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 1902 - 1953

The Vulcan Motor & Engineering Company

The Vulcan Motor & Engineering Company started out by selling their cars by using an unconvincing dialogue. 'Float along in comfort in the Vulcan 12 Saloon,' declared a 1925 ad: and then came the hard sell ...

Peter: 'It's luxury motoring for me, my boy- I'm out for comfort, and I have it in the Vulcan 12 Saloon.
Paul: I believe quite a lot can be said for the saloon body in this variable climate of ours. After all, an ordinary car has its hood up two-thirds of its life-especially if one indulges in night riding.
Peter: Just so; and, of course, one must take care of the ladies. In the Vulcan Saloon, they are as warm and cosy as in the drawing room at home-they float along in comfort without jar or vibration even over bumpy roads. The Vulcan 12 is very easy to handle on the road, most comfortable to ride in, and the engine runs beautifully.
Paul: It certainly is a handsome turnout. I wish luxury motoring were within my means.
Peter: Why, man, of course it is. The Vulcan 12 Saloon is only the price of an ordinary open car - the year's tax is but £12, and depreciation on any Vulcan is less than on many cars I know. Let me give you a lift home, then you'll know the delights of real luxury motoring.

Thomas and Joseph Hampson

But it wasn't 'real luxury motoring' which made the name of the Vulcan. The company, based in Southport, Lancashire (UK), was more famous for its commercial vehicles than for its cars. Mind you, the first experimental Vulcan cars had appeared a long time before, in 1897-1899, the work of Thomas and Joseph Hampson.

The marque reached production status in 1902, when a 4hp 'Motor Phaeton' was shown at the Agricultural Hall Show. Priced at 130 guineas, it had a single-cylinder engine, apparently of Vulcan's own make, and single belt drive to the back axle, which incorporated a three-speed gear, probably of the epicyclic type, inside the belt pulley.

A 6 hp of more substantial design appeared the following year, then came a 10 hp twin-cylinder model. This had a swept volume of 1342cc, and was to survive in production until 1909. A brace of four-cylinder models made their debut in 1905: these were a 12/14 hp of 2212cc and a 16 hp of 3191cc. The company was reformed in 1906, in which year the range was enlarged by the addition of a 14 hp model, with a swept volume of 2737cc, which soon supplanted the 12/14hp, and a 20 hp four of 3922cc.

The Olympia Motor Show

At the Olympia Motor Show Vulcan's first six-cylinder model appeared; its 30 hp engine had a capacity of 4786cc. It lasted only one season, and was then replaced by a 35 hp with an enlarged bore giving a swept volume of 5883cc. Priced at £500, it was the largest car ever built by Vulcan. By the end of 1907, all the cars had acquired high and low tension dual ignition, shaft drive was standard throughout the range, and the larger models had four-speed gearboxes.

1904 twin cylinder Vulcan 10hp
1904 twin cylinder Vulcan 10hp.

1922 Vulcan 10hp
1922 Vulcan 10hp.

1921 Vulcan with 3686cc four cylinder engine
1921 Vulcan with 3686cc four cylinder engine.
A new 12 hp model appeared in 1909, and was apparently such a success that it was followed in mid-1910 by a version of 15.9 hp and 2412cc. In common with other models in the range, the new VuIcan had unit construction of engine and gearbox, the unit being three-point suspended in the frame, and an interesting detail was the use of shell big-end bearings at a time when most big-ends were metalled directly in the rod. This was, apparently, because a large proportion of VuIcan output was exported to the colonies, far away from repair establishments. During construction the VuIcan chassis were subjected to severe test runs over the Yorkshire hills before they left the works.

The Vulcanette

In 1913 a 15-20hp model was announced, with a mono bloc engine of 3016cc, four speeds forward and worm final drive. By now, VuIcan cars had bull-nosed radiators; electric lighting and detachable wheels were available as part of an 'option pack' costing UK£25. At this time the 15.9 model cost £350, the 15/20hp £400. There was to have been a 1½ liter model, the Vulcanette, with electric lighting and starting for 1915, but World War 1 intervened.

Post-war production was overshadowed by the truck side of the company's activities, but the car range initially concentrated on the VuIcan 20 hp, 16 hp, and the 12, though some uncharacteristic experiments were also carried out with V8 and sleeve-valve engines, none of which ever appear to have reached the public. At this period the company was operating on the fringes of the Harper-Bean group, though this arrangement was short, if costly. These post-war VuIcans were somewhat heavy and lethargic; the 16 hp was only capable of 48 mph, at which speed it became 'somewhat unsteady', and reported a petrol consumption of 13-20 mpg.

Climbing Twice The Height of Everest

But a 12 hp, carrying four passengers, achieved some kind of an endurance record on 25 April 1923, by making 53 consecutive ascents of the 1:3.9 gradient of Sutton Bank, in Yorkshire: 'This performance is equivalent,' claimed VuIcan, 'to a total climb of over 50,000 ft, or almost TWICE THE HEIGHT OF MOUNT EVEREST.' The performance was especially meritorious in view of the fact that the car was completely standard, having been taken from a Liverpool showrooms the previous evening, and driven to Sutton Bank overnight. It was in 1923 that C. B. Wardman organised a partial merger of VuIcan with Lea-Francis, and certain models produced by the two marques had all things in common.

One example was the unreliable twin ohc engine of the 1927 line-up; designed by A. O. Lord, this six-cylinder unit powered the new 14/40 VuIcan in 1.7-liter form, and was increased in capacity for 1928 to 2 liters, thus creating the 16/60, which was available with full-width fabric 'Gains borough' coachwork of supreme hideousness. Fortunately, this horrid machine was the last of the VuIcan cars; thereafter the Southport firm concentrated on its excellent trucks and commercial vehicles, eventually amalgamating with Tilling-Stevens of Maidstone, and thus ultimately with the Rootes Group, which discontinued the marque in 1953.
1914 Vulcan 10/15hp
1914 Vulcan 10/15hp.
1910 Vulcan 12 hp near the entrance of a Hindu temple in Madras
1910 Vulcan 12 hp near the entrance of a Hindu temple in Madras.
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