The company was a producer of motorcycles (see separate entry below) and
cars in Wolverhampton, from around 1912. The company was based at Thrapston,
Northamptonshire, before moving to Wolverhampton. Clyno motorcycles
were produced from 1909 to 1923.
1922 Developing from a motorcycle manufacturer, the Clyno Engineering
Company (1922) Ltd, founded by Frank Smith, became the surprise success
of British cars, manufacturing in the 1920s becoming the country's third
largest car manufacturer. Based in Pelham Street, Wolverhampton, England
they made in excess of 40,000 cars between 1922 and 1929.
The name allegedly came from the slogan "Car Like You've Never Owned" but
in reality is a nickname for "clined." Their early motorcycles used an
innovated two-speed pulley for the belt drive, which they called inclined,
hence "clined." The pulleys had been made by the Smith brothers in 1909
by the Clyno Engineering Company based in Thrapston, Northamptonshire,
and in 1910 complete motorcycles were starting to be made using Stevens
went into voluntary liquidation in late 1910, and the Smith brothers agreed
to buy their factory in Pelham Street, Wolverhampton.
1910 Stanley Show Report
Clyno Engineering Co.
Stand No. 262X.
This firm show three patterns of motor-cycles, one type being fitted
with a side-car. The two heavier machines are both of 5-6 H.P., but one
is belt driven, whilst the other is provided with two chains, and a
two-speed gear is arranged. These two machines are fitted with partial
covers to the valves—a step in the right direction. A single-cylinder 2i
H.P. machine, of the belt-driven class, is also exhibited, and is a
very handsome machine.
In 1912, they expanded into the factory that had been used to build Humber
bicycles. The First World War brought many orders for a combination machine
with Vickers machine gun. With the growth in car sales motorcycle production
ceased in 1923.
The first car, and mainstay throughout their existence, the 10.8, designed
by A. G. Booth, had a 1,368cc four-cylinder side valve Coventry Climax
engine with Cox Atmos carburettor and a three speed gearbox. Initially
no differential was fitted but this was soon added.
1922 Restructured as the Clyno Engineering Co (1922) Ltd.
From 1926 four wheel brakes were standardised. It was renowned for its
reliability and economy. About 35,000 are thought to have been made including
some sports versions and de luxe Royal models.
1924 A slightly bigger model, the 13 (later 12/28), but still with the
same 8 feet 9 inch wheelbase was introduced in 1924 using Clyno's
own engine which had a 69mm bore, 3mm more than the 10.8 but the same 100
m stroke. About 8,000 were made.
1927 A new factory in Bushbury, on the northern outskirts of Wolverhampton,
was added in 1927, and with it two new models. The 12/35 had the engine
bored out to 69.5 mm to increase the capacity to 1593cc, presumably to
cater for heavier coachwork, although most of these chassis seem to have
carried fabric bodies.
1928. June. Announced the small fabric bodied Nine with a 951cc
engine selling at £115. The Century version was an attempt
at a £100 car but quality was starting to suffer and the depression
of the late 1920s saw a sales slump with severe competition coming from
the Austin 7 and MorrisMinor.
1928 Names Frank Smith as Managing Director and James Cocker as Director.
1928 The Times says that the 12-35 Olympic saloon is the best Clyno car
he has driven.
1928 Aug 3rd. Meeting of creditors.
1928 Sep 7th. Bankruptcy notice.
1929 August. All company assets purchased by Alfred Herbert Ltd. A month
later they sell it on to R. H. Collier and Co.
In an apparent attempt to move up market a prototype straight 8 was made,
but never went into production.
Note: In its heyday Clyno was the third largest car manufacturer
in the UK after Austin and Morris.
1909 to 1923
1909 The first machines were produced by cousins, Frank Smith and Ailwyn
Smith. They had previously made their name as a supplier of adjustable
engine pulleys for motorcycles, sold under the name of Clyno. Using
the same name, they moved on to complete machines that they exhibited at
the Stanley Show. There were two models, a 3hp single and a 6hp V-twin,
both fitted with Stevens
engines, belt drive, their own adjustable pulley and sprung forks.
1910 Late that year, production was moved to the Stevens'
former Pelham Street factory in Wolverhampton.
1911 The twin had the option of two speeds and chain drive.
1912 Using twin sets of primary chains to double up on the ratios, four-speed
1913 They offered just the V-twin with a three-speed gearbox and chain
1914 Directory lists them as Clyno Engineering Co., Pelham Street,
Wolverhampton and as motor cycle manufacturers
1914 That was joined by a lightweight with a 269cc two-stroke engine, an
inclined cylinder and two speed built-in with the engine.
1915 A larger two-stroke made a brief appearance and a second version of
the V-twin was added. It was modified for army use as a combination that
could carry a heavy machine gun and its ammunition.
1916 Just that model continued for that year. Some were sent to Russia,
followed by a later batch fitted with an 8hp JAP
1919 Post World War I, they exhibited the two-stroke and a new version
of the V-twin with a larger engine, at the Olympia Show. That model was
intended for sidecar use,
so its frame was fitted with rear suspension controlled by leaf springs,
but its appearance was delayed.
1922 Following financial re-organization, that model appeared, but the
two-stroke was only built for a year or two.
1923 It made a brief return to run alongside the V-twin, but at the end
of that year motorcycle] production came to an end as the company had become
heavily involved in the car industry.
In 1929 Clyno went bankrupt and the assets were purchased by Birmingham
based R. H. Collier. The main distributors had been the Rootes Brothers
who at one time tried to buy the company. But, from 1928 they decided to
concentrate on Hillman and this
hastened the demise of Clyno.
1929 The company went into liquidation on 11th February, 1929. During its
lifetime it had sold over 15,000 motorcycles and 40,000 motor vehicles.