History of Singer cars

The first Singer car (named after cycle-maker George Singer, the first producer of safety cycles in the world), the Motor-wheel, appeared in the late 1800s, with three wheels and air-filled tires - essentially a motorized bicycle with the motor fitted into the wheel. A more modern car, a four-cylinder model produced under license, gained publicity through its success in Britainís One Thousand Miles Trial; shortly thereafter, he sold a full four model lineup, ranging from an eight horsepower two-cylinder to a 25 horsepower four-cylinder (mainly powered by other companiesí engines).

Singerís first really successful car was the Ten, introduced in 1912, which offered a steel chassis, four cylinder engine, and two seats; the economical car achieved 40 mpg, quite high for any time in automotive history, and was apparently more reliable than many competitors, thanks partly to its steel frame and partly to its more modern rear transaxle. While its price was right at £185, its success may also have been helped by a racing version which won a stock car race and, perhaps more important, owned a variety of speed records in its class. The Singer Ten was appropriately sized and weighted, lighter than most existing cars but heavier than motorcycle-based models. Factory apprentice Billy Rootes bought fifty of these cars when they were first brought out and used the profits from reselling them to start a motoring empire which would acquire and integrate many other British car companies before foundering (a fate shared with British Motor Holdings, later known as MG Rover). (Thanks, Steven Frost, for fixing our error.)

As with most cars, World War I saw the factory devoted to war materials, but in this case it was producing the same cars for the military. Civilian production resumed after the war, with a wider range of vehicles; by the 1920s, the range was fairly diverse (and more modern; for example, the gearbox was moved forward).

In 1927, the Junior was produced, using an 848 cc chain-driven overhead cam engine that was to be the basis for many other engines in later decades. The Ten had grown and gotten heavier; the Junior was, like the Austin 7, a return to lighter, more nimble cars.

In 1934, the Airstream was produced, a four door sedan with integrated headlights and a pillar-free design. The advanced car was not popular but it was expensive to produce and essentially flopped.

Singer remained at the forefront of technology, with independent front suspensions, fluid-coupling transmissions, and other first-in-Britain achievements. the Nine qualifying to compete in Le Mans - the first car with less than 1.1 liters and no supercharger to do so. (This probably led to the creation of the Singer Le Mans, a two-seater with two spare tires.) However, a multiple-car crash - the result of last-minute steering box adjustments ordered by race judges - caused Singer to leave car racing, and the financial crash hurt Singer sales. Factories were closed and most cars and trucks were discontinued, and just when sales started to rise with the introduction of a new car (the Roadster), the war broke out.

Singer plants produced a wide variety of arms and aero equipment, but financially the company was not in good shape at the end of the war, and maintained a limited product line. The first new car made after the war was not quite successful until it was restyled and renamed to Singer Hunter (a name that would come back on Hillmans), and filled about the same niche in Britain as Plymouth in the United States at that time - good, solid, reliable transportation. Plans to make the Hunter sexier with a fiberglass body and a 75 horsepower twin-cam engine were never produced.

Despite the Hunter's success, Singer never recovered from the events of the 1930s, and in 1955 was in danger of closing its doors as banks refused to lend more money. Ignoring the fate of others who had done the same, Singer agreed to join the Rootes empire. As in the past, existing models were discontinued, and the first new car, the Singer Gazelle, was merely a Hillman Minx with new styling and a Hunter engine - which was later replaced by a Hillman engine that was less sophisticated. The Vogue, a larger car designed for a solid, reliable feel, and the Imp-based Chamois, were both remodelled Hillmans. As with other Rootes brands, Singer was relegated to being one of many brands sharing essentially the same vehicles, and by 1970, only the name remained. In 1971, Rootesí new owners, Chrysler, made the name follow reality, and Singer became a piece of history.

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