A Jewel: 1960 Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire

Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Mike F. for this terrific and unusual find! This 1960 Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire is one of the final year models from this storied marque. Never heard of Armstrong Siddeley? You’re not alone. However, this one might just be a bargain, as it’s advertised here on craigslist and is available for the low price of $5,000. Oh, I should tell you it’s located in Owasso, Oklahoma (you can tell it’s been a while since I’ve written a post!).

The seller tells us that the car was bought in 1974 and has been garaged ever since. Supposedly there are only 8,220 original miles on the car! The seller’s uncle was restoring it, but unfortunately passed away before completion. Based on what I think are bird droppings on the car and some of the dirt, I’m wondering if this enclosure is a car port, open on one side. Maybe not, though–it might be a good question to ask the seller. I don’t see a whole lot of rust, though, which is a great sign.

Armstrong Siddeley as a firm was founded in 1919, and spent most of it’s independent life as an aerospace firm, being absorbed into Bristol Aero Engines in 1960. The Star Sapphire was an attempt to compete with Jaguar, Bentley and even Rolls Royce. Unfortunately for the Star Sapphire, it’s engineering was a little too traditional to go up against the Jaguar Mk. 9 or powerful Bentley.

I find myself wondering as I look over these pictures if the body was restored by the seller’s uncle before he passed, because I’m wondering what it would look like cleaned up and waxed. It certainly has graceful lines, although I am really hoping the grille is still present, because that might be a difficult thing to find!

Of course, being old and British, one of the things the car has going for it is the interior. We have a nice wooden dash (that of course needs refinishing, but at least doesn’t show the typical water damage) and acres of plush leather and high quality vinyl. Of course, that means major expense if you have to re-do things, but who knows, perhaps the interior can be refurbished without replacing things? Ok, I’m dreaming, but it doesn’t hurt, does it? Now if I were near Oklahoma, that would be something different. As in I’d be going to look at this beautiful example of quaint British craftsmanship!

Now, this concerns me, at least a little. Why were the plugs and carburetors removed–it looks like some work has been done, but I don’t really know. There were only 980 Star Sapphires made, and this is a 3990 cc straight six that looks like it’s a hemi-head. It’s almost a shame they stopped production, isn’t it? Should I call about this one tomorrow? Don’t answer that! You call instead! (meanwhile, I’ll talk with my wife Cristina and let you know…)

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Comments

  1. Fred W.

    Interesting car but good luck finding a grille!

    1+

  2. John Holden

    The grille is on the garage floor next to the car.

    7+

  3. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Great name! I’d pay $5000 just to be able to tell people “Yeah; that’s my Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire.”

    3+

  4. Brakeservo

    I owned the coolest Armstrong Siddeley – a “Coupe Utility” aka pickup truck. Mine was the only known survivor of a small handful built with the Wilson Pre-Selector gearbox – much more fun to drive than I expected. One of the good things about owning an old obscure British car is that parts are always available! First, they’re assembled with generic Lucas, Smiths and SU parts and second, no matter the make, if more than three were built, someone formed an owners club in England and then someone in the club puts together a “Spares Scheme” so there are always parts available. I always described the appearance of my Armstrong Siddeley Coupe Utility as “imagine if Bentley and Jaguar and conspired together to build a pickup truck in 1953.”
    Google “Armstrong Siddeley Coupe Utility” and mine is the light brown/tan one that shows up.

    3+

    • Bill McCoskey

      Nice looking car – whoops – I mean truck! Back in 1985 I was looking at a Star Sapphire limo in North London as part of an estate, but he only wanted to sell the 2 cars as one sale, the other one was a dark blue Coupe Utility, but that one had a small back seat. Did they make these in 2 wheelbases or bed sizes? I didn’t buy the limo because I wasn’t going to bring back the Coupe Utility to the US.

      0

      • Brakeservo

        I know they made a larger version with a small back seat but I’ve never seen one. Most were sent to Australia or South Africa. I found mine just outside of Sydney.

        0

  5. KEN TILLY

    A friend of a long time ago, boss of mine had a 1962 Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire 346 in immaculate condition. He sold it in the mid seventies and regretted it until the day he died. This one is definitely worth restoring if only for it’s rarity. Plenty of spares in U.K. A truly beautiful limousine.

    1+

  6. neil kavanagh

    I remember working for a Peugeot garage in 1996 and one of these had a broken clutch as a breakdown recovery which needed towing for about a mile to get to us. no one believed me how big these were and sent me out in a pug 106 xnd (1.5 box standard diesel) to tow it back. by the end of that mile both cars needed new clutches

    2+

  7. Chas

    Is the transmission on the garage floor out of this car?

    0

    • Candace F

      That is the transmission to something completely different. The transmission is in the car. I am a relative to the original owner. I do know she has dropped the price to $3000.

      0

  8. Ken

    Now that’s an interesting cruise control on the dash to the left of the steering wheel! Goes all the way up to 65 mph –

    1+

    • Martin

      Not cruise control but “hold control” – you can set the speed at which it will move into top gear (providing you’re not accelerating hard to override the shift anyway). It’s the only car I’ve seen with this feature. I have one, and only ever move the lever away from 20 mph for slow, steep hills.

      0

  9. Al

    I remember seeing one of these in northern British Columbia, back in the late ’60’s.
    It was elegant, and not very sporty. I was curious about it, but did not get to speak to the owner. My only concern is the engine on British cars, because of the UK’s stupid tax rules.
    I imagine it had 1/2 inch bore with a four foot stroke (yes, I exaggerated on this, but that’s the point, typically British I say, jolly bad).

    7+

    • Brakeservo

      The long stroke engines produced in England as a result of those taxes made for delightful motors with plenty of low speed torque. I had an old Bentley and one could slow down to walking pace in 4th gear and (gradually) pull away and accelerate to over 100 mph without changing gears!

      7+

    • Gary Hall

      it is actually very much a “short stroke” engine; with bore of 97mm = 3.8189″ and stroke of 90mm = 3.5433″. Produces a sensible 165hp (SAE) = 147 hp (DIN) and the engine is built to LAST…500000 miles without a rebore is not uncommon (provided oil + filter are changed regularly). 902 cars of the type shown in the photos + another 74 long wheelbase Limousines and 4 chassis for outside coachbuilders

      0

  10. Will Owen

    “Uncle” Tom McCahill tested one of these in the mid-Fifties for Mechanix Illustrated. He was fascinated by the name, too, and really liked the car, especially the Wilson Pre-selector box his had. What I mostly remember about that report was that it was all done on paved roads; he did not get to “test” its cornering abilities by his usual method of finding some grass or dirt and broadsliding it. I don’t think he took his bird dog along in it either … yes, pop magazine motoring writers were sometimes a bit different back then.

    0

  11. JAMES

    Maybe I am old fashioned, Or whatever, But if its anything I hate to see is vintage automobiles either setting outside in the weather with flat tires mired in leaves and mud left to rot in the ground, Or like this rare classic, even seting inside, has flat tires and dust, dirt, Bird droppings etc corrodeing the paint and metal. How much effort, Really, Is it to block a vintage, Or any vehicle off the ground and strap a tarp over it???????

    0

  12. Donek

    Lovely. And the marque races rather well, too:

    0

  13. Bill McCoskey

    Interesting note: In one photo there are no spark plugs visible in the openings in the valve cover, but in the last photo the plugs are visible!

    0

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