Basic motoring

The Evolution of the Modern Ultralight Economy car.

Chapter 13 Early Economy Cars

Austin VoituretteAustin Voiturette 1909
Before the advent of the autobahn, autostrada and motorway, most European urban based car owners and most of those living in the country were content to drive around at a moderate speed, which was all that road conditions would allow. Therefore small light cars only needing engines of modest output have always been produced. The first vehicles powered by internal combustion engines had engines of small capacity. This was fortunate as the chassis they were mounted in were no more than adapted carriages. As chassis design advanced, larger and more powerful engines were fitted in larger heavier chassis, some getting to monstrous proportion. Fortunately some designers continued to see the need for machines with engines of modest proportions, and so the Voiterette was conceived, a relatively lightweight machine reflecting the conventions of design of their time, the forerunner of the light-car. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the layout of most automobiles had evolved with some variations, to almost a standard form, with the engine mounted at the front of the chassis frame, with the drive taken to the rear wheels, suspension being beam axles  front and rear with leaf springs of various forms. This layout was named at the time ,The System Panhard, after the first manufacturer to use it. the front engine layout being chosen to improve engine cooling, previously an underfloor or rear engine layout was in common use
Jowett 1906                                                                                                                                                                                                Jowett 1906

Between the beginning of the twentieth century and the first World War, the first light cars were produced and a need for low cost motor transport was recognised. An attempt to satisfy this need was met from about 1910, by the production of numerous cycle-cars, ultralight weight three and four wheeled vehicles of simple construction using motorcycle type components. Although of relatively low cost to purchase and run, cycle-cars proved not to be durable or suitable for continuous use. A few manufacturers followed the lead of the light cars makers in making cars that were smaller and lighter than the conventional cars of the period, following the principles of their chassis design, but; making machines that were even smaller and lighter. These were the first true economy cars, the forerunners of today's Ultralight economy cars. At that time all cars with engines less than 1100cc, were classed as cycle-cars for sporting purposes in Europe. The term Cycle-car was in general usage in Britain to describe all cars with engines with less than four cylinders. The cars with four cylinder engines being classed as light cars. Thing were not that clear cut, there were the true Cycle-car’s, all chains and belts, the economy light cars with twin cylinder engines, with four cylinder engines, and some makes of economy light car with either twin or four cylinder engines, all under 1100 c.c. Here are some of the earliest British cars that were the forerunners of to days ultralight economy cars.
The Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company of Back Burlington, Bradford, was founded in 1904 by Benjamin and William Jowett, cycle makers. In 1906 they made their first car. It was a car in miniature weighing only 6.5 cwt. It had a Water cooled horizontally opposed twin cylinder side valve 816 cc engine in a conventional chassis, with one exception in the use of tiller steering. Limited production started in 1910,  with twelve car produced by 1913 when the 6/10 model costing £127, with conventional wheel steering. The 1915 model the ”8’, was rated at 6.4 hp, and cost £158. All were two seat tourers. Thirty-six of these models were produced before the war stopped production. The Perry Motor Company Limited, of Tyseley, Birmingham, was formed in 1912 and the first model they produced was the "8". It had a 878 c.c. Water-cooled, parallel twin cylinder engine. It had three speed gearbox and a worm drive rear axle. In 1914 it was priced at £147, and produced until 1915. The Humber company of Coventry, produced the Humberette model in 1913. Because it had an air cooled Vee twin engine of 998 cc, it was categorised as a cycle-car although the rest of the car apart from the tubular chassis form was of conventional construction, with rack and pinion steering, transverse spring front suspension, with quarter elliptic springs at the rear. The three-speed and reverse gearbox, had an old fashioned quadrant change. Only available in a two-seat tourer form, on a wheel-base of 7 Ft. 5 in. and track of 3 Ft. 6 in. The wire wheels were non-detachable, but; it came complete with screen, hood, horn, and three lights. In 1914 a water cooled engine option was available at £135, £15 more than the air cooled version. Production ceased in 1915.


