Lanchester Motor Company
Fate Merged
Successor Daimler Motor Company
Founded 1895
Defunct 1955
Headquarters Birmingham, United Kingdom
Industry Automotive
Parent Daimler Motor Company

Lanchester Motor Company was a car manufacturer based at Armourer Mills, Montgomery Street Birmingham, Great Britain. It operated from 1895–1955. The company having merged with Daimler and thence becoming part of Jaguar, the rights to the Lanchester marque now lie with Tata Motors of India, which purchased Jaguar from the Ford Motor Company in March 2008.


Blue plaque to Lanchester brothers

Blue plaque, on former factory on Montgomery Street, Sparkbrook, Birmingham

The company was started by the three Lanchester brothers, Frederick, one of the most influential automobile engineers of the 19th and 20th century, George and Frank as the Lanchester Engine Company Ltd and registered in 1899.

Work on the first Lanchester car had been started in 1895, significantly designed from first principles as a car, not a horseless carriage, and it ran on the public roads in February or March 1896.[1] It had a single cylinder 1306 cc engine with the piston having two connecting rods to separate crankshafts and flywheels rotating in opposite directions giving very smooth running. A two-cylinder engine was fitted to the same chassis in 1897 and a second complete car was built alongside it. This led on to the first production cars in 1900 when six were made[1] as demonstrators. These had two cylinder, 4033 cc, horizontal air cooled engines, retaining the twin crankshaft design. Steering was by a side lever not wheel. The gearbox used Epicyclic gearing. The first cars were sold to the public in 1901. All bodies were made by external coachbuilders until 1903 when a body department was set up and up to 1914 most cars carried Lanchester built bodies.[1]. In 1904, in spite of a full order book, the company ran out of money and receivers were called in. The company was re-organised and registered as the Lanchester Motor Company later that year.[1]

Lanchester six 38hp engine side view

Six-cylinder 38 hp, showing the leaf valve springs

The 1904 models had 2470 cc, four cylinder, water cooled, overhead valve engines featuring pressure lubrication, very unusual at the time, and were now mounted with the epicyclic gearbox between the front seats rather than centrally resulting a design with the driver sitting well forwards and no bonnet. Six cylinder models joined the line up in 1906. The specification started to become more conventional with wheel steering as an option from 1908, becoming standard from the end of 1911 [1] and pedals and gear lever replacing the original two lever system of gear changing. George Lanchester was now in charge, Frederick having resigned in 1913, and the engine moved further forward to a conventional position in the sporting, side valve, 5.5 litre six cylinder Forty but very few were made before the outbreak of World War I. A distinctive feature of the engine's valves was their use of leaf springs, rather than coil springs.[2] Frank Lanchester ran the London sales office.

During the war the company made artillery shells and some aircraft engines but some vehicle production continued with the Lanchester 4x2 Armoured Cars built on the Lanchester 38hp chassis for use by the Royal Naval Air Service on the Western Front.

After the first World war the company adopted a single model policy and the Forty was re-introduced with a 6.2 litre overhead cam engine in unit with a 3 speed gearbox still using epicyclic gears and a worm drive rear axle. It was very expensive, dearer than a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and to maintain production a smaller car, the Twenty One joined the range in 1924. This had a 3.1 litre, six cylinder engine, now with removable cylinder head, mated to a four speed conventional gearbox and four wheel brakes. It grew to the 3.3 litre Twenty Three in 1926. The Forty was finally replaced by the Thirty with straight eight 4.4 litre engine in 1928. A further series of armoured cars were made in 1927 with six wheel version of the Forty chassis.

For 1928 there was George's last design, a 4446 cc straight-8 but only 126 were made before the economic depression effectively killed demand.

In January 1931 the bank called in the company's overdraft, in spite of it only being £38,000, and forced the directors to arrange a merger.[1]


Lanchester Ten

Lanchester Ten

In 1931 the company merged with the British Daimler company, who were owned by BSA and production moved to their Coventry factory. George was kept on as a senior designer and Frank became the Lanchester sales director. The great years for Lanchester were now over and the models were generally overlooked by the company in favour of Daimler models. The first new offering, still designed by George Lanchester, was the Eighteen with hydraulic brakes and a Daimler fluid flywheel. The Ten of 1933 was an upmarket version of the BSA 10. The pre war Fourteen of 1937, known also as the Roadrider, was similar to the Daimler DB17 with its 1.6 litre six which anachronistically had a fixed cylinder head until 1938.

Post war, a ten horsepower car was reintroduced with the 1287 cc LD10 which didn't have a Daimler equivalent and the four cylinder 1950 Fourteen / Leda was upstaged in 1953 by a six cylinder Daimler version called the Conquest.

