Saturday, August 17, 2013

ARROL-JOHNSTON - The Antarctican

George Johnston (1855 - 1945) was a Scottish Locomotive Engineer. In 1894 , Glasgow tramways had awarded him the contract to design a steam tram for them. Unfortunately the steam tram developed by him was destroyed in a  fire and the project was dropped.

Johnston, then concentrated on making a motor car powered by internal combustion engine. In 1895, along with Sir William Arrol (1839 - 1913), a famed Bridge Engineer, formed the company Mo-Car Syndicate Ltd.

The 1895 Mo-car  Dogcart , with two rows of seats placed back to back -

Mo-car dogcart was popular and was made till 1905. More models with different engine options were also introduced. A 1901 and a 1905 , Arrol-Johnston cars -

In 1905 , the company was renamed as Arrol-Johnston Car company.

In 1907 , one Arrol-Johnston car participated in the attempt of Ernest Shackleton  to reach Antarctica. Even though the car was used in the expedition, it could not  travel much due to tyres sinking in loose ice. An Arrol-Johnston car used in the Antarctica base camp -

This car was fitted with 12-15 HP , aircooled , 4-cyl engine. 

During the WWI , Arrol-Johnston shifted to manufacturing aircraft engines. Owning to financial troubles, in 1927,  the company was taken over by Aster Engineering company and the cars were branded as Arrol- Asters.

A 1929 Arrol-Aster -

Finally the Arrol-Aster car company shut its doors by 1931

Arrol-Johnston logo -

Sunday, August 4, 2013


John Marston (1836 - 1918) was a tin plate worker and was working in a factory making household articles. In 1859 , he created his own company John Marston Ltd to make household articles and black enamel lacquer. 

John Marston was a keen bicycle enthusiast and expanded in to manufacture of bicycles in the year 1887. He sold his bicycles under the brand "Sunbeam". It is told that his bicycle was finished with high quality black enamel and golden strips that it was reflecting sunlight and hence the name sunbeam. Many new innovations followed int he next few years - chain slack adjusting mechanism, oil bath lubrication for chains, to name a few.

As a logical extension, John Marston started working on motorcycles. Death of an employee in motorcycle accident made Marston to move away from motorcycle ,  terming it as dangerous.

In 1899 , he started working on motor cars and along with the help of Maxwell Mabley- Smith created the first Motor. A 1901 Sunbeam-Mabley -

This car had unique design of seats facing in opposite directions on either side of a belt drive. More than 100 units of this cars were sold between 1901 and 1904.

A 1902 , Sunbeam -

By 1904, Marston started importing Berliet chassis and building bodies over it. In order to expand fully in to car business the car division was renamed as Sunbeam Motorcar Company, in 1905. The bicycle business remained with John Marston Ltd. Slow down in car business between 1907 and 1910 forced Marston to look in to Motorcycle business again and the motorcycle division was created in 1912.

In 1920, owning to financial troubles, Sunbeam Motorcar Company merged with Automobile Darracq to form STD Motors ( Sunbeam - Talbot - Darracq). The cars were branded as Sunbeam -Talbot.

STD Motors participated in racing and a Sunbeam with a 350 HP aircraft engine set the land speed record in 1920.

In 1924, Sunbeam introduced a 3-litre sports car with a six-cylinder engine , with twin overhead camshafts and dry sump lubrication , a major innovation of that time.

A 1924 , Sunbeam 3-litre -

A 19332 , Sunbeam 20 -

By 1935, STD Motors was in financial trouble and was taken over  by Rootes group. Rootes group was a major automobile group with many British marques - Hillman, Humber, Singer, Commar , Karrier etc, They integrated Sunbeam, Talbot in to the group and did badge engineering to bring out cars with various combinations.

Some of the famous Sunbeam cars under Rootes group were -

A 1948 , Sunbeam - Talbot -

A 1964 , Sunbeam Tiger -

Between 1964 and 1967, Rootes group was slowly taken over by Chrysler and formed Chrysler UK, which later became Chrysler Europe. Sunbeams and Talbots continued under Chrysler Europe.

By 1978 , the Sunbeam and Talbot marques were taken over by PSA Group (Peugeot) and the Sunbeam marque disappeared after 1981.

The Sunbeam Logos -

The original Bicycle logo with Black enamel and Golden stripes -