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SNAPSHOT 202: 1907 Belsize 24/30

Sometimes the identification of a car has to be based on a mix of knowledge and guesses, and in this case partly on the length of the bonnet.

This illustration dates from 1907.  Although we know it is of a Belsize, there is no other picture of a 24/30 that we could find for comparison – but the smaller four-cylinder models made at that time did not have the beautifully proportioned bonnet of this car, so we are almost certain that it is the 5,880cc 6-cylinder model manufactured between 1906 and 1908.

The car took its name from the Belsize Works of Marshall & Company, a bicycle manufacturer founded in 1896 in Clayton, Manchester.  The first cars were produced in 1897, still under the Marshall name, and were based on the French Hurtu, itself a close replica of a Benz.  By 1901, a new more modern four-seat model appeared, with a twin-cylinder engine made by Buchet.  This was the first car to carry the name Belsize, but as yet only as a model designation: it was advertised as “Marshall’s ‘Belsize’ car.

By 1906 the company name had changed to Belsize Motors Ltd.  It was then a major player in the British motor industry, employing 1,200 people and making up to 50 vehicles a week.  A staggering range of vehicles was produced, from small cars including taxis, to commercial vehicles including vast fire engines with engines of up to 14.5 litres capacity.

The 24/30 in our Snapshot was distinguished by its advanced power unit with overhead valves, and in 1908 it was joined by two other six-cylinder models, the 7,774cc 40hp and the 11,724cc 60hp.  Quite apart from these larger cars dating from after our picture was published, a photograph of a 60hp does exist, and its bonnet is enormous – further confirming our view that our identification is probably correct.

Vintage enthusiasts will also remember that Belsize was known in the 1920s for a completely different machine known as the Belsize Bradshaw.  Launched late in 1921, it was designed by Grenville Bradshaw, also responsible for the air-cooled flat-twin A.B.C. light car.  The Belsize Bradshaw featured an unusual oil-cooled 90-degree V-twin 1,300-c.c. engine, reputed to be smooth in operation but prone to overheating and difficult starting.  The Belsize company survived until growing competition from Morris, together with the 1924 slump, killed them off in 1925.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

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