Sixties chick and a 'Bubble'

My sixties chick and the 'Bubble'
From the personal collection of Christopher Wrapson:click on image to open a large version in a new window

Manufactured in Brighton

The photograph here was taken outside my parent’s house at Saltdean in the Spring of 1963. The sixties chick is now my good lady wife. The BMW Isetta Bubble car was manufactured in the old locomotive sheds at Brighton Station between 1957/1964. The Isetta in the photograph was new in 1960; it was one of a pair purchased by Tommy Sopwith who owned Endeavour Motor Company. He mainly used the little cars around town, or to commute between the EMC showrooms in Preston Road and Shoreham airport, where his helicopter was based.                                                                 

Equipe Endeavour

Tommy Sopwith was well known in motor sport circles he successfully ran the Equipe Endeavour racing stable for the 1958/1962 seasons. Power boat racing also attracted his interest. Most of the Equipe Endeavour fleet of sports cars including the Isettas and the racing car transporters were painted in a distinctive Jaguar indigo blue and silver livery; also most vehicles carried EE 400 series registration numbers.                               

Driver’s club badge

I worked for Endeavour Motor Company at that time, and purchased the Isetta in 1963; it was my first car albeit one step up from a motorbike. The cars EE registration plate was not included in the sale and I was issued with a new Brighton registration plate – 521 BCD.  With less than 3,000 miles on the clock it looked and felt like a new car. The car came complete with Tommy Sopwith`s British racing drivers club badge on the front. He had given me strict instructions to remove it on taking delivery.  A bit naughty I know but I never did.                                                    

Fond memories

The smart Isetta attracted attention where ever we went.  We often think about the little car and the fun we had, and wonder what became of it. The ‘Bubble’ certainly left us with lots of fond memories and it is also nice to think the Isetta bubble car is a small reminder of Brighton’s once proud industrial past. 


Comments about this page

  • Chris. We also lived in Saltdean for a few months in 1957. Re Endeavour Motors, we have discussed them and my grandfather’s connections with Sopwith senior in WW1 previously. I think EE 400 was the only ‘EE’ number that Endeavour had. They also had other ‘400’ numbers including ECD400 on a racing Jaguar E Type and JAG400 on a racing Mk11 Jag 3.8 saloon. I later had a couple of customers with BMW Isettas – one was a four wheeler and one a three wheeler. I think you could drive the three wheeled version on a motor cycle licence if reverse was blanked off or some nonsense like that. Had to be a ‘non-reversible tricycle’ to comply with the regulations in those days. Problem was if you parked too close to the one in front or a wall etc you then couldn’t get open the door to get out. With judicious use of that little short gear lever you could make them go quite well in spite of their barely 300cc engine. I managed to roll the latter one when the front wheel went into a hole, it sort-of went over in slow motion; All the shopping fell off the floor onto the fabric sunroof and then back onto the floor! The only real damage was the headlamps got pushed into the sides. Unfortunately your 521BCD is no longer registered so I expect has gone to the big scrapyard. But then EE400 isn’t currently registered either. Probably got left on a racer that hasn’t been licensed under DVLA regulations and lost.

    By Tim Sargeant (24/09/2013)
  • I left Fawcett school in 1961 to join the Machinery Publishing Company as a trainee. The first job I did was accopany one of the photographers in his Morris Minor traveller with tubes containing large sections of a massive photo to Endeavour Motors showroom in Preston road.

    We then pasted these sections of photos onto a wall in the showroom. It was an almost lifesize photo of the Brighton Pavillion in black and white. After it was put up on the wall, I was given the task of ‘spotting’ all the little white dust spots. I used a small sable artists brush and a pallet board where I had mixed up a number of shades of grey from a tube of black and a tube of white acrylic paint.

    I wonder if you remember this picture.

    By Chris Kisko (29/11/2013)
  • Hi, I worked for EMC in the 70s first on the flow line area. I remember working on the BMW Isetta Bubble Car, as well the Mini Moke that Tommy had that went on the back of his boat I think. It has brought back lots memories  reading all the write up about EMC and the early years, what a great shame the building got pulled down .

