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Wartime events that destroyed a piece of automotive history

3rd July 2019

In the Blitz of 1940 that affected so much of Coventry, in one evening a factory was decimated and the first all-British, four-wheeled petrol motor car was destroyed.

The 5hp Lanchester built in 1895 was the first all-British petrol four-wheel car and by the time BSA took over it had been moved to the Radford Works alongside other historic Daimler cars.

A museum had been built in 1939 and at the beginning of the war, the cars in the historic collection were moved out…except one, the 1895 Lanchester.

George Lanchester confirmed that it had been lost, although not bombed directly, destroyed by fire and its surviving metal sent to scrap. As well as this, all the drawings and paperwork for pre-1931 cars were also destroyed leading to accusations that BSA and Daimler officials did not care about the historic loss or their role in it.

Fred Lanchester himself wrote to his brother, venting his anger:

I am sorry to hear that the original Lanchester has been destroyed by enemy action. The Daimler was very careful to get their stock of cars out of the danger zone but did not care a damn about things that counted for more

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