Basic motoring

The Evolution of the Modern Ultralight Economy car.

Chapter 12 Postwar Progress in Britain

Ariel 9 advertAriel Nine Advertisement
The First World War had brought the British motor industry to a virtual standstill, as far as car production was concerned. It wasn’t until 1919 that production was resumed for some of the pre-war economy models, many not returning to the market at all, and some produced in a larger engine capacity form. Of the two cylinder economy cars on offer before the war, only the Jowett 8, was now available. The economy twin was not finished though, and new models began to replace those of 1914. First with a new twin was Rover with the Eight in 1919, Wolseley began production of the Stelitte Seven in 1920, with three more in 1921,The BSA Ten, the Stoneleigh, and the revised Jowett, the Seven. The last of the new twin’s, the Ariel Nine arrived in 1922. Of the pre-war four cylinder cars, Lagonda with 11.1, Singer with the 10, Standard with the 9.5, and Wolseley with the Stelitte 10, resumed production in 1919, being joined by Deemster with their new Eight. It wasn’t until 1921 that the next models were  introduced, they were the  Rhode 9.5, and the short lived Bayliss Thomas 9/19 and In 1923 Swift introduced the Ten. In the early 1920s four British companies introduced quality economy light cars onto the British market place. They were in 1922,  Talbot and Gwynne and in 1923 Humber with the 8, Austin with the 7, and Humber with the 9 in 1925. They all had four cylinder, water cooled engines of quite high efficiency, the Talbot and the Gwynne with overhead valves and Humber with the inlet over exhaust and Austin with the side valve arrangement. The difference between the Austin and the other four cylinder economy cars, was the price. The Austin Seven was in the price bracket of the economy twins, not the other four cylinders cars that were roughly twice the price of the twins, with them being economic to run but; expensive to purchase initially . Its initial price was lower than some of the twin cylinder cars, and in future years would be lower, leading to an overall price reduction in the market. This would have a profound effect on the economy car market and the demise of the low volume producers. By 1923 both Lagonda and Deemster had increased the engine capacity of their cars, taking them out of the economy bracket. By 1925 a long list of manufacturers had left the market, Rhode ceased producing the 9.5, Singer with the Ten,  Standard with the 9.5, both the Stelitte Seven and Ten, and the Stoneleigh.

Jowett 7hp

                                                                                                                                                                                  Jowett 7HP
The Rover Eight and the Ariel Nine only lasted another year. The BSA Ten, the Talbot 8/18 and the Humber Eight were last produced in 1926. Surprisingly, the Gwynne Eight, though expensive at over a hundred pounds more than the Austin Seven, survived until 1928. Jowett had replaced the pre-war Eight in 1921 with the Seven, that had been superseded by the 7/17 in 1926, and would remain in production until 1930. A Jowett twin would be available until 1952. Meanwhile the Austin Seven had been joined in the market in 1926 by the Riley Nine a quality economy car, and in 1927 by the Triumph Super Seven, the Clyno Nine, and the Singer Junior, and what would be its greatest rival in 1928, the Morris Minor. The last new economy car in the this period was the AJS Nine. These car produced in the later half of the 1920s, along with the evolving Austin Seven didn’t reflect the style of the Vintage Era, which was for cars produced in low volume at a relatively high cost, and were the forerunners of the mass produced economy car. When car production was resumed at the Jowett factory after the war, it was with the “8," with about one hundred and fifty examples produced before the company was reorganised as Jowett Cars Ltd, moving to Springfield Works, Bradford Road, Idle, Bradford in 1920.  In 1921the 7 hp model fitted with a 907 cc version of the horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine was first produced. The chassis less body initially cost £180, but by 1925 when this model was replaced, after producing approximately six thousand of this model. The price of a complete two seat touring car was down to £125. The 7/17 model with the same engine with an output of 16.5 bhp was in production from 1926 to 1930. In 1930 the chassis price was down to £111, and a four  seat saloon could be purchased for £158. About eleven thousand one hundred examples of the various 7/17 models were produced.  Developed version’s of this engine were used by Jowett in many models until 1952. The following is a quote from "The Vintage Motor car," reflecting the snobbery in the Vintage movement in the 1950s. The basic Jowett design, which was to have such an unparalleled production run, was simple enough. The car was of unattractive appearance and slightly crude finish, but; made up for this by the refinement of the well balanced engine, which was also a model of reliability. Indeed, it was claimed in 1926 that every Jowett made was still in service. As might have been expected from its somewhat provincial background, the steering and brakes were not of the best, and there is little to appeal to the connoisseur in these cars, which were, after all, of a strictly utilitarian nature.

