Frederick Lanchester, a luminary in automotive history, commenced his engineering journey at the Forward Gas Engine Co of Saltley, rising to the positions of works manager and chief designer. Patenting a pendulum inertia governor, he amassed a total of 425 patents in a remarkably inventive career. In 1895, he initiated work on the UK’s inaugural four-wheeled petrol car of native design, forming the Lanchester Engine Company Ltd in 1899.
The first production Lanchester, powered by a 4.0-litre twin-cylinder engine, emerged in 1900. Facing financial challenges in 1904, the company restructured as the Lanchester Motor Company Ltd and introduced its first four-cylinder model. The distinctive ‘bonnet-less’ design persisted until 1914, featuring a unique control lever for clutch, gears, and brake.
George Lanchester assumed a larger role in design, prompting a shift in appearance with the introduction of the ‘Sporting Forty’ in 1913, the first conventional design by George. This stylish model, with a 5½-litre sidevalve six, rivaled Rolls-Royce’s Silver Ghost but faced a short production span due to World War I’s redirection of the factory to munitions and aero engines. After the war, the 1919 replacement, a 40hp design, marked a departure while maintaining a similar exterior.