Grande Vitesse wrote in The Motor in 1933 about the Vale Special ... ' (it) is a hand-made car with a low centre of gravity, handling well and possessing an ability to rev. Lively, it is a car for general use and has had successful competition experience.' The car's manufacturers, the Vale Motor Company (London) Limited, of Portsdown Road, Maida Vale, London W9, described their product as 'The Hand- made Car at a Mass-Production Price', adding that it was 'built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts'.
The enthusiasts in question were three young men with a liking for fast cars: the Hon P. I. E. Pellow, R. O. Wilcoxen and R. A. Gaspar. The Vale was designed by 'Pow' Pellew (later the Earl of Ex mouth) : in its original incarnation it was powered by a modified 832 cc sidevalve Triumph engine, which was capable of propelling the diminutive car at 72 mph at 4750 rpm. Average fuel consumption was claimed to be 40 mpg, while the safe speeds in the intermediate gears were 20, 38 and 54 mph.
The brakes were not all that large, yet the Vale Special was said to be able to stop in 25 feet from 30 mph, a performance only bettered by the 4½
-liter Invicta among its contemporaries. Its usual form was as a two-seater, available as Standard Model A (£195) or De Luxe Model B (£220) though in 1933 a four-seater version, the Tourette was listed at £225.
Switching to Coventry Climax engines
It seems as though, despite a ground clearance of six inches, the little Vale was too low-slung to be of use as a trials car, while, conversely, its top speed was not enough to make it viable for sports-racing events. So, in 1934, its manufacturers took the unusual step of offering to re-engine existing cars with larger power units. Coventry Climax engines of either four cylinders and 1098cc or six cylinders and 1476cc.
The Adamson Special
It was obvious, too, that those dreams of 'mass-production prices' had been over-ambitious, the cost was up to £310 for new cars with the four and £395 with the six. Also available was a 1242cc ohc Meadows engine, known as the 12 hp four. A car with the latter power unit cost £365, though it's unlikely that more than one Meadows-engined Vale was actually delivered. This was known as the Adamson Special, and its 'hypertuned' Meadows 9/40 engine was reputedly' 'specially built' and capable of propelling the car at 80 mph. Fitted with an underslung chassis, and cellulosed black with chromium fittings, the Adamson Special lasted only a few months in the hands of its original owner before returning to the works to be resold.
The depreciation that this car, among other Vales, suffered was truly horrifying: complete with a stock of racing spares, the Adamson was offered for only £140, a drop of well over sixty per cent in less than a year. Nor did the touring cars fare much better: in October 1934 Sprosens Limited, of Great Portland Street, who appear to have been the nearest thing to a distributor that Vale ever had, were offering a brand new, unregistered, unblemished Vale Special De Luxe with full maker's guarantee at £180, a 42 per cent reduction on list price, while a second-hand 1934 two-seater de luxe was available for only £150 and a 1933 two-seater at £125.
We believe this photo is of the last ever Vale Special ever produced, the supercharged racer built in 1935 for Ian Connell. It was powered by a 1496cc Coventry Climax engine with a Centric blower driven by twin belts.
But there was, it seems, great demand for these cars among the cognoscenti, despite their rapid fall in value; a trader named H. F. Edwards, also of Great Portland Street, offered 'Cash immediately for good Vales; any district'. By this time, however, production of Vales had virtually ceased. The company's ambition all along had been to go into line-production with the car, but they were unable to raise sufficient capital to do this. Pow Pellow was forced to resign through ill-health, and Bang Wilcoxen (who later died at Dunkirk) was badly injured in a crash with a J3 MG Midget at Donington.
The three partners realised their assets and paid the outstanding bills; Alien Gaspar, who had been sales and competition manager, continued at the old address, now trading under the name Vale Engineering Company Limited, buying, selling and tuning sports cars, and building the odd Vale Special to order. Vale Engineering seemed to specialise in GNs, both four and two-cylinder models, holding a full stock of spares for these cyclecars, though once again they seemed to be undercharging for their wares: 'Dyson Special, specially built GN 750cc 4-cylinder motor, built and tuned regardless of expense ... £15'.
The Supercharged Vale Special
Other gems from their 1935 stock included a Type 35 Bugatti (£110) and an underslung racing Amilcar (£40), not to mention a Grand Sport staggered two-seater Amilcar with 'Super-tuned motor' at £25! Probably the last of the 103 Vale Specials built by this company was a supercharged racer built for Ian Connell in 1935. Fitted with a Centric blower driven by twin belts and operating at 4-5 psi boost, the Vale had a 1496cc Coventry Climax engine, with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. Connell entered this car for the 500 mile 1935 race at Brooklands
, but was forced to retire within the first hour with a cracked cylinder head.
This overheating trouble was traced to the design of the radiator, which was subsequently modified. When it was running properly, Connell's Vale could record a maximum speed of 130 mph and was reportedly faster from a standing start than the contemporary ERA. Connell and Gaspar competed with this car at Donington and other venues such as the Brighton Speed Trials; but after 1936 Gaspar and his works manager Bill Francis-James (formerly with Aston Martin and the Fox & Nicholl Talbot team) concentrated on the sales and tuning side of the business. No more Vale Specials were ever manufactured.