cars by country
UK cars
Armstrong history                
post war 16hp 18hp
Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire
Armstrong photo album


Armstrong Siddeley history

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 Mickleover, Derbyshire.

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.

JDS Biog
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 Sphinx".

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.

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 arrived.

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 Special.

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 1954.

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.