Frederick Richard Simms was a pioneer in the motor industry. Educated in Germany and London as a mechanical engineer, he was a prolific inventor and businessman. Simms played an important part in the widespread adoption of gasoline-fueled engines. He is credited with coining motorcar and petrol. He pushed to increase the speed limit from 4 to a whopping 14 mph in Britain. Simms is remembered for many “firsts.” Among them, he designed the first armored cars.
Popular at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, quadricycles were four-wheeled bicycle-like vehicles powered by humans or motors. Henry Ford completed his ethanol-powered quadricycle in June of 1896. In June of 1899, Frederick Simms demonstrated his Motor Scout. It was similar to Ford’s quadricycle and others of the time with one huge difference. Frederick Richard Simms mounted a mark IV Maxim machine gun between its front wheels where a passenger normally sat.
Simms’ Motor Scout was ready for tough duty, as long as it travelled along a high-quality road. It wasn’t worth its own weight in salt when traveling off road. While it featured an iron plate to protect the driver from a direct frontal shot, the driver’s sides and back were left unprotected.
A 1.5 horsepower Automatic Petrol Motor with the Simms-Bosch magneto-electric ignition powered the Motor Scout. It ran on “petrol” and could travel 120 miles on one tank. For street use, you could remove the machine gun and reclaim the second seat for a passenger. It looked similar to the very fashionable De Dion quadricycle pictured below.
By The Way: In August of 1888, Bertha Benz took her famous 132-mile round-trip in Germany with her two sons to prove the usefulness of her motor car to the average person. Simms purchased the rights for the use and manufacture of Gottlieb Daimler’s high-speed petrol engine in 1890, along with several other patents. His efforts eventually set the stage for the start-up of the British motor industry. In 1893, Simms founded the Daimler Motor Syndicate.
In 1899, Frederick Richard Simms went on to design and build the first official armored car called the Motor War Car. Vickers, Sons and Maxim built the monster. It had a German-built Daimler motor and two machine guns.
The Motor War Car was published in the April, 1898 edition of The Horseless Age, the first publication dedicated to the transition from horse and carriage to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. According to the article:
“The armor is carried to a height of 6 feet above the axles, and completely encircles the vehicle, like a petticoat…”
Simms’ armored car with its petticoat of armor was demonstrated at the Crystal Palace in London, April 1902.
Among his many accomplishments, Frederick Richard Simms founded the Royal Automobile Club and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Both organizations had considerable influence on the Motor Car Act of 1903. The act introduced motor vehicle registration and the official licensing of drivers.
They also lobbied to increase the speed limit on highways from 14 mph set by the Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896. The Emancipation Day Drive was first held on November 14, 1896 to celebrate the new speed limit. It continues to be the longest running motor car event in the world. All cars must be vintage 1905 or earlier.
After bitter Parliamentary debates, the speed limit was raised to 20 mph on public highways by the Motor Car Act 1903.
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