Humberette 1914
In 1913 the Swift Motor Company of Coventry exhibited the first of their economy cars at the motor cycle show at Olympia, as it had a water cooled in-line twin cylinder engine of only 972 cc it was classed as a cycle-car, but ;like the Humberette was a miniature car. It was only produced until the outbreak of war in 1914 and cost £140. The Alldays Midget 8-10 h.p. tThe Alldays Midget 8-10 h.p. two Cylinder, was built by the old established firm of Alldays and Onions Ltd, of Birmingham. The 1056 c.c. water-cooled vertical twin-cylinder engine drove through a 3-speed  and reverse gearbox and cone clutch to a worm type differential axle. A Boch magneto and a Zenith carburettor were fitted. It was classed as a cycle-car because of the two cylinder engine and cost £130 in 1914. The 1915 version of the car was considered to be a light car, because it had a four  cylinder engine, even though its capacity at 1092 c.c. was similar to the previous model, as was most of the design. It weighed in at 7 cwt, with a 7 Ft. wheelbase a 4 Ft. track and cost £185 in 1915.  The Autocrat Light Car Co of Balsall Heath, Birmingham, was another company that offered both two and four cylinder economy cars to the market, in 1913, the 964 c.c. Eight, with a twin cylinder engine and the 8/10 four cylinder with a 1128 c.c. engine.n 1913, the 964 c.c. Eight, with a twin cylinder engine and the 8/10 four cylinder with a 1128 cc engine, The twin cost £110 and the four £157. In1914 the twin was given a 1104 c.c. longer stroke engine making it a 9. It then cost £142. The four cylinder engine had a different bore for 1914 with a capacity of 1093 c.c. It was fitted with a Chapuis and Dornier engine, with a Zenith carburettor, a Carden propeller shaft and bevel drive live rear axle, and It weighed 8 cwt. Chater-Lea of Banner Lane, London, started in business as cycle component makers in 1890. Then as cycle  and motor cycle makers by 1900. They produced their first cycle-car in 1907. The 1913  model, the 8/9, had a Chater-Lea water-cooled, Vee twin engine of 964 c.c. in a conventional chassis with shaft drive to a bevel geared rear axle. It weighed 7 3/4 cwt and its two versions cost £126 and £142. For 1914  the company offered a car with a 1092 c.c.water-cooled four cylinder engine. Listed as the 10, it weighed 8 3/4 cwt and cost £173. From 1915 and until 1922 this model had a 1315 c.c. engine. The Enfield Autolette was produced by the Enfield Autocar Co of Sparkbrook, Birmingham from 1913 in two-forms, the 8, with a 1056 c.c. vertical twin cylinder engine and the 9 in 1914, 10, in 1915, with a 1092 c.c. inline four cylinder engine. Both models used a similar chassis, sprung by four quarter-elliptic springs at the rear with torque rods locating the worm driven differential axle. The three speed and reverse gearbox was separate from the engine, most probably mounted in the centre of the car between the drive shafts. It was heavy for its type at 9 1/2 cwt, with a wheelbase of 7 Feet, 9 inches and a track of 4 Ft. The 8, cost £138 in 1914, and the 9, £158, rising to £185 for the 10, in 1915.

