The first Wolseley car was revealed in 1896. It was a copy of the French Léon Bollée’s tricycle, designed by Herbert Austin. Equipped with a two-cylinder boxer engine with a top-mounted camshaft, the 1896 tricycle would be the English brand’s only model until 1899 when a 3.5hp model was unveiled. Herbert Austin’s new design had four wheels instead of three but lost a cylinder, opting for a single-cylinder engine instead of the previous two.
Although it was simple in design, the Wolseley 3.5hp quickly proved to be a huge sales success. With 327 cars sold in 1901, the Frederick York Wolseley brand instantly became one of the most successful manufacturers in England. By 1903, Wolseley had manufactured a total of 800 cars—spurring him to take on his rivals in the world of auto racing.
The first competition Wolseley was revealed that same year, equipped with a huge 11,283cc engine developing 70 horsepower—a number which was later increased to 96 with an improved engine. Driving the first Wolseley racing car, Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame finished eighth in the French Grand Prix at Clermont Ferrand. Shortly afterward, the famous partnership between Henry Royce and Charles Rolls began, from which the legend of Rolls-Royce was born.
Wolseley’s golden years came in the second decade of the 1900s when John Davenport Siddeley took over from Herbert Austin as the chief designer. In 1914, the former producer of shearing equipment became the main competitor to the all-powerful Ford Motor Company. The two companies battled for supremacy in the English car market, with Wolseley even being considered as Britain’s top manufacturer, with 4000 cars produced annually—compared to 7000 for the American brand.
With the failure of the Wolseley Ten in 1918, the brand suffered its first financial setback, made worse by a series of unsuccessful new car launches. In 1926, almost bankrupt, Wolseley was sold to their competitor Morris for £730,000.
This car was donated to the Museu do Caramulo by António Medeiros e Almeida.