Straker-Squire (also known as Brazil Straker) was a British automobile manufacturer based in Bristol, and later Edmonton in North London.

The company was formed in 1893 at St Philips, Bristol, as Brazil, Straker & Co by the Irish engineer J.P. Brazil and the London motor agent Sidney Straker.[1] In 1899 Sidney Straker joined forces with Edward Bayley and went into production of steam wagons, joining in partnership with L.R.L. Squire in 1904 and production reached 200 steam wagons by 1906.[2]

In 1907 the company moved into a new factory on Lodge Causeway, Fishponds, at first to manufacture commercial vehicles, including large numbers of early London Buses, and a French car design under licence. The company also produced and successfully raced a number of its own car designs.

Straker-Squire share certificate from 1917
Straker-Squire share certificate from 1917

When World War I started, Sir Roy Fedden, their chief designer, convinced the company to take on aircraft engine repair and manufacture, and that arm of the company was taken over by Cosmos Engineering in 1918. The company built staff cars and lorries during the war and afterwards, all production moved to Edmonton in North London in 1919. Car production continued until 1926 and Sidney Straker was killed in a hunting accident not long afterwards.

Steam wagons

1902 boiler, section
1902 boiler, section

Straker began by building engines for steam wagons. A "Bayley" undertype wagon, fitted with a Straker engine and de Dion boiler[3] took part in the Second Liverpool Steam Wagon Trials of 1899.[4]

By 1901 Straker were building an entire wagon.[3] This exchanged the previous gear drive to the rear axle with a chain drive. Although other steam wagons used chain drives, this was the first to use a single chain, with the differential mounted on the axle rather than the chassis, and with a chain to each wheel. The rear wheels were large in diameter and constructed on the traction engine pattern, with two rows of narrow built-up spokes. As these wheels were too large to fit under the load deck of the wagon, they were mounted outboard of it, requiring an extra-long axle.[5] These wagons were sold by the 'Straker Steam Vehicle Co' with offices at 9 Bush Lane, London and the works in Bristol. [6] They took part in the War Office Trials at Aldershot of 1901, where they were awarded £100,[7] and 1902[8] By 1902 the rear wheels had been reduced in diameter and now had six broader spokes from a flat sheet: a single sheet for the 2 ton, doubled for the 5 and 7 ton models. The steam engine itself was a two-cylinder compound, with cylinders of 7" stroke and 4" and 7" diameter. The transmission was relatively crude, using open gears rather than the enclosed oil-bath that was in use amongst other makers,[3] and indeed used for the high-speed engine of their 2-ton light tractor. Two gears were provided, but one was only intended for hill-climbing and could only be selected from alongside the engine, not from the driver's cab.

The boiler was Straker's own development of the original De Dion.[9] It was a vertical water-tube boiler, constructed from four concentric tubes. The inner and outer pairs of tubes were joined to form two double-walled water jackets. Between these jackets ran numerous short, straight watertubes, sloping up slightly towards the centre. The central waterspace was higher than the outer space, acting as a steam dome. This also made the boiler's water level less sensitive to tilting when hill climbing, a great concern for many wagon makes. The boiler was fired by dropping fuel, usually gasworks coke, down a central firing chute. For cleaning every few months, the outer shell could be removed entirely.

In many ways the boiler was similar to, and a precursor of, the Sentinel of 1905. It did however require more labour to manufacture four shells rather than two, with considerably more tubes. The work of removing the boiler shell was also greater for the Straker, as it required the pipework and external fittings to first be removed.

For 1905, inspired by the new regulations, an almost completely new design was produced.[3] This was a conventional traction engine-style overtype with a locomotive boiler.

No Straker steam wagons are known to have survived today.

Car models

The first pre-war models consisted of the Straker-Squire 16/20 and 12/14 Shamrock. Next, Fedden designed the 15 hp model in three versions, which were more conventional than later designs influenced by the company's experience in aero engines. These 4-seater 15-20 hp models were developed over six years and in advertising were described as the best medium powered cars on the world market. A specially prepared 15-hp driven by Witchell took several records at Brooklands including the flying mile in 1910 at 95.54 mph (153.76 km/h) (21 hp class), and the same year saw class wins at the Aston Clinton, Caerphilly, Pateley Bridge and Saltburn Hill Climbs. 1914 saw similar success including 4th in the TT.

