No. 6—The Adams
THESE notes on the Adams “Pedals To Posh” car were gleaned through my good fortune in meeting Mr. E. C. H. Stroud, who was employed in the Bedford factory before 1914.
The Adams sprang from the Adams-Hewitt, which in turn seems to have evolved from the Adams-Hewitt horizontal stationary engine, of which, incidentally, the crank and flywheel alone weighed 160 lb.
The early Adams had a 10-h.p. horizontal single-cylinder engine with simple l.t. ignition and an Adams carburetter and, of course, the famous pedal-controlled epicyclic transmission. Many of these were sold abroad, notably to doctors and military men. The car had final-drive by central chain, with sprocket enclosed in a easing on the back axle. A 10-h.p. delivery van was also made, with side chains. For many years the Shefford Laundry in Bedford ran one of these.
A 10-h.p. Adams went through the Afghan campaign in the hands of an officer of the 54th Camel Corps and larger commercial vehicles were supplied for use in Nairobi, etc. A very special 18-h.p. Adams with closed body was presented to the Emperor Menelik.
Later larger cars were listed, the 10-h.p. was provided with b.t. magneto ignition, and ingenious bodies were made, in which the back seats could be slid from the platform to convert the car into a 2-seater, of which the entire body hinged up to give access to engine and transmission.
Workmanship at the Adams factory was of a high order. The Adams-Hewitt originated in America and arrived here about 1905, the 10-h.p. “single” having a bore and stroke of 41 in. by 6 in. The company later became Adams-Igranic and exists in Bedford today as the Igranic, supplying electrical switchgear, etc. In the days of car manufacture a test track ran round the buildings. In 1910-11 the Adams Sixteen, to the design of Mr. Hunter, was a popular model, its 4-cylinder engine having cylinders in two pairs, the same cylinders, in three blocks of two, being employed for the 30-h.p. model. Fully-floating back axles were an out-standing feature making for easy dismantling, while the transmission was either 3-speed epicyclic or sliding 4-speed to choice. On these larger cars a single pedal operated the change-speed, this having side plates so that the foot could slide it sideways to select the different speeds. The brake pedal was coupled to the gear control in such a manner that by slightly depressing it the gears were unlocked for the next change. Here it may be remarked that the early 10-h.p. car had two speeds controlled by two pedals, a central toe-pedal being introduced to operate an additional epicyclic gear in the 3-speed model. From 1911 this car had full elliptic back springs with radius arms and 3/4-elliptic front springs. Reverting to the range of models listed about this time, they possessed delightful type names, as the following table shows:—
The 10-h.p. was available in sporting form as the “Varsity,” for £205 without tyres.
As far as Mr. Stroud recalls, the sliding gearbox was a crib of a Fiat box.
About this time the famous Adams compressed-air starter was introduced. At first it was a failure, in spite of three months on test, because no one at the factory had any knowledge of Boyles Law, until Mr. Stroud, then the boy, but nevertheless learning fast at evening classes, told the foreman how the trouble could be cured! The compression-ratio of the engine-driven pump was then increased and the starter, pedal-operated, proved a success. It supplied a welded steel reservoir at 300 lb./sq. in., and besides silently starting the engine, pumped up the tyres and worked the pneumatic jack, etc. Later it was redesigned to be driven by belt from the propeller shaft.
By 1911 the A-type phaeton, the Fratravera, cost £410 and a sporting version £400. The sporting models all used V-radiators. Other models had a radiator of “A” shape, with variants. In 1911 the range included the 14/16 with four cylinders in pairs, this having a lively Coventry-Simplex engine with ball-bearing crankshaft, mounted in a subframe suspended at three points. The 18-h.p. used a monobloc Aster engine but the 16/20 had an Adams engine. Bodies, gearboxes, etc., and all patterns were made at the Bedford factory.
A racing body of half chassis-width on a 16-h.p. chassis with bullnose radiator was built for Brooklands, Mr. Stroud accompanying this on road test sitting on an outrigger seat fitted for the purpose. This was owned by C. M. Smith of Thames fame and called “Red Eve.” There was another racing Adams but this was merely a standard 16-h.p. chassis with lowered seat.
There was a very well-built commercial chassis with square radiator, using a worm-drive axle, said to have been cribbed by Guy, after Adams folded up. Its engine was the 88 by 120 mm. 16/20 unit.
For a time Adams made another of their own carburetters, with a long riser pipe from the float chamber and mixing chamber to the piston throttle, this giving an incredibly slow tick-over but jerky acceleration due to mixture surge. Knurled nuts provided for air adjustment. This was soon abandoned in favour of the Claudel carburetter. Another venture was the Simplex spirit-heated tyre vulcanizer, for clamping to punctured tubes. Two-cylinder marine engines with outside timing gears were another line.
Adams also built the 180-h.p. V16 Antoinette aero engines, with automatic inlet valves, developed in 1905/6 for racing boats. This led, by 1907, to the introduction of the 35/40-h.p. Adams-Eight, the V8 engine an adaptation of the Antoinette, with 2-speed epicyclic transmission. These engines were apparently prone to break their crankshafts, probably because these were balanced statically but not dynamically.
In October 1910 Mr. Stroud fitted Bowden-operated front brakes to a cabriolet owned by a garage in Leeds but this was the only Adams so equipped. The company also sought the taxi market with a 2-cylinder chassis but failed because the steering lock was insufficient. At this time a Mr. Macmillan was a director and a special six-cylinder engine was constructed for him, with flexible ring-joints along the exhaust manifold, etc.
For a boat in Australia two of the 40-h.p. V8 engines were coupled together. Incidentally, the 30-h.p. cylinders were used for these side valve V8s, with Longumare carburetter. The works manager who had to look after all these cars was Mr. McFarlane.
In 1912 the Adam Company ran into financial distress, which the Official Receiver failed to cure. Mr. Stroud went for a short period to work on the friction-driven Pilot car, then to Vauxhall Motors, but he returned to Adams in 1914 before joining up, to supervise the sale of their tools and equipment in London in June, 1914.
Three Adams cars are known to the V.C.C. and in case any others turn up it may be worth quoting the type designations from the 1910 catalogue. The Type S4 was the 10-h.p. single-cylinder 4-seater, the Type S2 being the same model with 2-seater body. The sporting “Varsity,” then with flat A-pattern radiator, was the Type SV. The Type 16 G4 was the 16-h.p. chassis with 4-speed gate-change, the Type 16 P4 being the same model with 3-speed pedal control. The Type 30 T4 was the 30-h.p. 4-cylinder. The Adams Mfg. Co. Ltd. had offices at 106. New Bond St., W.1.—W. B.