Some of this country’s outstanding producers of cars have had very close connections with the aviation industry. This is perhaps not surprising considering the extreme limits of accuracy and standards of reliability required for aircraft. You think immediately of Rolls-Royce and Bristol, who are both still making quality cars today. One such manufacturer, no longer in the business of car production, was Armstrong Siddeley, a Company which had developed a reputation for the high quality and finish of their cars.
In 1952 Armstrong Siddeley produced an entirely new model in the form of the Sapphire 346. This vehicle was of considerable note, partly helped by being the only completely new British car at the Earls Court Motor Show that year, and much was written about it at the time.
One of the reasons that the car was of particular interest was its six-cylinder 3,435 cc engine. Being of entirely new design throughout and described by the motoring press at the time as outstanding, it gave a particularly refined driving experience for the period.
The front suspension was independent coil springs with a rigid axle and leaf springs at the rear. The body was available as a four- or six-light (two or three windows on each side) at the same cost and with either a bench or individual front seats.
The upholstery was beautifully trimmed in leather and that air of refinement which only wood can give was achieved by the use of burr-walnut for the attractively designed fascia and window fillets.
It was introduced with the choice of a Wilson electrically-controlled finger-tip four-speed pre-selector gearbox as a £30 option or four-speed synchromesh gearbox. It also became available with an automatic transmission, shared with Rolls-Royce, upon the introduction of the revised model (Mark 2) in 1954. By the time production finished in 1958, 7,697 examples had been assembled.
You will notice that the front doors do not open in the same way as you are used to. Wedding photographers tell us that this is a real bonus as it enables them to take much better pictures of the happy couple in the rear of the vehicle.
The Count is a Mark 2, automatic version of the Sapphire 346 and was first registered in January 1955. He is a 6 light model (with three windows on each side) which we think is the prettiest version, affording greater visibility for the passengers and anyone trying to photograph them; ideal for weddings.
The majority of Sapphires were produced in two tone colour schemes which perfectly accentuate their beautiful flowing lines. The Count no longer wears his original colour combination but benefits from a rich Ruby Red top over Ivory which perfectly complements his Ivory leather interior.
The Count’s early history prior to 1974 is not currently known to us. However, since that time he has belonged to various members of the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club. He was the subject of restoration work between 2008 and 2010 when the colour was changed and the Ivory leather interior installed. In 2011 The Count was sold and moved to Romania, to an area just 100 miles from Transylvania (hence the name for the car). The Count was used for weddings in Romania until 2015 when he returned to this country.
All of our cars are maintained to the highest standards and The Count is no exception. Since returning to England he has received a complete overhaul of the brakes costing just shy of £3,000 and new stainless steel bumpers. During last winter (2016/17) further work has been undertaken including a re-veneered dashboard and the fitting of a new bespoke wiring loom.