PHILIP HOPES - IN MEMORIAM

By Ray Clark

Well, no longer will I be picking up the telephone to hear the words "Hi-de-Hi, Phil here", because he has gone on to a better place.

I first met Philip around ten years ago when I purchased a set of Doble parts. Completely flummoxed, I made up a lecture on the history of steam cars which I gave to several vintage car clubs in the hope of contacting someone who could help me. It worked - I got Philip! Rather surprisingly, as he has never been very complimentary about other people's efforts, Philip was quite excited with my acquisition and offered to take me to Henley Regatta in his steam car so I could get a feel for it. What a trip that was! - in his Austin 10 chassis fitted with a White engine and a Philip-designed and Philip-built Bolsover type boiler. I was a little concerned however, when we caught fire quite badly whilst travelling along the A4 near Reading. Being a serving member of the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, all my training took over and I grabbed the shiny new vaporizing liquid extinguisher from the running board, noticing with dismay that around thirty meters of tarmac was burning behind us.

"What do you think you are doing!" exclaimed Philip snatching the extinguisher from me, "That cost me thirty quid! Beat it out with your coat!" I did manage to beat out the fire, and had my first lesson in how to look innocent when the Fire Brigade arrived.

Philip, with massive financial support from his father George, then bought the 1908 Model EX Stanley once owned by the Reverend Stanley Ellis. When the car arrived from America we were stunned by its performance, and I attended many rallies with Philip, where he would give rides and expound upon the car's virtues to anyone who showed the slightest interest.

At this time Philip was working as a senior scientific officer at the Road Research Laboratories, and was travelling around 25 miles to work each day in a Reliant Rebel (4-wheeled version) which he had converted to electric power with a motor from a Stacca truck and 8 cwt of lead-acid batteries in the boot. Philip had calculated that, even allowing for the cost or replacement batteries every three years, the operating costs were about 0.5p per mile. He also saved money as electric powered vehicles were not subject to tax or MOT. It may be the lack of having an MOT check that led to the demise of the Reliant when a back wheel, complete with half shaft attached, parted company with the rest of the vehicle on a roundabout. The car rolled onto its roof, trapping Philip inside, but bare handed he managed to tear a hole in the fiberglass side and release himself. "Flipping heck!" (or something similar anyway) I said on hearing the story, "You were lucky to find a weak spot in the bodywork." "Weak spot be blowed," replied Philip, "You would be surprised what strength you can muster when you have the acid from 8cwt of batteries dripping down your neck!"

With no Reliant, Philip then used his Stanley Steamer every day to get to work, 25 miles each way. Is this the last example of a steam car used as every day commuter transport, I wonder? Around this time, in the early 1990's, I would occasionally drive over to Reading to see Philip's latest experiments, and there were lots of them. He built radio and television transmitters - Philip was actually the first person to transmit television pictures on the FM waveband - experimented with flashing black and white segments on a disk to produce colors, and actually made a record of me singing "Yellow Submarine" into a big funnel attached to a completely mechanical recording machine cutting grooves in a plastic tube, which he could then play on his Atlas Gem record player. He burnt down his father's shed attempting to make thermo-electric devices similar to those recently seen on Tomorrow's World, and this was getting on for ten years ago! Philip's long-suffering father George did however put his foot down over Philip's proposal to buy a WWII blimp, intending to fill it with hydrogen (the expense of helium was not necessary as the danger from hydrogen was grossly over-rated, according to Philip) and to use it in conjunction with a wicker basket for flights to work. George's worry over a repeat of the Hindenburg disaster attached to the chimney of his house caused him to be quite emphatic with his "NO!" on this occasion.

Philip also built himself a regenerative diving set, using caustic soda to scrub the carbon dioxide from his exhaled breath so that he could breathe it again. Off he went down to the River Thames, tied a rope onto a tree, and walked in with a load of scrap metal tied round his waist, attempting to collect fresh water clams from the river bed. Well, the set went wrong, and Philip breathed in caustic soda! Whilst no lasting damage was done, Philip had the whitest teeth in Berkshire for the next few weeks!

Philip then left the Road Research Laboratories and embarked upon an adventure with Tony Vince, living on a farm in Wales. At this time they together took over the reins of the Steam Car Club, and organized the Club magazine and newsletters very successfully on the very limited budget of a small founding club, judging by the growth in interest and knowledge of steam cars, which they established as their principal objective. Philip's highly technical articles on all sorts of steam car related topics were published regularly, sometimes with Tony's taciturn remarks at the bottom, added in an attempt to bring the subject back to a level ordinary mortals could understand. The article that I remember best was Philip's disquisition on Entropy, where he expounded the Titanic's lack of respect for the Rankine cycle and Entropy, as contrasted to the advantage Rollin White's steam cars took of these characteristics. Philip's article ended with the statement that he thought the Titanic's designers were "a White load of Rankers!"

