George Singer, an innovative and quality engineer worked for the Coventry Machinists under James Starley, the father of the cycle industry. Leaving to set up his own business in 1875, he first began producing motorcycles, before evolving to car in the early 1900s. Established in 1905 in Coventry, England, the Singer car company began its life as a bicycle maker shop like many others in the Midlands. Continuing until the beginning of the war in 1914, motorcycle manufacturing prevailed for many years.
The first four-wheeled vehicle was produced in 1905 and came with a 3 cylinder 1400 cc engine. With an engine bought in from Aster in 1906, the first Singer designed vehicle was the 4 cylinder 2.4 liter 12/14.
Singer became Britain's third largest automobile maker in 1928, closely following Austin and Morris. Using developments of the OHC Junior engine first with the Nine, the 14/6 and the 1 ½ liter in 1933, the range continued on in confusing and complex way for quite some time. In 1935 the Nine became the Bantam.
Released in 1939, the Singer Nine Roadster was not considered to be a post war model it was the basis for the post war model line-up. The Nine was representation of Singer Motors attempting to move away from it's until then traditional product line of out and out racers and family saloons. This was a fresh approach to a new and specialized market area.
This new model wasn't a family saloon or a sports car, but it did have sporting character and massive amounts of power. Sleek with attractive lines and lively performance, the new Nine performed well in both the trials and long distance road racing traditions. Priced at £169, the four-seater sporting tourer Nine was spacious and a fantastic value for the price.
Completely different from the Sports and Le Mans Nines of the thirties, the Nine shared its chassis and engine with an overhead cam and three bearing crankshaft with the Singer Bantam. The engine was updated with a quick-lift cam-shaft, a jump in the compression ratio, timing that was slightly altered, and a newly designed, high efficiency hot spot manifold. Modifications also included a single S.U. downdraft carburetor that was fitted as standard.
The new Nine had an available output of 1074 cc's and 36 bhp at 5,000 rpm. Add in the three speed gearbox and the rear axle ratio of 5.43:1 and the Nine roadster was capable of nearly forty mph in 2nd gear, and a max speed of 65 mph.
Not much changed for the Roadster in 1940, except for the availability of additional useful extra equipment to the customer. These new features included sliding glass side-screens, a new tonneau to cover all four seats, twin aero screens for minimum protection when the wind screen was lowered flat, and a custom designed Moroccan leather suitcase that was fitting to the luggage compartment. Provided as a standard item, following in the tradition of Singer standards from the thirties, an arrangement of tools, each with its own clip, were placed on a platform under the hood for the driver.
Following the Second World War, the pre war Nine, Ten and Twelve models were re-introduced with only slight changes. Autocar Magazine was quoted with 'it will be good news to many enthusiasts that the Singer Nine Roadster has come back into production, for this light four-seater open and all-weather car has won many friends by reason of its reliability and snappy performance'. Small minor improvements on the re-released Singer included an additional three inches of room in the seating compartment, better handling, modified steering, and reduced vibration throughout the chassis. The vibration was fixed by mounting the tail end of the gear box on a rubber pad, and using rubber brushes for the spring eyes and shackles. The new Nine was priced at £335 plus £93 purchase tax for a total of £428.
The brand new SM1500 was introduced in 1948 and featured independent front suspension and the continued use of a chassis. Unfortunately the price was a turn-off to potential buyers, at an expensive £799 per model, the vehicle failed to sell as well as Singer's rivals. Eventually restyled in 1954 to become the Hunter, the updated version was available with a twin overhead cam version of the engine.
The 4A Roadster was introduced by Singer in 1950 and it varied only slightly from the Nine Roadster. The 4A did feature a four-speed gear box, which aiding in both the tractability and the flexibility throughout its speed range. The addition of the 4-speed gearbox also provided the Singer engineering department with the chance to redesign the shift lever position. Placed in a convenient spot that was comfortably reached by the driver, the 4 speed gearbox was much more pleasant as the old three speed lever curled awkwardly from underneath the dash. The steering wheel and seating were also improved slightly by modifying the placement of both to allow more knee room.
While the engine remained the same, the S.U. was switched out by a single Solex downdraft unit which may account for the increase of 1bhp. The rear axle was also redesigned to incorporate an offset spiral bevel and the addition of a bevel type differential instead of a spur gear. The bumpers were also updated to be stronger with more of a curl at the ends to up the safety factor.
The 4AB was basically indistinguishable from the 4A, the radiator and shell were both shortened, and ended at a neat valance at their base. Previously the shell had extended further than the bumper level on the roadster. The 4AB also received modified wings that now appeared more sweeping in appearance. The hood also was modified to reveal fixed sides with the top hinged centrally. The wheels on the 4AB were also updated to the slotted disc type. A new set of deeper, springy cushions were also added to this new model, along with higher back seats to add more comfort for driver and passengers.
Once again the 1074 cc engine remained the same, while the chassis only received additional stiffening at the front end. The coil and wishbone independent front suspension units were the major change to the Roadster series, and with these came a massive box section cross member to carry the weight. A three piece track rod with an idler shaft that connected to the steering box was added to the 4AB roadster which aided in modifying the steering. This process created a symmetrical layout that was conducive to fitting the car for either left of right hand drive. A forward mounted anti-roll bar was also added to the vehicle. The final update was the improvement from all mechanical to hybrid Girling hydro-mechanical braking system.
Only ever a prototype, the 4AC Roadster was basically identical to the 4AB and the 4AD in terms of bodywork, but under the hood, instead of the 1047cc power-plant was a 1200cc engine (version of the SM 1500 saloon engine). Only about twelve 4AC's were ever built, yet never reached production.
Probably the most familiar Singer Roadster found in the North American Market, the 4AD was virtually identical to the 4AB in both bodywork and general specifications. The 4AD, 4AB and 4AC were all conceived in parallel during the '50 model year. Singer announced that both the 4AD and the 4AB were for the 1951 model. While the 4AB was intended for the home market, the 4AD was exclusively for export only.
The 4AD stood out from the 4AB by its bumpers which were updated to be much larger and more rounded. The taillights were now mounted on long extension housings that were attached to the rear fenders. A significant boost in power was also added under the hood in the 4AD. Both the SM 1500 and the 4AD shared the 1,497 cc block, while the 4AD engine production was now fully rationalized. An increase of 12 horsepower in comparison to the 4AB, the 4AD had some pep.
The end for independent designs, the Rootes Brothers bought the Singer Company in 1956 following financial difficulties for Singer. An upmarket version of the rear engined Hillman Imp, called the Chamois was the final car to carry the Singer name before it disappeared forever.By Jessica Donaldson