The original Anzani Moteurs d’Aviation was situated at 112 Boulevard de Courbevoie, Courbevoie, Paris and opened for business in 1907.
The British Anzani Engine Company was an agency of the original French operation and the first premises were established on November 20th 1912 in Scrubbs Lane, Willesden, London NW10. The majority shareholder was General Aviation Contractors a company which had been established in 1911 under Mr Ridley Prentice to supply aircraft and spares for the emerging British aviation market and which already handled the sales of the French built Anzani motors. They had been given 1500 £1 shares as compensation for the loss of their sole rights.
British Anzani was then solely concerned with making aero engines which were sold from the salesrooms of General Aviation Contractors in Regent Street, London and constructed by Coventry Ordnance Works Ltd., an engineering company known for their contract engineering skills.
You could purchase a 25-30hp Anzani 3 cylinder ‘Y’ for £172, a 40-45hp 6 cylinder radial was £300, a 50-60hp radial was £372, a 70-75hp 10 cylinder radial cost £500 or the 100hp 10 cylinder radial was £600. The 120° radial 3 cylinder was an uprated version of the original Blériot motor bored out to 120×130mm (35hp) while the 45hp radial was a two row machine (the first of it’s kind) made by basically placing a second 3 cylinder motor behind the first at 60° rotation for equal cooling (likewise the 10 cylinder machines were 2×5 cylinder configuration). They featured cast iron cylinders, sprung auto inlet valves, rocker operated exhaust valves, two throw crankshafts, and slipper-type big ends to give their 45hp at 1,300 rpm. The production numbers were relatively small (125 engines were produced between 1914-1918) and during the Great War they were used mainly in British Caudron GIII and GIV trainers. The engine designs didn’t alter drastically through this period although pushrod inlet valves were introduced and water cooling was tried, but reliability was always a problem.
The first chairman of the new company was Dominic L. Santoni a former director of British Deperdussin and listed in the company documentation as an ‘aviator’. Many of his fellow directors also had aviation in their blood. Lt. J.C. Porte was a naval officer and well known pilot who had connections with the American company Curtiss as well as also being a former British Deperdussin director. W.R. Prentice was the third director with flying experience as was Captain J.C. Halahan (Royal Dublin Fusiliers and R.A.F.) and Claude Schofield. Schofield’s Anzani career wasn’t longlived as his name was removed from the company records in 1913 with the word ‘dismissed’ crossed out and ‘resigned’ entered over it!
The original capital investment of £10,000 was enhanced by another £12,000 raised on a debenture in 1915. In December 1916 Hubert Hagens joined the board along with accountant Richard Simpkin. Hagens was a Belgian motorcycle racer and an extremely talented engine designer. The engines he designed and his influence on the company would be significant.
Another important arrival was Gustave Maclure. ‘Mac’ Maclure had joined the company as Works Manager in 1917 from Rolls Royce car division where he had been employed as head of the testing department at only 25 years of age. The addition of Maclure strengthened considerably the engineering expertise available at British Anzani and many rated his talent among the very best in the British engineering industry at the time. He had been brought into the company to oversee the production of the 5 and 10 cylinder aero engines and stayed to design possibly their most successful engine, the 11.9 hp side-valve car engine.
There were many comings and goings at board level and another well known executive was it’s general manager Mr A.M. Ramsay (who was later also MD of the British Caudron aircraft company of Cricklewood and Alloa from 1914-24). There is evidence of a significant alliance with British Caudron and this sharing of directors may be illustrative of that.
In the UK, British Anzani outsourced the manufacture of their engines to Coventry Ordnance Works Ltd. In the 1920s, it was refinanced as British Vulpine Engine Company, and then again as British Anzani Engineering Company, concentrating on small engines and car and motorcycle powerplants. They supplied AC Cars with the 1496cc side-valve four-cylinder (that would become AC's famous 2-litre motor), Frazer-Nash with an 1496cc ohv engine, Morgan Motor Company with a V-twin, and Squire with the R1 twin cam engine. Berkeley Cars used small Anzani motorcycle engines in some models. British Anzani's best known products were motorcycle, lawnmower and outboard engines. Cotton, Tandon and Greeves motorcycles used Anzani motors.
From 1927 the US Anzani agent was a company called Brownback Motor Laboratories Inc, of 1038 Graybar Building, New York. Like the British company they made their own modifications to the engines which included changing the ignition and lubricating systems, the valves, rocker arms and piston designs.
