Archive for March, 2018


Frederick Lanchester (1868 – 1946), one of the most famous automotive engineers from England, started his career building engines for boats. In 1895, he developed a four-wheeled, 5 hp petrol engine vehicle equipped with an epicyclic gear box with 2 forward speeds and a reverse. Even though this was one of the most advanced motor cars of that time, it did not run successfully owing to transmission problems.

The 1895 car was modified and was operated successfully in 1897. The car was very robust with almost no vibration due the presence of harmonic mass balancer in the engine. Lanchester was the first British car to use its own engine and transmission on the car

In 1899, along with brothers George Lanchester (1874 – 1970) and Frank Lanchester, the Lanchester Engine Company was formed to manufacture engines and cars. The company was renamed as Lanchester Motor Company in 1904.

Some of the most famous models were the various models of Lanchester 10 between the 1900s and 1940s and the Lanchester 40 which rivaled Rolls-Royce

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1904 – Lanchester 10                       1946 – Lanchester 10

Lanchester 40

Frederick Lanchester was known for his new innovative technologies and was the first to invent a wick carburetor to run petrol engines as early as 1890s. The most famous invention of the Lanchester was the Lanchester Balancer , a harmonic mass balancer used to balance a straight 2-cyl or 4-cyl engines., using 2 balance shafts running at twice the crankshaft speed in opposite directions. These Lanchester Balancers are used in many modern straight 4-cylinder engines to balance the typical 2nd order vibrations. One of the modern example is the Mitsubishi “Silent Shaft” design.

The Lanchester logo –

Lanchester Motor company was taken over by BSA group in 1930 and integrated in to the Daimler division. BSA/Daimler/Lanchester was taken over by Jaguar in 1960 and later on passed on to FORD PAG. Currently the brand is with TATA Motors of India when they acquired the Jaguar – Landrover from FORD.

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Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) was founded 1861 by a group of 14 gunsmiths of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association. BSA was founded to meet the challenge of Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield who started using machines to manufacture arms more efficiently and cheaply.

With demand for small arms reducing , the small arms business was shut down in 1879. In order to utlise the manufacturing facilities , BSA expanded in to manufacture of bicycles. In 1880 the first Di-cycle was manufactured.

A 1880 BSA Di-cycle

BSA was one of the leading bicycle manufacturer till about 1887, when the demand for small arms peaked again. BSA reverted to manufacture of arms for the military.
BSA experimented with Motor cars in 1907 with a Itala design car which won the 1907 Peking – Paris race.

A 1907 BSA car

In 1908 BSA restarted bicycle production and continued till 1957 , when it was sold to Raleigh cycles. Motorcycles production was started in 1909 and continued till 1973 when it was sold to Norton-VilliersTriumph.
In 1910 , BSA acquired Daimler Motor Company which was in financial difficulty. BSA started using Daimler engines in their cars as well as re-badged the Daimler cars as BSA cars. In 1932, BSA/Daimler acquired Lanchester Motor Company.
BSA was the first company to introduce a mass produced Front wheel drive car in 1929. The car was a 3 wheeler with 2 front wheels and one rear wheel.

A 1930 BSA 3 Wheeled car

Later BSA carried on the Front wheel design to a 4 Wheeled car and can be considered as pioneers in front wheel drive cars.

A 1931 BSA front wheel drive car – TW 5

One of the most famous BSA cars was the BSA Scout.

A 1935 BSA Scout and a 1938 BSA Scout

After the WWII , BSA shifted back to Rear wheel drive cars.

Financial troubles at BSA led to Jaguar Cars acquiring BSA in 1960. In between 1966 and 1968 , they were part of BMC (British Motor Corporation) and BMH (British Motor Holdings). In 1968 BSA/Daimler/Lanchester/Jaguar became part of the reorganised and nationalised British Leyland (BL). In 1984, BSA/Daimler/Lanchester along with Jaguar cars became independent of British Leyland. Ford PAG acquired Jaguar cars in 1989 and later sold it off to Tata Motors in 2007.
In 2016, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd bought the BSA brand and plan to re-introduce the brand in India.

