1894 SANTLER 3½HP DOGCART
Registration No. AB171
Engine No. 1036
Varnished wood with black chassis and red wheels.
Engine: Benz single-cylinder, horizontal, water-cooled, 110x110mm (1045cc) - see text; Chassis: angle-iron platform with full-elliptic suspension front and rear; Transmission: by belt with fast and loose pulleys to countershaft with chain drive to rear wheels; Foot brake to band on offside rear wheel, hand-operated spoon brakes on rear tyres; Wire wheels: 40" rear, 28" front; with solid rubber tyres. Right-hand drive with wheel cum tiller steering.
To most motoring enthusiasts the mention of Malvern, England, evokes the image of Morgan sports cars. However, twenty years before the first Morgan three-wheeler saw the light of day, the brothers Charles and Walter Santler had commenced making a motorcar in this genteel spa town set against the Malvern Hills in the Worcestershire countryside.
In 1885 after engineering training Charles Santler went to work in the business that his father had established some ten years before. This firm was involved with the installation of steam engines, water wheels and 'turbeens' (presumably for electric lighting purposes), the making of bicycles with the 'Malvernia' name, as well as undertaking general engineering activities.
Around 1887 the two brothers set to work making a steam-powered vehicle with a triple-expansion engine and vertical boiler for which they constructed a short wheelbase rectangular frame, almost four feet wide, with a wheel at each corner, on which to carry the mechanism. According to Charles Santler this contraption was run on the roads in 1889. However, because of the laws then current (the mis-named but infamous 'Red Flag Act' of 1878), this was an illegal activity unless the vehicle was accompanied by a man walking in front and there were at least three people attendant on the vehicle - something of a problem with a two-seater! Consequently the steam engine and boiler were removed, the chassis and running gear were not scrapped.
In about 1891 or 1892 the chassis was revived and a two cylinder horizontal gas engine was fitted supplied from a cylinder of compressed coal gas that was slung beneath the front nearside of the frame. Examination of the chassis provided sound evidence of the location of the gas tank, but the engine dimensions are not known. It is doubtful if a gas engine of a size that could be fitted to a motorcar would ever give sufficient power, and the duration provided by the compressed gas must have severly limited the vehicle's range.
Again the power source was discarded and sometime later a petrol engine was fitted. This is believed to have been a small, vertical, water-cooled, singled cylinder, perhaps capable of generating about one horsepower, which with suitable 'gearing' (that is via belt and pulleys so familiar in workshops of the period) would have been capable of propelling the vehicle on the level and up minor gradients.
Charles Santler again recalled that this further experiment using the old steam car chassis and the petrol engine was well before the repeal of the 'Red Flag Act' in 1896. The petrol engine was subsequently removed and is thought to have been installed in a second experimental motorcar that was reported in the Malvern News in January 1897. It appears that the original machine was then laid up. A photograph taken in about 1907 shows it laid up in the blacksmith's yard.
At the time of the celebrations in Malvern marking the coronation of George V in 1911 the engineless car was extracted from storage to take part. A notice in front called it 'Ye Old Malvern Trackless Car'. A further notice behind invited people to push. A photograph of this occasion survives. The vehicle then seems to have gone back into hibernation. In the 1930s when there was a growing interest in veteran cars the car was discovered by John Mills who took it to his home in Leamington, Warwickshire. Mills interviewed Charles Santler and obtained paperwork relating to the car. In a wartime air raid much of the paperwork was lost, but the car was undamaged.
In the 1950s Alec Hodsdon who was a harpsichord maker by profession and an enthusiastic veteran car restorer acquired the Santler. He decided that a non-running vehicle was of only limited interest and obtained a Benz engine for it, which with some modification to the frame was successfully installed with the permission of the Veteran Car Club. Hodsdon also restored the frame, running gear and bodywork. At this time it was generally referred to as the Malvernia, which was the name of the works that the Santler firm had moved to in 1896. Sir John Briscoe then owned the vehicle for twenty years before it passed through several other hands prior to being acquired by the vendor in 1985.
He immediately set about a thorough examination of the vehicle and also undertook painstaking research in Malvern, the Public Record Office and elsewhere into the Santlers, the car's origins and its subsequent history. Almost all that is known about the vehicle is as a result of this work. The fruits of these labours were seen in a number of magazines articles and led to the production of the book: Malvernia published by the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust, in 1987. Lengthy analysis of the information gathered, plus detailed examination of the vehicle itself, led the Veteran Car Club Dating Committee to conclude that an appropriate date for the car was 1894, and that the name Santler was more accurate than the previously used Malvernia.
English-made motorcars were uncommmon in the nineteenth century, whether powered by steam engines, electric storage batteries or petrol engines. Survivors are exceedingly rare. The Santler is demonstrably one of this exclusive group, and it has a thread of continuous history applicable to it. Furthermore, it has been regularly used in recent years both in Veteran Car Club events and on the London to Brighton Run.
The vendor is more than willing to give instructions of drinving and maintenance to the buyer, to provide copies of the historical material relating to the vehicle, and in every respect to assist and advice. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a unique vehicle that has its roots in the earliest history of the English motorcar.