A BARN FIND STORY
Every lover of historic cars dreams of a Barn Find, that sadly today are getting more and more difficult to discover.
This is a barn find story that has remained with the finder all his life.
In the sixties a youthful David Arrigo had developed a passionate interest for old cars. It was a passion fuelled by, like many other young boys in their youth, through the collecting of Dinky Toys and later the construction of Airfix model kits of veteran and vintage motor cars. Although from Malta he had already possessed a couple of old cars in London and the idea of a so called ‘Barn Find’ on the island of Gozo whilst on holiday there in the summer of 1968, created the maximum appeal and interest.
Information of an old car languishing in an old and disused windmill came from a barber, giving this twenty-something year old a treat, by way of an old fashioned cut-throat razor shave in a village barber’s shop. Maybe it was a Bugatti? David Arrigo wasted no time in locating the windmill and was amazed by the sight that confronted him. This indeed was an ultimate ‘Barn Find’, though clearly no Bugatti. Although unrecognizable as to marque or model it was similar to the many cars that were familiar to the cars that David Arrigo had seen on the famous London to Brighton Veteran car Run, immortalised by the film ‘Genevieve’. The car was clearly from the early 1900s era. 1902-3-4 or maybe 1905 and had obviously lain there , unmolested for over half a century. Much of the leather of the three seats had deteriorated as had the rubber tyres. There was no steering wheel and no trace of any paint or colour. Thick dust and cobwebs covered the car which shared its stable with a horse and cart. Fortunately a camera was to hand, though only loaded with black and white film. Many photographs were taken. This was the only time that David Arrigo actually saw the car in its raw state. He returned, sometime later with colour film, but only managed to photograph the exterior of the windmill which was well and truly locked.
The excitement of this find spurned him on to chasing another lead, that was common knowledge, though only rumour, of another ancient veteran car that lay in an old palazzo on Malta. Nobody however, had seen the car for years or knew what it was. David Arrigo visited Casa Inguanez in Mdina asking about the car but was always told to return later, then again in a month or so. Then after Christmas, then after Easter and so on. The summer holidays ended and Arrigo returned to the UK, having also got nowhere with the Gozo car, leaving the task of finding out who owned it to David Arrigo’s father’s business partner.
Knowing little about veteran’s and in a way disappointed of the find not being a Bugatti, Arrigo placed an advertisement in the Exchange & Mart for a 1902 FIAT. The reaction was a phone call from Gianni Agnelli himself. The head of FIAT!
Armed with the ‘Barn Find’ black and white photographs David Arrigo, now back in London visited the headquarters of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, then situated in Fitzhardinge Street, off Portman Square in the West End. The club secretary Joan Daz was most helpful, although she did not recognize the car, said she would pass on the pictures to the club’s historian Dennis Field.
It was not long before he came back with the information, together with photocopied blueprint drawings, indicating that the car in question was an extremely rare 1904 Siddeley with a unique three-seat body.
In the meanwhile the owners of the windmill who were in Malta, were located and had no idea whatsoever that an old car languished on their property in Gozo. The family had inherited the windmill and outhouses from cousins, who had no issue. Naturally this opened a can of worms although in 1968 there was not the interest in Malta, or value, that there is in historic cars today.
In due course Arrigo received a telephone call from a certain Ted Woolley, a well known collector and restorer who had heard about the Siddeley from Dennis Field. He deduced that Arrigo did not actually own the car and had a pretty good inclination as to where the car might be.
This ‘Barn Find’ was just up Ted Woolley’s street offering him the sort of challenge he liked. As it so happens he had a friend, also a veteran car enthusiast, who had a holiday house on Gozo. It did not take too much effort to trace the car, then believed in Gozo to be a Wolseley.
In the meanwhile on another holiday to Malta over a year later, visiting the Palazzo once again, Arrigo was this time favourably received by Baroness Frances Chesney d’Amico Inquanez and her sister the Lady Norah. The two spinster sisters had satisfied themselves that Arrigo was a suitable candidate to purchase their old car in the garage, now identified as a Cadillac. They had known his grandfather and David Arrigo had been educated at the same school, as their late brother. A price was agreed over a glass of sherry in the Chinese Room of the sixty-eight roomed Palazzo and a date agreed for the removal of the car from Mdina.
At the time little heed was given to the Gozo Siddeley and it was difficult to make any progress in that direction anyway. There was a lot going on as David Arrigo had decided to return to Malta with two of the vintage cars he had in London. The Siddeley had been put onto a back burner in Arrigo’s mind until there was a picture in the L-orizzont newspaper on the 5th November 1970 of an old car being transported from Gozo to Malta in an open bray en route to the UK. There was an outcry and exportation was halted.
It later transpired that Woolley, through his acquaintance had acquired the Gozo car. They were offering far more money than Arrigo's agents had been indicating which is why they had made little progress.
