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Vintage Limo: 1938 Armstrong Siddeley


Armstrong Siddeley was a storied British marque that unfortunately met its demise when first Bristol, and later Rolls Royce wanted the aircraft side of their business. Their reputation was (and is) that A-S’s were technologically conservative but finely crafted cars that offered an upper class image without all of the upper class price. This particular car was driven into a garage 30 years ago and never moved again -what a shame!  It’s for sale right now here on eBay with no reserve and bidding well under $10,000.


The rope tying the bumper in place is just one indicator that this car is not in pristine condition.  But when have you ever seen another one?  I’ve seen a couple of Armstrong-Siddeley’s at British car shows but they’ve all been much later models.  This one comes with an email of provenance (hey, we are in the 21st century!) stating that the owners club only knows of two of this particular model that have survived.


The email also states that the car was a rare limousine version, and the picture of the rear seating area certainly confirms that.  The jump seat is a really cool feature, and this part of the car looks to be in pretty good shape.  More antique cars are visible in this shot; hopefully that means it’s been stored by a collector and was put away properly.  The ample wood trim certainly looks great!


This 1938 was called a “17 horsepower” model.  Only 17 hp out of an engine this size, you ask?  No.  This reflects a system of taxation based on displacement.  Actually, in the British case, not displacement, but just the bore of the engine.  The actual tax horsepower formula was HP = (diameter of a cylinder in inches)2 times the number of cylinders divided by 2.5.  So it’s obvious that the formula penalized short stroke/large bore engines, and British engine design changed as a result.  Due to this system, many British engines through even the 1970’s were of a long-stroke design, delivering excellent torque but having limited rev ranges.  This inline 6-cylinder engine of almost 2,400cc actually put out around 60 horsepower, and was coupled to a four-speed transmission.


But not just any 4-speed transmission!  This car features a Wilson pre-selector gearbox, where the desired gear could be selected and then a mere push and release of the pedal engaged the next gear.  While not a fully automatic transmission, the fact that it was developed in a partnership with Siddeley but used in many other vehicles adds even more interest to this particular model.


Although the condition of the driver’s compartment is a little more worn, imagine the stories that crinkled old leather could tell!  So, are you interested in adding a few stories of your own?


  1. Avatar photo Rob

    An English Beauty Queen that has aged gracefully in her heart, but with a few expected tatters to her gown.. only wish I had the spare $$’s to whisk her away, *sigh

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    • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

      Very poetic, Rob! I hope this one goes to a good home…

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  2. Avatar photo Tom S.

    That’s too cool. What fun it would be.

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  3. Avatar photo Rancho Bella

    I am surprised the bidding is that high. There is very little market for that car over here, it belongs at home at Downton Abbey.

    Don’t get me wrong, the older I get the more I’m diggin’ on these types of cars. But, Ford T’s and A’s (as an example) are sitting for sale longer and longer as the generation/s that like them are going away….sadly.

    ………..a lovely old Brit, parked in a garage for thirty years. why………………..

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    • Avatar photo PaulG

      Since you mentioned Model T’s, this seller also has a T touring for sale on E-Bay.

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  4. Avatar photo Tirefriar

    This gets my vote as a cool restoration project. A refreshing change up from the usual 60’s and 70’s sport cars that we are seeing today all too frequently. It seems very complete, so get your camera, plastic baggies and sharpie out. One thing I like about the early British cars is their straight forward build. The interior being intact and in what appears a decent shape is very important and a great motivation to make this little crumpet back on the road.

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  5. Avatar photo raydah

    I think it would be better left in the present condition appearance wise, but restore it mechanically, and have it as a show car, there are plenty of car enthusiasts who would love to see a car that’s been stored for so long

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  6. Avatar photo Neil

    At the price it currently sits at, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t come back to the UK. This was originally offered on one of our most popular classic trading sites here for only $7000 and I’m starting to think I should have bought it at that price!

    My grandfather had a slightly earlier model than this (although not as rare as this one) which I believe he inherited from his father but, when he died, his widow sold it to a scrap merchant for probably not much more than two and six. We still have the photos from the 1950s of it on my own father’s drive, but he was not much more than a boy himself when they were taken.

