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SNAPSHOT 152: 1900 Motor Manufacturing Co. “Balmoral” Char-à-Banc

The Motor Manufacturing Co. had its origins in the Great Horseless Carriage Company, one of the creations of Harry J Lawson, who had floated the English Daimler company in 1896.  Lawson had big plans to manufacture cars and commercial vehicles in great numbers, and the company had premises, alongside Daimler, in the Motor Mills at Coventry.

Manufacture started in 1897, with designs very similar to the Daimlers being built close by: 4hp vertical-twin engines, tube ignition and tiller steering.  The company reorganised in 1898 as the Motor Manufacturing Co., and a new designer, George Iden, was hired from the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway.  His designs were totally different from those influenced by Daimler, having horizontal twin engines mounted at the rear.  Three models were publicised: the Princess 4½hp 2-seater, the Sandringham 6hp phaeton, and the model in our Snapshot – the Balmoral 10hp char-à-banc.

Our picture comes from the July 1901 edition of a nowadays extremely rare publication: Feilden’s Magazine: The World’s Record of Industrial Progress that seems to have been published only from 1899 to 1903.  Our picture was used to illustrate a lengthy article on “The Motor Car and Its Future.”  As an example of the latest technology it may appear to be a strange choice, but we know from Grace’s Guide that the company had already used this picture in an advertisement from 1900 – so some significant marketing effort was clearly under way at the time.

This effort was almost certainly in vain.  A. C. Brown, who joined the company as an apprentice fitter, said ‘I worked on George Iden’s “Flight of Fancy” designs.  Some did not go at all, some went a bit, and most of them were flops.”  The company reorganised again in 1902 with an attempt to reduce its complex range of tricycles, Daimler-layout cars and Iden models.  It had some success, with a dividend being paid in 1903, but Iden left in 1903 and by 1904 the company was in receivership.  It struggled on in several forms until its final demise in 1908.

Iden himself did no better.  He produced cars under his own name, still in Coventry, including a V-twin front-wheel drive car intended for taxi work as well as a private car – but his company only survived from 1904 to 1907.

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