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SNAPSHOT 399: 1901 James & Browne 9 HP Tonneau

The history of James & Browne started in 1896 with the formation of a partnership between John Melville James and Tom Bosquet Browne as contracting engineers in Westminster. This was soon dissolved, and Browne continued the business from 1898 with Francis Leigh Martineau, but with the same name of James & Browne – by now in Hammersmith.

The company claimed to have built their first cars as early as 1899, but solid pictorial evidence came only in 1901, with the image in this Snapshot taken from The Autocar of 16 November. The caption reads: “A BRITISH AUTOCAR. Designed and built by Messrs. James and Browne, Hammersmith, for Mr. H. Loeffler, A.C.G.B. & I.” The initials stood for the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, founded (initially without the “Ireland”) in 1897 and renamed the Royal Automobile Club in 1907.

Who was Mr. Loeffler? According to Grace’s Guide, Henrik (Carl Ludwig) Loeffler (1876-1963) was a mining engineer. He later occupied a house in Grosvenor Square that was finished in 1911 and had only one occupant before its demolition in 1932: “… the sportsman, and pioneer motorist, Captain Henrik Loeffler.”

Loeffler was also later a member of The Circle of 19th Century Motorists, founded in November 1927 and with a membership that at one time reached 220. Membership was restricted to those “who owned or drove a motor vehicle prior to the conclusion of the Thousand Miles Trial of the A.C.G.B.& I.” in 1900 – so Henrik Loeffler must have owned another make of car before the James & Browne. The last recorded reunion of the Circle was held in 1960.

The connection between Loeffler and James & Browne becomes clearer from an article in The Engineer for 21 April 1911, “Steering Gear Experiments in The Turbine Yacht Albion, by H. S. Hele-Shaw and F. Leigh Martineau, p 417 – 420. (Illustrated)” that refers to Loeffler. So Loeffler must have known Martineau.

Francis Leigh Martineau (1874-1954) M.I.Mech.E., M.I.A.E was an interesting engineer. Born in Solihull, he trained at Piercy and Co., makers of vertical steam engines and pneumatic planishing hammers in Birmingham. From 1895 he was Assistant Works Manager at the Premier Cycle Co. and from 1896 the designer at the New Beeston Cycle Co., responsible for the only British-built car (a De Dion tricycle) to compete in the Emancipation Run to Brighton in November 1896.

The car in our Snapshot is almost certainly a 9 HP model, since it looks identical to one shown in Georgano. The unusual engine layout followed the so-called Browne-Martineau system, having a flywheel between the two cylinders. The engine was mid-mounted in the chassis and the cylinders were horizontal. Drive was to the rear wheels via a 4-speed gearbox and chain. The engine, just over 2.5 litres in size, used a total loss oil system.

In 1905 Martineau left James & Browne to join the Pilgrim Way Motor Company, also making cars with horizontal engines, and James & Browne turned to more conventional designs. There was too much competition from other excellent makes, and sales dwindled until 1910 when the company closed.

Images courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive:

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