The rarity of this 20-24HP Horbick is perhaps not surprising. The cars were made by Horsfall & Bickham Ltd in Pendleton, Manchester – but only between 1902 and 1909. The company’s principal product was textile machinery, and manufacture of motor cars was only ever a sideline. Nonetheless, this picture of a 20-24HP Horbick was accompanied by some more details: a four-cylinder engine of 4,179cc displacement, with mechanically-operated valves, and variable inlet-valve lift provided by sliding wedges between the valve stems and the tappets, “somewhat on the principle rendered familiar by the Vauxhall cars.” This last fact led us to wonder about the origin of the engine. After starting with M.M.C. engines in a 1900 prototype, and later using 2-cylinder Forman engines in 1903, for 1904 they used a Johnson, Hurley & Martin 2-cylinder engine for the Horbick Minor. But by the time of our picture Horbick appear to have turned to White & Poppe for their 3-, 4-, and 6-cylinder engines.
The cars were shaft-drive, with a clutch withdrawal system that was “simple and original, inclined planes taking the place of the usual rocking shaft.”
A particular identifying feature of a Horbick is the double-curved bonnet that follows the shape of the radiator – similar to that of a Brasier – and possibly many other cars. A frontal view of a 20-24HP Horbick can be seen in Grace’s Guide on the Horsfall and Bickham page.
The demise of the Horbick car was simply a decision to stick to the business that Horsfall & Bickham knew best. Horbick was already making taxicabs, and an order for 2000 for London forced the directors to decide that expansion of the car-making division would be to the detriment of their textile business.
Perhaps they made the correct decision; they remained in the textile business until at least 1961, when Dun & Bradstreet recorded the company as “Card clothing for textile spinning, card clothing foundations, textile machinery and auto engineers. 150 employees.”