Armstrong Siddeley Car History
Motor cars Aircraft enginesLight engineering
Merged with Hawker Aircraft (1935) Merged with Bristol Aero Engines (1960) became Bristol SiddeleyMerged with Rolls-Royce (1966)
|Successor(s)||Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd|
|Headquarters||Coventry, England, UK|
|Key people||John Davenport Siddeley|
|Parent||Armstrong Whitworth (1919 - 1927)|
|Subsidiaries||Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (1927–1935)|
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 motor cars 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 and 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.
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.
In 1909, J. D. Siddeley resigned from Wolseley and took over the Deasy Motor Co 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 World War I the company produced trucks, ambulances, and staff cars. In 1915 airframes and aero-engines started to be produced as well.
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 bought 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 was merged with the aircraft engine business of Bristol Aero Engines that had developed the Olympus engines for the TSR 2 (that engine was subsequently developed for used in [Concorde]) to form Bristol Siddeley as part of an ongoing rationalisation of the British aerospace sector. Armstrong Siddeley produced their last cars in 1960. Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce merged in 1966, the latter name subsuming the former.
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.
Armstrong Siddeley and A-S Sphinx Logo are trademarks and copyright of the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club Ltd.
However, the name survived with Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Hawker Siddeley Dynamics joining with others to become BAe - British Aerospace, and with further mergers has now become BAE Systems the premier defence contractor, which among other things builds Aircraft Engines, Aircraft, and Aircraft carriers.
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 aluminum 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 engines, increased to 2.3-litre engines in 1949. 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.
Between 1930 and 1955, Armstrong Siddeley produced the 'AS' range of medium-speed diesel engines, with a top speed of 1500 rpm. These air-cooled engines were intended for industrial and marine use, producing 10 horsepower (7.4 kW) per cylinder, and each cylinder had a capacity of 988cc (60.2 cubic inches). 1-, 2- and 3-cylinder engines were produced, designated the AS1, AS2 and AS3 respectively. The engines were often used in barges and narrowboats on British canals, as well as in domestic and light industrial electric generator sets.