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Star Motor Company
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the British automobile. To see the article on the American Star Car Company, go to Star (automobile).
1922 Star 11.9 saloon
The Star Motor Company was a British car and commercial vehicle maker based in Wolverhampton and active from 1898 to 1932.
Star was founded by the Lisle family who like many other vehicle makers started by making bicycles, in their case in 1893 as Sharratt and Lisle. In 1896 this was changed to the Star Cycle Company.1
The first car was made in 1898 and a separate company, the Star Motor Company, was registered as a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Engineering Ltd. The early vehicles were heavily influenced by existing car makers and the 1898 3.5 was essentially a single cylinder 3.5 hp (2.6 kW) Benz and often called the Star-Benz; it had two speeds, chain drive, wire spoke wheels, acetylene lighting, electric ignition, and Clipper pneumatic tires standard, for ₤189.2 One a week was being made in 1899,1 and in the first year, they made their first export sale, to Auckland, New Zealand.3 In 1900, production had expanded to facilities in Dudley Road and Nelson, Stewart, Ablow, and Dobb Streets, with output of twenty a week.2 A two-cylinder three-speed model appeared that year, also, at the Richmond Automobile Club Show. Encouraged by founder Edward Lisle, they were also being entered in the 1000 Miles’ Trial (where it proved fragile), along with “every test or competition for which they were eligible”.2 In 1901, the 7 and 10 with vertical twin De Dion engines and in 1902 a four cylinder 20hp appeared. In 1903, copying the leading maker, Mercedes, Star introduced a 12 hp (8.9 kW) four, and set a record of 39 mph (63 km/h) on a 2 mile (3.2 km) run in County Cork, Ireland, under the auspices of the Irish Automobile Club. In addition, two Stars ran in the Isle of Man qualifying races for the Gordon Bennett Cup; neither 10 litre car made it.2 From 1904 only four cylinder models were made.
For 1906, there was a new 3261 cc (200 ci) 14 hp four,2 as well as a new six, the 6227 cc (380 ci) 30 hp; the six, increased in displacement to 6981 cc (426 ci) in 1909, lasted until 1911.2 The main Star company continued to make well engineered models up to the outbreak of war in 1914 adding a range of vans and trucks to the output and became one of the six largest British car makers.1
The Star Cycle Company run by Lisle’s son, also called Edward, had continued in business building bicycles and motorcycles and in 1905 entered the car industry in its own right and produced a 940 cc (57 ci) De Dion-powered two seater called the Starling. In 1907, there was a 1296 cc (79 ci) single and a 1531 cc (94 ci) twin and the Stuart (Starling after 1907), with chassis from Hopper, a Barton-on-Humber cycle maker (which sold them as Torpedoes).4 To avoid confusion a new company, the Briton Motor Company5 was formed in 1909 and the products were badged as Britons. The first two cars were a 2282 cc (139 ci) 12 hp twin and a 2413 cc (147 ci) 14 hp four; the 14 hp (10 kW) became available as a Star in 1910.6
Star proper took advantage of export sales, and saw racing success in South Africa, a 14 hp (10 kW) winning the Transvaal Automobile Club hillclimb, and the New Zealand national hillclimb championship.7 For 1913, there was a 1743 cc (106 ci) Briton, which became the 10/12 in 1914.2 Stars accorded themselves well in the 1909 Irish Reliability Trial, while a 12 hp (8.9 kW) won its class in all the hillclimbs of the Scottish Automobile Club trial, where a new 2862 cc (175 ci) ‘15hp’ (actually 19.6hp) debuted; it would persist three years.2
In 1912, Star introduced the torpedo-bodied 15.9hp , with a 3016 cc (184 ci; 80×150mm) four and new bullnosed radiator; originally for export, it proved aesthetically pleasing, and was adopted for all models. It was quick, as well, running an RAC trial of 801 mile (1289 km) at Brooklands at an average 66.75mph (107.42km/h) that year. The 15.9 would remain in production until 1922.2
During World War 1 the company made a large number of lorries (trucks) for the army and did some work on aircraft engines.
Post-war car production resumed in 1919 with the pre-war 15.9 hp (11.9 kW) and 3815 cc 20.1hp Star, and the 10/12 Briton,8 models and in the early 1920s Star were making 1000 cars a year1 from their cramped workshops. Briton, however, went under in 1922, a victim of the postwar economic slump, being bought by C.A. Weight; the last four Britons were exported to Australia in 1929.9
A more up-to-date model, with a 1795cc (110ci) sidevalve was introduced in 1921, with the same high quality.2
The next year, Edward Lisle, Sr., died, succeeded by Joseph 2 (formerly head of Star Engineering).10 Despite this, Stars entered two 11.9hps in the Scottish Six Days’ Light Car Trials, placing first and second in the hands of R. Lisle and G.G.Cathie; the winner was sold to New Zealand, where it proved dominant in local racing, while a different 11.9 swept the Australian 1000 Mile Alpine Test.2
This car developed into the 1945cc (119ci) 12/25 in 1924, followed by a pushrod overhead valve 12/40 with four wheel brakes (then a rarity) and four-speed gearbox, capable of 80mph (129km/h).2 It was joined by an 18/40 six, as well as lorries of 25cwt, 34-40cwt, and 50-60cwt, all powered by the 12/25 engine.2
Oblivious to the lessons of standardization, Star in 1926 offered a 2120 cc (129ci) 14/40 OHV four, a similar 3181 cc (194ci) 20/60 six, and three sidevalve designs, all in several body styles.2
In 1928, Edward Lisle sold the company to Guy Motors, also based in Wolverhampton, who wanted to add a range of cars to their heavy vehicle production. Production was moved to a new plant in Bushbury on the Wolverhampton northern outskirts near the Clyno factory. From here came the new 18/50, a 2470 cc (ci) six, with wet cylinder liners, duralumin connecting rods, aluminium pistons, seven bearing crankshaft, which in 1930 were redone as the Comet and Planet.2 They proved uneconomical and unprofitable, and production was stopped in March 1932,2 remaining cars and spares sold off to McKenzie and Denley (Birmingham), which continued to have Star cars and NOS parts catalogued in 1962.[