The Big Car Database

Armstrong Siddeley

Armstrong Siddeley
Industry

Motor cars Aircraft engines.
Light engineering

Fate

Merged with Hawker Aircraft (1935)
Merged with Bristol Aero Engines (1960)
became Bristol Siddeley

Merged with Rolls-Royce (1966)
Successor Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd
Founded 1919
Defunct 1960
Headquarters Coventry, England
Key people
John Davenport Siddeley
Parent Armstrong Whitworth (1919–27)
Subsidiaries Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (1927–35)

Armstrong Siddeley was a British engineering group that operated during the first half of the 20th century.

It was formed in 1919 and is best known for the production of luxury vehicles and aircraft engines.

The company was created following the purchase by Armstrong Whitworth of Siddeley-Deasy, a manufacturer of fine motor cars, that were marketed to the top echelon of society. After the merge of companies this focus on quality continued throughout in the production of cars, aircraft engines, gearboxes for tanks and buses, rocket and torpedo motors, and the development of railcars. Company mergers and takeovers with Hawker Aviation and Bristol Aero Engines saw the continuation of the car production but the production of cars ceased in August 1960.

The company was absorbed into the Rolls-Royce conglomerate who were interested in the aircraft and aircraft engine business. Eventually the remaining spares and all motor car interests were sold to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd, who now own the patents, designs, copyrights and trademarks, including the name Armstrong Siddeley.

History

Siddeley Autocars

Siddeley Autocars, of Coventry, was founded by John Davenport Siddeley (1866–1953) in 1902. Its products were heavily based on Peugeots, using many of their parts but fitted with English-built bodies. This company merged with Wolseley in 1905 and made stately Wolseley-Siddeley motorcars. They were used by Queen Alexandra and the Duke of York later King George V.

Siddeley-Deasy

In 1909 J. D. Siddeley resigned from Wolseley and took over the Deasy Motor Company, and the company became known as Siddeley-Deasy. In 1912, the cars used the slogan "As silent as the Sphinx" and started to sport a Sphinx as a bonnet ornament, a symbol that became synonymous with descendent companies. During the Second World War the company produced trucks, ambulances, and staff cars. In 1915 airframes and aero-engines started to be produced as well.

Armstrong Siddeley

 
1921 5-litre 30hp Landaulette Advert
 
Coupé utility for the postwar export drive

In April 1919 Siddeley-Deasy was bought out by Armstrong Whitworth Development Company of Newcastle upon Tyne and in May 1919 became Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd, a subsidiary with J. D. Siddeley as managing director. In 1927, Armstrong Whitworth merged its heavy engineering interests with Vickers to form Vickers-Armstrongs. At this point, J. D. Siddeley brought Armstrong Siddeley and Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft into his control. In 1928, Armstrong Siddeley Holdings bought Avro from Crossley Motors. Also that year Siddeley partnered with Walter Gordon Wilson, inventor of the pre-selector gearbox, to create Improved Gears Ltd, which later became Self-Changing Gears – the gearbox that should be credited with enabling the marketing tagline "Cars for the daughters of gentlemen".

Armstrong Siddeley manufactured luxury cars, aircraft engines, and later, aircraft. In 1935, J. D. Siddeley's interests were purchased for £2 million by Tommy Sopwith owner of Hawker Aircraft to form – along with the Gloster Aircraft Company and Air Training Services – Hawker Siddeley, a famous name in British aircraft production. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft became a subsidiary of Hawker. The aviation pioneer Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith – Tommy, later Sir Thomas, Sopwith – became chairman of Armstrong Siddeley Motors, a Hawker Siddeley subsidiary.

Armstrong Siddeley was merged with the aircraft engine business of Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol Aero Engines) to form Bristol Siddeley as part of an ongoing rationalisation under government influence of the British aircraft and aircraft engine manufacturers. Armstrong Siddeley produced their last cars in 1960. Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce merged in 1966, the latter subsuming the former which remained for a while as an aircraft engine division within Rolls-Royce.

