& the Winter Garden Garage
Lancelot Prideaux-Brune was a man of some wealth and established a garage, named the Automobile Service Company (A.S.C) at 166 Portland Street, London.
Prideaux-Brune's ASC garage in Portland Street (Ref 7)
Prideaux-Brune’s workshop manager was Cuthbert Marc Anthony, known by all as ‘Dick’ Anthony.
By 1928, Prideaux-Brune had outgrown the premises and moved his garage to Macklin Street, off Drury Lane in Holborn where it was now named the Winter Garden garage.
The Winter Garden Garage held the concessionaire for the French, Senechal motor car which ‘Dick’ Anthony regularly competed in rallies and speed events to gain publicity for the small car.
By 1931, popularity for the Senechal had waned. Prideaux-Brune expressed an interest in Aston Martin and through discussions with ‘Bert’ Bertelli at the factory, one of the recent Le Mans cars (LM5) was put at Dick Anthony’s disposal. That year, Dick entered LM5 into the Light Car Club’s Relay Race held at Brooklands. A relatively minor event for what was a works racer!
1931 - the Le Mans Aston Martin LM5 appraised by the Winter Garden garage (Ref 7)
Throughout 1931, the financial viability of Aston Martin deteriorated. Suitably impressed by the cars, Prideaux-Brune stumped up the capital that effectively saved Aston Martin. He had conditions though, one of which was that the London concession should move to the Winter Garden garage within 12 months. By January, 1932 Prideaux-Brune had become a Board member at Aston Martin Ltd.
Prideaux-Brune’s time as a Board member was short but sweet. He worked with ‘Bert’ Bertelli to launch the revised 2/4 International model now with Moss gearbox but sadly, only 12 sold. He also commissioned a one off drop head coupe in which he took part in the RAC Rally.
But most importantly, he bankrolled Aston’s 3 car entry into the 1932 Le Mans race (LM8, 9 and 10) where they secured the 9th Biennial Cup.
During 1932, Aston Martin were still not turning a profit. Prideaux-Brune warned that should orders not dramatically pick up at the forthcoming Motor Show at Olympia then he would withdraw his financial support. As it happened, sufficient orders were not taken and, by March 1933, Prideaux-Brune sold his stake to R Gordon Sutherland for £10,000.
Prideaux-Brune then moved the Winter Garden garage to Pancras Street at 179 Tottenham Court Road where he exercised his option to distribute Aston Martins alongside other prestigious marques.
Despite selling his interest, Prideaux-Brune continued his special relationship with Aston Martin helping them with market research for the new 4 seater Le Mans special launched in 1933.
At Le Mans in 1934, the Winter Garden garage lent its support to a team of privateers running relatively standard Aston Martins. Dick Anthony manned the pits and helped the privateers eclipse the works team by finishing in 10th place. By contrast, none of the works cars finished.
Later in the year, Aston Martin announced their Mark II despite a glut of older cars in the show rooms of their distributors. Prideaux-Brune found it hard to hide his annoyance and one wonders whether it was this that lost him the London concession. At the Olympia Motor show that year, Prideaux-Brune’s Winter Garden garage was announced as a ‘Special Agent’ whatever that meant. The London concession passed into different hands.
1935 - Lance & Constance Prideaux-Brune with Aston Martin MkII drophead (Ref 7)
Prideaux-Brune’s fascination for Astons however continued. In 1935, Prideaux-Brune commissioned another drop head coupe based on the Mark II which again he entered into rallies partnered by Dick Anthony. The Winter Garden garage produced 6 replicas of this car for customers a model that never appeared in the Aston Martin catalogue!
Also during 1935, Prideaux-Brune and Anthony became founder members of the newly formed Aston Martin Owners Club that continues in good health to this day.
The enthusiasm for Aston Martins evidently paid off, as during 1935, the Winter Garden garage regained its London concession.
By 1936, Aston Martin sales were struggling (not that they had been a great success in the preceding years). Dick Anthony persuaded Aston Martin to let him bore out the Mk II’s 1500cc engine to 1750cc at the Winter Garden garage the result led to the development of the 2.0L engine. Le Mans cars with the prototype 2.0L engine and a new hydraulic braking system were readied only for the race to be cancelled due to industrial action.
1937 saw all change at Aston Martin. Prideaux-Brune’s old friend Bert Bertelli left the works somewhat acrimoniously. Prideaux-Brune however, commissioned a new drop head coupe on a long chassis 2 litre built by Bert’s coach building brother, ‘Harry’. Again it was entered into the RAC rally.
The new men at Aston Martin however, came with new ideas. By March 1938, they withdrew their concession from the Winter Garden garage and from hereon in, Astons would be distributed from the works.
1938 - Constance Prideaux-Brune awaits repairs in the RAC Blackpool Rally (Ref 7)
With a large garage to maintain, Prideaux-Brune turned his discussions to HFS Morgan and from 1938, secured the London concession for the complete Morgan sports car range.
At Le Mans in 1938, the Winter Garden garage prepared a special Morgan 4-4 for Prudence Fawcett. Prudence was a friend of Prideaux-Brune having previously imported Alfa Romeo sports cars through the Winter Garden garage. Geoffrey White, the Sales Manager at the Winter Garden garage, agreed to be her co driver. As a private entry, and sponsored by Lord Wakefield of Castrol oils, the car finished 13th overall qualifying for the Rudge Whitworth Biennial Cup.
HFS Morgan was quick to see the publicity value of this achievement and the Le Mans car appeared in adverts for the new Morgan 4-4 TT replica.
By 1939, Prudence Fawcett had become engaged and under pressure from her husband to be, agreed to give up motor racing. Keen to win the 1939 Le Mans Biennial Cup, HFS Morgan ‘loaned’ a car to the Winter Garden garage to be entered by Prudence Fawcett. Geoff White was this time partnered by Dick Anthony whilst the Morgan factory offered the services of Charlie Curtis to help run the pits alongside Prideaux-Brune. The car finished 15th overall and 2nd in class narrowly missing the Biennial Cup.
With the war bringing motor sport and car sales to an abrupt halt, Prideaux-Brune decided to sell the Winter Garden garage. The next siting of the Winter Garden garage was in railway arches in Shepherd Bush by which time the garage was owned and run by Ernie Lord Dick Anthony’s right hand man. The garage had reverted to Aston Martin but in this guise, as supplier of parts and services to pre war cars.