The arrival of an Aristocrat in Australia
by Peter Mitchell, Richard Tonkin, Penn Bradly & Sandy Cameron

Perhaps the most significant numerical weakness in the marque coverage within Australian membership are Armstrong Siddeleys from the 1931-1940 period of manufacture.

Australian owned fine cars that spring readily to mind are;
Reginald Row’s 1937 17 HP Four Light Saloon
Barbara Pennington’s recently restored 1934 12HP Saloon fitted with an 18 HP engine.
Bill Clifford’s 1936 17 HP sold as a rolling chassis via Clemenger Motors in November 1936.
Andrew Christopherson’s 1933 20 HP Creswell bodied sports saloon
Andrew Christopherson's 1934 20 HP Limousine.
Howard Mc Cormick’s 1934 12 HP sold as a rolling chassis via Buckle Motors in August 1934.

There are many project cars in various stages of restoration, amongst which are;
Jonathan Dalgliesh’s 1935 Siddeley Special
Alan Purss’s 1935 Siddeley Special
Ernie Garton’s 1932 20HP Saloon
Nello Mafodda’s 12 HP sold as a rolling chassis in March 1935 to A.W. Barton.

It is with pleasure that we advise that these thin ranks have been increased by one more superb car which had just arrived from the United Kingdom.

On Friday 12th September 2014 a 1936 20/25 HP Armstrong Siddeley Sedanca de Ville arrived at the home of its new owners Peter & Ann Mitchell. This car is in very good original condition finished in attractive yellow and black bodywork with a cloth interior in the rear and leather front seats for the chauffeur and footman.

An Armstrong Siddeley 15HP restoration

The car's details are:

Registered Number: CKR 949 First registered in Kent on 11th June 1936
Chassis Number: AS 9611  
Engine Number: 9796 Will be replaced by a 1938 25 HP engine
Body Number B5095 Started life as an Enclosed Limousine by Burlington and finished in all black bodywork.
Cc: 3,670  
Body Colour: Black / Yellow  
Trim Colour: Black / Grey  

Based on information provided by the auction house from which Peter purchased the car, it was originally bodied by Burlington (Armstrong-Siddeley's in-house coachbuilders) as an Enclosed Limousine before being modified into a Limousine de Ville by HT Coachworks probably during the 1960s creating a striking limousine, and was crafted by this body builder located in Staplehurst, Kent and is now finished in Black over Yellow.

The driver's compartment is trimmed in Black leather and the passenger area in Grey cloth, and the configuration includes a row of occasional seats

1929 Armstrong Siddeley 15 HP being offloaded at the start of the train journey>

This car was originally owned by Sir Henry Ledgard of Kent and, following his death, remained in the family until the mid-1960s. In 1995, it was exported to Austria.

During his lifetime, Sir Henry (1853-1946) was the President of the Upper India Chamber of Commerce and he was made a knight in 1915. The car was successively owned by his widow, Lady Margaret and then by his daughter, after which it remained in Kent until the 1960’s.

At some time after this, the engine apparently failed and was removed from the vehicle - it is currently mounted on a pallet. According to the Armstrong's June 2014 auction vendor, “The rest of the car is in very good condition, both mechanically and cosmetically. It is now being offered complete with extensive service history, including the old-style logbook, and will apparently have a current V5 registration document by the time of the auction. The mileage showing is an unwarranted 59,680”.

1929 Armstrong Siddeley 15 HP being offloaded at the start of the train journey>

This car was built in May 1936, chassis number AS 9611, fitted with a 20/25 engine fitted with a side-draught S.U.carburetter and Wilson type preselector gearbox. Of particular interest on this car is the transmission, it has a mid mounted preselector gearbox connected by open tailshaft to the differential, and forward of the gearbox is a Cardan shaft to transmit drive from the engine to the input side of the gearbox.

The unusual feature of this car is that it has an orthodox three component mechanical clutch, operated by what would otherwise be regarded as the gear engagement pedal. The initial movement of the left pedal disengages the conventional style clutch; full depression of the same pedal achieves gear-change. With neutral selected the clutch remains disengaged as a result of the interlock device in the gearbox preventing the clutch pedal from returning to full height.

Later in the build of 20/25 HP cars and the following model the 25 HP Armstrong Siddeley moved to the automatic centrifugal Newton clutch, developed by Noel Newton following the significant falling out over fluid flywheel/preselector gearbox coupling between John D. Siddeley and Laurence Pomeroy of the English Daimler company. Rather than fume over the duplicity of his erstwhile business partner John Siddeley developed a better system of driving the vehicle than the wider first gear band of the preselector gearbox functioning as a clutch, by using the mechanical/preselector system evident on Peter & Ann’s car and then the automatic centrifugal clutch which carried through to the last fitment of the electrically controlled Wilson gearbox fitted to Mk. II Sapphires circa 1958.

The mechanical clutch is housed inside a squat alloy housing that contains a cross shaft which supports the clutch thrust bearing, which in turn is in constant contact with four levers on the presser plate which again is a squatter device than the conventional presser plate in cars such as the post-war 18HP Station & Utility Coupes and 346 Sapphires fitted with synchromesh gearboxes. Within this housing is a short and robust input style shaft the forward end is fitted to a pilot bush in the rear of the engine crankshaft the rear most end has a ball bearing support at the back of the housing and finishes at a flange coupling with the forward end of the Carden shaft.

Examination of the clutch plate, or driven disc demonstrates how close to the transition to the full Newton automatic centrifugal clutch, this car was in the Armstrong Siddeley Motors factory build schedule. Instead of a conventional clutch plate with torque springs or similar anti-judder device, the original clutch plate is itself a Newton disc. Reconditioning this unit will be an interesting exercise, with further information to follow.

The original engine in the 20/25 has suffered massive structural damage slightly above the nearside crankcase area, either as a result of a frozen water jacket, not drained during a period of sub-zero temperature, or an errant connecting rod detaching itself and breaking through the block.

By good fortune and on the day following the purchase by telephone auction, which was held in the U.K., Peter was offered a complete later series 25 HP engine with unitary transmission of Newton Automatic Centrifugal Clutch and Four Speed Wilson Gearbox attached. This unit which comes from a very late pre-war series circa 1939 arrived on a pallet at the same time as the car and disassembled original engine.

This engine is also a very interesting example of Armstrong Siddeley craftsmanship, it is a six cylinder, overhead valve with bore of 82.5 mm of and stroke of 114.3 mm, giving the engine a capacity of 3,670 cc larger than a 346 Sapphire, but smaller than the 3,990 cc of the Star. The 25 HP engine saw another carburetter change from the S.U. side draught to the downdraught Zenith 42 V 12. The gearbox and bell housing are very similar to the unit fitted to the post-war preselect 16/18 HP cars. The carburetter is fed via an AC mechanical fuel pump mounted on the nearside of the engine.

There is also a departure from the magneto fired ignition, the car is fitted with a Lucas distributor and ignition coil.

According to the research sources reviewed, a lively argument took place in the early 1930’s between a Mr. Young of the British Thomson-Houston Company Limited and a Mr. Stevenson of the USA based Delco-Remy Corporation, under the auspices of the Institution of Automobile Engineers in London. The BTH representative extolled the virtues of magneto ignition, the American Delco-Remy argued vigorously for the adoption of coil and distributor ignition. History tells us who won the argument, and interesting sidelight to this story which will receive a thorough airing in a future copy of “The Southern Sphinx”

Plans are underway to bring the car back to life by making best use of the available engine parts and reconditioning those transmission parts needing attention.

A further progress update will follow.