Hampton - Successful at Failing, Seven Times

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Hampton Cars


 1912 - 1939
Hampton 12/14
In its 21 year lifespan, the Hampton company was reformed no less than seven times. Originally established as motor dealers at Hampton-in-Arden, Warwickshire (in the UK, hence the name), Hampton built their first car in 1912, in a factory at Lifford Mills near Birmingham. This was the four-cylinder 12/14, with a swept volume of 1726cc, assembled from imported components.

Sales do not seem to have made much progress until 1914, when the car was priced at UK£250 complete. Alongside this, the company offered a couple of cyclecars, one with an own-make twin-cylinder, two-stroke engine, the other with a Precision V-twin, but these were short-lived. More seriously, a 1224cc Chapuis-Dornier-engined light car made a brief appearance before the outbreak of World War 1 halted production.

After the Armistice, Hampton moved south, taking over an ironworks at Dudbridge, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK. Their post-war model, the 10/16 hp, was based on the pre-war light-car design, but with a 1.5-Iitre Dorman engine of 9.8 hp RAC rating. With an alloy cylinder block, cast-iron cylinder liners and large overhead valves, this was quite a sporting power unit, and altogether the Hampton, with its distinctively pointed radiator header tank, was an attractive proposition, competitively priced at UK£425 for a two-seater (Hampton built all their own bodywork, as well as the gearboxes).

The Avon Motor Body Company

Unfortunately, although production was soon up to six cars a week, it seems that the company's financing was inadequate, as in 1920, just after having introduced a new 11.9 hp, 1795cc model, again with a Dorman power unit it was reformed as the Hampton Engineering Company (1920) Limited. Coachwork was now by outside bodybuilders like the Ross Engineering Company and the Avon Motor Body Company. 'The Hampton car,' it was claimed, 'is built to undertake any kind of road work and is equally efficient in speed, hill climbing and general comfort. It also has a delightful appearance and is extremely easy to handle'.

The Stroud Motor Manufacturing Company

For 1923, a two-car range was adopted, a new 9/21 hp model appearing at the end of 1922. This had a Meadows engine, possibly because Dorman credit was wearing a bit thin. Capacity was 1247cc, overhead valves were fitted, and the cost was UK£295. In July 1924, the company failed again. 'We have taken over the whole of the assets of the Hampton Engineering Co, with the resolve to maintain and enhance the fine reputation of the cars,' said the new owners, the Stroud Motor Manufacturing Company, who offered customers the option of balloon tyres and four-wheel brakes on both 10 and 12 hp models.

A 2121cc 14 hp model was added to the range for 1925, and the 12 hp dropped, but by the end of the year a new 12 hp of 1496cc, with a four-speed gearbox and four-wheel brakes as standard, was available. Hampton were once again fitting their own coachwork (although a saloon by George and Jobling also appeared on the company's stand at Olympia). Production now centred on this model, and the 10 hp and 14 hp faded away. So, it seems, did the money, and in 1927 Hampton Cars (London) was formed to take over the running of the Stroud works; at the end of that year, a new six-cylinder model, the 15/45 hp of 1683cc, made its debut.

Hampton 10/16
Hamptons post WW1 10/16 was based on the pre-war light car design, and was fitted with a 1.5 litre Dorman engine.

Hans Georg Rohr

For a while it looked as though all was well, with production running at 300 cars a year, including a revived 9 hp model, but this was hardly a production level to guarantee vast profits. Nevertheless, at the 1929 Olympia Motor Show, a new 3-Iirre 20 hp six appeared, again with a Meadows power unit, and a claimed speed potential of 75 mph. By 1930, the money was running out yet again, and this time the company began a desperate flirtation with the unorthodox to try and save the day. They ordered from Hans Georg Rohr of Germany (himself in deep financial trouble) 100 straight-eight 2262cc engines and 50 Type R Rohr chassis frames, with a sheet-steel chassis frame and all-round independent suspension.

There was a brief flirtation with a 'gearless gearbox' of Cowburn design, and a new 12 hp of 1196cc, whose power unit apparently emanated from the Stroud works. And, in 193 I, the almost inevitable reorganisation, with the company emerging as the Safety Suspension Car Company of Cainscross, Stroud. The cars were sold through Hampton Cars of 40 Woburn Place, London, who, while offering-nominally-a full range of vehicles, concentrated on the eight-cylinder Rohr-engined model and a 2414cc six-cylinder model.

W. F. Milward

By the end of 1931 the Rohr engine was out of the availability lists, only the 16 hp remaining. That lasted until the end of 1932, and then the company quietly closed its doors. It is unlikely that any Hamptons at all were sold during the marque's last year or so of existence; the last of the breed was a special built by the works manager, W. F. Milward, from parts acquired when the factory was sold up. This Rohr-engined tourer, which he used up to 1939, came to light again a few years back, one of only two known survivors of this ill-starred marque.


Hampton 12/16

The 12/16 was a design obtained from the failed Crowdy car company fitted with a new side-valve engine. The company brochure shows an open tourer model priced at GBP295.

Hampton 8

The Hampton 8 was a lightweight Cyclecar with two-cylinder engine bought in from Precision. The car had belt drive to the ear wheels.

Hampton 10

The Hampton 14 was offered for one year only and had a four-cylinder engine from either Ballot or Chapuis-Dornier.

Hampton 10/16

This model had a variety of names, the 9.8, 10/16, 11.9 and 11/35. The 10/16 had a 1496cc and the 11.9 and 11/35 a 1795cc four-cylinder engine both bought in from Dorman. Although both models shared the same chassis the larger-engined car was longer overall by 12 inches (3050 mm). The standard body built by Hampton was an open two-seater available in dark biscuit or lavender and priced at GBP520. The suspension used semi-elliptic leaf springs at the front and three-quarter elliptic at the rear. Several of the cars were used in motor sport competition.

Hampton 14

The 14 was a larger-engined and longer version of the 9/21 with the engine now made by Henry Meadows but probably to the Dorman design used previously. The gearbox now had four speeds. The suspension used half elliptic springs on both axles. A tourer cost GBP500 in 1923 but the price fell over the years to GBP315. A supercharger was possibly an option on some of the late cars showing Hampton still had sporting interests.

Hampton nine

The Nine, also called the Junior, T10, 9/21 or 10 was a smaller version of the 14 with a shorter chassis.

Hampton 20

The 20 was the first of a new range of larger cars with a Meadows engine and twin Zenith carburettors. It was also available with a German Röhr eighth cylinder engine of 2262 cc as the 8/18 model. Tourer and saloon bodies were available from GBP450. Few cars, probably less than 100 were made.

Hampton 3 litre

This model was possibly a rebranding of the 20 with larger Meadows engine.

Hampton Eight/Empire Sportsman

The final model used a Röhr chassis with independent suspension all round. At the front a transverse leaf spring was used. Servo brakes were fitted. The eight-cylinder engine was also by Röhr but the six was probably a Continental unit. Although 50 of the eight-cylinder engine were ordered it is thought that very few cars were made.

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