The BSA Logos –

Sir Frederick Henry Royce (1863 – 1933) was a self made electrical engineer and was involved in making electrical fittings and electric cranes through his own company Royce Ltd. In 1902 , he bought a second hand Decauville car and was not satisfied with its performance and quality. He went about building his own car based on the Decauville car and created a 2-cylinder Royce 10 car in 1904  –
Charles Stewart Rolls (1877 – 1910) was form a rich family. In 1903 , he founded the C S Rolls and Co to import and sell Peugeot cars from France and Minerva cars from Belgium.
Charles Rolls was introduced to Henry Royce and they created Rolls- Royce Ltd in 1906 with an agreement that C S Rolls and Co will sell the entire production of Rolls-Royce Ltd. By 1907 , C S Rolls and Co was integrated in to Rolls-Royce Ltd.
The first and the most famous car from Rolls-Royce was Silver Ghost , launched in 1907 and continued in production till 1925.
The Silver Ghost did a non-stop 14371 miles gaining the name – “The best car in the world“.
Henry Royce was a perfectionist and the Rolls-Royce cars were known for their smoothness , reliability and quality. The company followed its founder’s dictum of – “Take the best that exists and make it better”.
1927 , the Silver Ghost gave way to the next generation of famous Rolls-Royce , the Phantom
In 1931 , Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley Motors.
During the war , Rolls-Royce was forced to manufacture aero engines and were excelling in aircraft engines, creating successive airspeed records.
In 1971 , financial trouble led to nationalization of Rolls-Royce Ltd. In 1973, it was again de-nationalised , forming Rolls-Royce Motors for Automobiles and Rolls-Royce plc for aircraft engines.
In 1980 , the company was taken over by Vickers, an engineering company.
Rolls-Royce continued to manufacture classic cars which were used by the British Royalty and movie stars.
Some of the Rolls-Royce cars –
A 1979 Silver Shadow
In 1998 Vickers sold off the Rolls-Royce Motors to BMW and Volkswagen in a complex deal. As per the deal, Volkswagen got the Rolls-Royce factory and the patented radiator grill design and BMW got the Rolls-Royce name and logo. This led Volkswagen not being able to use the Rolls-Royce name. After sustained negotiations , in 2003, the entire Rolls-Royce rights were transferred to BMW and now BMW owns Rolls-Royce.
Some of the Rolls-Royce cars , post BMW ownership –
2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost
2013 Rolls-Royce Wraith
The Rolls-Royce logo and hood ornament – the spirit of ecstasy.

George Johnston (1855 – 1945) was a Scottish Locomotive Engineer. In 1894 , Glasgow tramways had awarded him the contract to design a steam tram for them. Unfortunately the steam tram developed by him was destroyed in a  fire and the project was dropped.

Johnston, then concentrated on making a motor car powered by internal combustion engine. In 1895, along with Sir William Arrol (1839 – 1913), in picture above, a famed Bridge Engineer created the company Mo-Car Syndicate Ltd.
The 1895 Mo-car  Dogcart , with two rows of seats placed back to back –
Mo-car dogcart was popular and was made till 1905. More models with different engine options were also introduced. A 1901 and a 1905 , Arrol-Johnston cars –
In 1905 , the company was renamed as Arrol-Johnston Car company.
In 1907 , one Arrol-Johnston car participated in the attempt of Ernest Shackleton  to reach Antarctica. Even though the car was used in the expedition, it could not  travel much due to tyres sinking in loose ice. An Arrol-Johnston car used in the Antarctica base camp –
This car was fitted with 12-15 HP , aircooled , 4-cyl engine.
During the WWI , Arrol-Johnston shifted to manufacturing aircraft engines. Owning to financial troubles, in 1927,  the company was taken over by Aster Engineering company and the cars were branded as Arrol- Asters.
A 1929 Arrol-Aster –
Finally the Arrol-Aster car company shut its doors by 1931

