1904 Wilson-Pilcher 12/16hp Four-Cylinder Four-Seat Phaeton
Offered by Bonhams | London, England | November 2, 2012
In 1898, Walter Wilson and his partner, Percy Pilcher, attempted to make an aero-engine and beat the Wright Brothers to powered flight. Unfortunately, Pilcher was killed in a gilding accident in 1899. So, in 1900, Wilson set up shop in Westminster, London to build automobiles bearing both his name and that of his late friend.
The car seen here is powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder making 12/16 horsepower. Wilson was a brilliant engineer who designed and built everything himself, inventing numerous things along the way. In 1903, the company was bought by Armstrong-Whitworth and moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Production continued until 1907.
When the First World War broke out, Wilson joined the Royal Navy but eventually found himself working alongside William Tritton and developing the world’s first tank, receiving a sizable reward for doing so. In the late 1920s, he would invent the pre-selector gearbox which would be used on various vehicles from Armstrong-Siddeley cars to buses and railcars.
This particular car is the 52nd Wilson-Pilcher built after they moved to Newcastle. It is believed about 100-200 cars were built in total and this is thought to be the only survivor. It was retained by the factory from new and given to Walter Wilson’s son as a gift. He eventually passed it on to his son who loaned it out to museums – including The Tank Museum in Bovington. In 2006, the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust volunteered to restore the car and now it is being offered for sale for the first time in history.
Update: Sold $325,000.