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The Lanchester Engine Company Limited was founded in December 1899 by the three Lanchester brothers, Frederick, one of the most influential automobile engineers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, George, and Frank. The first Lanchester automobile, developed from the ground up as a car rather than a horseless carriage, was completed in 1895.
This resulted in the first mass-produced automobiles in 1900. These possessed horizontal air-cooled, two-cylinder, 4033 cc engines with dual crankshafts. The steering was done using a side lever (or tiller) rather than a wheel. Epicyclic gearing was employed in the gearbox. In 1901, the first automobiles were offered to the general public. Lanchester was the first manufacturer to sell disc brakes to the general public in 1902. They were mechanical and only worked on the front wheels. Although they definitely left room for improvement, they perfectly fulfilled a disc brake's criteria, getting this technology to market many years before their competitors.
Until 1903, when a body department was established, all bodies were constructed by external coachbuilders; until 1914, most automobiles had Lanchester built bodies. Despite having no shortage of orders, the business ran out of money in 1904, and The Lanchester Engine Company Limited was forced to liquidate. Later that year, after a period of administration by a receiver, the firm was reorganised, re-capitalized, and established as The Lanchester Motor Company Limited.
The 1904 versions had a 2470 cc, four-cylinder, water-cooled, overhead-valve engine with pressure lubrication, which was rare at the time, and the epicyclic gearbox was now situated between the front seats rather than centrally, resulting in the driver sitting further forwards and without a hood. In 1906, six-cylinder variants were added to the lineup. The specification began to become more traditional with wheel steering as an option in 1908, becoming standard in 1911, and pedals and a gear lever replaced the initial two-lever gear changing arrangement. Frederick had retired in 1913, leaving George Lanchester in charge. The engine was relocated forward to a more normal position in the sporty Forty, with a side-valve, 5.5-litre six-cylinder engine, but only a handful were built before World War I broke out.
During World War I, the business produced artillery rounds and some aircraft engines, but vehicle manufacturing continued with the Lanchester armoured vehicles, which were developed on the Lanchester 38 hp chassis to be used by the Royal Naval Air Service on the European Theater. Following World War I, the business followed a single model philosophy, and the Forty was reintroduced with a 6.2-litre overhead cam engine in the unit, a 3-speed gearbox still employing epicyclic gears, and a worm-drive rear axle. It was extraordinarily costly, more expensive than a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. In order to keep manufacturing going, a smaller automobile, the Twenty One, was added to the lineup in 1924. This model had a 3.1-litre six-cylinder engine with a replaceable cylinder head, a four-speed conventional transmission, and four-wheel brakes. In 1926, it was upgraded to the 3.3-litre Twenty Three. In 1928, the Forty was ultimately superseded by the Thirty, which had a straight-eight 4.4-litre engine.
In 1927, a six-wheeled variant of the Forty chassis was used to build a new series of armoured cars. Only 126 of George's final design, a 4446 cc straight-8, were produced in 1928 before the economic slump effectively crushed demand. Within weeks, their bank called in the company's overdraft of £38,000, causing its assets to be liquidated immediately. Because its existing location was adjacent to BSA's Armourer Mills in Sparkbrook, a sale to BSA was logical. Just before his death on Christmas Day 1930, Thomas Hamilton Barnsley, the company's principal shareholder, chairman, and managing director arranged for the handover of the whole shareholding to the BSA group.. The BSA finalised the purchase of all of the shares in January 1931 for £26,000, a fraction of the assets' worth. Lanchester's new sibling firm, Daimler, took over car manufacture.
George Lanchester was retained as a senior designer, while Frank was appointed as Lanchester's sales director. The Lanchester Eighteen, a variation of the Daimler Light Twenty with hydraulic brakes and a Daimler fluid flywheel, was the first new product. The BSA Ten of 1933 was a more upscale version of the BSA Ten. The Daimler New Fifteen was nearly identical to the pre-war Fourteen Roadrider of 1937. Following the war, a ten-horsepower automobile was revived in the form of the 1287 cc LD10, which lacked a Daimler counterpart, and the four-cylinder 1950 Fourteen / Leda. The Sprite was the final model, of which only prototypes were made. Daimler was on the decline, and in 1960, BSA sold Daimler's buildings and company to Jaguar Cars, which has since utilised the Daimler brand on its most costly cars. Jaguar has been in and out of the Ford group, and Lanchester has been owned by Tata Motors since 2008.