After spending a number of years in Wales, Philip and Tony were getting on each other's nerves - inevitable, I suppose, for two completely different characters forced into each other's company on a remote hillside with no near neighbors. Philip returned to Berkshire. He sold his Stanley EX to sponsor the purchase of a mobile home on a lovely site near his father in Reading. Philip's entrepreneurial skills were quite restricted on the mobile home site, and he would often come over to my house in High Wycombe and regale me with his latest inventions, getting me to make all sorts of bits and pieces and then criticising me for any minor deficiency he considered I had allowed to creep into the job. The one I remember best was when I had to turn a bar down, for what purpose I can't remember. Picking up a micrometer he measured the job and said "This is only .374 thou." (instead of the desired .375). "Not bad, eh?" I replied. "But," retorted Philip, "you will have to do it again!" I did think at that time that, if poor old Tony Vince hadn't been such a sweet natured unflappable sort of person, things like this could easily have been very difficult in Wales! Part of my duties were to write notes for Philip, as he could not read his own writing. He was actually slightly dyslexic, which we only discovered when Philip attended a toga party dressed as a goat.

I was really disappointed over one project that never really got finished. This was Philip's proposed canoe ejector seat. Having got stuck one day in his canoe upside down, probably due to all the food he was eating at my house, Philip designed an ejector seat for his canoe, and I was really looking forward to seeing him on the Thames, leaning out from the bank with a stick to press the firing button and watching Philip shoot up into the air! Unfortunately the canoe manufacturers were not keen on sponsoring production, and Philip reluctantly dropped the project. This could have been his meteoric rise to fame in all the senses of the words! The inventions continued: a radar tracking system for stealth bombers (which led to a letter from the Government telling him in no uncertain terms to 'drop it'); an attempt to patent an electrical braking system for road vehicles (thwarted by infringements to existing patents); and a gyro-powered car (for which I refused to make the 'Philip-designed' air bearings) which Philip proposed to energize from his "Economy-7" electrical supply.

Philip also designed and supervised manufacture of several innovative and just plain brilliant features for my Doble. I really must write some of them up for this magazine to ensure Philip gets some belated credit for the work he did on my behalf. Philip also saved me hours and hours of work with his ability to cross sciences and calculate, often in his head, the size and proportions to which I should build things for their respective loads. He was nearly always correct. Philip usually accompanied me on my Doble as flight engineer, accurately predicting just what the gauges would indicate, and sometimes waving the blue and yellow navigational flag he bought me at Henley Regatta, which in naval terms means "Stand Clear - Having Difficulty Manoeuvering".

Perhaps the happiest time was driving my Doble at the Three Counties tour in Alton, or maybe our visit to Stourpane last year, where Philip insisted on manning our exhibition of steam car engines so that he could indulge in his favorite hobby - talking about steam cars. This of course left me and John McCauley free to enjoy the event and the socials in the Dykemobile banqueting suite to the full. Every day we would return to see the faces of the people Philip had trapped in the exhibition tent looking up at us and imploring 'help me'.

Philip was 'up to his ears' in steam right up to the last. He was recently involved in the building of a new boiler for John Jones, with whom he attended a rally in Amsterdam just a few weeks ago.

In connection with the development of a steam balloon with Tom Goodey (at 100oC, steam is half the density of air, don't you know), Philip was due to address an international convention on airships, to be held in Friedrichshafen, Germany at the same time as the inaugural flight of a new full-sized Zeppelin. He was also a consultant to the Serpollet Engineering Company of Verwood, Dorset, who are building a steam car with a view to taking the current steam-powered land speed record, which was established in 1906 by Fred Marriott in a Stanley. Philip was collecting parts for his proposed contemporary special based on the Doble Simplex, and already had a 1924 chassis and axles, a V4 engine donated by Andy Leat, and a large 24V dynamo, an essential feature of the vehicle. Last but certainly not least, he was booked to man our exhibition at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, so that John McCauley and I can play all day every day. What are we going to do now?

I think - no, I know - Philip Hopes was one of the biggest movers and shakers in the steam car world, always with an opinion, and usually a deliberately controversial one so that he could get people talking and arguing. I never managed to explain the difference! Philip will be missed - there is no-one who could take his place. His brilliant keen brain and photographic memory were unbelievable, but the most startling thing about him was his ability to apply complicated technical formulae and principles to solve practical problems.

I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that if it wasn't for Philip, I wouldn't have a steam car. It would be impossible for me to thank him enough for all the work and good fun he has provided me. I just hope that when he met his maker he greeted him with the words:

"Hi de Hi, Phil here"



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