Small Edwardian cars rarely come on the market. Occasionally they appear at auctions or in dealer's adverts, but it is rare to see one advertised privately. Back in the 1990's Smallbone's of Birmingham were advertising a 1914 Singer and a 1912 Swift They were advertised every month in the Automobile magazine for almost 3 years. Every month I would look at the advert and wish that I could afford one of them. Amazingly it is that actual Singer that I now own. Back in 2005 Christie's had an amazing auction of veteran, Edwardian, vintage and classic cars owned by the Sharpe family of Essex. A number of these cars had been on display at the Ramsgate motor museum but the majority were unrestored and had been stored in barns and sheds for decades. I attended the auction to drool over the cars but sadly I wasn't in a position to buy one at that time. There were over 200 cars in the auction and the choice of early cars was mouth-watering. Among the small Edwardians were 4 Swifts, 2 Singers, Calcott, Calthorpe, Humberette, Austin, 4 Renaults, Phoenix, Briton, Peugeot, Kirt, Morris, Thames, and Rover.
In April 2011 I did enquire about a 1914 Stellite that was for sale in Ireland but it needed work to the engine and rear axle. At £25,000 I considered it to expensive considering the work required. The Stellite appealed to me as it was made by Wolseley. At that time Wolseley were making large high-quality cars but wanted to sell a small cheap car to enter that market. But they didn't want to put the Wolseley name on such a cheap car so called it the Stellite. I spoke to someone who used to own a Stellite and his advice was not to bother as it was a cheap and nasty car.
The prospect of owning a suitable car seemed remote until a chance telephone call in May 2011. My friend Rod called to ask how much I thought a 1914 Singer was worth. Someone living near Billingshurst owned the car and was thinking of selling it to a friend who lived close by, but they couldn't agree a price. The owner wanted £18,000 but the potential buyer only wanted to pay £13,000. Rod asked me what I thought it was worth. My reply was that £18,000 was cheap and I wanted it. I already knew the car as I had seen it at a couple of local VSCC meetings. I looked up the owners details in the VCC members' handbook and immediately called him. The man was a bit surprised as the Singer wasn't advertised anywhere as the potential sale was between two friends. I was told to call back in 7 days to see if the car was still available. Exactly a week later I called again and was pleased to hear that the Singer could be mine for £18,500. Fortunately I had recently sold my MG TD so I had the garage space and money available. I went over that afternoon and after a test drive I agreed to buy the car.
The Singer appeared to be in good mechanical condition but the body and chassis were both a bit scruffy. The body was painted white, which certainly didn't suit the car, but it seemed to be fairly sound. The black leather seat was in very good order but the hood was very old and in poor condition. Underneath the car there was a fair amount of surface rust and some small rust holes in the front wings. The rest of the chassis was caked in years of thick old oil and muck.
I collect the Singer a week later and drove it the 16 miles home to Crawley. I was extremely pleased with the way it performed and was so happy to have at last acquired a car of my dreams.
The Singer came with a large file of papers and I spent an enjoyable few hours sorting through these and tracing the car's history. The car was built in early 1914 and was first registered in London as LL2879. A dealer's plaque on the dashboard shows that it was supplied by Wm Osborne & Co, Automobile Agents and Body Specialists, 60 Piccadilly, London W. Tel Regent 3886 & 3887. Unfortunately its early history is unknown and as the old London registration records have been destroyed it is impossible to find out now. As the car was supplied just a month or two before WW1 was declared I can only wonder as to what happened to the car during the first 4 years of its life. Nothing is known until the mid-1930's when the car resided in Norfolk. In 1936 it was given to Mr Olorenshaw of the Norwich Motor Company, who at the time were Singer agents. The car was displayed in the showroom in Norwich until the late 1940's when the Norwich Motor Company gave up the Singer agency and took on Rootes. Mr Olorenshaw had always been very friendly with the Directors of the Singer Motor Company so he sent the car to Coventry on free loan to Singer and they had it on exhibition for many years. In 1961 the Singer moved to the newly opened Montague Motor Museum in Brighton, by the Aquarium, where it remained throughout the 1960's. At this time the car appeared on the front cover of the September 1965 edition of Veteran & Vintage Magazine. The Singer also featured on a postcard and a cigarette card. During this period the car was painted maroon. When the Brighton Motor Museum closed in the late 1960's the Singer was returned to the Norwich Motor Company who stored it until 1976. After 40 years of ownership the Singer was then sold to a new owner in Manchester but he only kept it for 2 years. In 1978 the car crossed to Ireland where it was owned by Rev Patrick Farnan for the next 11 years. In 1989 the Singer sold for £10,000 and moved to Northamptonshire where it stayed with Mrs Jean Bannell until 2002. However, she did try and sell the car through Smallbone's of Birmingham but despite advertising it every month between September 1996 and August 1999 they were unable to find a buyer so the Singer was returned to Mrs Bannell. She sold it in 2002 to a new owner in Essex. A year later it was on the move again and came south to Fordingbridge. It remained with that owner until 2009 when it moved to Billingshurst, from where I bought it in May 2011.
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