Sold for £29,812
(including buyers premium)
Registration No: GVM 926
Chassis No: 99AF98810
An upmarket derivative of the Ford V8 Deluxe, the Mercury Eight was targeted by Ford at Oldsmobile, Dodge and Hudson owners. Launched in 1939, the first series was replaced in 1941 with the second series Mercury Eight. Three series of Mercury Eight in total were offered until the model’s replacement with the Monterey in 1952.
A ‘hands on’ director of Lincoln Cars Ltd, Sir Malcolm Campbell MBE kept Blue Bird K4 (his World Water Speed Record achieving boat) at the company’s Brentford premises on London’s Great West Road. Well known to the senior Ford hierarchy on both sides of the Atlantic, he was able to secure a brand new, ‘overseas market’ example of the Mercury Eight Series 99A upon its 1939 launch (Lincoln and Mercury were both Ford subsidiaries). Intending it to serve as a Crew Bus for his Blue Bird escapades, Campbell despatched the Mercury to Windovers of The Hyde, Hendon. As well as fitting a voluminous Estate Car body, the famous coachbuilder ensured the rear seats folded into the floor to provide a sleeping area. That way, Campbell’s mechanics could take it in turns to get some rest while burning the midnight oil during one of his record-breaking adventures. Ever one to pursue an advantage, Campbell also had the Mercury Eight’s front suspension modified by Leslie Ballamy. Unfortunately, World War Two intervened before Campbell could use his bespoke Series 99A as intended.
A ferry pilot for the Royal Flying Corps in World War One, Campbell was deemed too old for frontline service when global hostilities resumed during September 1939. He nevertheless remained committed to the Armed Forces serving with both the Military Police and General Service Corps. Introduced to George Formby, then the UK’s best paid star, and learning of his promised trip to North Africa with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), Campbell soon convinced him of the Mercury’s merits. Entrusted to REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), the Estate Car was modified for desert work with a new livery, larger wheels / tyres and partially painted-out windows to lessen the sun’s glare. Formby took pains to familiarise himself with the Series 99A and was seen driving around Singleton for weeks before embarking upon a massive 53-day ENSA tour in August 1943 that encompassed Italy, Sicily, Malta, Gibraltar, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine.
As well as providing accommodation for Formby and his wife Beryl, the Mercury was equipped with a ‘lean to’ tent for his pianist and valet or the occasional show girl to shelter in. By the time the ukulele-strumming star returned to England in October, he had entertained 750,000 troops, traversed a minefield, dined with Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery (‘Monty’) and been named the Eighth Army’s mascot.
A serial Rolls-Royce and Bentley owner, Formby sold the Estate Car to Earl Peel of Hyning Hall, Lancaster in 1946 who promptly had it road registered as ‘GVM 926’. A fixture on the Peel Estate up until the Earl’s death twenty-three years later, the Series 99A primarily served as transport for grouse shooting parties. Briefly belonging to William Logan – the first president of the George Formby Society – the Mercury then spent much of the 1970s ferrying guests around for Mr Deakin, a Lake District hotelier. Joining the burgeoning Sorn Castle collection in 1977 - which housed everything from a Sherman Tank to a De Tomaso Pantera Gp4 racer via Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lancias and some wild American Muscle Cars – the Estate Car underwent a degree of restoration such as the fitment of a correct-type replacement 3.9 litre V8 engine.
Participating in a variety of historic military vehicle events including a sortie to Holland during 1986, the Series 99A was offered for sale by Sotheby’s two years later when the premature death of Bobby McIntyre, Lord Sorn’s son, prompted the collection’s dispersal. The Mercury’s next owner was British businessman Keith Schellenberg who was variously known to the public for participating in the 1956 and 1964 Winter Olympics, rolling a Vintage Bentley on the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon and his contentious ownership of the Scottish Isle of Eigg. After five years of polite refusal, collector Graham Greenwell finally convinced Schellenberg to part with the Estate Car during 1995. The subject of a two-page article in Classic Car Weekly the following year, ‘GVM 926’ was enthusiastically used and improved by Mr Greenwell until 2008 when it was sold to the vendors’ late father, Mike Ebeling, for £30,000.
Renowned in historic military vehicle circles for the quality and accuracy of his restoration work, the late Mr Ebeling decided that the Series 99A was not to his exacting standards. Dry stored awaiting a ground-up refurbishment that never happened, he had got as far as stripping ancillaries and minor parts off the Mercury before ill health intervened. There can be few cars with such a rich back story. Unique in so many ways, not the least of which is its bespoke Windovers coachwork, this historic Mercury is surely worthy of a return to its former glory and a place in a museum or major collection. Offered for sale with history file including copy correspondence between Sir Malcolm Campbell and Leslie Ballamy, a wealth of George Formby related literature and Sotheby’s Sorn Castle catalogue etc.
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All successful bids must be paid in full by midday the day after the auction at the latest.
You can collect your new pride and joy from our venue until 1pm the day following the sale or our partners are on hand to help arrange safe transportation:
Auction: Imperial War Museum Duxford, Wed, 26th May 2021
Imperial War Museum
Tuesday 25th May from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 26th May 2021 from 9am
12.5% (plus VAT @ 20%)
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