Armstrong Siddeley Fourteen Fourand the Fifteen hp
As we have seen Armstrong Siddeley Motors returned to the manufacture of cars in 1920, first with the 30hp car followed by the scaled down 18hp in 1921. These were cars of quality placed towards the top end of the market, well liked and returning steady profits to the company.
This was the beginning of a time of considerable competition in the world of personal transport. Some people thought 'motorbike', maybe with side car, or then again a cycle-car could be the way forward. The latter were produced by a large number of small manufacturers endeavouring to bridge the gap twixt motor bike and car, some costing as little as one tenth of the price of an Armstrong Siddeley.
Ever aware of market trends John Siddeley saw as 1922 approached a slowing down in the economy and as a price war broke out amongst rivals Morris, Austin, Bean etc. he saw room for a much smaller, cheaper vehicle of the car-cycle type. Prior to 1914 the Stoneleigh company, a subsidiary of Siddeley Deasy and now of ASM, had planned to launch a light car based on a BSA design. Using this research and an existing Stoneleigh chassis design, a skimpy aluminium body on a wooden frame and an air cooled engine concealed behind a dummy radiator, the compact 9hp car first launched on the market as a 3 seat 'utility' was of an appearance quite alien to the established Armstrong Siddeley Motor's product. This and subsequent improved versions were not well received by the buying public, resulting in very disappointing sales figures. However the experience aided by Armstrong Siddeley's distributors led to the decision that the middle sized car sector with the Armstrong Siddeley badge held the most promise.
This was a fortunate decision as the era of the cycle-car would soon be over. Herbert Austin had launched in 1922 his 7hp model which in the eyes of the public was moving on from motor cycle technology and though scaled down, functioned and looked like a 'proper car.' Soon it was christened the 'baby' Austin. Sometimes a manufacturer gets it really right and Austin had identified and satisfied a large number of first time car buyers at the lower end of the market. Even today these cheeky little cars have a strong following in the world of classic cars
Also at this time there was great debate concerning the number of cylinders which from a technical point of view were best suited to the performance of a vehicle. Though several combinations of cylinder and associated valve formations were considered, it was upon the four or six cylinders, having side or overhead valves, that the main discussion centred. Six cylinders certainly generated more torque, a real consideration when crash gearboxes proliferated and high torque meant fewer gear changes per mile. Also from a manufacturing point of view the side valve arrangement favoured cost and in local servicing less expertise. Conversely the overhead valve system produced the superior performance. However several manufacturers during the 1920s and into the 1930s chose, in an effort to be competitive in price, to design engines having the side valve arrangement which they naturally promoted, thus creating a trend. Coupling this side valve layout to a small capacity six rather than a four cylinder engine did not add to performance, but probably had more to do with satisfying the car buyer's love of 'one- upmanship'
4 14 MkII Mendip 2 3 Seater
And so it was as 1921 drew to a close with the economy slowing down the need for a relatively less expensive, yet quality, car was becoming more pressing. The Armstrong Siddeley board approved a mid-sized vehicle, having a low revving, long stroke, four cylinder overhead valve engine of 1852cc. with three speed manual gear box. The vehicle rated at 14hp would be known as the Armstrong Siddeley14/4.
The rest of the specifications followed the by now well tried formula with a couple of new innovations. One departure was the fitting of cantilever springs both fore and aft rather than to the rear of the car only. Another very striking feature was the departure from the 'V' shaped radiator cowl in favour of a flat type. After 2000 cars were produced the springing arrangement reverted to the traditional A.S. rear cantilever arrangement, while the flat radiator remained throughout 14/4 manufacture.
Apart from the aforementioned points the rest of the layout resembled ASM standard practice. One, to us today, little quirk was the method of oiling the rockers and top end valve motion. These were encased in a traditional rocker cover which had a number of holes forming a grid on the top surface. Oil was poured through these onto a wick contained below at recommended 200mile intervals..
4 14 Chiltern Coupe
4 14 Mk II 1927 Broadway Saloon
When launched in 1923 the factory workers referred to the car, as we would expect, as the 14/4, but when Armstrong Siddeley's press advertising first appeared it was described the 'four 14'. A confusion which lingers even today when the model is being discussed.
The first body type was the five seater open tourer which came fitted with hood and side screens, fibre matting for the drivers compartment and pile carpet for the rear passengers, upholstery was finest quality leather and buyers had a choice of three body colours, mole, dark grey or dark green over black wings and running gear.
The price included clock, speedometer, five lamp lighting set, a lusty electric horn, spare wheel, number plates and delivery ex-works, all for the sum of £360.00.
For £25.00 extra, an Auster screen for rear passenger weather protection when driving with hood down, windscreen wiper, dashboard lamp, luggage straps, and running board fitments, was included.
4 14 Mk II 1927 Cotswold Tourer
4 14 1926 Cotwold Tourer
4 14 MkII Mendip 2 3 Seater
To publicise the cars journalists were invited to press demonstration runs in the Cotswolds and these became known as the Cotswolds trials. Hardly surprising therefore, that when at this time Armstrong Siddeley began naming their various body styles this type became the Cotswold Tourer.
The reactions of the motoring press were very favourable and in essence the car was found to be an excellent well built family car selling at a reasonable price. The car was praised for its logical layout and the smoothness of the engine which could in top gear pull from 5or 6 miles per hour to the top speed of 50 miles per hour without any engine vibration. The car handled well, was comfortable and easy to drive.
Three further body styles were introduced during 1924, a two seater with dicky (a style often incorrectly referred to today as a 'doctors' coupe') which also sold for £360.00.
This was followed by a saloon version capable of seating 4 or 5 people. The body was of light but strong construction and benefited from a large window area. Available in Dark Grey or Dark Blue and priced at £480.00
A saloon landaulette version was also produced allowing open air motoring for the rear passengers should they wish at a price of £505.00.
In mid 1925, by which time some 2,950 units had been purchased by the public, the company launched the improved mark two 14/4. Though much of the layout was a continuation of the original design there were significant changes and improvements. The chassis was redesigned and lengthened to 13 feet. Semi-elliptic springs front and rear replaced the quarter elliptic springs which had under certain road conditions and at higher speeds given problems. Also ground clearance was increased to 9/10 inches which over rough terrain and poor roads was particularly welcomed overseas. The scuttle mounted fuel tank was enlarged to an eight gallons capacity and now had a fuel gauge mounted on the filler cap, which the driver viewed through the front windscreen. Four wheel brakes were now standard and all operated by foot pedal or handbrake lever.
Once again the motoring press were eager to test the new car and found the construction, the well presented equipment, ride comfort and improved performance worthy of praise. Increased top speed, ease of hill climbing in all gears and a return of 27mpg were commended.
These improvements made the car a winner and accounted for the good level of sales worldwide. Some 11,479 units were sold and Armstrong Siddeley Motor's position in the quality small to medium sector of the car market was secured.
As mentioned earlier the company, in line with other manufacturers, started to identify by name the various body styles on offer and in this pictorial section which follows some idea can be gained as to the variety of choice given to the would be purchaser.
The new 14/4 MK1 chassis had quarter elliptic springs to 2000 made.
The chassis picture shown is I believe the MK1 after the change at 2000 produced. ( now semi- elleptical springs) but handbrake lever still gearbox mounted. Rear brakes only.
A new longer chassis was produced for the MK2 Also differing in shape from narrower front to full width at rear. Also 4 wheel brakes.etc.