    Armstrong Siddeley rubbed shoulders with Rolls Royce (and I believe RR bought them out in the end), they were popular with the Royal Family and are superbly built. This was in an era when the average British car didn’t disassemble itself into its component parts at the slightest whiff of usage and they mostly found themselves not on fire when you operated a switch.

    Easy restoration – you may need to know a white-metal specialist if the engine has been sitting for nigh-on 40 years, but other than that no problem. Mechanical parts are available and there is a good worldwide club to help the new owner out. At around $25,000+ nicely restored, this is still a really, really good buy.

    Post-50s British cars have a dreadful reputation for reliability and longevity and, sadly, I have to admit for very good reasons. The average Lotus driver will put up with the car ungluing itself on a track day but a luxury car buyer will not – happily this is from an earlier time where craftmanship, and not cost-cutting, ruled the day.

    I am genuinely sitting here wishing I had seen the C&C advert earlier because I promise you all I would have had this for $7k, which would translate to about $11k once it had landed on these shores. Sigh.

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  7. Avatar photo jim s

    i wonder if this car will end up going back to england when the auction ends. it has 5 days to go so it might get costly but the new owner will have a very nice car. just sitting in the back would be a treat. great find

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  8. Avatar photo geomechs Member

    This one caught my attention. It’s nice to see a British limo head in its own direction. Sure would like to see this go to a good home.

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  9. Avatar photo retrogreg

    A worthy but mighty project indeed. Here is a link to the gearbox, a Wilson pre-selector: http://www.armstrongsiddeleysa.org.au/preselector.htm as Jamie called out. These ole Brit limos are a tight fit for a ‘full size’ American driver, and additionally the front seats are usually fixed and cannot be adjusted. Drivers must have been drop-outs from the jockey schools who subsequently took chauffeur classes leaving lots of room for the aristocrats in back – I suggest you try on for size before you purchase. Though not obvious from the photos but based on the descriptor the rear and/or front compartments may have removable roof panels. Greg

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  10. Avatar photo Peter Brookes-Tee

    Never seen this model before, what a find. It would attract a premium price here in Blighty. Great gearboxes, had one in a Lanchester and they were faultless in the Daimler Ferret Scout Cars when I was in the army.

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  11. Avatar photo rapple

    I’m with Tirefriar on this one. This is an unusual car and distinctive car that not only seems to be “all there” but appears to have been stored in a clean, dry, rodent-free environment for all these years. It should make for a relatively easy project to bring it back to driving condition …..and beyond if the new owner desires.
    Greg, thanks for the link and the heads-up about driver space. If that’s true of this one, I probably wouldn’t fit – a good excuse for not pursuing it :)

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  12. Avatar photo That Guy

    I think all the bidders at this point must be in the UK. I don’t see the market for this car on this side of the pond, but it would be welcomed with open arms back in Blighty. It’s a bit like an Australian muscle car that made its way here sometime when they weren’t terribly expensive; here it’s a curiosity, back home it’s an icon with a price to match.

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  13. Avatar photo Dr. D

    I like the ear trumpet positioned near the driver’s right ear, presumably to receive orders from the rear seat passengers without having to open the dividing glass. Because frankly, James, I want you to hear what I am saying, but I’m not interested in hearing what you are saying.

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    • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

      @ Dr. D, I thought that was cool, too!

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  14. Avatar photo Woodie Man

    This reminds me of a neighbor that had a Lily Pons Packard limo, I believe it was around a 1937, As a result I’ve always had a thing for formal cars. Brewster Fords are also cool. The only problem is I would need to hire a man, a chauffeur, to ferry me around. Oh well……….a beautiful car.

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  15. Avatar photo Jesse Staff

    This looks like a great way to live out some of those Downton Abbey type fantasies! I just need to convince someone to drive me around while I “work” in the back. When you mentioned that they were affordable luxury cars, I pictured the Hyundai Genesis for some reason… All joking aside though, this is a very cool ride that I would be proud to own.

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