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This edited article about motor cars originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 654 published on 27 July 1974.
Britain’s first successful four-wheeled car – as against converted carriages or tricycles – was built by Frederick Lanchester. This was designed in 1894, when all other designers were improving on Daimler or Benz vehicles.
However, Lanchester preferred his own ideas. In company with his brother, George, he built two experimental machines incorporating these. In 1899, the second of these cars won a special gold medal at the Richmond Motor Show after running for 68 miles at an average speed of 26 m.p.h.
But there was a setback during the thousand miles’ trial in 1900. During this, one of the Lanchester cars split in two, leaving a hefty reporter, in the rear seat, immobile in the road with the unpowered half.
It was not until 1901 that a production car took to the road, because Lanchester was such a perfectionist. He insisted upon his various models having fully interchangeable parts, something Henry Ford is usually credited with introducing.
During the First World War, Lanchester was the only British company, besides Rolls-Royce, to build armoured cars, most of which saw service on the Russian front.
After the war, Lanchester continued to build fine cars, but they looked like most other cars of the period. In 1931, Lanchester was taken over by Daimler, who continued to build cars called “Lanchester” although they lacked the character created for them by their original designer.