The Service Engineering Company of Bradmore

Makers of a prototype steam car, 1949

 In the book Made in Nottinghamshire: the motor manufacturing heritage, reference is made to an unusual experiment made by the Service Engineering Company of Farr treet in Bradmore near Nottingham, when, in 1949, they made public their recent experiments in producing a steam-powered car for the modern age.

Steam-powered road vehicles had been widely experimented with in the early days of motoring - in the early 1900s - some companys, such as Stanley in the U.S., gaining a degree of widespread success.

In the UK steam engineering for road vehicles had proved less popular, and certainly by 1949 most people would have written it off as impracticable.

With petrol rationing still in force after the Second World War, however, (it was not withdrawn until 1958) we can perhaps see how a return to steam power might have seemed worth re-considering as a practical means of motoring for the ordinary man.

And it was against this background that the Service Engineering Co. - based in the picturesque village of Bradmore five miles south of Nottingham - announced their plans to produce a new steam driven motor car.

Announcing the Bradmore team Car

A press release in the Light Steam Power magazine of April 1949 suggests that this 5/6 seater vehicle resembled a standard internal combustion engined car of the time with an all metal body.  It was stated that “the complete power plant, comprising - engine, boiler, condenser and ancillaries - is housed comfortably under a bonnet of normal size”.

It was intended to take advantage of un-rationed medium viscosity oil for its fuel, but in effect was able to run on anything from paraffin to recycled engine oil.  It had a two cylinder double acting engine with a solid high tensile steel crankshaft. The gearbox and crankcase were all one casting. The engine was designed to run at 2,000rpm and the vehicle was said to have a road speed of 80mph.

 It had independent suspension and Girling brakes on 16 inch wheels, and came fully equipped (including a radio) at a price of £530 plus purchase tax.


No Photograph!

 At the time of visiting the works the Light Steam Power representative was unable to see the prototype car which was away for painting.  A second car, however, was nearing completion in the works, and the writer described it as “of modern but restrained design”; discreetly streamlined with rounded wings that joined across the front of the bodywork.  Unfortunately no photograph of the vehicle was provided in the article, and research by the present authors has also failed to unearth any pictures locally.

 Continuing, the Light Steam Car magazine noted that the oil fuelled power unit was designed by T.W. H. Fairclough in partnership with a Mr Howard and that they were also able to provide the power unit for conversion of cars with traditional petrol engines.  There was also a marine version of the engine available which was quoted as being moored for inspection on the Trent at Beeston.

 The vehicle, said the article, was the product of six years’ experimentation and development, and production was expected to start in September 1949 with an output of around 25 vehicles a week.  It was considered that a high proportion of the production would be for export.

 The Light Steam Power magazine was hoping to run an in depth feature on the car nearer its launch. It would appear that it never happened…..



Research in the village today has revealed one lifelong resident, now in his 90s, who does remember an engineering company on the corner of Far Street and Donkey Lane and that it had been involved in work “for the Ministry” during the war.  But, he says, he cannot recall anything with wheels being produced by the company.  Further investigations along the Trent at Beeston have likewise failed to reveal anything about the marine engine.  It is assumed that further development of the Bradmore Steam Car became irrelevant when petrol rationing was lifted the following year, on 26 May 1950.

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