Fragments on Forgotten Makes

No. 10: The Warren Lambert

It is hard today, when only 25 manufacturers are currently operating in Britain, to appreciate just how many were struggling for existence before the first World War. One such make which achieved more success than many, before it, too, faded away, was the Warren Lambert.

Mr. A. Warren Lambert had the first garage in Putney and made a name for himself at Brooklands and in trials with a Morgan three-wheeler. Due to this his customers were largely composed of three-wheeler and sidecar users. It was to offer them a four-wheeled car with better accommodation and weather protection that he, his brother and their father went into production.

Warren Lambert’s aims were to offer a good engine in a light chassis and to this end the prototype which appeared in 1910 had a vee-twin Blumfield air-cooled engine in a simple chassis with straight side-members, ¼ elliptic rear springs, and long radius-arms locating the back axle. Further to increase efficiency, the gearbox was mounted on the front of the torque tube, with but a single universal joint behind the clutch. Weight was kept to a minimum and in spite of using a rather heavy body off a rival light car, this prototype Warren Lambert turned the scales at a mere 6 cwt. or so.

An excellent factory was taken, the Aldine works in the Uxbridge Road at Shepherd’s Bush, and production commenced in 1912. Soon water-cooled engines were fitted. A heavy flywheel enabled the engine to deliver power at a mere 500 r.p.m.

Warren Lambert set out to prove that not only did their cars provide more comfort than a cyclecar or sidecar but that they would never stick on hills as contemporary light cars were prone to do. A customer could motor off to Devon on holiday, for instance, and be sure of surmounting the gradients encountered. To prove this six people were taken up the notorious Alms Hill near Henley, five were conveyed up the Brooklands Test Hill and Nailsworth Ladder was conquered for the first time. The company justifiably adopted the slogan: “The first speed of the Warren Lambert will take you anywhere.” This paid off and by 1914 they were making perhaps 25-30 cars a week.

When war broke out A. Warren Lambert, who was designer and Managing Director, joined up and saw service in the Middle East. His father tried to carry on but was soon forced by circumstances to close down.

After the war production was resumed at a works in Petersham Road, Richmond. In 1914 a Dorman four-cylinder engine had been used and Mr. Warren Lambert decided that a “four” was essential for post-Armistice production. He had discovered before the war that Continental in America made a suitable small engine and had signed a provisional contract with them. He set about testing an engine to destruction, by which time a person called William Morris had arranged to take Continental’s entire output and refused to give Warren Lambert a look-in.

So after the war the re-designed Warren Lambert used an Alpha engine, which was the forerunner of the Coventry-Simplex. Moss supplied gears for gearbox and back axle, the gearbox casings were made in Bristol, and a firm at Godalming constructed the simple bodywork, but all assembly work was done in the parent factory.

Major Warren Lambert made his debut with the new car at the J.C.C. Burford Bridge Rally in 1920—he had been a founder-member of the Cyclecar Club from which the J.C.C. stemmed. The engine had a capacity of 1330 c.c. and developed 16 b.h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m. Ignition was by magdyno, the crankshaft ran in three bearings, and the pre-war feature of an efficient torque-tube transmission with one universal joint was retained, while as on the earliest models a differential-less axle was used, this having been abandoned pre-war in deference to public opinion.

Again a bid was made to establish the car as a fine hill-climber. In 1920 it was one of eight makes to accomplish clean ascents of Nailsworth Ladder and the only one to officially conquer Mutton Hill near Stroud (although an Eric-Campbell had claimed this in 1919), the driver in both cases being E. Poore. Warren Lamberts also competed in trials and speed bill-climbs, Major Warren Lambert being second in his class to a Deemster at S. Harting and his wife driving in several events.

The 1920 catalogue listed a chassis at £375, a two-seater for £435, a deluxe two-seater for £480 and a fan-cooled Colonial model with strengthened springs for £455. The car with which the successful hill-storming sorties were accomplished had a big wooden box at the back, as Mr. Warren Lambert explained “to enable us to stuff it full of human ballast!”

For 1920 the flat-fronted radiator gave place to a rounded one, the fan became standard equipment, and for a time Sankey disc wheels like those of the Angus Sanderson were tried. The price was reduced to £425. The weight was 9½ cwt. and the gear ratios 4.3, 7.8 and 17.4 to 1.

A most impressive sports model was prepared for the 1920 Show. It had a tail similar to that of the later “duck’s back” Alvis with spare disc wheel beneath, a 66 x 109½ mm., 1½-litre Coventry-Simplex engine and a four-speed gearbox. The crowning glory was an enormous copper exhaust pipe on the near side. This sports model was listed at £575 but probably only one was built, which was apparently seen in Nottingham in 1936. A tubular front axle with extra safety leaf for the ¼-elliptic springs was fitted.

A normal Warren Lambert again got up the Ladder in 1921, in company with ten others, but the end was in sight. With full order books the firm just couldn’t get supplies in the strike-ridden ‘twenties. It was still a private company and, with chassis frames piled to the ceiling, was forced to fade out, because gears, axles and even lamps were unavailable to the smaller concerns. Recalling these precarious but nostalgic days of motor-car production, Mr. Warren Lambert, O.B.E., interviewed us in his comfortable house in Surrey. He is still an enthusiastic motorist, who has recently disposed of his tuned Renault Dauphine in favour of a Gordini-Dauphine which he hopes to tune to a similar degree in search of really good acceleration, and the four-speed gearbox of which he greatly appreciates.—W. B.

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Vintage cars are certainly being given to the public these days. They figure in David Wright’s “Carol Day” strip cartoon in the Daily Mail, in which a Stutz Bearcat appears prominently.

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A vintage car which has not only had one owner all its life but has never been driven by anyone else since it was collected new in Canley in 1929 is a Standard Nine Teignmouth saloon, now in Wales. It is soon to be replaced by a Standard Ensign. Other old Standards reported recently include a sporting-looking 1908 30-h.p. six-cylinder two-seater at a Woodford garage, a 1913 Rhyl two-seater at an agent’s in Scotland, a 1929 Kenilworth tourer at Berkeley Square Garages and a 1929 Selby long-wheelbase tourer in the hands of its second owner in Scarborough.

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A vintage van, a Chevrolet of circa 1925/6, was brokers up for scrap in Chertsey recently.

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In Hampshire a Rolls-Royce Twenty with truck body, circa 1923, is thought to be for disposal, which reminds us that a well-known vendor of these cars in the Crystal Palace area is advertising in an American journal as willing to simply vintage and post-vintage models direct to the U.S.A.

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A correspondent in Norwich has acquired a one-owner 1922 G.N. in original condition, which was in regular use almost to the end of 1956. It has run 62,700 miles and never been driven above 25 m.p.h. Another correspondent in Warwickshire is restoring a 1924 Clyno Regent saloon with a friend and requires headlamps, instruments, a back seat and general information to help with this work. Letters can be forwarded.