    By Richard (01/01/2014)
  • Tim – Thanks for the detail re vehicle reg numbers used in the early 1960s by (EMC) and “Equip Endeavour”.  Here are a few more for your perusal: VA 400, TMY 400, TS 400, VCD 400, 616 AUF, 423 AUF and 6908 CD. As far as I remember, VCD 400 was fitted to a large Thames Trader pantechnicon,  423 AUF  was carried by a Thames Trader tipper truck – both vehicles were used for short term self-drive-hire, 6908 CD was a Thames 400E 15cwt pick up truck used by the Commercial vehicle service department. That was the vehicle I used to pass my driving test (first attempt) in December 1962. In that era the driving test was conducted through the streets of Hove starting and concluding in Eaton Road. It all seems another life time away now!

    By Chris Wrapson (06/01/2014)
  • Hallo Chris Wrapson. I was in the new archives at The Keep earlier this week looking for the number of the first Jaguar ‘E’ Type fhc registered by Moores and came across some other numbers relating to Endeavour. It appears that if they retained a vehicle for themselves it was usually registered with a ‘400’ number as 400 was Tommy Sopwith’s lucky number. I found these; 9290CD issued to Endeavour for a vehicle ‘formerly NPM400’, which they presumably kept when this car was sold retail. 400ACD, ‘Endeavour for TS’ is noted in the register, allocated on 12th Oct 1961 but not taken up until 1st May 1962, no vehicle shown. And the very last CD issued, 9999CD, ‘Endeavour Ford’, and a chassis number B096381. This seems to have been allocated well in advance of normal issue on 12th Oct 1961 the same date as above. (The CD series reversed was not completed until May 1962 – and ACD didn’t start until then, and there is a note in the back of the CD register that 400ACD is not to be issued to anyone else) And that’s just in the few months I looked through and happened to notice. There were of course many others in batches of ten numbers issued for registration of their sales cars. The only one of all these numbers listed in Car Numbers today appears to be Sopwith’s own number TS400, I thought someone would have retained 9999CD as a personal number but it isn’t shown. You mention the 400E pick-up; When I was with a local Ford agent we did all the Radio Rentals vehicles and they had hundreds of those 400E vans. Amongst other things I had to organise the weighing of the vans which in those days were taxed according to their individual unladen weight. There were so many passing through that I devised some tricks for the weighbridge which was several miles away; 1) We would weigh one van with spare wheel and tools in it and drive it round the block, take the spare wheel etc out and re-weigh it but give the chassis number of the next one. Then do the same with the tools and spare wheel back in!  2) With only one spare set of trade plates we would fit front plate onto one van and back plate onto another. The third van in the middle had no trade plate at all. This was all right as long as you all kept close together! Then they all had to be taken to the paint shop to have Radio Rentals signwritten on them , – by hand! I passed my test in a 1935 Austin 10, BXH9, I still have that number along with my TCS numbers. As you say a lifetime away, – in a different world. We had some fun if only in beating the system.

    To Chris Kisko; I’ve seen a photo like the one you mention but not at Endeavour, someone I knew used to do similar photos for the side of vans and advertising etc.

    By Tim Sargeant (21/03/2014)
  • Hello Chris, I worked at Endeavour Motor Company in 1963. I was only 18 and employed as a “trainee salesman” but in fact my duties mainly were to make sure that Tommy’s cars were in the right place for him, so I drove all his cars around, from his home in London, to the Hamble and / or to and from Brighton.  I remember one extremely long and frightening trip in your “bubble” when it was quite new.  I was told to get the train to London, go to his house and drive the Isetta to Brighton. No problems except that trucks and buses are so much bigger.  I enjoyed far more driving the E Type or his Merc. On one trip I brought the E Type down to Brighton from London.  It was a lovely hot summer’s day and I had the roof down. I timed the drive from Gatwick to Preston Park at just under 10 minutes.  I had to park in Preston Park to scrape all the dead insects off! This was before the 70 limit. It probably contributed to why I was asked to find employment elsewhere, later that year. I spent a lot of time chatting to other EE staff, and particularly remember Alan Bannister, a larger than life Australian, who was Tommy’s mechanic. I wonder whatever happened to him? Peter Rigden was the MD then. Cheers. MP

