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Manufacturers / U.K. / Lanchester

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Lanchester vehicles


Lanchester 10   (1900)

Three, of eight Lanchester brothers were involved in the motor industry, Frederick (born 1868), Frank (born 1870) and George (born 1874).

Frederick was Assistant Works Manager at Forward Gas Engine Company by the time he was aged 20 and invented the Pendulum Governor for controlling the speed of an engine. He also had an interest in flight and experimented with the theory of flight in 1892 but was persuaded not to publish, as his theories would ruin his reputation as an engineer. He designed and built a 3hp single-cylinder engine, but due to restrictions on road use, he and his brothers built a motor launch to use as a test bed for the engine. Launched in 1894 this was the first all British motor boat. In 1895 Frederick's first car was road tested but its six-seater bodywork was too much for the engine. A car fitted with an 8hp engine was driven from Birmingham to London in 1899 for the Automobile Club Exhibition and Trials at Richmond in Surrey.

From 1901 the cars had the driver behind the front axle and a mid mounted engine. Eventually the tiller steering was replaced by a wheel, the engines became water rather than air-cooled, and the "shield" protecting the driver was replaced with a conventional bonnet.

Lanchester 12  concept (1903)

In 1904 the Lanchester Engine Company was forced into bankruptcy due to the incompetence of the Directors, and was immediately reformed as The Lanchester Motor Company. In 1921 Lanchester was the first company to export left-hand drive cars. (Henry Ford was a customer). The Indian Maharajahs appreciated the luxury of Lanchesters and ordered state carriages, some plated in gold or silver, some with seats on the running boards for servants. Tinted glass was also introduced on these cars for the first time. Customers at one time included both King George V and VI.


Lanchesters had a reputation for reliability and innovation and a range of two, four and six-cylinder models were produced prior to The Great War, including Lanchesters only sports car.

Between the wars various models were produced and were considered excellent models.

After the BSA/Daimler Group takeover in 1933 the company's products began to lose their position as components were shared with Daimler and BSA.


After the Second World War the company was unable to produce large models and production was concentrated on the 10hp model originally intended to be announced in 1940.

From 1954 most Lanchesters were almost one-off productions with only a few of each model being built. 1954 saw the Sprite, only three being made, and in 1955 the Sprite Mk II (about ten built) was the last Lanchester.

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