Although somewhat of a forgotten marque today, Crossley was once a highly-respected name in the British motor industry. It is perhaps most famous for its rôle in the first successful motor-car expedition from Cape Town to Cairo. From 1924 to 1926, Major Court Treatt led two 25/30hp Crossley light trucks across thousands of miles of the roughest, most inhospitable terrain, eventually traversing the entire African continent after other men had died in the attempt. The 25/30 model was also popular with the British Royal Family, and there was even a brief period when Crossley built Bugattis under license. Crossley’s two-litre six-cylinder cars of the late 1920s would be celebrated for different reasons, such as the engine which powered the large, sporting Lagonda 16/80.
Sadly, the Manchester marque would not survive beyond 1937 and the Regis was one of its very last models. Like many makers of large, upmarket cars, Crossley did not have an easy time after the Depression and the Regis – offered as either a 10hp four-cylinder or 12hp six-cylinder model – was its attempt to downsize and sell a cheaper model in order to stay afloat. Even so, the Regis remained decidedly upmarket and the Six was a worthy competitor for other sizes offered by the likes of Humber, Railton and Daimler. Alas, it was not enough to save Crossley from going under.
The model originated in 1934 when Scottish dealer agent Gordon C. McAndrew wanted a bespoke Crossley 10 for his personal use and commissioned C. F. Beauvais of New Avon coachbuilders to design the body. Crossley ended up putting Beauvais’s handsome sports saloon design into production, débuting it at the 1934 London Motor Show, with the six-cylinder sports saloon priced at £365. A tourer with coachwork reminiscent of early Jensen bodies and a Tickford drophead coupé were also offered, both of which were supremely stylish. A Wilson pre-selector gearbox was available across the range. Around 1050 Regises of all kinds were built, and only the smallest handful survives today.
This car’s history can only be traced back to the 1990s, when the vendor acquired it in a sorry state from a Mr. Plowman of Farnborough, Hampshire. In fact, he acquired two derelict Regises, the other being DPD 920 which had been used between 1957 and 1961 by a Mr. Ernest Shrosbree Mills of Southall, but which ultimately became the donor car for the Southend-registered JN 6595.
JN 6595 was comprehensively restored, with work including a whole new ash frame and a lot of newly-fabricated metalwork. When finished the car was MoTed a few times between 1997 and 2005, but has received very little use as the vendor has a small collection of classic cars and prefers to drive the younger ones. He is parting with Crossley as he has decided the time has come to downsize his collection.
In addition to the V5, the Crossley comes with a photocopied facsimile of the Regis Instruction Manual, a few MoTs from the turn of the millennium, correspondence from Peter Caunt from the Crossley Register and a diagram for the construction of the sliding sunshine roof. There is also an old buff logbook for the donor car DPD 920. Additionally, there is an unstamped V.I.N. plate which was supplied by the Crossley Register to assist with the restoration. The vendor never got round to fitting it, so it will fall to the buyer to have it stamped with the chassis and engine numbers (which we are told are the same) before fitting.
The Crossley’s interior is very nicely finished, upholstered with tasteful dark green leather which complements the black paintwork well. As you would expect from a car which has seen such little use, the seats and door cards do not exhibit any signs of wear, though there are few small marks which we think should be cleaned away easily. The woodwork is all in good condition with an attractive light patina which is appropriate for the age of the car, and the door cappings with their diamond-shaped handles strike us as a particularly lovely feature – a throwback to a disappearing age of craftsmanship. The steering wheel is in very good order with no obvious cracks, and the tidy instrument cluster is also very well-presented. As you’d expect, the headlining is effectively like new.
We really are smitten with the way this car looks; Beauvais’s design possesses a real air of elegance, with its sweeping wings and gracefully sloping boot. The understated all-black paint perhaps shows it off to its best effect and, bathed in the low evening sunlight, the car’s curves take on an almost liquid quality. Its beauty lies as much in the period details as it does in its overall form. The A.A. and R.A.C. badges (the latter depicting a profile of King Edward VII surrounded by a wreath, which is supported on the shoulders of Mercury and surmounted by a crown) are charming items and quite collectable in themselves. It’s the gorgeous aluminium Ace wheel discs which really set it off, complemented by their matching spare wheel cover on the boot.
As this restoration is now about 25 years old, it has acquired a few paint blemishes over time, but it remains highly presentable and, importantly, it looks to be perfectly solid.
The Regis runs and drives, although we are unable to comment much on its road manners as the vendor, after restoring it, has very rarely driven it due to his feeling unfamiliar with pre-war cars. We will say, however, that there really is nothing to be afraid of. Cars of the 1930s are not difficult to drive and are not vastly different from postwar classics, although they may be a bit slower and heavier, and they may not have synchromesh on the lower gears. From our experience of 1940s six-cylinder luxury cars, we have found them to be quite rapid, certainly much more so than their heavy bodywork would suggest, and we have no reason to believe that this Crossley should be much different. Also, as it is fitted with the Wilson pre-selector gearbox – the precursor to automatics – anyone who does feel daunted by the prospect of double-declutching has nothing to worry about, as the practice does not apply in this car.
As the car had not been driven for a long time prior to our visit, and has not had an MoT for 16 years, we would recommend that it be carefully recommissioned before use.
The 1930s was a time when motor-cars were at their most elegant, with hundreds of coachbuilders up and down the country in their prime, and a growing appreciation of streamlining. Crossley was one of a number of manufacturers offering an upmarket saloon, all of which, as a rule, were all very desirable cars intended to convey the upper middle-classes in style and comfort. As all sports saloons were relatively expensive when new, survivors are now altogether quite scarce, but Crossleys are rarer than most. If you want to stand out for your tasteful and discerning choice of car, the Crossley Regis Six has got to be a good bet. You’re unlikely to park next to another one at a car show, but the Crossley Register exists to provide spares and support for owners of these attractive rarities.
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