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Yet Another Sample Article from the July - Aug 2013 MASCOT

The ‘NOT the First Singer Car of 1904’ - by Mike Hyman

You could be forgiven for thinking this is a picture of the first Singer car made in 1904.  After all, it comes from a January 1953 ‘Motor’ magazine, and it was used by Singer in their own, in-house magazine, Popular Motoring, in July ‘34 and May ‘35.

The same picture was also used in much of Singer’s advertising and publicity material,

Also there was the Mombai Singer/Shell X100 Blotter in the last Mascot, which banged the ‘First Singer Car 1904’ drum and asked: “By Jove! How did they do it?  

probably from the 1920s or early 1930s, including Ian North’s ‘1904 Singer’ Ash Tray (See Nov-Dec 2006 Mascot) and my ‘1904 Singer Voiturette’ Lapel badge.  

The date and title of the publication is not on the cuttings, although they do say Singer had been manufacturers of automobiles for almost half a century.  But they do provide an answer the Mumbai X100 question, which is simply that they didn’t do it - at least not until 1909.  Yet even this raises a question, the first of the adverts saying:  “Here you see the latest model Singer as it stood in front of the coach house, newly delivered on a Spring morning in 1904.”   But as far as we know, it wasn’t until October 1904 that Singer announced they had started manufacturing motor cars, and it wasn’t until February 1905 that the cars were available to the public.

Then fortune played its hand, and I found these adverts on the theme  ‘The Passage of the Years’, cut from late 1940s magazines, possibly the ‘Motor Industry’.  

My guess therefore is that this probably was the first 8hp, 3-Seater model made for Singer, designed by Alex Craig and built by Lea & Francis, and that it was delivered to Singer in the Spring of 1904. But not for sale, rather for trials and evaluation prior to Singer starting to manufacture them under licence from Lea & Francis in November 1904, ready for display and marketing at the Olympia Motor Show in February 1905.

The engine was a horizontal, 2-cylinder ohc unit mounted under the floor.  It had 32” long con-rods and developed max power at 800 rpm.  Drive to the rear wheels was by two chains, through clutches and epicyclic gears.

There were also  8hp 2-Seater and 12hp 4-Seater models.

So now the cat really is out of the bag, and the Singer Motor Co Ltd would have had us believe that the first Singer car from 1904 is in fact a 1909 two-seater, 12/14 hp model.  

But why the blatant deception?  Could it be that in the sophistication of the 1920s and ‘30s, the antiquated appearance of the real first Singer car would have been a sales disaster?

Or maybe it was because the 1904 car was a sales disaster, with huge losses having been incurred when the Alex Craig cars were withdrawn from the range and the entire remaining 1906 Motor Car Stock written off as scrap, Singer’s management considering it … “in the best interests of the company not to attempt to place these cars on the market.”
                                                                Mike H.

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1904 - 1905