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SNAPSHOT 317: 1907 16 h.p. Albion

The understandable and important focus upon reducing emissions from road transport is far from new. On 7 March 1907 the A.C.G.B.I. (Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, later the R.A.C.) organised their “Vapour Emission Trials”. This 16 h.p. Albion was one of the many entries.

The rules were clear: Part 1 was a road test of 150 miles; Part 2 was an incline test. Strangely, Part 2 was on day 1 and Part 1 on day 2. The cars were placed on an incline of 1 in 7 in both directions and the engines were run for 10 minutes in each direction. Exhaust samples were taken – and particular mention was made of the proportion of “unburnt products, such as carbonic oxide [carbon monoxide in modern parlance], which are deleterious to health.” The judges were also looking for excess lubricant that could get into the upper parts of the cylinder and thus cause blue smoke. Carrying out the test on a steep angle was said to be severe for those using only a splash lubrication system.

The results were not given in the magazine, but there were pictures of some eccentric devices used by drivers to monitor the exhaust of their own cars. The 35-45 h.p. Ariel and the 24 h.p. De Dion were fitted with branch pipes taking gas from the exhaust to the side of the car, where it could be observed “by means of a looking-glass attached to the dash.” The Albion in our Snapshot had a small sight-glass like a square lantern, also connected to the exhaust; it is just visible on the right of the dashboard. What a driver could do about unsatisfactory results of these observations is not recorded, but presumably they were fitted for the road section of the trial, where they could modify their driving to minimise noxious fumes.

The Albion was a highly respected make, one of the three major Scottish car manufacturers: Albion, Argyll and Arrol-Johnston. The company was founded in 1899 by Thomas Blackwood Murray and Norman Osborne Fulton (both of whom had previously been involved in Arrol-Johnston).

The company built its first motor car in 1900. It was a dogcart of rather old-fashioned appearance, powered by a flat-twin engine. The vertical twin 16 h.p. in our picture was introduced in 1905. Passenger car production ended in 1915 when the company moved over exclusively to the production of buses and lorries for which they became famous. In 1951, Albion was purchased by Leyland Motors, which then became part of the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.

Returning finally to the picture, the driver in the flat cap, possibly an Albion employee, seems to be very interested in what one of the judges is writing in his notebook. These were the days when trials of any kind were very important to success in a highly competitive market.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

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