1914 - 1929
Prior to entering the motor manufacturing business Sidney Horstmann had founded the Horstmann Gear Company which made gears and precision tools.
In 1912 he began developing a highly individualistic light car of an advanced design. The car that was put into production in 1914 had a number of unusual features. The engine was a 4 cylinder 995cc monoblock with horizontal overhead valves operated directly by a camshaft mounted in a detachable cylinder head. The aluminium crankcase casting was attached to the chassis frame at the flywheel end and became the mounting for the front quarter elliptic springs whilst doubling up as an undershield. The engine was started by a foot pedal which could be reached from the driver's seat and operated on a massive "acme" thread on the propeller shaft and the three speed gearbox was contained within the rear axle casing. A few two-seaters were made before the war.
The company's precision tools, particularly their thread gauges, were very much in demand for the war effort and Sidney Horstmann received on MBE for his contribution. He dropped the last "n" from his name which was of German origin and inherited from his father Gustav an immigrant clock maker who had settled in Bath in 1854 for obvious reasons.
Horstman Cars Ltd. (with one "n") were in production again in 1919 with the pre-war design, but very soon adopted the 1,498cc Coventry Simplex engine and a chassis modified at the front to accommodate it. The company also built sports and racing models fitted with the more powerful 1,496cc Anzani engine. These engines were catalogued as standard from 1923 but a smaller 4 cylinder Coventry Climax engine of 1,246cc was also listed up to 1929.
Most Horstmans were fitted with conventional open bodies of two or four seats although a saloon model was listed in 1921. The radiator was a very unusual finned aluminium casting reminiscent of the early Daimlers. There was a very rakish Super Sports option with external exhaust pipe and a pointed tail, polished aluminium, body. They were quite competitive and on of the racing models finished fifth in the 200 mile race at Brooklands in 1923.
Horstman was always prepared to embrace new ideas and apart from experimenting with supercharging was the first UK manufacturer to fit Lockheed hydraulic brakes to all four wheels in 1924 (both Horstman & Triumph exhibited them at the Olympia Motor Show in 1924). Their cars were also the first to have cellulose paintwork in 1925.
Although production started well in 1920 sales dwindled quite quickly so that the company was in financial difficulty by 1924 having made a total of about 500 cars. The original car company was wound up and Horstman Ltd was formed, to continue on a more or less informal basis, announcing a saloon called the Pulteney in March 1928 with the Coventry Climax engine. Later that year an experimental car with all round coil spring suspension and a saloon body finished in aluminium cellulose paint was driven for 250,000 miles. It was named the Silver Car but was never put into production. Car manufacture ceased altogether in 1929.
For the next 25 years Sidney Horstman continued to produce components for the motor and other industries through Horstman Ltd. and also developed a particularly popular design of hair clippers for barber shops. Another invention was the slow motion suspension of 1930 which the War Office incorporated into the light tanks. This was followed in 1934 by the Wickham-Horstman thread grinder.
The company was acquired by Simms Motor Units Ltd. in 1954 and became part of the Lucas group in a subsequent takeover and continues as Horstman Camshafts Ltd. The original parent company of Horstman Gears Ltd. also survives and both continue to operate from Bath.