Armstrong Siddeley History — Readers Provide a Postscript

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76

Sir,

Your history of the Armstrong Siddeley Car brings to mind my own slight association with them.

Going into the motor trade as an apprentice mechanic at the age of sixteen, I can, even after twenty-four years, remember very well the 30 h.p. and Long Eighteen; my employer Mr. William Worton of Gt. Yarmouth ran two of the 30’s and a Long Eighteen as taxis, they were beautiful vehicles and were maintained in excellent condition. The 30’s were very fast cars indeed and up to 1937 were capable of over 60 m.p.h. with a terrific top gear performance. We used to deliver papers with them early on Sunday mornings to outlying villages, with the rear of the bodies full to the roof with closely bundled newsprint the weight was colossal but it seemed to make no difference to the speed and power of these cars.

The Long Eighteen was a much neater motor car and was itself fast and utterly safe. I seem to remember that the open spoked flywheel acted as a fan, the spokes being set at an angle to draw air through the radiator and so through the entire engine compartment, the bonnets being a very tight and precise fit all round, I believe also people have run into trouble with some of these cars because they removed the fitted engine trays and misguidedly threw them away, this, of course, caused immediate overheating.

The bodies were magnificent pieces of coachcraft, doors shutting like a railway coach, all nickel fittings, occasional seats interior lights, leather and Bedford cord upholstery. All the cars of which I write had cantilever rear springs. and 1 remember the 30’s had a good deal of return motion through the steering gear.

Perhaps these reminiscences can be of interest to other readers.

I am, Yours, etc.,

John Bradbury

Burgh Castle

***

Sir,

May I heartily agree with Mr. C. H. Haworth’s praise for Armstrong Siddeleys.

Some friends and I purchased one of the 1930 12 h.p. models and had fine service from it.

It was a 1.236 c.c. six-cylinder model with “crash” gearbox endowed with two-seater plus dickey bodywork.

When the engine was ticking over it was dead silent except for a rush of air through the single updraught Claudel-Hobson carburetter. Ignition was by B.T.H. magneto driven via the dynamo from the front of the engine. Cooling was by water pump. No fan was fitted but the flywheel was vaned to provide a flow of air through the “engine room.”

The three-speed gearbox drove ”is an enclosed shaft to the spiral bevel rear axle. The universal joint for the movement or the rear axle and prop-shaft was placed between the gearbox and clutch. This made the gearbox unsprung weight and when traversing bumpy roads it was quite uncanny to see the gear lever waving about.

The brakes and steering were excellent. The steering was by worm and sector and needed one-and-a-half turns from lock to lock, but was extremely light and positive.

The brakes were non-compensated. rod-actuated and very efficient. This car cost my friends and I £10 complete with spare engine. This was not pre-war, furthermore, but in March, 1957. We were lucky in finding another that had been dismantled and bought it for spares.

Unfortunately the end came one night, when the battery lead shorted out and caused the car and garage to go up in flames. Such was the end of a grand car.

I am, Yours, etc.,

A. C. Putt

London, S.E.18.

***

Sir,

My father bought new an Armstrong Siddeley Cotswold Tourer (1927) which despite a noisy and archaic gearbox still runs excellently.

With a very heavy flywheel it has slow acceleration but is extremely flexible.. It has a quiet push-rod overhead valve engine and will run all day at a speed of 35 m.p.h. up to about 55 which we reckoned its maximum.

My car has done about 120,000 miles almost without a fault and as one of the few surviving “Fourteens” was chosen to take part in the R.A.C. Diamond Jubilee of 1957. As moral it ran superbly.

The photo was taken at Folkestone Warren about four years ago. The car led the V.S.C.C. grand parade at Goodwood in September, 1957.

I am, Yours, etc.,

E. B. Watson

Broadstairs

***

Sir,

I am writing to tell you how interested I am in the latest issue of Motor Sport. As usual it is first-class. This particular issue especially appeals to me as it contains the history of the Armstrong Siddeley Company of Coventry. It has always seemed to me a pity that this great company has never had a history published in the way that Rolls-Royce, Daimler and other old-established firms have done, and I am certain that you have performed a very valuable and much appreciated service, and I am looking forward to reading the remainder of the article.