Enfield Autolette

                                                                                                                                                         Enfield Autolette
A more expensive 10, was listed for 1916 and 17, with a larger capacity engine. There is so little information on the Jennings Light Car Company, that I am unable to even find their address. What I can find, is that they produced  two versions of an economy car between 1914 and 1915. One the 8-10 or 9, had a 1084 c.c. vertical twin cylinder water-cooled engine supplied by Dorman. The other, the 10, available only in 1915 ,had a 1094 cc, four cylinder engine. Final drive was by torque tube and bevel drive, meaning that they where of a proper car layout. The 9 weighed 8 1/4 cwt, with a wheelbase of 8 Ft. The 9, was priced at £157, and10, at £194. The first AC light car, produced in 1913 and fitted with a 1094 c.c. Fivet four-cylinder water-cooled engine, was designed by J. Weller to be light and fast. The car weighed 10 cwt and had a top speed of 45 m.p.h. It also had the unusual features of a 3-speed gearbox integral with the rear axle, and a disc brake on the propeller shaft. The AC 10 h.p. cost £175 in 1914, and was described in "The Autocar Handbook," of that date As; In every respect a motor car in miniature, for though small it is proportionately designed throughout on the lines of larger vehicles. Lagonda Ltd, of Staines, Middlesex, produced the 11.1, a light car between 1913 and 1915.  It had an engine of 1099 c.c. with four cylinders, water-cooled, and overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. It was of conventional layout with some unusual features. The body was of riveted monocoque construction, and the front suspension incorporated an anti-roll bar. It was priced at £135 in 1913, rising to £150 in 1914. About 200 were produced in 1916. In 1921 the price had risen to £495. Total production, including the larger capacity 11.9 was about six thousand examples in eight years.

Morris Oxford 1914

Morris Oxford 1914
The first of a long line of Morris Oxford models was produced at Cowley, Oxford, by William Morris in 1912. It was one of a new form of multi cylinder engined light cars.He
created the car by bringing together  components from many manufacturers, assembling them into a complete car.This was not a unique idea, but; William Morris succeeded where other would fail by controlling the costs. After 1918 he bought up many of his suppliers and became a true manufacturer. A good description of the car is given in "The Light Car," by C.F.Caunter, first published in1958. So progressive and typical of the best type of small light car was the Morris-Oxford of this period, that a somewhat detailed description of it is warranted to indicate its importance in relation to later developments. The chassis frame was of pressed steel girder construction, mounted on semi elliptic springs at the front, and on three-quarter elliptic springs at the rear. The drive to the worm-rear rear axle was by an enclosed propeller shaft. Both hand and foot operated brakes were of the internal expanding type on the rear axle. The engine, multi-plate clutch and sliding pinion type of 3-speed and reverse gearbox were of unit construction; The whole unit was supported within the chassis upon a simple three-point suspension. A light yet well designed and constructed two-seat body, hood and windscreen,was blended with the bonnet and a rounded radiator. The steering was of worm-gear type, the column being well raked to provide a comfortable driving position. The detachable Sankey pressed steel wheels were fitted with 700 mm by 80 mm beaded-edge tyres and a spare wheel was included in the specification. One of the improved 1914 models included a dynamo-lighting system. The 1018 c.c. capacity (White and Poppe four-cylinder monoblock water-cooled engine, with inlet and exhaust valves arranged in T-head form and a stiff crankshaft carried in three bearings, was of robust and straightforward design. Detachable cover plates enclosed the valve stems, springs and tappets; lubrication was effected by the flywheel dipping into a wet sump and dispensing the oil to various catch pits, whence in drained to moving parts. Ignition was by means of a Bosch high-tension magneto, and mixture was supplied by a White and Poppe carburettor.