Rover 8 advert

Rover Eight Advertisement
Rover used a former munitions factory at Tyseley, Birmingham, to produced a new ultralight car for the post war era the Eight. Jack Sangster had originally designed the car for his fathers company Ariel, but; it was taken up by Rover, who reputedly spent £400,000 tooling up for its production, a considerable sum in 1919. A total of seventeen thousand seven hundred were produced between 1919 and 1925, It had a 998 cc horizontally opposed, air cooled, side valve twin cylinder engined, later models having a 1135 cc engine, the engine output rising from 13 to 18 bhp. It had a simple channel-section chassis frame with leading quarter elliptic front springs, and cantilever quarter elliptic springs at the rear. The transmission consisted of a disc clutch, a three speed gearbox and a worm gear live rear axle. It had a cruising speed of 30 m.p.h. Priced at £230 in 1919, by 1925 the price was down to £139. The following is a quote from "The Vintage Motor car". The chassis was crude in the extreme, even for so cheap a car, and the standard disc-wheeled two-seat coachwork was distinctly Un-beautiful. For all this the car was low in cost and capable as a rule of nearly 50 m.p.g. due to its light weight, and sold well in spite of a somewhat dubious name for reliability — the early examples being prone to cast away cylinder-heads at high r.p.m. The engine though noisy, was very well balanced and lively enough to give the little car respectable acceleration and hill-climbing powers, though its maximum was only about 45 m.p.h. The Wolseley Stellite Seven was a refined car with a water cooled twin cylinder horizontally opposed engine of 984 cc. It was manufactured at the Stellite Works, Chester Road, Aston, Birmingham, by the Electric and Ordinance Accessories Co Ltd, a company owned by the Vickers conglomerate that had been passed to its Wolseley subsidiary in 1919. The Seven could cruise at 25 mph and average a fuel consumption of 45 mpg, it cost £255 in 1922. The BSA Ten was produced by the BSA Cycles branch of the BSA/Daimler combine at its Small Heath, Birmingham factory, from 1921 to 1925, making a possible total of  between four to five thousand. It had a 1018 c.c. air-cooled, overhead valve, Vee twin engine producing 18 b.h.p. The engine was manufactured for BSA by Hotchkiss of Coventry who was later purchased by Morris Motor, one of their other customers.  A maximum of 52 m.p.h. combined with a fuel consumption of 38 m.p.g. came at a price of £230. Note the electric starter on a 1020s economy car. Stoneleigh Motors Ltd, of Parkside, Coventry, was a subsidiary of Armstong Siddeley. It was set up to produce an ultralight car to compete in the market against the Rover Eight and the 5 cv Citroen. It was classed at the time as a cycle-car, as it had a fan cooled V twin cylinder engine of 998 cc, with overhead valve gear.

Swift 10                                                                                                                                                Swift Ten
Apart from the unconventional seating arrangements  with the driver seated in the centre and the two passenger seats behind, it was of conventional layout, although without a differential in the live back axle.
It was produced in the hundred's between 1921 and 1924. Priced at £185 in 1923 it had fallen to £165 by 1924 when the seating had been changed to the usual two side by side arrangement. Ariel were famous for their motorcycles, but; they made a couple of less than successful attempt to market cars.The Ariel Nine of 1923 was produced By Ariel Works Limited, part of Components Limited , of Bournbrook, Birmingham. The owners son,Jack Sangster had designed the car after rejoining the company from Rover. He had previously designed a similar car for the company, but; the design had been passed on to the Rover Company and was marketed as the Rover Eight. Sangster joining Rover to help produce it. The Ariel Nine was similar to the Rover in many respect, down to having a horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine. The Ariel engine which was manufactured for them by Harper Bean, differed from the Rover by being water cooled, the Rover being Air cooled. The car weighed eleven cwt, only about seven hundred were produced between 1923 and 1925.  F. W. Mead And T. W. Deakin began producing their Rhode 9.5 car from their Tyseley, Birmingham work in 1921. It was named in honour of Cecil Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia.  It was fitted with their own overhead camshaft engine, it being of the sporty type although in the economy bracket. The price in 1912 was £275, but; was down to £189 by 1924.  Between five and six hundred where produced annually. A top speed between 45 m.p.h and 50 m.p.h was possible with a fuel consumption of thirty-five to forty-five mile per gallon. Baylis Thomas was a part of Excelsior Motor Company, they where taken over by R. Walker and Sons in 1921, and production was moved to Kings Road, Tysely, Birmingham. In 1922 the company began  producing cars using the Baylis Thomas name, while using the Excelsior name for motorcycles. Their first car was the 9/19, which had in house manufactured engine and gearbox. The company also produced various outer models, with larger capacity propriety engines. It had failed by 1929.

