Sidney Straker & Squire Limited

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Sidney Straker & Squire Limited

Straker Squire

 1906 - 1926
Straker Squire

Sidney Straker & Squire, Limited

Sidney Straker & Squire, Limited, of Fishponds, Bristol, was already well established as manufacturers of steam lorries and petrol buses before it entered the private car field in 1906. Like so many other firms, Straker-Squire decided to play safe by acquiring a licence to build an established design: but the design they chose was a real obscurity, the Cornilleau & St Beuve, built in Paris. The 'CSB' was a well-constructedand good looking car, and it seems as though Straker-Squire at first merely assembled chassis from components shipped over from Paris. Even so, they could still market these 'cars of the highest class and finest workmanship at a moderate figure' at prices ranging' from £675 for the four-seater tourer.

The 1906 Scottish Trials

The chassis drew praise from the eminent engineer, W. Worby Beaumont, author of Motor Vehicles and Motors, who described it as: 'A chassis of the Highest Class, possessing improvements of great merit ... free from wires, pipes and encumbrances ... few have so many commendable details of construction'. A Straker-Squire-CSB went through the 1906 Scottish Trials virtually non-stop, only pausing to refit the fan-belt on the second day, and managed to come fourth in its class in the. hill-climbing event.

Another ran, without success, in the 1907 Heavy Car Tourist Trophy race. The 25 hp power unit of the Straker-Squire-CSB was quite an advanced design for the period, having the four cylinders cast en bloc, while the cooling fan was enclosed in a shroud which ensured that it drew air through the entire radiator (the fan belt was enclosed in the shroud, ahead of the fan, which must have made belt changing no easy task for the uninitiated). It lived up to the manufacturer's description of 'a revelation in simplicity, accessibility and structural strength'.

The Car for the Connoisseur

There were two new models of 'the Car for the Connoisseur' at the 1907 Olympia Show: these were the 16/20, priced at £375, which incorporated a fair amount of home-grown design, while the 12/14hp 'Shamrock' four-cylinder, with the retrograde step of a bi-block engine, was claimed to be 'All-British'. By 1908, manufacture was standardised on the new 14/16hp model (designed by A. R. (later Sir Roy) Fedden), which cost between £315 and £425 depending on the coachwork fitted, which ranged from 'light runabout body with two comfortable bucket seats, tool box and luggage rail' to a lofty: landaulette, though the company's slogan 'built to wear' might have been better phrased.

H. R. Witchell

Better known as the 15 hp, the car became Straker-Squire's most successful model. A stripped 15 hp chassis was driven with distinction by its designer, Fedden, at Brooklands and in hill-climbs, while an ultra-streamlined version, named PDQ was developed for Brooklands, where, in the hands of H. R. Witchell, it attained 95 mph over the flying mile in 1912. By 1911, the range had been widened to include a limousine (£485), while detachable wire or wood wheels on the Riley system were part of the standard equipment. The following year saw some striking coachwork on the Straker-Squire stand at Olympia: '15 hp Cabriolet; painted French grey with green lines and emerald green upholstery, this car is specially built to be suitable for the owner-driver, with ample leg room to front seats, and still retain comfortable seating accommodation at rear for two persons; also two extra tip-up seats in the main part of the body. Price £528.

'15 hp Torpedo Runabout; taper bonnet; scuttle dash; also Victoria canvas hood, which is capable of being put up and down without the inconvenience of having to get out of the body for this purpose; the body is also provided with fittings for folding dickey seat at rear and ample luggage space. Price £406.' Though Straker-Squire had apparently built their own coachwork up to that point, at the 1913 Olympia Show cars were exhibited with bodywork by Alford & Alder and Mullett: by now the 15 hp had acquired four forward speeds rather than the three ratios of the early production of this model.

1923 Straker-Squire 24/80 Tourer on trial
1923 Straker-Squire 24/80 Tourer on trial.

The 1914 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy

Two special 3.3-litre racing cars were prepared for the 1914 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, to be driven by Witchell and Frank Clement (later famous for his Bentley connections). Experiments were made with overhead-camshaft engine for this race, but when the cars weighed in, it was apparent that the company had played safe, using side-vale power units in both vehicles. Nevertheless, Witchell finished fourth. During World War 1 Straker-Squire's engineering expertise was utilised to build Rolls-Royce Eagle aero-engines: and though the Eagle was the power unit of heavyweight machines like the Vickers Vimy bomber, after the hostilities the company planned to use the general layout of this engine in a sporting vehicle.

Bertie Kensington Moir

The prototype was running as early as 1918, and was subsequently converted into an airship-tailed racer for Brooklands, where its 115 bhp engine gave ita lap speed of 104 mph. Young Bertie Kensington Moir, then a slim shadow of his later rotund self, was chosen to drive this dazzle-striped machine, which he did to some purpose. Though noisy, and somewhat archaic in appearance, the 4-litre, six-cylinder power unit of the new 20/25 hp model promised great things. Each cylinder was separately cast to give maximum control over casting and machining the bores, aluminium pistons were used, and the single overhead camshaft actuated exposed valve gear.

At the 1919 Olympia Show, Straker-Squire, now operating from works in Angel Road, Edmonton, North London, offered 'the fastest chassis in the exhibition, the lightest chassis per horsepower-the Aeroplane of the Road', and showed a polished chassis, a peacock-blue saloon-limousine by H. J. Mulliner & Company and a sports car by the same coachbuilder. Prices, said the company, were available 'on application'. And with the unsettled state of the postwar market that meant that the car couldn't be bought yet -indeed, production didn't actually commence until 1921, by which time the impact had been lost. The old 15 hp had been revived as an interim stop-gap, and the company was also metaphorically taking in other people's washing in the shape of general repair work to keep the works ticking over.

The six-cylinder Straker-Squire was expensive - over £1100 in chassis form when it emerged as the 24-90hp in 1921, £1525 in its cheapest two-seater guise-and though the company protested that it 'lent an entirely new charm to motoring', sales were not forthcoming: equally, the customers realised that the adjective 'celebrated' as applied to the 15 hp was a euphemism for 'prewar', and stayed away. So the 1923 Motor Show saw a diversification into the sporting light car field, with a 1460cc ohv Dorman engined model which cost £250 in chassis form: but this, too, failed to work the trick.

On 4 July 1924, C. F. Cape, of Whinney, Smiths & Whinney, 4b Fredericks Place, London, EC2, was appointed receiver for Straker-Squire Limited, and though the company struggled on for another couple of years-even managing to make technical improvements like fitting hydraulic four-wheel-brakes, it had lost its leadership, for Sidney Straker had been killed, ironically, in a riding accident. Bankrupt and bereft of purpose, Straker-Squire finally collapsed in 1926.
1910 Straker-Squire lines up against a Vauxhall and Itala at Brooklands in 1910
1910 Straker-Squire (No. 3) lines up against a Vauxhall and Itala at Brooklands in 1910.
A Straker-Squire 3.3 litre prior to the start of the 1914 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy
A Straker-Squire 3.3 litre prior to the start of the 1914 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.
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