Singer 10 Advert                                                                                                                                               Singer Ten Advertisement
The Horstmann Car Company, of James Street West, Bath, was in formed 1913 by Sidney Horstmann, he was the son of a German clockmaker.  From 1915 to 1929, they manufactured around 3,000 cars. Some of the cars had aluminium bodies and were raced with some success at Brooklands. The 8.9 of 1913 had a 992 c.c. four cylinder, water-cooled engine produced by Horstmann . It had a three speed and reverse gearbox, with shaft drive to a bevel rear axle. One unusual feature on the car, was a foot operated starter mechanism that could be used from the driving seat. It was relatively light at 8 cwt. It cost £155 in 1915, up to £165 in 1916.
In 1912 Singer Motors of Coventry, produced a heavy but; long lasting economy car, the Ten. Unusually I have found a detailed description of the car,written in 1955 by Ernest F. Carter. The pre-First World War Singer was also well in the vanguard of light-car design, being   particularly interesting because it was the first vehicle of its kind to be put upon the English  market which showed that it was possible to build a well-designed small car on large car lines. In this respect it is not surprising that the Singer light car boasted but; few novel points of design save that the gearbox was combined with the back axle, which arrangement considerably simplified chassis design though increasing the unsprung weight. The engine, with its four cylinders, was perhaps, the only light-car four-cylinder engine in which the cylinders were cast in pairs; which method, though expensive to manufacture, had the great advantage of facilitating service work, to which end the valves were also placed on the same side of the engine and made interchangeable. A gear driven camshaft operated the valves, the whole of the distribution gear being contained outside the crank-chamber, which had  external cast aluminium webs on each side forming trays between the engine and the chassis. The inlet and exhaust manifolds were both external, the Claudel carburettor was mounted on the opposite side of the engine to that upon which the valves were placed, a very long induction pipe curving right over the cylinder castings connecting it with the inlet manifold; the unusual length of the pipe being said by the makers to promote better atomisation of the fuel-shades of the 1906 Beeston-Humbers.

Singer 10Singer 10
A HT magneto with fixed ignition driven from the valve camshaft took care of the spark, and  lubrication was by a direct-acting pump from the sump to a three-bearing  crank-shaft as well  as dip troughs under the big ends. Cooling circulation was on the thermo-siphon system with a grilled-tube radiator of pleasing design, the latter being assisted by a high-speed four-bladed  fan belt driven from an extension of the camshaft.  Drive was by way of a leather-faced internal  cone clutch of which one member was integral with the large-diameter flywheel, and from  immediately behind the clutch a large universal joint formed the front end of a long propeller-shaft which extended right back to the rear axle, where the gearbox was joined with another enclosed universal and telescopic joint, the latter allowing for the relative motion caused by the axle pivoting on the front pin of the half-elliptical rear springs. The back axle itself was particularly ingenious. It was neat and small though it contained the gearbox as well as the differential and right-angle drive. The whole assembly was lubricated easily through an oil filler on the back axle casing. The operation of the gears was also rather  unusual, the gear lever being in the usual place and the selector mechanism  mounted on a chassis cross-member level with the lever from the selector  mechanism ,however, three long rods operated the gear-striking levers on the gearbox itself. A counter-shaft brake being difficult to arrange with such a design, both hand and foot-brakes worked on internal expanding shoes on the back axle. The chassis was of pressed steel with a 7 foot. 6 inches wheelbase and a 3 foot. 6 in. track, the engine being supported directly thereon without the  interposition of a sub-frame. Springing was enhanced by the fitting as standard  of shock-absorbers of the enclosed elastic type at the rear end of the rear  springs, and a standard body built along handsome lines which were further  emphasised by the fitting of domed one-piece mudguards and valances between running-boards and bodywork. A single folding windscreen, hood,  and large luggage boot completed the standard Singer light car which sold  at £215 in 1915; there being a "De Luxe" model with electric light instead of acetylene and oil lamps, together with a chain-driver dynamo, retailed at £225 or  £280 in coupé version.

