This car, “An elegant little 15-h.p. Straker-Squire Cabriolet-Coupe”, had just been delivered to Mr. Alfred Bennett of Old Broad Street.
The Straker-Squire make was far better known. The company was founded in 1893 in Bristol, as Brazil, Straker & Co. by the Irish engineer J.P. Brazil and the London motor agent Sidney Straker. In 1899 Sidney Straker, with Edward Bayley, entered the production of steam wagons. Straker partnered L.R.L. Squire from 1904 and production reached 200 steam wagons by 1906.
In 1907 the company moved into a new factory in the Fishponds area of Bristol, at first to manufacture commercial vehicles including London buses. They imported a French-made Cornilleau-Ste Beuve and considered making it under licence, but turned instead to the young engineer Roy Fedden and built his design for a small 2,020cc 4-cylinder car that Fedden named the Shamrock – possibly to flatter the company’s Irish-born director. The car was launched at the 1907 Olympia show and with some improvements was shown at the following year’s show, renamed the 14/16 h.p. Straker-Squire.
The car in our Snapshot was the development of that model, with a longer stroke giving a capacity of 2,852cc. Named the 15 h.p., it would be the only Straker-Squire model until World War I, with advertisements suggesting that customers should buy the car “…if you want the BEST FIFTEEN h.p. purchase from the firm who make nothing else.” In 1914 the 15 h.p. received a 4-speed gearbox and yet another increase in capacity, this time from a larger bore, to reach 3,052cc. This was a highly regarded car, and the company had several competition successes with it: a specially prepared example called P.D.Q. (Pretty Damned Quick) took several records at Brooklands including the flying mile in 1910. The same year saw class wins at the Aston Clinton, Caerphilly, Pateley Bridge and Saltburn Hill Climbs.
The story of Straker-Squire continued after World War I until the last cars were made in 1925, but the connection with Roy Fedden is also of interest. He was one of Britain’s finest engine designers, with the ability to achieve success through rigorous pursuit of unusual engineering principles. The Straker-Squire 15 h.p. was his first major car design but he also designed a 3,300cc version with gear-driven single overhead camshaft for the 1914 TT. After the war he designed a 6-cylinder 3,920cc ohc engine for the 1918 Straker-Squire and, following the break-up of the Brazil-Straker partnership in 1919, he designed the C.A.R. engine and chassis with a radial 3-cylinder power unit of 1,206cc.
But it was from 1920 to 1942 that Fedden arguably did his greatest work, serving as chief engineer of aircraft engines for the Bristol Aeroplane Company. He designed a series of radial aero engines that culminated in the famous Hercules 38,700cc 14-cylinder twin-row radial that used Burt-McCollum single sleeve valves. He then served in several important posts in government and industry, retiring in 1955 and dying in 1974.
Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive: www.richardrobertsarchive.org.uk