Armstrong Siddeley Motor Cars of the 1950s
As the country returned to some semblance of prosperity the changes in road haulage and cutting back of the rail network saw dramatic improvement in roads, giving the motorist the ability to travel long distances at sustained high speeds. What was needed was a vehicle capable of trouble free effortless cruising and equally able to be subject to repeated braking without loss of efficiency. Comfort and safety 'stepped up' as behoves the Armstrong Siddeley product.
The 346 Sapphire Mk1 was launched in 1952, having a straight six, ohv engine with the choice of manual or electric change pre-select transmission and four light or six light body styles. Two years later the Mk2, an updated version, offered as a further option automatic transmission and had upgraded brakes. These cars performed well in the 1954 and 55 Monte Carlo Rallies. There was also a Limousine version which was popular with Embassies, Councils and Chauffeur driven Car Hire companies.
At the 1955 Motor Show the company launched a smaller alternative to the 346 Sapphire, the 234 Sapphire and 236 Sapphire, these cars were of a more bulbous shape which was popular with several car manufacturers. Seen as a replacement to the earlier 18HP range, the 236 had a similar six cylinder engine. It was available with manual gearbox, some fitted with overdrive or manumatic clutch which made the car semi automatic. The 234, 4 cylinder engine, was a shortened version of that used in the 346. Having twin carburettors and overdrive made this a genuine 100 MPH car. This was a sports car in a saloon body. Sadly the cars were, due to their strange styling, not a great success. Oddly enough the styling is better liked today.
By 1958 the company felt that the 346 range required an update. Funds devoted to an all new model and the need to move forward to mass production methods were not forthcoming, so a stopgap car based on the 346 was designed and manufactured. This car was named the Star Sapphire and it was a much updated and improved vehicle. It was now fitted with a redesigned and enlarged engine, revamped suspension, disc brakes, and a fully automatic Borg-Warner three speed transmission. Only 903 cars and 77 Limousines were produced.
In 1960 Armstrong Siddeley Motors was merged into the newly formed Bristol Siddeley company. At this stage, the Star production was running at 11 cars per month on which there was a loss of £70 on each car produced. Additionally, there needed to be a new model to keep up with the competition, this would have required an investment of some £1.25M. Because of the huge investment that was required with no certainty the new model would sell in any number the board of the new company decided to cease car production as soon as was commercially possible, the last car left the factory on the 31st of July 1960.
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