Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd. was officially formed on 1st November 1919
although agreement to create the Company dated from 19th February of that
year. The Company was born out of the act of the Siddeley Deasy Company
being taken over by the Armstrong Whitworth Development Company. There
had, however, been Siddeley cars before 1919.
John Davenport Siddeley set up the
Siddeley Autocar Company in 1902 and in 1903 four Siddeley models were
shown at Crystal Palace and by 1905 there was a choice of more than a
dozen models from two-seater to landaulet. Some of these early cars have
survived, one being in the possession of the late Peter Baxendale's family
and one being on show at the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust Museum in
In 1905 John Siddeley joined Wolseley as
Sales Manager and from then until 1909 a series of Wolseley-Siddeley
automobiles was produced. These were most impressive cars. One of the cars
is believed to have belonged to Queen Alexandra, patroness of the Company,
and John Siddeley is believed to have driven King Edward VII in front of
Buckingham palace in one in 1906. A five litre 1909 model is believed to
be still in existence in private ownership and a preserved
Wolesley-Siddeley Phaeton resides in a museum in Bergeyk in Holland.
John D Siddeley
In 1909 John Siddeley again moved on and
joined the Deasy Motor Company, becoming Managing Director in 1910. The
Deasy Motor Company was established in 1906 at Parkside in Coventry by
Henry Deasy and its early business was importing cars from France and
transforming them for use in this Country. Under Siddeley's management the
Company was substantially expanded, growing from 200 employees in 1909 to
5000 in 1919.
Siddeley started to obtain chassis from
Rover, engines from Aster and Daimler and bodies from various contracted
suppliers. In 1911 the Company was using the Daimler Knight engine, a unit
of particular quietness. Not content with the engines as supplied Siddeley
had them stripped, polished and tuned resulting in an even quieter unit
described by one impressed journalist as "As silent and inscrutable as the
THE GREAT WAR
In 1912 the name of Siddeley-Deasy was in use and by 1914 The Company had
become a successful car builder. The Great War changed things
dramatically. The size of the workforce increased tenfold and the products
changed also. Lorries, ambulances and staff cars rolled out of the factory
gates and, from 1915, airframes and aero engines too.
ARMSTRONG SIDDELEY MOTORS IS BORN
With the return of peacetime things again changed and Siddeley Deasy
merged with Sir W. G. Armstrong's Armstrong Whitworth Development Co. and
a subsidiary, Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd. was created. This was the
company that produced Armstrong Siddeley cars thereafter until manufacture
stopped in 1960.
The first cars made by the new company
were 30hp models, a 4960cc six, and the first style of A/S V fronts were
incorporated in the design. (see the reproduction of the announcements and
illustration of November 1919 published in the November 1999 Sphinx).
The 30hp was a substantial vehicle in
all respects, being sold to the aristocracy including the then Duke of
York, later King George VI, and to the carriage trade.
The 30hps were followed by an 18hp model
introduced in 1921 having a 2318cc engine and by a 14hp four cylinder
model in 1923. Unlike the 30s and the 18s, the 14hp sported a flat
radiator. The 14 became a very popular model and over 14,000 were built in
the next six years, many going for export.
Changes to the models took place in 1925
when Mk II models were introduced on the 14, 18 and 30hp chassis.
The two smaller cars had revised chassis
and the 30 received a new mono-block engine instead of its original
bi-block engine, the origins of which could be traced back to 1914. In
1927 a 15hp six joined the range.
The original Sphinx
The 'evolved' Sphinx
1928 saw the introduction of the Wilson Epicyclical fluid flywheel drive
and, what W. G. McMinnies (Publicist to A/S) called the self-changing
gear, setting the style of Armstrong Siddeley cars which was to continue
almost unchanged, apart from the introduction of the Newton clutch in
1936, until automatic gearboxes were offered on the 346 Sapphire some
twenty five years later. The archetypal Armstrong Siddeley car had
Through the thirties the V radiator
style was followed exclusively, the flat radiator of 14s etc. disappearing
from production, identifying an array of models as unmistakably A/S.
Between 1929 and 1939 there were at various times 12s, 12+s, 14s, 15s,
16s, 17s, 20s, 20/25s, 30s and the doyen of them all, the 4960cc Siddeley
MORE THAN SIMPLY CARS
It is important to recall that Armstrong Siddeley was not just a car
company. Throughout the inter-war years it built aero engines and
aeroplanes. It also became involved in the construction and powering of
railcars (See April and July 1997 Sphinx). Subsidiary and associated
companies (Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, Improved Gears Ltd., the Coventry
Pneumatic Railcar Co. etc.) came along.
John Davenport Siddeley remained at the
helm of The Company until 1935 when A W Aircraft was sold and became part
of Hawker Siddeley Aircraft, the Hawker part of the company being based in
Surrey and having its origins with both Messrs. Sopwith and Hawker, and in
1936 Tommy Sopwith became Chairman of ASM.
Following the Second World War,
production resumed with the first postwar all new British car, having
independent front suspension and advanced body design. Design must have
been progressing on the back burner during the war as the new models were
announced on 11 May 1945, just three days after the end of the war in
Europe. The first cars did not come off the production line, however,
until 1946. These 16HP two litre cars were named after famous wartime
aircraft built by the group, the Hurricane, Lancaster and Typhoon. The
cars were updated in 1949 with the introduction of an improved 2.3 litre
18HP engine and the replacement of the Typhoon sports saloon with the
Whitley saloon. Production of these cars continued through to 1954, with
the exception of the Mulliner bodied Lancaster which ceased in 1952.
Armstrong Siddeley also produced two
commercial versions of the 18HP model; a utility coupe and a station
coupe, the latter having a short tray and an occasional bench seat behind
the front seat in its extended cab. More than half of these were exported
to Australia where a number of fine restored examples are cherished by
their owners. Extended chassis limousines and cabriolets were also
produced. Perhaps the most interesting of the immediate postwar models
were the two-door Hurricane drophead coupe and the two door Typhoon sports
saloon, of which relatively few survive.
An entirely new model, the 3.4 litre Sapphire saloon, was introduced late
in 1952 for sale in 1953. The engine was of advanced design having
hemispherical combustion chambers and developing 120bhp in the first
instance, increasing to 125bhp with early development and to 150bhp with
the optional twin carburettors. The twin carburettor Sapphire was capable
of a genuine 100mph. The Sapphire was introduced with a choice of
preselector and synchromesh gearboxes. It became available in an automatic
version (Rolls Royce four speed) with the introduction of the Mark II in
In 1956, the smaller 234 and 236 Sapphire models were introduced as a
replacement for the discontinued 16/18HP cars. The 234 Sapphire had an
advanced 4 cylinder version of the Sapphire engine which developed 120bhp
and gave the car outstanding performance characteristics. The 236 Sapphire
had a reworked version of the 18HP engine developing 85bhp. A 4 speed
synchromesh gearbox was standard on both models with the option of a
Laycock de Normanville overdrive. Many 236 Sapphires were fitted with
Manumatic clutches. Sadly, these cars were not popular, due mainly to
their unusual (for the time) body styling, and production ceased in 1958.
The Sapphire was replaced by the opulent Star Sapphire in 1958. The Star
was one of the first British production saloons to have front wheel disc
brakes fitted. Alas, the Star Sapphire was the last model ever produced by
Armstrong Siddeley and the last Star Sapphire left the works in July 1960.