Businessman steps in to buy rare Sheffield-made car and keep it on show at city museum

A rare Sheffield-made car will be kept on display in the city where it was built 110 years ago after a businessman stepped in to buy the vehicle.

Anthony Hinchliffe, the new owner of the 1908 Sheffield-Simplex. Picture: Ian Spooner

Since the start of this year, Kelham Island Museum has been exhibiting an open-bodied Sheffield-Simplex model dating from 1908 that is one of only three left in the world.

But its presence was only temporary. The car was privately owned and up for sale, having been loaned to the city's Industrial Museums Trust, and has been sitting beside another of the remaining trio, a 1920 prototype that would have gone into production if the manufacturer had survived the First World War. The later example has been part of the trust’s permanent collection for years.

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However, the 1908 Simplex will be staying alongside its counterpart for the foreseeable future. Telemarketing boss and car enthusiast Anthony Hinchliffe read about the museum's appeal for help in The Star and decided to make the purchase.

The 1908 and 1920 Sheffield-Simplex cars will stay side-by-side at Kelham Island Museum. Picture: Andrew Roe

“Having seen the Sheffield-Simplex many years ago at a Chatsworth Show, I knew the importance of retaining this historic vehicle for Sheffield people," said Anthony, CEO of Ant Marketing which has offices at Victoria Quays and St Mary's Gate. "The vehicle acquisition has enabled me to indulge in two great loves of my life - Sheffield and motor cars."

Sheffield-Simplex cars were assembled at Fitzwilliam Works, Tinsley, from 1908, backed financially by coal magnate Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse who believed the city could produce the finest vehicles in the world. About 1,500 standard passenger models were made to a standard intended to rival Rolls-Royces.

The 1908 car was exported to Australia two years after it was built. It was used as a taxi in Sydney, delivering bricks to building sites in Adelaide, and the engine was removed to power a water pump on a farm.

In the early 1980s the vehicle was bought by steelmaker Lord Riverdale, shipped back to England and restored at a cost of more than £85,000. Its most recent owner, John Thring from Pontefract, attempted to sell it on eBay and was offered just under £100,000 at a London auction.

The 1908 car, pictured two years after it was built.

Steve Myers, an expert who has written a book on Sheffield’s vintage motors, suggested the idea of bringing the car to the museum, and John agreed to give the trust some time to find enough money to put it in the Kelham collection.

The exhibits will create 'much interest', Steve predicted, while John said he was 'absolutely delighted' his car is to stay in Sheffield where he grew up.

Both Simplexes are roadworthy. They will be used for outreach work with schools and other organisations, as well as being driven to country shows where they can appear together. The third survivor, a four-door, deluxe type from 1913, is on display at a science centre in Perth, Australia.

Museums trust director Helen Featherstone said Anthony's gesture 'will make many people very happy'. "The history of car manufacturing was a significant part of Sheffield’s industrial past and those skills sets really resonate with current manufacturing and engineering that happens in the city today. Having both cars on display at the museum will give many more people that chance to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of them.”

Engineer Keith Wall looks inside the 1908 Sheffield-Simplex car at Kelham Island Museum. Picture: Andrew Roe

Both Simplexes can be seen in the upper transport gallery at Kelham Island Museum during normal opening hours.