Arrol-Johnston logo –

SUNBEAM – Racer

John Marston (1836 – 1918) was a tin plate worker and was working in a factory making household articles. In 1859 , he created his own company John Marston Ltd to make household articles and black enamel lacquer.
John Marston was a keen bicycle enthusiast and expanded in to manufacture of bicycles in the year 1887. He sold his bicycles under the brand Sunbeam“. It is told that his bicycle was finished with high quality black enamel and golden strips that it was reflecting sunlight and hence the name sunbeam. Many new innovations followed during the next few years – chain slack adjusting mechanism, oil bath lubrication for chains, to name a few.
As a logical extension, John Marston started working on motorcycles. Death of an employee in motorcycle accident made Marston to move away from motorcycle ,  terming it as dangerous.
In 1899 , he started working on motor cars and along with the help of Maxwell Mabley- Smith created the first Motor car. A 1901 Sunbeam-Mabley
This car had unique design of seats facing in opposite directions on either side of a belt drive. More than 100 units of this cars were sold between 1901 and 1904.
A 1902 , Sunbeam –
By 1904, Marston started importing Automobile Darracq chassis and building bodies over it. In order to expand fully in to car business the car division was renamed as Sunbeam Motorcar Company, in 1905. The bicycle business remained with John Marston Ltd. Slow down in car business between 1907 and 1910 forced Marston to look in to Motorcycle business again and the motorcycle division was created in 1912.
In 1920, owning to financial troubles, Sunbeam Motorcar Company merged with Automobile Darracq to form STD Motors ( Sunbeam – Talbot – Darracq). The cars were branded as Sunbeam -Talbot.
STD Motors participated in racing and a Sunbeam with a 350 HP aircraft engine set the land speed record in 1920.
In 1924, Sunbeam introduced a 3-litre sports car with a six-cylinder engine , with twin overhead camshafts and dry sump lubrication , a major innovation of that time.
A 1924 , Sunbeam 3-litre –
A 19332 , Sunbeam 20 –
By 1935, STD Motors was in financial trouble and was taken over  by Rootes group. Rootes group was a major automobile group with many British marques – Hillman, Humber, Singer, Commar , Karrier etc, They integrated Sunbeam, Talbot in to the group and did badge engineering to bring out cars with various combinations.
Some of the famous Sunbeam cars under Rootes group were –
A 1948 , Sunbeam – Talbot –
A 1964 , Sunbeam Tiger –
Between 1964 and 1967, Rootes group was slowly taken over by Chrysler and formed Chrysler UK, which later became Chrysler Europe. Sunbeams and Talbots continued under Chrysler Europe.
By 1978 , the Sunbeam and Talbot marques were taken over by PSA Group (Peugeot) and the Sunbeam marque disappeared after 1981.

The Sunbeam Logos

The original Bicycle logo with Black enamel and Golden stripes –

Brothers John Francis Dodge (1864 – 1920) and Horace Elgin Dodge (1868 – 1920) were excellent machinists and had developed a name for their ability to mass produce precision parts. In 1900, they created Dodge Brothers Company and were supplying to Engine and chassis components to many automobile companies. They earned a reputation of being dependable.
In 1902 , they received an order to supply  3000 transmissions to Old Motor Works. Later they received and order for 650 Engines and transmission from Ford Motor Company. As time progressed , they were supplying most of the parts to Ford Motor Company and were fully dependent on the Ford Motor Company for survival.
Dodge brothers realised this dependence on Ford and wanted to move out and manufacture their own car. In 1914, they formed Dodge Brothers Inc to manufacture cars and introduced their first car – Dodge Model 30 in 1915.
A 1915  Dodge Model 30
The model 30 had many features which were not available in other cars as well as Ford’s car – All Steel body, 12V electrical system and 3-speed sliding gear transmission to name a few.
In 1917 , Dodge expanded in to manufacturing “commercial cars” – Ambulances, fire trucks, panel vans, delivery vans and later full size trucks. A fleet of 1920 Dodge delivery trucks –
The word RAM was first used in the early 1930s and later popularized in the 1970s to brand the Dodge trucks.
In 1920 , both the Dodge brothers died suddenly,  within a year of each other. The management of the company passed to their wives. In 1928 , the Dodge Brothers Inc was sold to a consortium who sold it to Chrysler Corporation.
Some of the well known Dodge cars are –
A 1939 Dodge Luxury Liner

Dodge Challenger

Dodge Durango

A 1989 Dodge Ram

High Performance car – the Dodge Viper

In 1998 , Chrysler Corporation merged with Daimler to form Daimler- Chrysler. In 2007, Daimler divested Chrysler to a consortium which was later bought by Fiat.

