Vauxhall's First 1903 Model Will Help Celebrate Centenary

Vauxhall 1903 Model


Personal mobility has come a long way since Vauxhall's first car – a 5 horsepower model costing £136 – rolled out of a tiny workshop (in Vauxhall, South London) in 1903.

That same model is displayed on Vauxhall's Motor Show stand this week to mark the company's centenary next year... and also to pay tribute to those whose vision has led to an amazing Vauxhall car output of 11 million – so far!

The 1903 cars were produced by directors F W Hodges and J H Chambers who were radical in their decision to amalgamate the chassis and the lower part of the body into a composite steel and wood structure. Other manufacturers continued to rely on bicycle frame technology.

Because Hodges and Chambers were marine engineers they chose tiller steering, as opposed to a wheel, with accelerator control on the tiller.

Oddly in the few four seater models, the passengers actually sat ahead of the driver, over the engine.

Vauxhall records show that eighty-four 5 hp models were built in 1903-4, with forty-four 6 hp models following in 1904. The other surviving early model is on display in the Science Museum in London.

For The Record:

  • Engine: slow-revving horizontal single cylinder 4 in x 4.75 in bore/stroke
  • 978 cc, 2.7 kW (5 bhp) at 900 rpm
  • Performance: speed governed to 18 mph, although with pedal overriding governor to allow 25 mph
  • Fuel consumption: 38.25 mpg on a Glasgow to London trial
  • Price: Then £130 guineas. Today: £7,505

Published 28 October 2002 Melanie Carter

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