Which Was First?

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Sir,

I was most interested to read in V-E-V Miscellany that the Wolseley Register is to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year as the Daimler & Lanchester OC is also celebrating its 10th birthday, with a cavalcade through Coventry on the 29th of June this year.

It was also interesting to sec that their Rally is intended as a rehearsal for an 80th anniversary of Britain’s First Car in 1975, as it is my humble opinion that they are being a little premature and presumptive in this as most people describe the Lanchester as Britain’s first car.

Both vehicles, it is generally accepted, were produced over the period 1895-6. We know definitely that the Lanchester made its first trial run in 1896, the late George Lanchester believing it to have taken place in February or early March. The first run of the Wolseley is not so certain but Lambert and Wyatt in their autobiography of Lord Austin devote several pages to this mystery and come to the conclusion that no completed Herbert Austin-built car was in existence at the time of the Lawson exhibition in May 1896. Also from a contemporary photograph showing, in the background, bushes with leaves on, they concluded that the first outing took place between May and September 1896.

L. T. C. Rolt, in his book “Horseless Carriages”, says: “In the same year that saw the birth of the Lanchester, Herbert Austin was building a small motor tricycle.”

T. R. Nicholson in “Passenger Car 1861 1904” says: “An improved machine (to the first car) appeared in the same year of 1896”.

Uxbridge Robert I. Whyte