I am, Yours, etc.,

C. F. Tomkinson

Coventry

***

Sir,

I read your first article regarding the history of Armstrong Siddeley cars with great interest as I feel that the pre-war models, and particularly the larger ones, were a sort of understudy to the Rolls-Royce. I have a one-owner saloon first registered in July, 1936, and which has done over 100,000 miles but which still looks “as new.” I enclose a photograph taken last month.

I am, Yours, etc.,

Alan Wood

Barnet

***

Sir,

I was most interested in the article on Armstrong Siddeley cars, appearing in the November issue. I owned two fairly early examples and drove many more. Some were better than others but all shared one particular quality—that of virtual indestructibility.

Yhe enclosed photograph which I turned up recently quite by chance is one of one of my old cars—a very rare model of which few were made and, I believe, none survive. This was the so-culled “Sports” 14 h.p. o.h.v. four-cylinder of, I think, 1926 vintage. I once saw a similar model on the 30 h.p. chassis.

This car as you will see had a sharply raked ” vee ” windscreen, the driver’s side of which could be opened wide. This was a godsend in view of one of its few weak features—deplorable lights.

In other respects it was one of the most comfortable ears I have ever driven. The doors which were only about hall the depth of the body sides were raked to the same angle as the screen and entry involved a respectable climb, after which one stepped down into the body. The result was a body of immense rigidity which was entirely draught-proof and free from rattles.

If I remember right the body panelling was in aluminium and terminated in a cruiser stern rather reminiscent of the DISS Delages of the period. This was considered particularly dashing.

The term “Sports” had nothing to do with performance, the car proceeding at a more or less fixed maximum of 40-45 m.p.h. up hill or on the level, all in top gear which was just as well since the three-speed gearbox was apparently provided for getting away front rest and for little else except dire emergencies. Second gear was deplorably noisy and since the universal joint was between the gearbox and the engine the gear lever rose and fell gently with the movement of the gearbox/torque tube assembly. The only other car I can recall which shared this characteristic was the Marendaz Special.

The worst feature of this particular model of Armstrong was undoubtedly the lighting system, which was a 6-volt installation. The dynamo could never be coaxed to give more than seven amps, and as soon as the full lighting load brought the needle of the ammeter on to the discharge side the lights lost their brightness and were really quite inadequate even for the modest performance of the car. Petrol consumption was very modest and oil consumption almost non-existent.

The ride was extremely comfortable although the car was quite devoid of shock-absorbers. Even with the high pressure 820 by 120 (or was it 90?) tyres the car was completely controllable even in the snowy conditions shown in the photographs and I used to do a regular journey from Edinburgh to Aberfeldy in Perthshire throughout a hard winter without any sort of trouble.

Front wheel brakes of negligible stopping power were fitted but on the whole the braking was adequate.

The 30 h.p. Armstrong of the period was truly a formidable car. “Built like a battleship” has been applied to many vehicles but never more truly than to this particular car. Having ascended— yes, ascended—into the driving seat one overlooked a vast expanse of bonnet, but so high did one sit that an excellent view was obtained in every direction and so far was one from the road that practically no road shocks reached one. Progress after getting away from rest was entirely in top gear and the vast engine delivered its power in a gentle steam-engine like manner.

My other Armstrong Was one of the earliest 12 h.p. s.v. six-cylinder cars. The same splendid workmanship and finish was shared by this car as was the indestructibility but when one has said that there was little else to say. It was sluggish beyond belief and although in perfect mechanical condition it would not pull the skin off the proverbial rice-pudding.

Further, it had an unpleasant fore-and-aft pitching characteristic which could never be entirely eliminated even with shock-absorbers and oversize tyres. Obviously built for the. use of elderly ladies resident in the Fen Country it was not a suitable vehicle for the West Highlands where I was living at the time. I therefore sold the car after about 18 months and no doubt it the subsequent owners did not actually put a match to it this very pretty little two-seater must still be going since it never went fast enough to wear anything out!

Armstrongs never, even with their less expensive cars, resorted to the “cheap-and-nasty” which characterised—and eventually killed—so many formerly fine makes during the mid and latter ‘thirties.

I am. Yours, etc.,

H. G. Dunn

London, W.4.

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