When the first sports car took to the road 102 years ago, it astounded onlookers with its acceleration and top speed.
The Vauxhall Prince Henry Sports Torpedo could travel at double the maximum speed of most vehicles of the time, although it would look tame by modern standards.
The car, which will be put on sale at Bonhams on December 4 with an upper estimate of £600,000, could generate 25hp and reach 80mph, a speed that the auctioneer thinks it could still manage “with a little refurbishment”. Modern sports cars of the highest calibre can break the 200mph barrier and have in excess of 600hp.
The Prince Henry was designed by Laurence Pomeroy, a Vauxhall engineer who had such success with another car in the 1910 Tour of Prussia that he named his new design after the race’s instigator Prince Henry of Prussia.
The car lacks an odometer but Bonhams estimates that its four careful owners have clocked up 200,000 miles.
TW Badgery travelled 140,000 of those during tours of Europe while running the vehicle on “castor oil, second pressings” from his own leather works. He paid £800 for it, the equivalent of £80,000 today.
Pomeroy’s son, also named Laurence, bought the car from Badgery in 1945, undoubtedly influenced by memories of owning a pedal car version as a child. It then passed to Nick Ridley, president of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, in 1966 and to Reg Long, another president of the club, in 1970.
It later enjoyed modest fame as the vehicle driven by Jeremy Brett in the film An Aspidistra in Babylon, an adaptation of a novella by HE Bates.