The streets of London
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TOPIC: The streets of London

The streets of London 3 years, 5 months ago #1

Platinum Boarder
A 1969 song by Ralph McTell, but this is not about a song, this is about a book, the (huge) book is called: Street Muses of London. Announced a year ago, I have it in my possession since last week Monday.

To me this is the most interesting book on cars I have ever read. It starts with a saying: When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

A certain Mr. Crump walked the streets of Central London from 1955 up to 1989 with his semi professional Kodak and Leica cameras and made a picture of every Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcar he saw. Having taken the photo, he put the details in a small notebook and went further on his way. When the photos were printed he wrote the details on the back of the pic: date, location, type of RR or Bentley, the camera, the type of film, the lens and exposure.

Next he put the photos in a shoe box. Through the years it grew into a collection of over 1000 items. When Mr. Crump died, the boxes were taken over by a friend of his relatives, not knowing what kind of treasure they were sitting on.

In the end it was decided to sell them through Ebay in batches of 4 each.

During a period of 4 years, the author of this book, Davide Bassoli, won about 80% of the biddings, but a lot of pictures escaped from under this grasp. Next he started to hunt down the buyers of the other photos and he managed to get into contact with all of them. They all co-operated with the production of this book.

Now who was Mr. Crump was the following question. The seller of the pictures only knew one thing: Crump. Finally they found a picture among the huge pile, showing the backyard of a house where a RR 20/25 was parked. On the back of the photo was written: Graham's first 20/25. That 20/25 was recognised as being sold by a certain RR dealer which was contacted and from their files the name of Graham Crump emerged with full address particulars. Now we have proper identification.

There is only one vague picture of the man himself when he is taking a picture of a Bentley in the RR showroom of Conduit Street. He is reflected in the window, by accident I guess.

Many, many years of cataloguing and identifying of cars followed; about 95% succesful.

What is so special about this book? Well unknown to Mr. Crump at that time, cars were photographed which are now as rare as hen's teeth. Some cars were lost for years, and now they are identified. He made pictures of cars with famous people from all over the world, kings, queens, pop stars, politicians etc. etc. Some of the photos are priceless collectors items. Some cars shown are the only one made, some are the first one delivered and so on and so forth.

But it is also a window looking back in time. Not only RR's and Bentley's are shown, other contemporary cars of any brand you can name are parked next or accross the street. London taxi's, Routemaster busses passing by, all of them.

You also see how life, culture and fashion changes. Men wearing double breasted jackets, woman with spun sugar hair. The first mini skirts, Swinging London, Carnaby Street. Psychadelic flower power. And from a certain year almost every picture shows an Austin or Morris Mini, a Ford Cortina or a Ford Transit. Also amazing how many pre war cars (a.o. Silver Ghosts) were used on a daily basis and stood there parked in the streets. Now they are worth huge sums of money. People changed, buildings changed, sites and parks changed. Black and white became colored. Priceless. Social cultural history at its best. This book never ends. Even if you don't like cars it is still interesting.

I have chosen 3 pictures of the 900 pictures of this book which are very interesting/valuable.

One is a picture of a Rolls Royce Phantom V, reg # FJB111C, owned by John Winston Lennon, driving out of the underground parking facility of Harrod's, chauffeur Les Antony at the wheel. In those days the Fab 4 had Harrods all to their own between 05:00 and 07:00 pm, after the "ordinary" people were chucked out of the store. This picture shows George Harrison and Paul McCarthey sitting in the back, side view obscured by purdah;  but very much visible from the front. The Phantom was all black then, including the bumpers/overriders and hubcaps.

Later on this car was repainted as a gypsy caravan with all kinds of painted psychadelic objects. This is what made the car most famous. There is a picture of that car in the book also, and most funny is that Mr. Crump heard an elderly lady shouting at John Lennon, sitting in the car: YOU SWINE, HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO A ROLLS ROYCE, HOW DARE YOU!  Mr. Crump wrote it all down.

Finally there is a picture of a Bentley MK V, of which very few (5 or 6) were made as WWII put an end to the production. The very car shown is the Bentley which was given by Rolls Royce to the owner of the most famous (the real priceless) Silver Ghost plus a cheque of an unknown sum of money in 1948. And with that, RR bought that hyper historic 1907 Ghost back. That MK V was never found on any picture before, so now we are full circle. A horrible car, according to the new owner. Knowing what that Silver Ghost is worth now ( xxxx millions?) He might have some regrets..............

Last Edit: 3 years, 5 months ago by Ecclesley.
The following user(s) said Thank You: RoutemasterNL, CollectorandrestorerMark

Re: The streets of London 3 years, 5 months ago #2

What a great book and thank you for the stories. Fascinating!

Re: The streets of London 3 years, 4 months ago #3

Platinum Boarder
Yes indeed, I enjoyed reading your post Ecclesey!

Re: The streets of London 3 years, 4 months ago #4

Platinum Boarder
A fascinating book, and like you say, it shows so much more than "just" the cars - it's a piece of history, showing the changes in fashion and scenery through the years.

But of course, the cars are the real stars, and because each of them is identified, it becomes extra special.

I'm working on something vaguely similar: I've been photographing buses, trucks, taxis, emergency vehicles and utility vehicles since 2012 (well over 15.000 photos so far) and enter every one of them into a huge MS Access database with all relevant data (xtracted from the danish motor registry). This makes it possible to get all kinds of information about vehicles found on the danish roads through the years.

In my view, the identification of the 'Rollers' in your book, as well as the cars/buses on my photos adds an extra dimension.

Re: The streets of London 3 years, 4 months ago #5

Platinum Boarder
This book reminds me of a similar one about the streets of Paris, 1953.  This American student took photos of every 'strange' car he saw!  

280+ pages of B&W photos on one side, text on the other...  "Classics on the Street", 1998, Robert Straub
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