Factory Methods of the Vintage Era No. 19: Singer

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In the summer of 1920, with the war over and things improving, the Singer Ten was a popular small-car which was seen in its share of competition events. The post-war model had far more of its parts produced on presses instead of being cast and machined. The presses at Coventry dealt with clutch components, brake drums, radiator shells and the control levers and even the Singer name-plate for the radiator was now part of the radiator pressing, whereas in the earlier cars it was a separate plate, riveted on.

Singer & Co. had very recently installed a die-casting plant for quickly turning out parts and another idea they had introduced to cope with the prevailing high cost of manual labour (there is a familiar ring, here!) was an electrically-driven tyre pump which was able to inflate a tyre to 50 lb./sq. in. in a matter of 30 seconds.

The factory was not then a large one, covering but a few acres and employing less than 1,000 hands, but the output of Singer Tens was said to be 40 to 50 a week. Production was, even so, restricted because outside supplies were difficult to obtain on time, particularly springs. The mechanics were paid on piecework and many of those on full time were earning £7 to £8 a week— about £35 to £40 a week or thereabouts by present-day values, or maybe more. Storemen and others who were not productive were given a bonus based on the weekly output of cars. Engines were tested in batches, being run first for four hours while driven by belting and then for a further four hours under power. After installation in a chassis a road-test of some 100 miles was undertaken, in several stages, while checks were made.

In the Spring of 1920 Singer’s had installed their own aluminium and brass foundry, a reflection on the difficulty of obtaining supplies from outside sources, and the anxiety over another moulders’ strike. This was working satisfactorily, keeping up with car output, and the foundry was to be extended so that cylinder blocks could be cast in the factory.

In 1920 Singer was concentrating on production but an active competition season was contemplated the following year. True, a sports-model Singer Ten was listed, but it was identical to the standard cars and its output was only about one-tenth of that of the other models. The body was lighter and more sporting than the normal two-seater but that was all, although some louvres in the bonnet were an anticipated improvement!

—W.B.

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