£200,000 paid for Elswick built 1904 Wilson-Pilcher

FOR more than £200,000 you’d expect a lot of car with a multitude of extras.

The 1904 Wilson-Pilcher four-seater
The 1904 Wilson-Pilcher four-seater

FOR more than £200,000 you’d expect a lot of car with a multitude of extras.

But it took £203,100 to buy a very basic vehicle built more than a century ago on Tyneside.

The extremely rare 1904 Wilson-Pilcher was built by the man who invented the armoured military tank.

It turned out to be one of the top-selling lots in a vintage car sale yesterday by auctioneers Bonhams.

The car, built in Newcastle by engineer and inventor Walter Wilson, is thought to be the sole surviving example of its type.

Its new buyer acquired a 2.7-litre water-cooled engine with four forward and four reverse gears.

The combined unit is suspended within the chassis on pivots to isolate the occupants from vibration.

The result, according to a 1904 Automotor Journal road test, was remarkably smooth and silent running.

Walter Wilson had an early interest in aviation and was later credited with the invention and development of the first tank, called Little Willie, which ran for the first time in September 1915.

Wilson set up in business with Percy Pilcher, who died in a flying accident in 1899 .

However, Wilson retained Pilcher’s name as a memorial and in 1904 merged his company with Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle.

The car was built at the Elswick works of Armstrong-Whitworth.

After the First World War Wilson and his eldest son went on to run a business called Self Changing Gears Ltd which produced pre-selector Wilson gearboxes for Riley, Talbot, Lanchester and AC and many commercial, railway, marine and military applications.

Records show that the car took part in the London-Brighton Run in 1952. and in 1996 successfully completed the VCC Centenary Run.

In late 1950s the car was presented to A Gordon Wilson, the son of Walter, who was then managing director of Self Changing Gears Ltd.

In 1968 ownership passed to Henry Wilson, grandson of Walter.

In 2011 the new owner of the car was Patrick Wilson, Walter’s great-grandson.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
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