After World War I the British aviation industry contracted and consolidated behind the larger companies and many of the smaller firms disappeared. One of these was British Caudron who made no aircraft after 1919 and eventually went into receivership in 1924. In the depths of the War though they had needed more engines and had given British Anzani the finance to expand and build a production capability at their Willesden site. This led to their most productive year of the war delivering 107 100hp models. Later, a change in buying policy by the Allies meant fewer companies supplying the War effort effectively freezing out the smaller contributors and by February 1918 British Anzani had all but given up trying to compete in the aero engine business. They were still making spares for Curtiss however and doing development work for the Government. They refurbished and repaired old engines and were desperately trying to gain contracts for new engines - and it was with these brand new engines that British Anzani faced the post-war challenge.
One of these engines was to be a Hagens designed 35hp 60° V-twin of 1,100cc which eventually found applications in motorcycles, light cars and aircraft right up until the start of the Second World War. It was based on a 500cc single cylinder French Anzani engine that had been sent over just after the War but Hubert Hagens development skills produced a marvellously powerful engine that appeared in a multiplicity of formats over the next 15 years. It was this little engine that took Claude Temple to a land speed record on two wheels in 1923 and powered AJW, OEC, McEvoy, Trump and Montgomery motorcycles, Morgan sports cars and a score of different types of light aircraft.
The engine had first appeared in 1921 and British Anzani finally ceased to produce the engine themselves in 1938 saying that it was “due to a rush of sub-contract orders and the fact that a new light aero engine is in the design stage.” It was however surplus to requirements although they did continue to manufacture small numbers on behalf of Luton Aircraft until that company’s demise during the war.
The V-twin was supplied in many different formats. The 78×105 stroke (1000cc) which was developed into the 83×101.5 (1100cc) stroke for the later sprint and aero engines. Recognisable by parallel push rods and open rocker gear and known as 8-valvers because of their twin inlet and exhaust valves per cylinder.
In 1922 Douglas Hawkes driving a Morgan with one of these engines achieved two World Records: the Flying 5 (85.14mph) and Standing 10 mile (81.70mph).
This was the engine that was later reintroduced in the Nash years to power the Flying Flea small aeroplanes. It then had a 'softer' cam and had it's power output limited by a 3000rpm rev limit.
The last type of standard V-twin came with diverging push rods and were intended for more prestigeous applications such as the innovative AJW machines. They were designed to have quieter running characteristics and were far more oil-tight.
The final design was the hugely impressive OHC engine Hagens designed for his friend and collaborator Claude Temple. This was the engine with which Temple shattered motorcycle World Land Speed records, firstly at 108.48mph then 120.41mph (and 104.12 with a sidecar) and he also became the first man to do 100 miles in an hour and he held records at the 200 mile mark and 2 and 3 hour limited speed trials.
Airplane manufacturers liked the powerful little motor: ANEC (The Air Navigation and Engineering Company) of Addlestone, Surrey used it in their ANEC I & II monoplanes, Mignet in their HM14, and Hawker powered their little Cygnet biplane with it in 1924. The same year it also appeared in the Bristol Prier-Dickson. The design was eventually purchased in 1938 by the Luton Aircraft Company of Gerrards Cross, who had been fitting it to their Luton Minor and Luton Buzzard range of homebuild light aircraft popularly known at the time as Flying Fleas. The engine was modified yet again by Luton with a slight over-bore and fitted with dual ignition and a different carburettor and was marketed as the Luton-Anzani. Luton went out of business during WWII.
A ready-to-fly Luton 'Flea' finished in any colour and complete with Anzani motor and airscrew was available at £165 or in true home build tradition all the parts could be purchased separately. A plane in kit form (with instructions) was priced at £62.10s.0d
In August 1919 Mr Ramsay resigned and British Anzani was reformed as a limited company under the joint control of Mr R.H. Simpkin (also general manager of the British Caudron factory at Cricklewood, north London) and Hubert Hagens.
In the years after World War II, the company's main product was the 'Iron Horse' - a two-wheeled pedestrian-controlled ploughing engine and light tractor. In time, four-wheeled versions with the driver sitting on the front of the vehicle were produced. The company became the British Anzani Group, and was trading under that name when it went into liquidation in 1980.
The trademark 'British Anzani' was re-registered in 2003 and the company, Anzani Ltd, in 2006. The company is supplying classic spares through Dolphin Engines of Launceston (Cornwall, UK) and was planning a return to the automotive, marine and transport industries, with products designed by Bo Zolland.