Gwynnes 8Gwynnes Eight
In 1919 under the new name of Swift of Coventry Ltd, Swift produced a 1120 c.c. four, based on the pre-war cycle-car. In 1923 they introduced the new Q. Type Ten, with a 1097 c.c. engine. This was superseded by the 1190 c.c. P type in 1926. Production of the Ten may have been Four and a half thousand. The following is a quote from "The Vintage Motor car". Swift of Coventry was a pioneer British make, and one of the oldest cycle-manufacturing firms in the country, who established fame in the light-car world very early on, with a de Dion-engined voiterette. Their small cars remained popular throughout the Edwardian period and were quite outstandingly successful in the numerous reliability trials with single and twin-cylinder cars; they even assayed racing and appeared in the 1905 Tourist Trophy race without ignominy. During the Vintage period their standard model was the Swift Ten, a small car which became exceedingly well liked and sold in large numbers, catering for the increasing middle-class market with great success.It was never a particularly cheap car, and the fittings and finish were generally of a quite high order. It was propelled by a very hard-wearing but; feeble four-cylinder engine of 1100 c.c.; the mechanical parts were of alarming size and the car was throughout far too heavily made to give it a chance of any performance. It did have a certain solid appeal, however, and production ceased in 1931 only on account of internal difficulties in the factory and not through lack of demand. Clement Talbot of Barby Road, North Kensington, London, part of the Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq group, produced a British version of the French1 litre Darracq in 1922. By the time production ceased in 1926, two thousand two hundred and twenty-four had been made. The extracts on the car in the previously mentioned book, The Vintage Motor Car, gives a good in-site into its characteristics. The 8/18 Talbot, which appeared early in 1922, was designed by Louis Coatalen and proved, as might have been expected, to have been an exceptional performance for a light car at that time.It was also a distinct departure for the Clement Talbot factory,which had previously built only fast and rather heavy touring car. despite its somewhat high price, it had an instant appeal on account of its speed, efficiency, and elegant appearance; and was hailed in the contemporary press as a pioneer of a new sort of economical motoring. Nor was the engine rough in any way, but; like all Coatalen's productions, of extreme smoothness and flexibility. The finish throughout was excellent, and the coupe body light, comfortable, and of pleasing appearance.Stoneleigh

                                                                                                                                                                                        Stoneleigh Advertisment
Gwynnes Engineering Company of Hammersmith Iron Works, Church Wharf, Chiswick, was formed from Gwynnes Ltd of Hammersmith and Adam, Grimaldi and Co, of Albert Works, Albert Embankment, London, Makers of the Albert motor car, in 1920. They began the production of the Gwynne Eight in 1923. The company went into receivership in that year, but; car production continued until 1928 with approximately 2250 examples of the Eight and the later 8/24 made. The following is a quote from "The Vintage Motor car". Gwynne's Engineering Company of Chiswick, who are still well known as makers of marine pumps, succeeded in producing during the Vintage period a remarkable and charming little car known as the Gwynne Eight. This appeared in 1923 and had a robust 950 c,c, overhead-valve engine of quite unusual liveliness in a conventional chassis, giving the car acceleration and a maximum speed (nearly 60 m.p.h.) really exceptional for its class.Although by no means comely in appearance or even very well finished, the performance of the car gave it a considerable popularity and it was very good value for money at its low price of £200 or so.It had the probably unique distinction of having been designed in Spain; but; it was certainly a thoroughly realistic approach to the problems of light car design.Perhaps fortunately, the Gwynne never grew up in the way of the contemporary small Humber's, and when production ceased in 1928 it was outclassed by the development of competitors with better brakes and fuller equipment.

Links to Chapters