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SNAPSHOT 55: Crossley 1906

Crossley Brothers of Manchester had been making stationary engines using Otto patents under license for over 30 years when they also took to making motorcars. This came about because although the London firm Charles Jarrott & Letts Limited held the British agencies for De Dietrich and Oldsmobile automobiles, the partners wanted to add a native product to their portfolio. They commissioned J S Critchley who had been Works Manager at Daimler in Coventry to design a car for them and then persuaded Crossley to build it.

The first examples were of a conventional pattern with four-cylinder engines and appeared at the Crystal Palace Motor Show in February 1904 where they received favourable Press coverage. Also at Show-time some sniping about the ‘Britishness’ or otherwise of the Crossley cars was instigated by S F Edge, indirectly banging his drum for Napier cars as usual, though the matter was satisfactorily addressed*.

By the date of the situation shown here, that issue was long gone and we see Jarrott on the 5th April 1906 at the wheel of a 40hp 7-litre Crossley, outside the Automobile Club’s headquarters in Piccadilly, and about to head off to Monte Carlo. Beside him stands William Letts whilst his front-seat passenger is the author Filson Young whose book The Complete Motorist ran to many editions. The objective was to drive the car to the Riviera within two days. This was achieved in a time 37½ hours, including the Channel crossing from Folkestone to Boulogne, and was regarded as constituting a record time for the journey. As intended, positive publicity for Crossley resulted.

The following month Charles Rolls drove a 20hp Rolls-Royce in the opposite direction as far as Boulogne in less time than Jarrott had taken going south, and for a period thereafter attempts at the London-Monte Carlo ‘record’ achieved a level of popularity – at least among those in the trade.

At the end of March 1907 Jarrott repeated his drive on a current Crossley and reduced the time to 35 hours 5 minutes, this being beaten a month later by E A Paul at the wheel of a 60hp 6-cylinder Napier who took 1½-hours less for the journey. Then in May a 45hp Mercédès reduced the duration significantly, taking only 29 hours 20 minutes to cover the distance.

Such runs continued for years, but even though the times reduced, so did the attention of the Press.

* (Details of this spat are in The Autocar 27th February 1904, page 296.)


One response to “SNAPSHOT 55: Crossley 1906”

  1. Peter Card says:

    An interesting photograph certainly, but I wonder why there is a black painted ‘screen’ in front of the drivers? If as I suspect it is a windshield, then I am surprised that it was not angled slightly to aid air flow. One can only assume that due to the likely speed of the motor-car, glass was not used lest it should fracture?

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