Although long since departed, Wolseley was one of Britain's foremost makes throughout the Edwardian period and into the 1920s. The company had been founded by Irish-born Frederick York Wolseley in Sydney, Australia in 1887 to manufacture sheep-shearing equipment. Two years later a subsidiary was set up in Birmingham, England where works manager Herbert Austin would be responsible for the first Wolseley motor car, a three-wheeler built on Léon Bollée lines, in 1896.
Early Wolseleys featured horizontal engines, but it was with the arrival of vertical-engined multi-cylinder cars in the Edwardian era that Wolseley earned its reputation for finely engineered, smooth and powerful transport. By this time Herbert Austin had left, his place being taken by John D Siddeley whose company - taken over by Wolseley in 1904 - had been making vertical-engined cars based on the French Peugeot. Siddeley forged ahead with an ever-expanding range of vertical-engined models, which for the next few years were marketed under the 'Wolseley-Siddeley' name, reverting to plain 'Wolseley' after Siddeley's departure in 1909.
The car offered here is an example of Wolseley's 4,961cc, six-cylinder, sidevalve-engined 24/30hp, an up-market model produced between 1911 and 1915. It is one of a number of 'barn find' early Wolseleys unearthed in Canada in the early 1960s by Charles Neville. Their fascinating story is recounted in Neville's book, 'Wolseleys in Canada' (copy available).
Car number '17297' was ordered new by newspaper proprietor John Ross Robertson, founder of the now defunct (Toronto) Evening Telegram. Robertson was evidently a large man as he specified heavier springing and a hood 2" higher than standard in addition to all the normal modifications incorporated at the factory for 'colonial' models - principally different axles for increased ground clearance. One of these modifications was a carburettor heater for cold starting, which is evident on this car. At the time of its discovery by Charles Neville, the Wolseley belonged to one Henry Bowyer, but nothing else of its early history is known.
The restoration of '17297' began in the late 1980s, and by the end of March 1989 most of the mechanical work had been completed, with the engine and running gear reinstalled on the chassis. The left side of the body had rotted away, but fortunately enough of the right side had survived for dimensions to be taken to assist in the body's reconstruction. Frequently interrupted, construction of the woodwork had mostly been completed by May 1992. Neville records: 'The car was started and run under its own power on 18th October 1994 ? perhaps for the first time in over seventy years.' Even then, the Wolseley was far from finished, still requiring to be painted, re-upholstered, and refitted with all the accessories such as door handles, lamps, windscreen, horn, etc. Once completed, the Wolseley remained in Canada until 2008 when the current vendor purchased it from Charles Neville.
Undeniably handsome and well-proportioned, the car is finished in green with black wings, green leather interior and matching carpets - all in very nice condition. It has a beige canvas hood, black full tonneau cover, and black canvas hood bag - all very good and serviceable. Other noteworthy features include Bleriot headlamps, Rotax side lamps, electric starter, split-rim wheels, folding windscreen, and a side-mounted spare wheel. Starting readily and running well, this rare 'Edwardian' Wolseley would enhance any collection of quality motor cars.