The original Ariel company was established in 1870 by James Starley and William Hillman. In 1885 James Starley’s nephew, John Kemp Starley, invented the ‘Rover Safety Bicycle’ – a design that remains essentially unchanged today.
Ariel merged with Westwood Manufacturing in 1896 and made a powered tricycle in 1898 with a 2¼ h.p. de Dion engine. Hillman left soon afterwards to found Premier Motorcycles. In 1901 Ariel moved into car production – and this 1905 car dates from that period.
The first proper Ariel car was a 10 h.p. twin-cylinder of 1902. An entirely new range was announced at the end of 1905; called the ‘Ariel-Simplex’. Inspired by Mercédès designs, they were four-cylinder cars of 15 h.p. and 25/30 h.p. and a six, supposedly of 35/40 h.p. – but, according to this picture from the December 9th 1905 issue of Country Life, called a 30 h.p.
In 1907 Ariel sold its Birmingham factory to the French Lorraine-Dietrich company, who wanted to enter the British market; after this, Ariel cars were assembled at the Coventry Ordnance Works, but production ceased in 1914.
Ariel returned to motor car production in 1922 with the Ariel Nine, powered by a flat-twin, water-cooled engine of 996 cc. In 1925 Ariel ceased production of cars once more, to concentrate on motorcycle production – including the Ariel Square Four, launched in 1931 and made until 1959.