Stellite Advet

                                                                                                                                                                                                Stellite Advertisement
Wolseley, produced a light car called the Stellite 8/10 at the Electric and Ordnance Accessories Company Ltd, Stellite Works, Cheston Road, Aston, Birmingham. It had a 1075 c.c.four cylinder, water-cooled, overhead valve engine and a SU Wolseley carburettor. Carden shaft and worm drive transmission, with the gearbox in the rear axle. It weighed 8.5 cwt, with a wheelbase of 8 Feet, and track of 3 Feet, 10 in. It cost £158 in 1914 and 1915.
The Standard 9.5 h.p. was manufactured by the Standard Motor Company of Coventry. Below is a detailed description of the car, written in 1955 by Ernest F. Carter.  Another little car which made its appearance among the earliest of such cars put on the market was the 9.5 h.p. featured Standard, which conformed mote or less to large car design; its chief featured being a four-cylinder engine, single-plate clutch, three-speed gearbox and overhead worm-driven back axle.The engine cylinders were of just over one litre cubic capacity, being cast mono-block with valves all on one side operated by a silent chain driven camshaft. Cooling was by thermo-syphon with ample cylinder jackets and large-diameter pipes connecting to a gilled tube radiator which was assisted in its function by a two-bladed belt-driven fan and a vaned flywheel enclosed within an undershield, which materially enhanced the draught through the radiator. Special attention was also given to the water-cooling underneath the valve-pockets and this, coupled with the extremely efficient cooling system, enable-led the motor-car to be driven up long hills and to stand for long periods in traffic with the engine running without the least fear of boiling-a thing which could not be said of scores of different makes then on the road. A "Zenith" carburettor was fitted to an inlet manifold cast integrally with the cylinders, and the HT exhaust  manifold was bolted to the cylinder ports and was thus easy to detach; whilst one particularly interesting point of good design was concerned with a quickly detachable oil-tight cover-plate over the valves and tappets, the valve chest being in direct communication with the engine base-chamber so that oil splashed about in the latter was also distributed on to the valve stems and guides.

Standard 9

Standard 9
Ignition was by HT magneto driven from the same chain which operated the valve camshaft from the front of end of the crankshaft, the chain being adjustable by means of a plate on the timing-gear case which carried the bearing of the magneto drive shaft. Below the crank-chamber base was a sump from oil was drawn through a large filter by a camshaft-driven vane pump and forced direct to the main engine bearings as well as to two troughs cast in the base-chamber underneath each pair of cylinders; the oil being then strained back to the sump.  A small visual dash-board indicator was provided which, when it showed danger meant that one had to heave-to, stop the engine, and replenish the sump! From the engine the drive was via a Ferodo faced toggle-operated single-disc clutch, of which the faced disc was sandwiched between two steel ones by helical compression springs which ensure that there was no end-thrust on the engine crank-shaft when the clutch was "in". From the clutch to gearbox the drive was by way of a short shaft with a universal joint at each end, such a unit arrangement making for extreme ease of servicing and adjustment. Three speeds were available, the "top" being 4.6 to 1 and 15 to 1 "bottom", the former being direct through a dog clutch.An open propeller-shaft with substantial cross-pin type universals enclosed in spherical metal covers supplied with grease, carried the drive to a sturdy rear axle by way of an overhead worm and bevel differential; the rear wheel bearings catering for heavy side-thrusts as well as normal journal loads. The "Standard" was one of the few light cars of its day possessing a counter shaft brake which worked smoothly and rapidly, this feature being probably due to the rear of gearbox brake-shoes being Ferodo lined; as were the hand-brake operated internal expanding shoes in the rear wheel hub drums.The steering was rather uncommon, being of the worm and segment type, but; instead of the arm being placed in the vertical plane,  the gearbox was turned on its side so that the arm was in a horizontal plane. Moreover, instead of the gear being connected with the offside stub-axle if was brought across the chassis to the nearside wheel, which connected with the former by the usual tie-rod. This arrangement had the advantage of partially eliminating steering errors due to the varying angularity of a short steering-rod direct from the gearbox to the offside front wheel under the action of the road spring. The very light driving-plate of the clutch gave a sweet engagement and easy gear changing, whilst the long and easy springing and carefully designed standard  coachwork gave both driver and passenger plenty of leg-room. In fact,"Standards" early realised that, however small the chassis of a motor-car, the body must of necessity conform to the sizes of average human-beings-a point  which seemed to have been overlooked in the majority of small cars of the period. With a wheelbase of 7 feet. 6 in., a track of 4 foot, and a tare  weight of 12 cwt, together with hood, lamps screens, a good selection of tools and spare parts, the "Standard" 9-h.p. light car was good value at £195 plus a 5 per  cent war advance in 1915.

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