    By Mike Purnell (01/08/2014)
  • One of the 3.8 MK 2s VCD400 was later raced in the British Touring Car series by Chris McLaren with some success but with Lotus Cortinas were becoming the cars to beat by then. The car was driven to Nurburgring by my father and raced there by Chris and I believe Mike Pendleton, unfortunately it lost a rear wheel and retired although it was driven back to Ostend in convoy with another of the British drivers Jaguar driven by Keith Wison. The chief mechanic then was Pip Preece who had worked with Ivor Bueb.

    By Malcolm Fisher (13/11/2014)
  • Mike Purnell, the old A23 from Gatwick to Preston Park was a trip of approximately 26 miles, made up almost entirely of single carriageway road. The only section of dual carriageway began at the top of Handcross Hill and ended just north of the Bolney Crossroads, close to the Bolney Stage pub, about 3 miles. Before that, just after leaving Gatwick towards Brighton, the journey began with at least two roundabouts that I recall plus a succession of traffic lights alongside the Crawley industrial estate. The speed limit through this area varied between 30 and 40mph and then you drove through the centre of Crawley Town, as it then was (all 30mph), with yet more traffic lights. Even out in the country considerable sections of the A23 at that time were not suitable for speeds in excess of 100mph, simply due to the bends and the road surface, irrespective of what car was being driven, nor by whom. There were also traffic lights at Albourne on what is now the B2118 followed by more lights at Patcham, (the junction with Mill Road and Vale Avenue, close to the now disappeared Robin Hood Garage) and yet more at the bottom of Preston Drove. From Patcham to Preston Park most of the road was and is still 30mph. There would, presumably, have been other road users around at the time of this drive as well. So, Mike, you’re telling us that a car the manufacturer quoted as being capable of 150mph maximum, actually achieved the journey at an AVERAGE speed in excess of 156mph. I have been driving this route since around that time and even assuming you hit every set of the traffic lights at green, and that no one else got in your way, given that it was a hot summer’s day when lots of others would presumably been out and about, I don’t believe you did in in under 10 minutes. Unless, of course, your watch stopped during the journey!

    By Alan Phillips (14/11/2014)
  • I believe the picture Chris refers to was on the wall adjacent to the door leading from the showroom to he bottom of the Ramp. The area became a Service customer waiting area when Service Reception moved into the showroom. With regard to 400 numbers I remember a tatty horse box as purchased to obtain the number plate, I do not recollect the actual number. The Moke was great fun we had to equip it with lifting points and stainless steel chains to allow the crane on the yacht to lift it on,we used the parts dept hoist to get it right.

    By Ambrose O'Leary (14/11/2014)
  • Further to my posting above (22/3/14): The Austin 10 BXH9 came to us from Britains out at Preston Park when we sold them our Morris 1000 (TUF145) for a bit more than it had cost in the trade six months earlier so scarce and on back order were they in1957! (It had been ordered at the 1956 Motor Show) I note that 9999CD also mentioned is now on a Honda Jazz so someone did retain it.

