Lanchester Motor Company U.K.


Frederick Lanchester, George Lanchester, Frank Lanchester

Birmingham, England


The Lanchester Motor Company Limited was a car manufacturer company. It was located until early 1931 at Armourer Mills, Montgomery Street, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, and afterwards at Sandy Lane, Coventry England. It was founded in 1899 by three brother Frederick Lanchester, George Lanchester, Frank Lanchester. Lanchester was bought by the BSA Group at the end of 1930. After that its cars were manufactured by Daimler on Daimler's Coventry sites. So, with Daimler, Lanchester became part of Jaguar Cars in 1960. The rights to the Lanchester brand now belong to Tata Motors of India, though Lanchester has been dormant since the last Lanchester rolled off the line in 1955. The Lanchester Motor Company Limited is still registered as an active company and accounts are filed each year, although as of 2014 it is marked as "non-trading".



The three brothers

This business was started by the three Lanchester brothers, Frederick, one of the most influential automobile engineers of the 19th and 20th centuries. George and Frank who together incorporated The Lanchester Engine Company Limited in December 1899 retaining the financial support they had previously received from the two brothers, Charles Vernon Pugh and John Pugh of Rudge-Whitworth.

In 1895, work on the first Lanchester car had been started, significantly designed from first principles as a car, not a horseless carriage. It ran on the public roads in February or March 1896. It had a single-cylinder 1306 cc engine with the piston having two connecting rods to separate crankshafts and flywheels rotating in opposite directions giving very smooth running. A two-cylinder engine was fitted to the same chassis in 1897. In 1901, the first cars were sold to the public. Lanchester became the first company to market disc brakes to the public in 1902.


Crystal Palace Automobile Show, January 1903

The Lanchester Motor-Car Company show a number of handsome vehicles. The design here is novel throughout. The Lanchester car was one of the first English cars to be made. All bodies were manufactured by external coachbuilders until 1903 when a body department was set up and up to 1914 most cars carried Lanchester built bodies.

The 1904 models had 2470 cc, four-cylinder, water-cooled, overhead-valve engines featuring pressure lubrication, very unusual at the time, and were now mounted with the epicyclic gearbox between the front seats rather than centrally resulting a design with the driver sitting well forwards and no bonnet. Six-cylinder models joined the line up in 1906.



During World War I the company manufactured artillery shells and some aircraft engines but some vehicle production continued with the Lanchester 4x2 Armoured Cars manufactured on the Lanchester 38 hp chassis for use by the Royal Naval Air Service on the Western Front.



The company adopted a single model policy after the first World war and the Forty was re-introduced with a 6.2-litre overhead-cam engine in unit with a 3-speed gearbox still using epicyclic gears and a worm drive rear axle. It was very expensive, dearer than a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and to maintain production a smaller car, the Twenty One joined the range in 1924. This had a 3.1-litre, six-cylinder engine, now with removable cylinder head, mated to a four-speed conventional gearbox and four-wheel brakes. It grew to the 3.3-litre Twenty Three in 1926. The Forty was finally replaced by the Thirty with straight-eight 4.4-litre engine in 1928. A further series of armoured cars was built in 1927, using a six-wheeled version of the Forty chassis.


Olympia 1930

Twelve months after the Wall Street Crash these were the cars shown by Lanchester on their stand at the Olympia Motor Show in October 1930:

  • 21 hp 6-cylinder landaulette by Maythorn, £1,775, chassis only £1,050
  • 31 hp 8-cylinder limousine by Hooper, £2,300, chassis only £1,325
  • 31 hp 8-cylinder 6/7-seater coupé de ville by Windovers £2,435



George Lanchester was kept on as a senior designer and Frank became the Lanchester sales director. The first new offering, still designed by George Lanchester, was a version of the Daimler Light Twenty, the Lanchester Eighteen with hydraulic brakes and a Daimler fluid flywheel. The Ten of 1933 was an upmarket version of the BSA Ten. The pre-war Fourteen Roadrider of 1937, was almost identical to the Daimler New Fifteen. Post war, a ten-horsepower car was reintroduced with the 1287 cc LD10. It didn't have a Daimler equivalent and the four-cylinder 1950 Fourteen / Leda. The very last model, of which only prototypes were built, was called the Sprite.


Jaguar, Ford, Tata

Daimler was in decline. In 1960 BSA sold Daimler's premises and business to Jaguar Cars who have since used the Daimler name on their most expensive products. Jaguar has moved into and out of the Ford group. Since 2008 Jaguar, Lanchester belongs to Tata Motors.




An open-air sculpture, the Lanchester Car Monument, in the Bloomsbury Heartlands area of Birmingham, designed by Tim Tolkien, on the site where Lanchester manufactured their first four-wheel petrol car in 1895.


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