Part 1: The origins of the Singapore Motor Club badge
Caption: An undated Singapore Motor Club cloth patch. Members would have had one on their race overalls – probably during the period of the Singapore Grand Prix 1961-1969 (whereupon the club merged with the Forces Motoring Club to become the Singapore Motor Sports Club).
So what has the Adelaide Art School got to do with the original Singapore Motor Club badge?
Formed on 25th February 1948 at a meeting at the Adelphi Hotel in Singapore, the Singapore Motor Club (SMC) was the first motor sports club independent of the Automobile Association of Malaya to be formed. Its first committee consisted of active names in motor sports throughout Malaysia and Singapore. Charles Frederick “Freddie” Pope was the Club’s first President but relinquished his position soon after, following the debacle of the Pender Road Hill Climb. He had just set up his motor retail and repair business as well, following a stint with local car distributor Cycle & Carriage Ltd.
ORIGINS: Initial membership of the SMC consisted of 10 very enthusiastic individuals but the idea of such a club dates back to 1947 when racer and Specials builder Lim Peng Han scoured the region to seek out his racing friends and see if they would be keen to participate in a new and very exciting project. Lim reached out to Paul Gibbs Pancheri, whom he knew well from before the war (Pancheri had commissioned Lim to build him a Special before the war). Pancheri was back in Malaya with Harper Gilfillan and now working out of Bangsa (or as it was then known, Bungsar) on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Pancheri was to be transferred to Singapore in early 1948 with his new family (his son Michael was born in Kuala Lumpur in June 1947), so the timing of Lim’s new endeavour was ideal.
It seems that there had been a parallel attempt to set up a motor club in 1947 but nothing came of it. This Freddie Pope-led initiative held a meeting at the offices of Cycle & Carriage Co., (1926) Ltd. at 43 Orchard Road in late 1947, Pope being on the C&C payroll as their Workshop Manager at the time. The company had the agencies for Singer, Jowett, British Renault and New Hudson automobiles, Bedford commercial vehicles and BSA motorcycles, amongst others. They had yet to bag the Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz agencies but Pope was on a different course and would soon have his own workshop operating on Anson Road. Noting came of this initial Pope-led venture.
LET’S GO RACING: To understand the origins of the local Motor Club, the Pancheri memoirs take on a far more important meaning. He recalled that “We were all very much ‘feeling our way’ with the organisation, some of us had never witnessed a motor competition, still less, either competed or marshalled at one.
Those who had some slight experience were too busy getting their mounts and themselves ready to be able to give either time or advice. So it was pretty amateurish, but despite this – and the inevitable extra burden lack of knowledge put upon us – the meeting went off quite well, though crown control, which fell to my lot on this occasion, involved the use of tremendous activity and boundless tack as well as my best Malay…And we got by without any untoward incident.” Pancheri was probably referring to the Singapore Motor Club’s first sporting event, a hill climb held at Bukit Batok on 25 April 1948, exactly two months following the formation of the SMC.
THE BADGE: The objective of the Club was “for sponsoring events to interest owners of all types of motor vehicles.” SMC was affiliated with the Automobile Association of Malaya (Singapore Branch) which operated under the rules and regulations of Britain’s RAC. The Club’s first event, a ‘touring rally’, was held on 21st March 1948. The “rally” commenced at 9.30am from the popular Prince’s Restaurant at 280 Orchard Road (the present day Paragon Shopping Centre) with a “devious” course though the city and concluding at the Airport Hotel at Kallang Airport.
With the establishment of a new club, club badge was a prerequisite and in stepped Joy Moncrieff, wife of motor racing enthusiast and aircraft instrument engineer Joseph Neil Kingsmill Moncrieff (SMC member number 13). Joy had studied at the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts (simply called the Adelaide Art School) and came up with a very smart design for the club (pictured). Neil had been posted to Singapore by Qantas in 1946 and was part of the original group involved in the establishment of the Motor Club. Joy’s original design would be altered slightly shortly after, the addition of a pentagon with a lion within being the most significant alteration. These changes can be seen clearly in the club event programs displayed in this article, and in the badges shown above.
FATHER POPE: The ebullient Freddie Pope, an engineer by training, had remained in Singapore after the Japanese surrender. His strong personality and passion for all things motoring was the driving force behind the Club and the success it achieved throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. He was also a regular competitor at these events and his very well-known ‘Flying Taxicab’ Special and Jaguar XKs were a common sight up and down the peninsula. His short tenure as founding President had little impact on the newly-formed Club as he was still very much the strongman behind the scenes in motor sport in Singapore. Pope returned to lead the club through its most active period and was president between 1959 and 1961, when the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was held.
His successor during the turbulent year of its formation was Senior Police Officer Patrick J. ‘Paddy’ Darnell. Darnell came with considerable motor sport experience having competed in the Rob Roy Hill Climb and Cowes Island Races in Australia as well as races on Pendine Sands in England and at Phoenix Park in Dublin. A mechanical engineer by profession, he was also editor of the Automobile Association of Malaya’s official publication, Bulletin. Darnell was President of the SMC in 1949 and 1950. In April 1951, he was elected Chairman of the AAM and in November 1951, he became the first Chairman of the Automobile Association of Singapore, an office he held until March 1954 when he retired and returned to the UK. Paul Gibbs Pancheri took over as President of the SMC in 1951 and held the post for two years before he was posted to Selangor by his employers Harper Gilfillen. The rest is history.
Part 2: Mickey Boy’s Badge – The origins of the Selangor and Malayan Motor Sports Club badges will appear in our Friday Feature Fix edition of 16 July 2021.