1925 Renwick & Bertelli 1.5-Litre Sports 'Buzzbox'

1925 Renwick & Bertelli 1.5-Litre Sports 'Buzzbox'

William Somerville Renwick and Augustus 'Gus' Cesare Bertelli both had motor industry backgrounds before pooling their skills in 1924/5 to build this landmark car. Renwick had been with Armstrong-Siddeley, an amalgam of two major forces in the motor industry, while Bertelli had worked with the great and fearless Felice Nazzaro at FIAT, later with Enfield-Allday and then in a private capacity for Captain Woolf Barnato.

Renwick & Bertelli Ltd was set up as a manufacturer of proprietary engines but the temptation to build an experimental car was too great for these two entrepreneurs. They designed a 1.5-litre single-overhead-camshaft engine, which they mounted in an Enfield-Allday chassis with basic coachwork provided by Enrico Bertelli, brother of 'Gus'. Correspondence from Michael Allday (son of the former owner of Alldays & Onions, Enfield-Allday's parent company) includes a hand-written description of the car built for A C Bertelli, detailing paint finish, trim, and the special outside exhaust; all of which proved invaluable in the vendor's rebuild back to original specification. The rebuilt car is now in the original colours specified by A C Bertelli.

A photocopy of the 17th September 1921 edition of The Autocar shows A C Bertelli sitting in his new Enfield-Allday (he was the firm's Works Director at the time) before taking it up the hill climb at Shelsley Walsh (event programme on file); it was this car that became the 'R&B' and later again 'Buzzbox'. Also on file is a period photograph of Vera Bertelli (Gus Bertelli's wife) sitting in the driving seat of 'Buzzbox'.

Correspondence on file dating from the early 1990s between Alan Archer (Aston Martin Archivist) and Mrs Anne Scott, William Renwick's only surviving daughter, states that to test their new engine the partners used Bertelli's existing Enfield-Allday and re-badged it 'R&B', which was taken from their surnames' initials. This same car later went on to become 'Buzzbox' after they, together with Lord and Lady Charnwood, took over Lionel Martin's defunct company - Bamford & Martin Ltd - from the receivers in 1926 and re-launched it as Aston Martin Motors Ltd. There is a photograph on file of Anne Scott sitting in the car with her grandchildren looking on, which was taken at previous owner Chris Thomas's Stirtloe House (see below). 'Buzzbox' was more or less in that same condition when purchased by the vendor.

'Buzzbox' served as the design basis and development car for the new Renwick & Bertelli Aston Martins. The 1,481cc overhead-camshaft engine was the inspiration for the 'International' and 'Le Mans' models, and the Enfield-Allday chassis became the test bed for evaluating new designs. In their book 'Aston Martin 1913-1947', Inman Hunter and Alan Archer include a description of the build and first registration of the one and only 'R&B' (page 80), while on page 88 there is a photograph taken in 1927 in the Aston Martin works at Feltham. 'Buzzbox' can be seen in the background, the accompanying text stating: 'The Renwick & Bertelli is parked near the bench'.

It is thought that 'Buzz Box' remained in the Birmingham area and reappeared in 1947 in Gloucester, subsequently passing through a succession of owners but remaining off the road between 1960 and the mid 1980s. Some major restoration was carried out by the late Ian Raby, including the building of replica coachwork and refurbishing the R&B radiator. In a letter on file, Augustus Bertelli writes to Mrs Raby (then owner of 'Buzzbox' following her husband Ian's death in a motor racing accident) stating: 'This car became the basis of the Aston Martin for many years'. The restoration was completed by a subsequent owner, the 'T' type Aston Martin engine being rebuilt in the process.

In March 1989, 'Buzzbox' was sold at auction to A J Christopher Thomas of Stirtloe House, Buckden, Huntingdon. The current vendor purchased the car in August of 2000 from Mr Thomas, who at that time was President of the VCC. When purchased, the car had been partly restored; however, the following details were incorrect: proportions and general body style, wheel sizes, paint and trim colour, brightwork (chrome, not nickel), size and type of headlamps and rear lamps, PVC sheathed wiring (not period cotton-bound), and a host of minor details.

Over the next 16 years all of the above was corrected with no expense spared, originality and detail having priority. Near the completion of the restoration in 2013, 'Buzzbox' went on show in The Barn at the Aston Martin Heritage Trust, and was returned in late 2015 to Ecurie Bertelli Ltd to complete the restoration. Following completion, it was returned to The Barn early that year, and it has been on display in Ecurie Bertelli Ltd's showroom.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1925
Country of origin Italy