    I am presently researching an early E Type sports which belonged to a chap in Torquay when new in 1961. He raced his boat ‘Kanita’ against Tommy Sopwith in the first Cowes to Torquay offshore race in ’61. (Sopwith won of course, with his Ray Hunt designed ‘Thunderbolt’) This ‘E’ must almost be sister car to the CD registered E Type fhc I mention above as both have very low chassis numbers, under fifty I think. I also remember in 1963 having to take a customer’s tuned up 3.8 litre Mk2 saloon back and seeing the speedo just top 125mph, (- on the ‘B’ roads round here!) and then having to hide away for about half an hour for it to cool down before I could deliver it! You would be dead lucky to do 26 miles in 26 minutes in those days even with a Jag. Let alone in ten minutes! A typo perhaps? My father did do 60 miles in 60 minutes going to Silverstone at 5am one morning in the Railton straight eight with lightweight bodywork that he had run in the 1949 Brighton Speed Trials. (KPO922) That was also from Brighton along that old road which I used to know so well, to go to the first British Grand Prix I think. Before all the speed cameras you had to really ‘press on’ to average 60mph on a journey even using motorways, but we did used to do here to Leeds Uni, 242 miles in four hours in the 1990s but nearly all motorway. Just too much traffic now. When I was a lad I had to keep a look-out behind for the speed cops, especially along the A259 from Worthing to Shoreham airport. It wasn’t too difficult as most Police cars were black and Wolseleys with a big bell on the front and a sign on top saying POLICE. The son of the local grocer in Rock Street had a BSA Gold Flash I think it was and we did a ‘ton’ along Madeira Drive one night in 1956 to test out his new dual seat! NO helmets or anything sissy like that. He gave me his original saddle to put on my Panther 250 sloper.

    The Bolney Stage mentioned above also, was run by my grandfather Lawrie Sargeant for a while in the 1950s. He is elsewhere on this site when he had the Bristol Hotel before WW2 and the first petrol pumps in Kemp Town just after the first War. He had worked for Sopwith senior during that War making Sopwith Camel aeroplanes at Kingston. Strange how the Sopwith name keeps coming up in connection with cars and boats and ‘planes. Wasn’t there a song about that?

    I hope you’ve all bought and read Chris’s book on Endeavour Motor Co.

    By Tim Sargeant (14/11/2014)
  • I totally agree with Alan Phillips. I have driven to London and back hundreds of times at speed and have never reached timing like that, the roads and the geometry of the car in those days would not allow it except maybe in a vacuum with its own air supply. Even now with the modern road you would be pushed to do it in 10 minutes.

    By Mick Peirson (15/11/2014)
  • Interesting reading Tim’s comments. I makes you want to get the goggles and helmet on. In the early sixties a lot of us lads met up on a Saturday night at the Electricity showrooms at the bottom of North Street for a general run around with our cars. There was a mixture of cars which we thought as fast at that time which would be outclassed today by the most mundane little run around despite our milling of cylinder heads, valve ports, fancy camshafts, and the noisy exhausts and all the rest of it. Not real cars as compared to the above mentioned but we were Jack the Lads at that age. The cars were a mixture of different sorts comprising as my memory goes of a Riley 1.5, some Minis, Ford Zodiacs, MK1 GT Cortina’s, and the best was a MK1 Lotus Cortina driven by Teddy  who was a pig farmer. I remember the MK1 Cortina’s were a bit twitchy on the arse end if you gave it a bit too much wellie so sandbags were put into the long boot for some stability. We had “bottle” moments just outside the Brighton boundary on what we called “Windy Corner” where the idea was to go round at the magic 100mph. If any of the cars did reach such a speed on those bends it would have probably rolled for its trouble. But Teddy did the bends at the magic ton. I went with him at one point for another trial which was to get to the roundabout in Crawley in 20 minutes. This was achieved by the Lotus Cortina many times with a fair wind. Coming back was a bit faster owing to adrenalin and a hot engine and Handcross Hill giving a nice boost. In the freezing winter of 1963 we would perform handbrake turns on the lower road by Peter Pan’s which was like a skating rink. Many track rod ends bent in sodding around doing this. Happy days.

