Sheffield-Simplex operated from 1907 to 1920 in Sheffield, Yorkshire and Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.
The company was backed by the aristocrat and coal magnate Earl Fitzwilliam – and the works in Tinsley, Sheffield, were named after him. The first few cars were made by Peter Brotherhood and were a continuation of the Brotherhood-Crocker cars made in London.
In 1908, the first proper Sheffield-Simplex cars appeared, designed by managing director Percy Richardson, formerly of Daimler and Peter Brotherhood. The 45 hp 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, and had an unconventional transmission that relied on only one forward gear and an emergency low and reverse gear in a small gearbox attached to the front of the differential housing.
The example seen here is the only surviving example of the LA2, and appeared at this year’s August VSCC Prescott hill climb in the Bonhams display. It is due to be sold on 2 September at their Beaulieu auction. It is the ex-Lord Riverdale car, which he restored in 1985 and then drove from Land’s End to John o’ Groat’s without changing from top gear.
It is one of only three Sheffield-Simplex cars known to still exist, and the only 45hp ‘gearbox-less’ model.
The final years of Sheffield-Simplex 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.