1953 Singer Roadster 1500
1953 Singer Roadster 1500. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photo by Bill Vance

The Singer name is associated more with sewing machines than with cars in North America, although there was a Singer car made in New York State that had a connection to the sewing machines.

The American-built Singer car was manufactured in Mount Vernon, New York, from 1914 to 1918, and then in New York City from 1918 to 1920 by the Singer Motor Company under the stewardship of Charles A. Singer, scion of the sewing machine family. They were large luxury cars and most were powered by six-cylinder engines, although in a desperation move a few V12s were offered during the last year.

The far better known Singer car was manufactured in England by Singer and Company Ltd., Coventry, Warwickshire beginning in 1905. It too, had a connection with sewing machines. Singer founder George Singer spent some early years as a mechanic with sewing machine manufacturer Newton, Wilson and Company, and then with the Coventry Sewing Machine Company.

Singer eventually abandoned sewing machines for the bicycle industry, and by 1895 was able to form the Singer Cycle Company. After several years building a variety of two- and three-wheelers, some of them motorized, Singer entered the automobile industry in 1905 as Singer & Company Ltd. building Lea-Francis cars under licence.

The Singer company developed its own models and produced a variety of modestly successful two, three, and four-cylinder cars. By 1912 it was able to introduce its first really successful Singer, the 10 horsepower model.

Others were added, and Singer prospered to the point that by the mid-1920s it was Britain’s third largest auto manufacturer behind Morris and Austin. In 1926 Singer introduced the Singer Junior with an 848-cc overhead cam four-cylinder engine, setting an overhead cam pattern that Singer would use in many of its cars for some 30 years.

Although Singer produced a variety of models during the 1930s, and enjoyed competition success, it suffered financial troubles. It was re-organized as Singer Motors Ltd. in 1936, and managed to survive the Depression.

Following the Second World War, Singer, like others, produced pre-war designs until it was able to introduce its new SM1500 four-door sedan in 1948. It had slab-sided styling and horizontal fender lines reminiscent of the 1947-1950 American Kaiser-Frazers. It began reaching North America in small numbers in 1950.

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