    By Mick Peirson (18/11/2014)
  • Tim, I’m sure your pop music knowledge tells you the song was entitled  ”Trains and Boats and Planes” Billy J Kramer & Dakotas 1965 – Dionne Warwick 1966 – Anita Harris 1967. By the way, many thanks for your plug re the “Endeavour Motor Company” booklet. I still have a few left. If anyone would like a copy please contact me. I enjoyed reading all the comments on this page especially from EMC stalwart Ambrose O`Leary’s (AOL). Come on MP, we would all like to know -  what was your actual journey time from Gatwick to Preston Park? I’d surmise it was nearer 30+ minutes – at least you came clean by scraping all the bugs off Tommy Sopwith’s E Type. I do hope you didn’t damage that lovely Jaguar’s indigo blue paintwork.  

    By Chris Wrapson (18/11/2014)
  • Hallo Chris. My car interests are ‘Classic’, as is my taste in music. (Note my references to Douglas Reeve and The Dome organ elsewhere on the site). But although I couldn’t put a name to it I do remember Billy J Kramer etc. Were the ‘Dakotas’ the ‘planes in the song I wonder? (Lots of those still about then). Having said that I do remember exactly where I was the first time I heard The Beatles! Perhaps we should start a page for all us ‘Brighton Boys’ and our cars in our dotage. Going back to cars, numbers, and songs though; Did you know that when Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch had a hit with ‘The Two of Us’ in 1967 they got the number plate 20 FUS? Set to read 2 0F US . I last saw it on a MkIII or IV  Cortina. Don’t know what happened to it when they went to Oz. One of the quickest things I drove in those days, (quick as opposed to fast) was a Ford 100E well sorted (don’t mock!) fitted with a Lotus twin cam unit overbored to 1800cc. A real ‘Q’ car or wolf in sheep’s clothing! Mick talks about the milling of cylinder heads etc; When we prepared a 1275cc Mini Cooper for racing in the 60s the regs prohibited planing the head to up the compression. So, we planed a bit off the block instead so the top of the pistons came up into the gasket space. I just sent Mick a photo of a Lotus Cortina lookalike I had in 1970 with the number plate 51  MON…Took the space away and bingo! 5IMON. Had lots of fun baiting the London cops with that one. Drive past a Police car going the other way nice and slow; Then floor the pedal and hide up a side street to watch the poor old cops go by with blues and twos going. Talk about Jack the Lads, you’d get done for something now with all the cameras and number plate recognition etc. I had a MkVII Jag (SKR444) in that winter of ’63 and we used to do handbrake turns with that four up along Forest Rd, Tunbridge Wells. Mad! There is no doubt that we saw the best days of motoring.

    By Tim Sargeant (20/11/2014)
  • I have another 400 number for you Chris (I don’t recall seeing it amongst the others in various posts). Sopwith also used EN 400 on one of his personal vehicles as well as EE 400. I remember at one time he had an E Type and an Escort 1300E, both in his Dark Blue paint colour. It must be something to do with my age but I can’t recall which number was on which car.  I am looking forward to seeing you again at the EMN reunion in two weeks.

    By Symon Elias (02/12/2016)
  • In 1969 I purchased an E Type roadster reg no 616 AUF for £500. I kept it three years and sold it on for about the same money. In 2011 I managed to trace it to Hertfordshire. It’s now registered UPM 400 and before that it was registered EE 400. Can anybody tell me more about its earlier life? I know it raced at Oulton Park in 1961.

    By Robert Singer (17/07/2018)
  • Robert Singer, I would try the Jaguar Owners’ Club.

    By Alan Phillips (19/07/2018)
  • Thank you Alan. I have checked with the Jag Drivers and the Owners clubs for information on E Type 616 AUF to no avail. I’m interested in the period when the car was new in 1961 and went to Tommy Sopwith and when I bought it in 1969. Can anyone help fill in the gaps …

    By Robert Singer (12/09/2018)
  • Hi Chris,
    I work for a production company called Pier Productions and we’re coming up with ideas for The One Show – I sent you a message on facebook the other day about the story behind this. Would be great to have a chat with you!

    By Nina Semple (26/09/2019)
  • Hi Nina, Sounds interesting would love to chat. Chris.

    By Chris Wrapson (02/10/2019)

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