In June 1972, Rolls-Royce (1972) Ltd sold all the stock of spares plus all patents, specifications, drawings, catalogues and the name of Armstrong Siddeley Motors Ltd to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd. This meant that "Armstrong Siddeley" and "A-S Sphinx Logo" are trademarks and copyright of the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd.

The "Siddeley" name survived a while longer in aviation; in Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics before they joined with others to become British Aerospace (BAe) which with further mergers is now BAE Systems.

Products

Motor cars

The first car produced from the union was a fairly massive machine, a 5-litre 30 hp. A smaller 18 hp appeared in 1922 and a 2-litre 14 hp was introduced in 1923. 1928 saw the company's first 15 hp six; 1929 saw the introduction of a 12 hp vehicle. This was a pioneering year for the marque, during which it first offered the Wilson preselector gearbox as an optional extra; it became standard issue on all cars from 1933. In 1930 the company marketed four models, of 12, 15, 20, and 30 hp, the last costing £1450.

The company's rather staid image was endorsed during the 1930s by the introduction of a range of six-cylinder cars with ohv engines, though a four-cylinder 12 hp was kept in production until 1936. In 1933, the 5-litre six-cylinder Siddeley Special was announced, featuring a Hiduminium aluminium alloy engine; this model cost £950. Car production continued at a reduced rate throughout 1940, and a few were assembled in 1941.

The week that World War II ended in Europe, Armstrong Siddeley introduced its first post-war models; these were the Lancaster four-door saloon and the Hurricane drophead coupe. The names of these models echoed the names of aircraft produced by the Hawker Siddeley Group (the name adopted by the company in 1935) during the war. These cars all used a 2-litre six-cylinder (16 hp) engines, increased to 2.3-litre (18 hp) engines in 1949. From 1949 to 1952 two commercial variants of the 18 hp cars were produced, primarily for export. The Utility Coupé was a conventional coupe utility style vehicle, while the Station Coupé was effectively a dual cab vehicle, although it still retained only two doors. However, it did have two rows of seating to accommodate up to four adults. From 1953 the company produced the Sapphire, with a 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine.

In 1956, the model range was expanded with the addition of the 234 (a 2.3-litre four-cylinder) and the 236 (with the older 2.3-litre six-cylinder engine). The Sapphire 346 sported a bonnet mascot in the shape of a Sphinx with namesake Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire jet engines attached. The 234 and 236 Sapphires might have looked to some of marque's loyal customers like a radical departure from the traditional Armstrong Siddeley appearance. However, in truth, they were simply too conservative in a period of rapidly developing automotive design. If the "baby Sapphire" brought about the beginning of the end for Armstrong Siddeley, it was because Jaguar had launched the unitary-construction 2.4 saloon in 1955, which was quicker, significantly cheaper, and much better-looking than the lumpy and frumpy 234/236 design.

The last model produced by Armstrong Siddeley was 1958's Star Sapphire, with a 4-litre engine, and automatic transmission. The Armstrong Siddeley was a casualty of the 1960 merger with Bristol; the last car left the Coventry factory in 1960.

Model list

Cars produced by Armstrong Siddeley had designations that came from the Tax horsepower rating of their engines.

