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SNAPSHOT 89: Sheffield-Simplex

This Sheffield-Simplex looks to be more 1920 than 1907, but on the back of this postcard, the handwritten text explains that this is a 1907 car, a 6-cylinder 7½-litre (48hp) car.  It was the personal car of a director of the firm – and he apparently had “every latest modification added as the firm developed these, culminating in the present body added in 1920.”  Some internet sources seem to indicate that it is in fact a 1920 prototype – but they also confirm that it was owned by a director of the company: the chairman, Earl Fitzwilliam, a wealthy Sheffield landowner who thought that Sheffield could produce the finest car in the world.

We shall probably never know the true origins or age of the car, but several sources indicate that it survives, and that it lived at one time in Ireland, owned by the collector J Ellis.  The plate on the front of the car in our Snapshot (for the Leinster Motor Club Veteran Car Run) certainly indicates this.  The wonders of the internet reveal a letter from Mr Ellis (living in Co. Kildare) in the January 1982 issue of Motor Sport, stating that he once owned a Sheffield-Simplex in the fifties.  The Sheffield-Simplex was always thought to be a car of the highest quality, and Mr Ellis confirmed this: “I found the Sheffield-Simplex was quite a little more powerful and speedy than the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts of the same period.”

Nevertheless, he also tells us that the car was prone to boil under hard conditions. This trouble could not be cured, he said, because both the inlet and outlet of the cooling water were at the bottom of the separate cylinders, thus leaving a pocket of non-circulating hot or boiling water at the top of each cylinder.

Sheffield-Simplex cars were designed by Percy Richardson, formerly the designer of Brotherhood cars (made in London and Sheffield between 1904 and 1907).  The company also built the Ner-a Car motorcycle in a factory in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey. This unconventional machine was designed by American Carl Neracher and had a very low chassis dropping down between the wheels.

One response to “SNAPSHOT 89: Sheffield-Simplex”

  1. John Warburton says:

    This outstanding Sheffield-Simplex can be seen in Sheffield’s Kelham Island Museum. It is driven to several local shows each summer by Museum volunteers. Other motoring exhibits at Kelham Island are a Charron-Laycock high quality light car and a Richardson cyclecar – both also made in that city. And much else, so very well worth a visit.

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