The Dodge Logos –


In 1877, John Kemp Starley (1854 – 1901) and William Sutton (1830 – 1888) created the Starley & Sutton Company to manufacture Bicycles. They were concentrating on making the bicycles safer to ride as compared to the “Penny-farthing” bicycles of those days. In 1883 , they introduced tricycles and were selling those tricycles under the Rover brand name.

In 1885 they introduced the revolutionary Rover safety bicycle and can be considered as the father of the modern bicycle. A 1889 Rover safety bicycle –
In 1889, after the demise of his business partner , the company was renamed as J. K. Starley & Company.  In 1896 , with the bicycle business at its peak, the company was renamed as Rover Cycle Company. Starley also experimented with electric cars unsuccessfully and did not pursue further.
After the sudden death of John Starley in 1901 , Harry Lawson (of Daimler) took over the reins and steered the company towards motorisation – Motorcycles in 1903  and later cars in 1904. An 1903 Rover Motorcycle
Rover continued in Motorcycle business till 1925 after which production creased.
In 1904, Rover introduced their first motorcar. A 1905 Rover car
Rover became the well know British marque , across the world and continued to make famous car. In 1905, the company was renamed as Rover Company. Some of the famous cars of Rover are –
A 1910 . Rover Six
A 1929 , Rover Light Six
A 1940’s Rover P3
A 1950, Rover P4 “Cyclops” – third light in the grill –
A 1960 , Rover P5
In the 1950s , Rover experimented with gas turbine engines and introduced the Rover Jet1, unsuccessfully.
In 1948, inspired by the U S Army’s Willy’s Jeep, Maurice Wilks built  the Land Rover literally from the parts of a discarded Willy’s Jeep. Owing to steel shortage after the war and abundant availability of aluminium from aircraft construction, the body was made of light weight aluminum. The paint was military green as this was available in abundance after the war. One of the earliest Land Rovers built based on a Willy’s Jeep , a 1948 Land Rover

 

Land Rovers continued to make vehicle with ladder frame till recently, when they shifted to monocoque construction.
Owning to financial difficulties,  post the 1960s, the Rover company changed many hands.
In 1967 , Rover Company was taken over by Leyland Motor Corporation and integrated as Rover – Triumph division. In 1968, Leyland Motor Corporation merged with British Motor Holdings to become British Leyland Motor Company(BLMC)In 1975, BLMC was nationalised  to form British Leyland (BL). In 1978, Land Rover was made as a separate brand. In 1981, in an internal reorganisation, Austin Motors and Rover Company were merged to form the Austin – Rover group.
A 1984 Austin Montego. This car was made and sold in India as Rover Montego by Sipani Motors.
In 1986, the parent company , British Leyalnd was renamed as Rover Group. The Rover group was taken over by British Aerospace in 1989 and later sold off to BMW in 1994. In 2000, in view of financial difficulties, BMW sold off the Rover brand to a consortium who named the company as MG Rover, the MG brand coming from the Morris Garages and Morris Motor Company.
A 2004 MG Rover –
Further , in 2007 , Nanjing Automotive Group of China purchased the MG brand and SAIC of China purchased the product rights of Rover car but not the Rover brand. The Land Rover brand was purchased by Ford and integrated in to their Premium Automotive Group (PAG), along with Jaguar. In 2008, Tata Motors of India purchased Jaguar – Land Rover from Ford. Currently the Land Rover brand is with Tata Motors. In China, SAIC makes Rover cars but cannot use the Rover brand name and hence these cars are being sold under Roe We brand.
The Rover Logos
The original Rover logo is of a Viking ship.

Land Rover Logo –

Austin Rover Logo –

MG Rover Logo –

Roe We Logo (China) –