Founded as a bicycle maker in 1868, Humber later became associated with Harry Lawson's British Motor Syndicate, from which it purchased the rights to various unlikely automobile designs dreamt up by American E J Pennington. Freeing itself from Lawson, the reconstituted company commenced motor car production in 1900 with the unconventional (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel steered) M D Voiturette. A more conventional range of De Dion-powered light cars soon followed, which was notable for its use of shaft drive in an era when chain was the norm for such vehicles.
Four-cylinder 12hp and 20hp models, designed by Louis Coatalen, had been added by 1903, but that year's most significant introduction was the Humberette. The latter was powered by a 5hp single-cylinder engine and featured two-speeds-plus-reverse transmission and, of course, shaft drive. It was the first Humber motor car to be produced in significant numbers, and it is a tribute to the design's fundamental soundness that so many survive today. There was also a 6½hp model, and both versions were built at the firm's Beeston and Coventry factories.
By January 1904 it was announced that almost 500 of these light cars had been built, and in 1904 the Prince of Wales awarded a Royal Warrant. The new and significantly more powerful 6½hp models became 'Royal Beeston' Humberettes and by now were equipped with a three-speeds-and-reverse gearbox. The Beeston models were superior in various respects to the Coventry-built cars, featuring side doors and a governed engine with pedal accelerator, while by 1904 wooden artillery wheels had replaced the more fragile wire wheels of the early models. The 'Royal Beeston' Humberette was priced at 160 guineas, some 10 guineas dearer than the Coventry cars.
This particular Royal Beeston Humberette has the 6½hp, 773cc single-cylinder engine fitted with a Longuemare carburettor. The heavy cast-iron flywheel transfers power via a conical leather-faced clutch to the 'crash' gearbox, and finally to a brass-cased live axle. Suspension is by means of un-damped semi-elliptical leaf springs. Steering from centre to full left- or right-hand lock is one eighth of a turn or approximately two inches. Ignition is by means of a trembler coil powered by a 6-volt battery. There is no charging system.
There are two Lucas 'King of the Road' paraffin headlights and one rear with a red lens. The car features nickel plating of the hood supports, headlights and trim, this new nickel finish being considered more desirable than the older and more common brass finish. The doctor's limousine was the top model of the Royal Humberette range, boasting a full hood, wooden artillery wheels, two tone blue coachwork, and the three-speeds-and-reverse gearbox (as opposed to the two-speed 'box found in most Humberettes).
'AP 413' was first registered with East Sussex County Council on 11th April 1904 to George William Miller, a draper of Enys Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex. On 25th March 1907, ownership passed to Henry Farnham, a dentist of Teville Road, Worthing, and then on 22nd June '07 to Mrs Edith Marie Pool of The Hollies, Barton-on-Humber. In its 112-year history, this Humberette has had only ten owners including the current vendor; it is believed to have been named 'Alice' after the daughter of Mr Tate, the fourth owner (1909).
In 1955, garage proprietor Frank Harrison of Mexborough discovered the Humberette and was able to acquire it for restoration. The car was remarkably complete, as evidenced by the 'as found' photograph on file. Trained in every aspect of the motor trade, Frank Harrison embarked upon a restoration that was to win him many awards during his long ownership. The vehicle was dated 1904 by the Veteran Car Club on the 10th October 1956 (certificate number '619') and took part in many events including regular participation in the London to Brighton Run.
In 1986, 'AP 413' was acquired by VCC member Raymond Nelson, a neighbour who had known the car for many years and used it sparingly. In 2009 the car changed hands again, passing to a Humber enthusiast who had always wanted to drive the Brighton Road. This he successfully accomplished and he also took part in the 'Creepy Crawly' and other events organised for members of the VCC. New stub axles were fitted and the steering overhauled in 2010, while the hood and dash apron were replaced relatively recently.
In 2012, the Humberette was sold (Lot 209) at Bonhams' London to Brighton sale on Friday 2nd November to the immediately preceding owner, who proceeded to avail himself of its entry in that year's event the following Sunday. The current vendor reports that the driving time from London to Brighton - at an average speed of 11mph and allowing for a couple of minor breakdowns, lunch and a couple of coffee breaks - is approximately seven hours. Claimed top speed is 25mph with its 'state of the art' three-speed gearbox, the Humberette is able to climb most hills.
The car carries a VCC dating plate and also wears a VCC badge. It is offered with a V5C Registration Certificate, sundry expired MoT certificates, two old-style logbooks, and the aforementioned VCC Dating Certificate. The car also comes with an entry into this year's Bonhams London to Brighton Run, Car no. 300.