…the early years
John Davenport Siddeley, later Lord Kenilworth, was born near Manchester England in 1866. In his youth, he became a champion cyclist and later worked in the cycle manufacturing industry. An interest in automobiles ensued and he entered Peugeots in competitive events. In 1901 he began importing Peugeots and selling them as Siddeley Autocars.
In 1905 another car manufacturer, Wolseley, merged with Siddeley Autocar to form the Wolseley Siddeley Motor Co. Wolseley was a division of the Vickers engineering company.
In 1908 Siddeley resigned and moved to the Deasy Motor Company and the latter began selling “JD Siddeley type Deasy Motor Carriages” This name was later abbreviated to “Siddeley Deasy” an example of which is shown above.
In 1915 John Siddeley persuaded the board to expand production to include airframes and aero engines – one of his many far sighted business decisions. In later years, Armstrong Siddeley’s aeronautical division contributed significantly to the war effort and the British air industry, continuing after the demise of the motor car division in 1960.
During 1928 the preselector gearbox was offered for the first time. This revolutionised driving. At that time virtually all cars had so-called crash gearboxes requiring considerable skill. In contrast a novice could operate a preselector gearbox. Models offered during the 1930s included the 12hp,15hp,17hp, 20 hp, 20/25 hp models and the high performance 30 hp five litre Siddeley Special. Various bodies are available, some by in-house coachbuilder, Burlington, and others by independent coach builders.
The Sphinx became the car's logo and mascot after a motoring reporter reportedly described the car as being "as silent and inscrutable as the Sphinx".
The so-called 16/18 hp range was manufactured from 1945 until 1953 and included various body styles. Initially offered with a 2 litre (the 16hp), a 2.3 (the 18hp) litre engine was offered in 1949. Later this larger engine became standard equipment.
Customers had the choice of the Armstrong Siddeley developed “pre-select” or a conventional manual transmission. At its release 2 body styles were offered, the Hurricane Drop-head Coupe, and the Lancaster sedan. In 1946 the Typhoon Fixed-head Coupe was added to the range and subsequently deleted in 1950.
In 1950 another sedan, known as the Whitley, was released and featured more modern razor edge styling at the expense of interior space. Initially the Whitley supplemented the Lancaster. In 1952 the Lancaster was deleted and the Whitley body altered to provide additional rear headroom.
In 1949 the Station Coupe Utility and Station Coupe models were released. The utility had a front bench seat and conventional tray, while the Coupe had an additional rear bench seat and a shorter tray – a forerunner of the body style offered by many manufacturers today. Both the Utility and Coupe were exported in large numbers to Australia.
Common to all 16/18hp cars is the distinctive and attractive horizontal bar grill.
SAPPHIRE: A Gem is created…
The Sapphire 346 was released in October 1952. It had a 3.4 litre high performance engine capable of 125hp in or 150hp in twin Carburettor form. Customers
had the choice of “pre-select” or manual transmission.
Two bodies were offered; a 4 light and a 6 light body. The latter had an additional window in the rear pillar, while the former did not providing more privacy. A limousine variant was also produced. In 1955 a Mk 2 appeared with bigger, power boosted brakes, flashing trafficators, revised instrumentation and optional automatic transmission,
powersteering, electric windows and adjustable rear shock absorbers.
In 1956 a range of compact vehicles, the 234 and 236 were released (the “Baby Sapphires”). These had identical bodies. The 236 was made for those seeking smooth, leisurely performance while the 234 engine developed 120 BHP, sufficient to endow it with 100mph performance.
The final polish… the Star Sapphire
In 1958 the 346 was replaced with the 4 litre Star Sapphire, a major development of the earlier vehicle. The front doors were now conventional and the bonnet now extended over a shortened grill. The interior was more luxurious. Power disc brakes, power steering and automatic gearbox were standard equipment. The Star was a genuine 100mph vehicle.
Sadly, production of the Star and the Armstrong Siddeley marque ceased in 1960.