The company received financial backing from the coal magnate Earl Fitzwilliam. The first few cars were called Brotherhoods and were a continuation of the Brotherhood-Crocker cars made in London in which Earl Fitzwilliam had been an investor. Brotherhood sold the London site in 1905 and moved to Peterborough, but could not get permission to build a car factory so the Earl suggested a move to Sheffield where he built a new factory in Tinsley.
In 1908, the first cars to bear the Sheffield-Simplex name appeared designed by Percy Richardson, formerly of Daimler and Brotherhood. The LA1 had a six-cylinder 6978 cc engine and three-speed gearbox. It was joined in 1908 by the LA2, intended for lighter open bodies which did without a conventional gear system, having one forward gear and an emergency low and reverse gear in a small gearbox attached to the front of the differential housing. The only remaining example of an LA2 is in private ownership and is seen frequently on rallies in Britain, Ireland and Belgium.
Four smaller cars joined the line up in 1910. The LA3 and long wheelbase LA4 were the babies of the family with a four-cylinder engine of 2882 cc, while the LA5 and LA6 had six-cylinder 4324 cc power units. These cars lasted only one year and in 1911 were replaced by the LA7 with a six-cylinder 4740 cc engine allowing the company to boast that only one other British maker made only six-cylinder cars. Sheffield-Simplex considered their only rival to be Rolls-Royce and even opened their London showroom very close by in Conduit Street .
The LA7 was updated to LA7b specification in 1913 and this included electric starting. In 1914, the old LA1 and 2 models were finally dropped.
Car production recommenced in 1919 with the LA7b but now called the 30 hp. Few were sold and it was replaced by a new design, the 50, in 1920. This had a new engine of 7777 cc with each of its six cylinders cast separately. It appeared at the London Motor Show in 1921 fitted with a two-seat body and again in 1922. It is quite probable that it was the only one made.
The final years of car production are a mystery. It seems likely that few were made post World War I and final production might have been in Kingston. About 1500 cars were made in the company's history.
It is believed that at least three cars survive. The unique 50 hp car produced in 1920 and exhibited at several motor shows was acquired by the founder of the business, Earl Fitzwilliam, in 1925 after the liquidation of the Sheffield company. This car can be viewed in the Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield from where it is taken to local shows from time to time. The ex-Lord Riverdale car is in private ownership and also appears at shows in the Yorkshire/Derbyshire area.
As well as cars, the company built Ner-a Car motorcycles and in 1923 opened 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. Production continued until 1927.
- Nick Baldwin A-Z of Cars of the 1920s, Bay View Books. 1994. ISBN 1-870979-53-2
- N. Georgano (ed) Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile, HMSO, London. 2000. ISBN 1-57958-293-1
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