 
Lancaster six-light saloon
 
Whitley four-light sports saloon
 
Typhoon fixed head coupé
 
Hurricane drophead coupé
Model name Type Engine From To No. produced
Thirty Various 4960 cc 1919 1931 2770
Eighteen Various 2400 cc 1921 1925 2500 inc 18/50
18/50 or 18 Mk.II Various 2872 cc 1925 1926 2500 inc Eighteen
Four-Fourteen Various 1852 cc 1923 1929 13,365
Twenty Short and Long chassis 2872 cc 1926 1936 8847
Fifteen Tourer, saloon 1900 cc 1927 1929 7203 inc 15/6
Twelve Tourer, saloon, sports 1236 (1434 cc from 1931) 1929 1937 12500
15/6 Tourer, saloon, sports 1900 cc (2169 cc from 1933) 1928 1934 7206 inc Fifteen
Siddeley Special Tourer, saloon, limousine 4960 cc 1933 1937 253
Short 17 Coupe, saloon, sports saloon 2394 cc 1935 1938 4260 inc Long 17
Long 17 Saloon, tourer, Atalanta sports saloon, Limousine, landaulette 2394 cc 1935 1939 4260 inc Short 17
12 Plus & 14 Saloon, tourer 1666 cc 1936 1939 3750
20/25 Saloon, tourer, Atlanta sports saloon

Limousine, landaulette

3670 cc 1936 1940 884
16 Saloon, Sports saloon 1991 cc 1938 1941 950
Lancaster 16 4-door saloon 1991 cc 1945 1952 3597 inc Lancaster 18.
Lancaster 18 4-door saloon 2309 cc 1945 1952 3597 inc. Lancaster 16.
Hurricane 16 Drophead coupé 1991 cc 1945 1953 2606 inc Hurricane 18.
Hurricane 18 Drophead coupé 2309 cc 1945 1953 2606 inc. Hurricane 16.
Typhoon 2-door fixed-head coupé 1991 cc 1946 1949 1701.
Tempest 4-door fixed-head coupé 1991 cc 1946 1949 6.
Whitley 18 Various 2309 cc 1949 1953 2624.
Sapphire 346 4-door saloon & Limousine 3435 cc 1952 1958 7697
Sapphire 234 4-door saloon 2290 cc 1955 1958 803
Sapphire 236 4-door saloon 2309 cc 1955 1957 603
Star Sapphire Saloon & Limousine 3990 cc 1958 1960 980
Star Sapphire Mk II Saloon & Limousine 3990 cc 1960 1960 1

A feature of many of their later cars was the option of an electrically controlled pre-selector gearbox.

Clubs

Like many British cars of the age, there are active owners' clubs supporting their continued use in several countries, e.g. the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany. ASOC Ltd has members worldwide and many members of the ASCC in Australia are resident overseas. In the United Kingdom, the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd publishes a monthly Members magazine "Sphinx". In Australia, the Armstrong Siddeley Car Club publishes "Southern Sphinx" six times a year. In the Netherlands ASOC Dutch publishes also six times a year, and in New Zealand, Armstrong Siddeley Car Club in New Zealand Inc. publish "Sphinx-NZ" every month. Further details are available from the Membership Secretary, or via the ASOC Ltd and ASCC Australia websites.

Diesel engines

In 1946 Armstrong Siddeley produced their first diesel engines. They were medium-speed engines for industrial and agricultural use. Initially there was a single-cylinder engine producing 5 bhp (3.7 kW) at 900 rpm and a twin-cylinder version. Each cylinder had a capacity of 988 cm3 (60.2 cubic inches). The power output and speed was progressively increased. By the end of 1954 the single-cylinder engine was rated at 11 bhp (8.2 kW) at 1800 rpm and the twin-cylinder engine 22 bhp (16.4 kW) at the same speed. In 1955 the range was extended with the introduction of a 3-cylinder engine rated at 33 bhp (24.6 kW).

The engines were built at Armstrong Siddeley's factory at Walnut Street, Leicester until that factory closed in August 1957. Production was transferred to the factory of Armstrong Siddeley (Brockworth) Ltd in Gloucestershire and in 1958 to the factory of Petters Limited at Staines, Middlesex. The engines built by Petters were designated AS1, AS2 and AS3 to distinguish them from that company's other products. Production ended in 1962 when Petters introduced a replacement range of lightweight small high-speed air-cooled diesel engines.

In April 1958 the company obtained a licence to build the Maybach MD series high-speed diesel engines. Several hundred were built by Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd after that company took over Armstrong Siddeley's manufacturing activities in 1959.

 

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