The last model, of which only prototypes were produced, was called the Sprite and in 1956 the Lanchester name was phased out.


The parent company, Daimler, was in decline and in 1960 was absorbed by Jaguar, who used the Daimler name in the same way Daimler had used the Lanchester name. Both became victims of badge engineering in their last years of production.


Ford's acquisition of Jaguar Cars in 1989 included the rights to the Lanchester and Daimler brand names.

Tata MotorsEdit

The rights to the Lanchester brand name passed to Tata Motors in 2008, along with the Rover and Daimler brand names, as part of a deal reached with the Ford Motor Company to acquire their Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) business, as announced on 2008-03-26.[3][4]


Lanchester car sculpture

Lanchester Car Monument

An open-air sculpture, the Lanchester Car Monument, in the Bloomsbury, Heartlands, area of Birmingham, designed by Tim Tolkien, is on the site where Lanchester built their first four-wheel petrol car in 1895.

Lanchester carsEdit

Type Engine Approx Production Year Notes
Lanchester Five 1306 cc single cylinder air cooled 1 1895
Lanchester Eight 3459 cc twin cylinder air cooled 1 1897-1898
Lanchester Ten 4033 cc twin cylinder air cooled 1900-1904 First production model
Lanchester Twelve 4033 cc twin cylinder water cooled 1903-1904
Lanchester Sixteen 4838 cc twin cylinder air cooled 20 [1] 1903-1904
Lanchester Eighteen 4838 cc twin cylinder water cooled 6 [1] 1904
Lanchester Twenty 2472 cc overhead valve four cylinder water cooled 1904-1911
Lanchester Twelve 3974 cc twin cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1906-1908
Lanchester 28 3654 cc six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1906-1911
Lanchester 50 8145 cc six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1907
Lanchester 38 4856 cc six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1911-1914
Lanchester 25 3137 cc four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1912-1914
Lanchester 40 5482 cc six cylinder side valve water cooled 1907
Lanchester 40 6178 cc six cylinder overhead cam water cooled 392[5] 1919-1928 Chassis £2200. Four wheel brakes from 1924
Lanchester 21 2930 cc six cylinder overhead cam water cooled 735 (including Twenty Three)[5] 1923-1926 Chassis £1000.
Lanchester 23 2930 cc six cylinder overhead cam water cooled 735 (including Twenty One)[5] 1926-1931 Vacuum servo.
Lanchester 30hp 4400 cc eight cylinder overhead cam water cooled 126[5] 1929-1932 Chassis £1325
Lanchester Eighteen 2504 cc (2390 cc from 1935, 2565 cc from 1936) six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 2650 approx[6] 1932-1939 Badge engineered Daimler Light 20. Fluid flywheel.
Lanchester Ten 1203 cc (1444 cc from 1936) four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 12250 approx[6] 1933-1936 Fluid flywheel. Hydraulic brakes until 1935.
Lanchester Light Six 1378 cc six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 1075 approx[6] 1935-1936 Saloon, Sports Saloon, Drophead Coupe. Similar to BSA.
Lanchester Eleven 1444 cc four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 2000 approx[6] 1937-1939 Saloon, Sports Saloon.
Lanchester Fourteen Roadrider 1527 cc (1809 cc from 1938) six cylinder overhead valve water cooled 2000 approx[6] 1937-1939 Saloon, Sports saloon. bendix brakes
Lanchester LD10 1287 cc four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 3030 1946-1951 Independent front suspension, Mechanical brakes
Lanchester Fourteen/Leda 1968 cc four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 2100 1950-1954 Appropriated for badge engineered 1953 Daimler Conquest. Saloon and drophead coupe.
Lanchester Sprite 1622 cc four cylinder overhead valve water cooled 10 1954-1956 Hobbs automatic gearbox. Did not reach production.

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1. 
  2. Rankin Kennedy C.E. (1912). The Book of the Motor Car. Caxton. 
  3. Ford Motor Company (2008-03-26). "FORD MOTOR COMPANY ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO SELL JAGUAR LAND ROVER TO TATA MOTORS", Retrieved on <time class="dtstart" datetime="2008-05-18">2008-05-18</time>. 
  4. Tony Lewin (2008-03-27). "Classic names are part of Tata deal", Crain Communications work=Automotive news. Retrieved on 2008-05-18. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Baldwin, N. (1994). A-Z of Cars of the 1920s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-53-2. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Sedgwick, M. (1989). A-Z of Cars of the 1930s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-38-9. 

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