Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 346

Last Survivor in Sri Lanka?


Published on 02 Feb 2022

Armstrong Siddeley was a British outfit that made two things, namely luxury cars and aircraft power-plants. This company came to be in 1919 and lasted just 41 years before being broken up and sold by 1960. We look at this fine and rare example of an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 346 that graces our shores. With just 7,697 produced, it’s entirely possible that EL3000 may be the only one of its kind left in Sri Lanka, or at least the only runner.

Armstrong Siddeley was formed in 1919 when the Armstrong Whitworth Company purchased Siddeley-Deasy, a firm that manufactured luxury automobiles for discerning clientele. If you thought that the resulting Armstrong-Siddeley group would produce only automobiles you are mistaken. In addition to automobiles, they produced railcars, aircraft engines and gearboxes… motors for torpedos and rockets! And even truck and bus transmissions, all with a focus on quality.

 

Interestingly, whilst the company was sold to the Rolls-Royce group, they were primarily interested in the aircraft engineering aspect. Thus, the Armstrong-Siddeley automotive side now belongs to the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club, who hold the patents, designs and trademarks.

 

As you may imagine, Armstrong Siddeley made large and medium-sized automobiles, with sizable engines and equally imposing road presence. Saloons, Sports Saloons, Grand Tourers, Drophead Coupes, Fixed-Head Coupes and Limousines were the body styles that they dabbled in, requisite with period charm and their mascot proudly affixed atop the bonnet (or hood, if you’re American).

The Sapphire model ran from 1952 to 1960 with several variants. This large, or executive-class sedan came with a variety of engines, as well as the pre-selector gearbox, before moving to a Rolls-Royce sourced automatic gearbox. Whilst the Sapphire 234 and 236 came with smaller engines, the Sapphire 346 of 1952 was the daddy of them all, with the largest engine, a 3,435cc six-cylinder unit that would continue until 1958, when the Star Sapphire came into the scene with its enlarged 3,990cc six-cylinder unit. Gearbox options were either a four-speed manual or four-speed Wilson electrically-controlled pre-selector unit, whilst the Rolls-Royce Hydramatic four-speed automatic took over in 1954.

 

This fine example is possibly the only car, if not, the only known runner in the country. EL3000 has a proud history, and is living a grand life amongst a well-maintained collection of cars owned by the discerning collector Nilanga Dela. 

As you may expect, EL3000 packs the 3,435cc in-line six with a single carburettor, putting out 125hp as a result. A higher-performance twin-carb variant utilizing two Solex carburettors was also offered, putting out 150hp and giving genuine 100mph performance as a result, however whoever purchased this car new preferred the more sedate option.

 

Drive is sent to the rear wheels via the Wilson preselector gearbox, with its dinky gear selector sitting to the left of the steering wheel, and looking almost comically small amongst the rest of the cabin. Braking is via a Girling hydraulic system driving 279mm drums on all four wheels.

 

On the inside, EL3000 has the bench front seat instead of the optional individual units, as well as the original radio and heater. At the rear, you find the walnut picnic tables although legroom for such a large car is surprisingly stingy. Headroom when entering and exiting the car is not so great either, leading one to wonder how the taller British gents of the day managed a graceful entry and exit, especially if they wore hats.

This car has been lovingly looked after, and it shows in the details. All lights work, even the magical semaphore signals that briskly pop out of the B-pillar upon activation via the interesting steering-mounted two-way toggle. The original toolkit is present in the boot as well.


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