FRAGMENTS ON FORGOTTEN MAKES No. 17: THE CRAIG-DoRWALD
THE Craig-Diirwald is not to be found in ” Doyle’s,” that invaluable quick-reference to forgotten makes, and when I first heard of it I was inclined to suspect ‘a leg-pull, for surely this was not a real car but something out of a novel by John Buchan or Dornford Yates ? However, when Mr. Robert Kisch, Managing Director of Ailsa Craig Ltd., invited nte to visit his Ashford factory and go through the photographs and cuttings books carefully preserved by his late father, who died last year, I was left in no doubt that this was one of the more interesting of the pioneer cars.
Ailsa Craig, the famous marine diesel engine firm, stems from a small bicycle workshop in Glasgow belonging, from 1891, to A. E. S. Craig. In t9o3 Mr. Craig was joined by G. L. Dorwald and E. A. 1). Kist:11, A.M.I.Mech.E., and on moving to London the title was changed to the Putney Motor Co. Ltd., with premises in Richmond Road, E. Putney, then a remote village outside London. Ilere a number of cars were built and engines supplied for the cars of customers who already had an automobile but sought a reliable power unit. At hrst marine engines were installed in these cars with no modification except to dispense with the water pump. It is recalled by one of the present employees that they even retained the forward and reverse gearbox, so that the driver was presented with one Speed control and a clutehless forward-neutral-reverse lever.
The engines used for this purpose were the type Di vertical single-cylinder that gave 5 b.h.p. on petrol and the type 1)2 vertical twin, capable of doubling that output. It is exceedingly interesting that Mr. Kisch preserves at the present factory one of these single cylinder engines, which he was able to pick up on the Broads, not long ago. This is engine No. 573, tested on July 27th, 1910, with its original Lodge plug and 13. & 13. carburetter. After being dismantled and cleaned it runs perfectly and gives almost its original output, and it has never been rebored.
From supplying engines it wasn’t long before the Putney Motor Co. began to build cars of their own. It appears that they were asked to supply a traveller’s motor car for the use of X”. V. Spencer, who was Southern Representative of S. & J. Watts & Co., the well-known soft-goods merchants of Manchester. A closed cab was specified, with a box behind for goods, the latter being detachable to reveal comfortable seats. This traveller’s car c(m1d carry 10 cwt. of samples and had a 16-11.0. 2cylinder engine which apparently ran so quietly that it was sometimes mistaken for an electric vehicle. Delivered in 1903. Mr. Spencer used this car all over the S. Coast, and after it had run more than 5,000 miles it was exhibited at Cordingley’s Motor Show at the Agricultural Show in March, 1904. This success seems to have fired the Company with enthusiasm and various cars and commercial vehicles followed. The latter included a curious agricultural tractor which was tested by towing an 8-ton loaded pantechnicon up Putney flill and a fantastic motor omnibus with the driver’s seat on a level with and
forming an extension of the high top deck, his .steering wheel being connected to the chassis by 4 shaft of incredible length, while a ladder was required to reach the seat. It is claimed that this was the first motor ‘bus to climb Putney I fill. Later a Irove was made to Strand-on-the-Green, Chiswick, to premises occupied today by Plus Flats Ltd.
The firm also made 4-cylinder cars, eight of these haying final drive by side chains. As a photograph shows, the engine was of notably clean design, with the h.t. leads carried in a separate fibre tube for each plug and, surprisingly, ” bunch Of banana ” exhaust pipes for each pair of cylinders. It seems possible that 16 or 20 of these Craig-Dorwalds were made and, as in 1961, so M 1903, the firm had a big export business, so if they still exist at all they are probably abroad. Mr. Kiseh would very much like to know of one or to hear from anyone who remembers them and he says that if one is being rebuilt he should be able to supply plenty of spares, for Ailsa Craig Ltd. do just this for their marine engine customers; it is probable that the stock of early carburetters and magnetos they hold could be a great help to rebuilders of veteran and Edwardian cars of other, better-known makes. These components range from 1890 to 1950 onwards. Incidentally, apart from the historic marine engine aforementioned, Mr. Kisch has kept one of the firm’s 1920 single-cylinder Imp Oil Engines with semi-cooled head. In 1904 the Putney Motor Co. was asked for a 150 b.h.p. engine for a Russian dirigible airship. This was designed as probably the World’s first Via and as 6-cylinder lit. magnetos were impossible to come by, trembler-coil ignition was used. Pictures of this remarkable engine exist and it is described in some detail in the contenmordry Press. The Cylinders were .desaxe and the crankshaft ran in four bearings, the total weight. being very low. Russia never took delivery, so the engine was put into a yacht in Hong Kong, -nagneto ignition then being adopted because the sea air affected the fibre distributor disc of the original ignition system._ This yacht was commandeered by the British Navy and used by them throughout the 1914/18 war.,
afterwards being returned to its owner and one wonders if this pioneer Via is running today.
In 1905 another innovation was a 6-cylinder engine with t2 vertical o.h. valves actuated by an o.h. camshaft driven by a vertical shaft at the front, the entire valve gear naked and unashamed. If this isn’t the first o.h.c. engine it must run Maudslay very close. This engine was exhibited at the Islington Show, together with a Bayley-Craig car with a 2o-h.p. Brouhot engine, later replaced by one of the Company’s own power-units.
The name of the Company later became Ailsa Craig Ltd. Car manufacture had been dropped in favour of marine and industrial engines soon after 1905. AiIsa Craig diesel engines are, indeed, World famous and they continue to be built largely by hand, test sheets for every engine built are available, and as far as possible the Company keeps a record of the history of each of its products. This is very much a firm in the old tradition of good workmanship relying on craftsmen and the inside of every crankcase is still enamelled white …. It is hardly surprising therefore that Robert Kisch, who took over control from his father in 5959, is sometimes to be seen driving a 3-litre Bentley, although he has also tasted the joys of Jaguar motoring, and his business car is a Ford Zephyr Zodiac. Can anyone unearth a Craig-Dorwald for him ?—W. B.