Swift Motor Company
The Swift Motor Company made Swift Cars in Coventry, England from 1900 until 1931. It grew progressively from James Starley's Coventry Sewing Machine Company, via bicycle and motorised cycle manufacture. The cars ranged from a single-cylinder car in 1900 using an MMC engine, through a Swift-engined twin-cylinder 7-horsepower car in 1904, and a 3-litre model in 1913. After WW1 a successful range was sold during the 1920s, but the Cadet of 1930 was their last vehicle as they could not compete economically with volume manufacturers such as Ford and Morris Motors.
The Coventry Sewing Machine Company was founded by James Starley in 1859. They started making bicycles in 1869 and changed the name to 'Coventry Machinists'. In 1896 they became the Swift Cycle Company and started to make motorcycles in 1898. Swift made their first single-cylinder car in 1900 using an MMC engine. It had an unusual transmission system involving an unsprung two ratio rear axle. This proved unreliable and was replaced by a more conventional layout in 1903. In 1902 a separate company was formed for motor vehicle production and registered as the Swift Motor Company.
After World War 1 ended, the Cycle Car company was merged with the main company as Swift of Coventry and the range was simplified.
The final Swift car was the 1930 Cadet, but Swift was too small to compete with the likes of Ford and Morris, and closed in 1931 after its suppliers foreclosed on their debts. Coventry Climax were left with a number of engines from the Cadet model, which they used as the basis of their Second World War fire pump engine designated FSM, the SM standing for Swift Motors.
Production was originally in the Cheylesmore Works but in 1906 car assembly moved to a new factory, Quinton Works in Mile Lane. Some of the cars were equipped with engines manufactured in Saint-Denis Paris by Aster in single, twin or four cylinder configurations.
Cycles and Motorcycles
In 1869 'Coventry Machinists' started making bicycles and in 1896 they became the 'Swift Cycle Company'. In 1898 it started making motorcycles.
In 1904 the Swift Cycle Company Ltd. made a single-cylinder 700 cc cyclecar which had a cloverleaf emblem on its radiator, an emblem that was adopted by all the cars.
After World War 1 the Cycle Car company was merged with the main car company as Swift of Coventry.
Swift made their first single-cylinder car in 1900 using an MMC engine. It had an unusual transmission system involving an unsprung two ratio rear axle. This proved unreliable and was replaced by a more conventional layout in 1903. In 1902 a separate company was formed for motor vehicle production and registered as the Swift Motor Company.
The first Swift-engined car was the twin-cylinder 7-horsepower, later 10-horsepower, of 1904. This was shortly afterwards joined by the four-cylinder 12/14, which continued in a bewildering number of guises until the First World War.
A larger car, the 15, with a 3-litre engine was added to the range in 1913, and this continued to just post-war. During the First World War, car production ceased.
After the war ended, the Cycle Car company was merged with the main company as Swift of Coventry. The range was simplified with the excellent 1100 cc 10 continuing and joined by a 2-litre 12 with a 4-speed gearbox. A new 10 was launched in 1923 as the Q type with coil ignition, electric starting, optional front wheel brakes and a top speed of 55 mph (89 km/h). Standard front wheel brakes were added in 1926 and the engine was bored out to 1190 cc to become the P type. The engine grew again to 1307 cc in 1929 when the car became the P2.
The 12 was replaced by the 12/35 in 1925 with front wheel brakes, plate clutch plus an increase of 24 inches (610 mm) in the wheelbase.
The final Swift car was the 1930 Cadet, which was an attempt to compete with the £100 cars. This had an 850 cc Coventry Climax engine and a price of £149 for the tourer and £165 for the saloon but Swift was too small to compete with the likes of Ford and Morris, and closed in 1931 after its suppliers foreclosed on their debts. Coventry Climax were left with a number of engines from the Cadet model, which they used as the basis of their Second World War fire pump engine designated FSM, the SM standing for Swift Motors.
Principal Swift cars
|1904-8||7/8||905 cc side-valve two-cylinder|
|1904–1907||9/10||1399 cc side-valve 2-cylinder|
|1904–1907||12/14||1348 cc side-valve 3-cylinder|
|1909–1911||7||1100 cc side-valve single-cylinder|
|1905||9||1703 cc side-valve 2-cylinder|
|1905–1907||16||2672 or 2799 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1908–1912||10/12||1560 or 1778 cc side-valve 2-cylinder|
|1908–1912||15/18||3119, 2308 or 2724 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1908||25/30||4942 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1909||18/20||3556 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1912–1914||8 hp||1362 or 1526 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1913–1914||15 and 16/20||3052 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1913–1914||10||1328 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1913–1924||12 (12/35 from 1925)||1940 cc side-valve 4-cylinder||approx 1500|
|1914–1915||11.9||1795 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1914–1915||15.9||2610 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1915–1922||10 ED||1122 cc side-valve 4-cylinder||approx 1500|
|1915–1930||15||2938 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1922–1927||Ten (Q-Type, QA from 1925)||1097 cc side-valve 4-cylinder||approx 4500|
|1924||18/50||2951 cc side-valve 4-cylinder||prototype only|
|1925–1930||14/40||1954 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1926–1931||P-Type (2P from 1928, 3P from 1929, 4P from 1930 and 5P in 1931)||1190 cc side-valve 4-cylinder|
|1930-31||Cadet||847 cc Coventry Climax side-valve 4-cylinder||approx 250|
The Quinton Works with frontages on Quinton Road and Mile Lane in Cheylesmore, Coventry, originally built in 1890 for S & B Gorton for cycle manufacture, was acquired in 1905 by the Swift Motor Company, who made a motorcycle and a motor tricycle in 1898, and a conventional car by 1901 in their Cheylesmore Works in Little Park Street, but needed more factory space. The frontages of the Quinton Works have been preserved and the building is now used as a hotel.
- G.N. Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.
- "The Race is not to the Swift". The Automobile 26: 24–29. June 2008.
- Baldwin, N. (1994). A-Z of Cars of the 1920s. Devon, UK: Bay View Books. ISBN 1-870979-53-2.
- "A brief history of Swift Motor vehicles". The Swift Club. Retrieved 7 September 2007.