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Valveless; Lucas Valveless


1901-1908 Ralph Lucas, Blackheath, London
1908-1914 Valveless Cars Ltd., Huddersfield, Yorkshire

Ralph Lucas was a pioneer of the 2-stroke engine, which he first installed in a car in 1901.  It was a vertical twin with a common combustion chamber and transverse crankshafts.  There was no reverse gear as this was obtained by reversing the direction of the engine, but on later models an epicyclic reverse gear was provided.  An epicyclic gearbox provided two forward speeds, and final drive was by chain.  The cars were bonnetless as the engine was centrally mounted.  Lucas worked quietly on his cars for six years without forming a company or selling any, but in 1907 he formed Valveless Cars Ltd with an office in St. Martin's Lane, London and works at Blackheath.  One car, by then with a conventional bonnet, although the engine was still under the seats, was exhibited at the 1907 Olympia Show on the stand of Crawshay--Williams which had made cars in 1904-06, and was presumably hoping to sell the Lucas Valveless.

Nothing came of the association with Crawshay-Williams, and no Valveless cars were made commercially until the design was taken up by David Brown of Hudddersfield.  The car it made had the same basic engine design as Lucas' prototypes, but it was now mounted at the front  with longitudinal crankshafts, and drove through a 3-speed gearbox to a worm rear axle.  The man chiefly responsible for the David Brown version was Frank Burgess, who later went to Humber and was instrumental in the design of the first 3-litre Bentley.  The 3888cc 25hp Valveless was made through the 1911 season, and was then replaced by smaller models of 15 and 20hp (2501 and 3216cc).  Several hundred Valveless cars were made up to 1914, but the design was not revived after World War 1, and David Brown had no further involvement with car manufacture until it bought Aston Martin and Lagonda in 1947.

Source: Nick Georgano/Beaulieu Encyclopaedia of the Automobile

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