On his return to Parkside, Coventry, Mike Couper met with a rather cool reception regarding his achievements in the 1955 event. Despite very respectable overall placings and winning a prestigious award for the second time there was little appetite for further Monte Carlo adventures. Probably the Chairman’s not unreasonable concerns for his son, Tommy Sopwith, who featured as a driver in the car which crashed, weighed heavy in any decision for the future. Certainly Sopwith senior curtailed Sopwith juniors rallying for a period. We should remember too, that Sopwith senior lost his business partner Harry Hawker when themselves young men. Whatever the truth of the matter the cost of such activities was given as the reason.
Ironically the Sapphire 346 would become one of the largest volume sellers of Armstrong Siddeley model. Mike Couper’s St Albans dealership would achieve a well deserved 600% increase in Sapphire 346 sales over the previous year.
The damaged car was returned to the factory as can be seen in the pictures below.
A cheeky young apprentice whom we featured in a previous jotting purloined the buckled badge little knowing that some 65 years later, with his families approval he would donate this artefact to this Heritage Trust. We are glad he secured it for history.
1956 - Mike Couper however did take part in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally, only this time in an Austin A90 Westminster, again with Pat Fillingham his son in law as co-driver.
1957 - The Monte Carlo Rally was not held in 1957 due to petrol shortages which caused petrol rationing. It was felt imprudent to hold a rally at this time.
1958 - In the entry list for the 1958 Monte Carlo Rally, which turned out to be a particularly gruelling event, there is a private entry by an E. Walker who sadly had to retire. This would be the last time an Armstrong Siddeley took part in the Monte Carlo Rally.
The question is often asked concerning what happened to the cars which took part in the Rally.
A few months back we at Heritage received the photos below which show the Mike Couper car
PVC 1. This was purchased by a Mr John A Cooper the father of Judith, here seen with camera in hand photographing the car at the time. Judith reports that the car ran well, and she remembers it being regularly driven at 90mph on the newly constructed M1. It also on occasion towed a Berkley caravan. The family were based in Hurley, Warwickshire and the car was in John’s ownership for 4 years before selling it in about 1964.
Perhaps you can help us find out the more about what happened to this and the other cars which featured in this Monte Carlo Rally tale.
The registrations for 1954 are:- RAR 700, UPB 229, and the Survey car was ODU 447.
And for 1955 the registrations are:- PVC 1, PVC 2, PVC 3, PVC 4, UPG 193.
We would wish to extend our thanks to Paul Huer our Australian colleague who has gathered a vast amount of information on this subject. In particular for the 1954 and 1955 rallies, making this a truly international series.