Production of the 15 hp was revived after World War I, which was joined by the large 6 cylinder 20/25, 24/80 and 24/90 models. The 24/90 was light, quick and noisy, it was guaranteed to meet 70 mph (110 km/h) and was priced at the 1919 Olympia Motor Show initially at £1,600. Straker's nephew H "Bertie" Kensington Moir of Aston Martin fame tested the prototype at Brooklands and set a class record lap at 103.76 mph.[10] The final cars built by Straker-Squire were the lighter 4 cylinder 10/20 and 12/20 models.

The full list of Straker-Squire models is:[11]

15 hp Mark 2 1912
15 hp Mark 2 1912

Bus manufacturing

Straker-Squire began by supplying a small number of buses to GWR road motor services before expanding rapidly to cater for the London Bus market. In 1905 work included the bus chassis used for Royal Army Medical Corps ambulances[12] and they manufactured 50 omnibus chassis and engines for London buses.[13] By 1909 Straker-Squire dominated the market and the factory in Fishponds supplied 70% of London's buses.[14] Great Eastern of London took delivery of another 22 in bright yellow chrome livery in 1911. Post war the A-type bus in chassis and/or body form sold very well.

The company was also involved in the manufacture of trolleybuses. The general manager of the Teesside Railless Traction Board developed a new and improved trolleybus design[15] and Clough, Smith arranged for it to be manufactured. It was marketed as the Straker-Clough trolley omnibus. This chassis and design came to be regarded as both pioneering and improving the industry standard.[16] The chassis was manufactured by Straker-Squire, the electrical equipment by BTH of Bath, Somerset, and Clough, Smith arranged production of the bodies. The whole would be sold to system operators as part of a package deal which included the design, supply and installation of the overhead electrical equipment.[15]

Truck models

The first trucks built were German designed Büssing 2cyl trucks under licence from 1906. Truck models included.:[17]

Commercial vehicle production moved to Twickenham during the war. After car production ended in 1926 a limited number of bus and truck chassis and Straker-Clough trolley buses were also built.

See also


  1. ^ Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd Retrieved on 2007-11-26.
  2. ^ Matthews, Nigel. "Collector Classics: Steam wagon maker turned to automobiles". Hagerty. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Norris, William (1906). Modern Steam Road Wagons. pp. 88–91. ISBN 9781408609170.
  4. ^ Norris, Modern Steam Road Wagons, p. 151
  5. ^ "Straker Steam Vehicle Co, 1901" (photograph). Graces' Guide.
  6. ^ "Straker Steam Vehicle Co". Graces' Guide.
  7. ^ "Straker Steam Vehicle Co, 1902". Graces' Guide.
  8. ^ Kennedy, Rankin (1905). The Book of Modern Engines and Power Generators. III (1912 ed.). London: Caxton. pp. 205–209.
  9. ^ Norris, Straker, p. 31-33
  10. ^ UK Car: Straker-Squire Retrieved on 2007-11-28.
  11. ^ Culshaw, David & Horrobin, Peter The Complete Catalogue of British Cars Veloce 1997 ISBN 0-9541063-9-3 p380.
  12. ^ Steam Traction: Days of Steam Retrieved on 2007-11-28.
  13. ^ 20th Century London: LGOC Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  14. ^ Bartlett, John Images of England, Fishponds Tempus 2004 ISBN 0-7524-3315-6 p117
  15. ^ a b Lumb, Geoff (1995). British Trolleybuses: 1911–1972. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 48. ISBN 0711023476.
  16. ^ Lumb, Geoff (1995). British Trolleybuses: 1911–1972. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 0711023476.
  17. ^ AutoLemon: Truck Straker-Squire Retrieved on 2007-11-29