March 2011

1913 Adler 1.3-Liter Kleinwagen

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Provided you can acclimate yourself to the leisurely pace of this type of very small, very old car, the motoring can be delightful

Frankfurt-based Adler was a bicycle manufacturer in the nineteenth century, turning later to the production of motorcycles, cars and the typewriters with which the Adler name is most commonly associated today. A highly respected firm in its native Germany, Adler was already manufacturing automobile components for others when it introduced its first motor car—a Renault-influenced, De Dion Bouton-powered voiturette—in 1900. Within a few years, the company was making its own single- and twin-cylinder engines. By 1910, the Adler range was powered exclusively by 4-cylinder units.

The Edwardian Adler was conventional in all major respects although generally featured only a hand-operated throttle which is surprisingly easy to use. The Kleinwagen (little car), introduced in 1911, was a successful attempt to bridge the gap between the rather fragile contemporary cyclecars and Adler’s own 1.8-liter, 12-horsepower model. The Kleinwagen was powered with a 4-cylinder, side-valve engine with bore and stroke of 65 mm x 98 mm, displacing 1,292 cc. Spark was by magneto, a Zenith carburetor was adopted and a water pump fitted, while other chassis features included a 3-speed gearbox with right-hand gate change, shaft and bevel final drive, transmission foot brake, rear wheel hand-brake and semi-elliptic suspension front and rear. Contemporary road test figures spoke of 50 mph and 38 mpg. The British importers were Morgan & Co. of Leighton Buzzard, whose main business was coachbuilding. It is said that the Kleinwagen was generally re-bodied by Morgan for sale in the U.K., as the original German coachwork fell short in the styling department. This may well be one such car re-bodied by Morgan prior to sale in the U.K.

A supplier’s plaque advises that this car was supplied by Chilvers Motor Garage Co. of Lockwood Road, Huddersfield, and the car was first registered in that town. In the 1950s, this car was owned by VCC North-Eastern Section member G.H. Taylor, a former Brooklands driver, and then passed into the ownership of Herman Horsfield of Halifax—well known for executing replica Barker barrel-sided coachwork on vintage Rolls-Royce chassis. During the 1950s, 60s and 70s, this car was actively rallied, as witnessed by the plethora of rally plaques displayed on the dashboard and within the car. Notably it took part in the VCC Silver Jubilee Event in 1955, the Austin Golden Jubilee Rally that year, the very first VCC Scottish Rally in 1959 and rallied also on the Isle of Man and in the Norwegian Fjords.