by Paul Sweeney
Welcome another addition to Ian Hope's collection at the British Car Museum - this 1927 Swift Tourer is quite a rare car; it is believed to be the only Swift P Type in New Zealand. Ian has had a new folding roof and side screens made for it since its recent arrival.
The Swift P-type built in 1927, had moved a long way from the primitive Cyclecars of earlier years and was a well-engineered, well-appointed, typical light car of the period. The Swift 1190cc side-valve 4-cylinder engine was fitted to a three-speed gearbox and the chassis boasted four-wheel brakes. Three body styles were available, a two-door saloon, a four-door fabric saloon and a tourer, which were largely hand-built in their Coventry factory.
This car is the tourer model and has been totally re-built from the chassis up by the previous owner, with meticulous research and reference material to keep to the original design as much as possible. The motor has also been rebuilt with the addition of a full flow oil filter, with 1200 miles covered since. A minor improvement on the original design was converting from the original 6v electrical system to 12v.
The first Swift car of the conventional type was the twin-cylinder 7-horsepower, later 10-horsepower, of 1904. This was shortly afterwards joined by the four-cylinder 12/14, which continued in a bewildering number of guises until the First World War. These cars were entirely built at the Swift works, with the exception of the engines which were built in Coventry by Messrs White and Poppe.
In 1904 the Swift Cycle Company Ltd. made a single-cylinder 700 cc car (possibly a voiturette) which had a cloverleaf emblem on its radiator, an emblem that was adopted by all the cars. In the years 1909–11 another single-cylinder 7 hp car was manufactured, this time with 1100 cc (105mm bore and 127mm stroke). This car was also sold by Austin as the first Austin 7.
A larger car, the 15, with a 3-litre engine was added to the range in 1913, and this continued to just post-war. During the First World War, car production ceased.
After the war ended, the range was simplified with the excellent 1100 cc 10 continuing and joined by a 2-litre 12 with a 4-speed gearbox. A new 10 was launched in 1923 as the Q type with coil ignition, electric starting, optional front wheel brakes and a top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h).
Standard front wheel brakes were added in 1926 and the engine was bored out to 1190 cc to become the P type. The engine grew again to 1307 cc in 1929 when the car became the P2.
The 12 was replaced by the 12/35 in 1925 with front wheel brakes, plate clutch plus an increase of 24 inches (610 mm) in the wheelbase.
The final Swift car was the 1930 Cadet, which was an attempt to compete with the £100 cars. This had an 850 cc Coventry Climax engine and a price of £149 for the tourer and £165 for the saloon.
Coventry Climax were left with a number of engines from the Cadet model, which they used as the basis of their Second World War fire pump engine designated FSM, the SM standing for Swift Motors.
The Coventry Sewing Machine Company was founded by James Starley in 1859. They started making bicycles in 1869 and changed the name to Coventry Machinists Company. In 1896 they became the Swift Cycle Company and started to make motorcycles in 1898, and experimenting with an early car in 1900. In 1902 a separate company was formed for motor vehicle production and registered as the Swift Motor Company.
After World War 1 ended, the Cycle Car company was merged with the main company as Swift of Coventry and the range was simplified. In 1919 Harper Bean, who also made Bean Cars, bought 50% of Swift's ordinary shares, but got into severe financial difficulties later that year, seriously affecting the company's finances.
The final Swift car was the 1930 Cadet, but Swift was too small to compete with the likes of Ford and Morris, and closed in 1931 after its suppliers foreclosed on their debts. Coventry Climax were left with a number of engines from the Cadet model, which they used as the basis of their Second World War fire pump engine designated FSM, the SM standing for Swift Motors.
Production was originally in the Cheylesmore Works but in 1906 car assembly moved to a new factory, Quinton Works in Mile Lane. Some of the cars were equipped with engines manufactured in Saint-Denis Paris by Aster in single, twin or four cylinder configurations.
The Quinton Works
The Quinton Works with frontages on Quinton Road and Mile Lane in Cheylesmore, Coventry, originally built in 1890 for S & B Gorton for cycle manufacture, was acquired in 1905 by the Swift Motor Company, who made a motorcycle and a motor tricycle in 1898, and a conventional car by 1901 in their Cheylesmore Works in Little Park Street, but needed more factory space.
During World War I the factory contributed to the war-effort, producing munitions, military bicycles, Hispano-Suiza and Renault aircraft engines.
The frontage of the Quinton Works has been restored and integrated with a newly built Ibis Hotel, whilst most of the rest of the former site has been knocked down.