In 1970 the Socialist’s came to power in Malta and the of beginning of political turmoil which was to last into the mid 1980s. Arrigo, inexperienced on such a mammoth task set about restoring the Mdina car the Cadillac, which transpired to be also 1904. It had held the registration number 2.
In the meanwhile the Siddeley slipped out of Malta the following year in January 1971 and on arrival in the UK, once the dust had been brushed off it was discovered that it still carried the original number plate. It was number 1 ! This must have been a terrific surprise and coup for old Ted Woolley who had bought the car unseen. Unbeknown he had captured Malta’s most important piece of motoring history. He set about it’s restoration without delay and found that although the passage of time had corroded some of the car there was actually very little wear from use.
In September 1972 the Cadillac was restored and running and entered for the forthcoming London to Brighton Veteran car Run always held on the first Sunday of November.
Low and behold the old Gozo Siddeley, beautifully restored and finished in white, sporting the new UK registration number AD 56 was also on the Run. Both cars successfully completed to course on time and at the Gala Dinner the Cadillac was welcomed as being the first Maltese entry. Ever ! Woolley went on to say, at the after dinner speech that the Maltese were rather cross as they (he) had pinched their No.1 car.
In 1974 the Cadillac made a re-appearance at the Brighton Run as did the Siddeley, now painted British Racing Green and owned by Nigel Bradshaw, who was to remain the owner for forty-two years. Till 2014.
David Arrigo watched the Brighton Run many times over the years and took a secret delight of seeing and photographing the Siddeley.
In 1989 David Arrigo along with Barry Owen from North Wales visited Bradshaw in an attempt to purchase the Siddeley, with no result.
Over the years articles appeared about the Siddeley in newspapers, magazines, periodicals and even a chapter devoted to the Siddeley in a book about rare and exciting cars.
Some of the Siddeley’s history was written about but nothing about it from the time of its’ conception and manufacture in 1904 till circa 1907 when it was purchased and taken to Gozo by the Spiteri family. It was the first automobile to set foot on Malta’s sister island. It so terrified the Gozitan’s that it became known as Il-Karrozza tan-nar. The Car of fire. Nobody really questioned the fact as to why it sported the magical No. 1 number plate or why it had three seats and not two or four, as all other cars of the period had.
The Siddeley is believed to have been purchased, second hand and most unusually by three sister’s and their brother who was a priest from Gozo. One cannot imagine why in 1907 three spinster’s and a priest who would purchase a motorcar in the first place, let alone take it to a very hilly island devoid entirely of any mechanised form of transportation whatsoever.
In 2004 - 15th July to be precise, a run called the Mdina Run was organised, that celebrated the first car on Malta to reach one hundred years old. The rally, which took the Cadillac, in the company of over sixty classic cars, back to the Palazzo’s garage where it had languished for over sixty years. This was followed by a book launch at the Hilton that evening. ‘The Inguanez Cadillac, Malta’s First 100 Year Old Car’ was launched. It was 15th July 1904 that the Cadillac left the factory in Ohio bound for Malta. During that year there was a fire at the Cadillac factory during the spring. So our Cadillac was made after the fire. 1,500 deposits had to be returned to prospective buyers as the factory could not meet the orders. Presumably as our Cadillac was an order from overseas a repayment of deposit was more difficult preferential delivery was given. . It is not known how many Model B’s were made, certainly over a thousand, but in 1968 when he car was purchased there were only about ten or so where known to exist throughout the world. Today maybe there are fifty identical examples that are known about.
The Inguanez Cadillac, as it is now known, was imported new to Malta in the summer of 1904 having left the factory on July 15th bound for Malta. Sadly the file (No. 19) of the Casa Inquanez records has been lost. Only one photograph, taken in 1907 was found.
The car was imported by Col. Alistair Chalmers Mckean and his wife Mary D’Amico or more formally known as The Most Noble Mary Sciberras D’Amico Inguanez, 20th Baroness of Diar-el-Bniet and Bucana.
For some unknown reason, when a newer car was required by the family, the Cadillac slipped into the bottom of the garage in the St. Sophia Palazzo and was forgotten about. However, there are family friends and relations, who remember playing on the old car when they were children.
In 2013 Arrigo once more entered the Cadillac for the London to Brighton, which was successfully completed in good time. He plucked up the courage to approach Nigel Bradshaw again who agreed to sell him the Siddeley. It was repatriated a year later and seen for the first time on Gozo once more in September when it was presented to the public by the Minister of Gozo Dr Anton Refalo. It was a moving moment when the car was driven out of a container and running again on Gozitan soil.
It is extraordinary that the only two pre-1905 Veteran Cars to survive on Malta were the first two believed to have been registered. No 1 and No 2.