The Sedan
Motor Car

The Sedan Auto-Car Syndicate Limited was founded in October 1907 with a capital of £10,000 in £1 shares. The company, based at 51 Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton was founded to acquire the Burnt Tree Engineering Works, Tipton and their interest in two patents. The first, taken out by Thomas Hugh Parker was for improvements to motor cars, and the second taken out L. Wirtz, was for improvements in variable and reversing gear.

The company produced a unique articulated car which was partly or wholly designed by Thomas Hugh Parker. It is not known how many of these cars were produced, but it seems likely that they were built at the Tipton Works.

An article about the car appeared in the "Motor Car Journal" on 2nd November, 1907. A transcript of it follows:

Building one of the cars. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

An exceedingly novel design of motor-cab chassis is being put on the market by the Sedan Auto Car Syndicate, Ltd., Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton.

As will be seen from the accompanying illustration, the frame is in two distinct parts, the engine and transmission gear being all supported on the forward frame, the front pair of road wheels acting both as steerers and drivers. 

The two parts of the frame are connected together by a hinged connection so arranged that while perfect rigidity is ensured, each pair of road wheels can be turned in a similar manner to the "lock" on a horse-drawn four-wheeled vehicle.

Among the advantages claimed for the new design is the fact that the car can be turned in a very small radius, and that it works amongst traffic with perfect ease and safety; the risk of skidding is practically eliminated, the drive being on the front axle and the engine, gear-box and all driving and steering gear, together with the driver's seat, being also mounted on the forward pair of wheels. 

One of the articulated cars. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.
There is considerable reduction in the vibration with consequent reduced cost of upkeep of engine and gear.

The back portion of the car, being essentially a trailer, is well hung on springs with long centres, and as there are no working parts underneath, vibration is reduced to a minimum, and solid tyres can be used. The front chassis is self contained and forms an avant-train, which can be used for various types of bodies, as, for instance, with a brougham, an ordinary open car body, char-a-banc, or light delivery van.

An experimental cab has, we are informed, been run in London for about eight months, and has not only proved its adaptability for traffic, but is able to turn in a circle of a diameter of 21ft, or 4ft. less than the police requirements. The Sedan company are also introducing a new change-speed gear known as the Wirtz, which comprises several novel features, and to which we hope to refer in a later issue.

The surviving Sedan car. Courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.

Thomas Hugh Parker invented the unique pivoting chassis frame, which pivoted in the middle to provide four wheel steering. It was developed in 1905 or 1906 and a prototype car soon followed.

The prototype, powered by a four cylinder White and Poppe engine, ran for eight months as a taxi in London. Its success led to the formation of the Sedan Auto-Car Syndicate who wished to market the vehicle as both a car and a commercial lorry. 

A second prototype still exists and can now be seen at the Beamish Museum, County Durham. It has a 14hp. twin cylinder Forman engine with a Rubery Owen chassis. On completion it was sent from Wolverhampton, by rail to the Marquis of Londonderry's Seaham Harbour Engine Works in about 1908.

Londonderry steam waggons had been built at the Marquis's works, and when this venture failed, the company expressed an interest in manufacturing the Parker vehicle. The car was modified at the works and a SHEW (Seaham Harbour Engine Works) nameplate was attached to the radiator. The enterprise failed and only three vehicles were built, including a lorry for the Parker family's "Coalite" company.

The SHEW car was kept at the works as a runabout and extensively modified in about 1912. The articulating chassis steering was removed and replaced with conventional Ackermann steering. After the First World War the car was used on the Marquis of Londonderry's estate at Wynyard Park until the onset of the Second World War when it was stored in one of the outbuildings on the estate. 

The surviving SHEW car at Beamish Museum.

In 1956 the remains of the car were discovered by enthusiast George Kendrew who towed it to his home in Norton-on-Tees.

He rebuilt the body and replaced the solid-tyred rims with beaded edge rims and pneumatic tyres. In the 1960s the car was sold to a garage in Mirfield near Leeds and then sold again to a private collector in 1967.

Its whereabouts were unknown until it resurfaced in a Cheffins Auction in June 2003, from where it was purchased by the Beamish Museum.

I would like to thank the late Jim Boulton for his help in producing this section.

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