newton to his son for numerous VSCC hillclimbs and sprints where it has continued to show its potential by regularly bettering Bugatti Type 37s, by some considerable margin.
The Newton really deserves to be seen in the flesh in order to fully appreciate its quality. Both the design and finish are Italian through and through and reminiscent of the Alfa Romeos of the period. Due to the style and rarity of the Newton it is regularly invited to participate in top-flight competitive speed events and was one of the cars selected for the inaugural Royal Concours held at Windsor Castle. Restored by Geoff Hare and supplied with two power units the Newton 200 Mile Racing Car, as it is known, offers the new owner the opportunity to enjoy a rare piece of motor racing history at a plethora of interesting events.