Armstrong Siddeley built cars that were designed for the so-called 'top echelon of society'. They were big and roomy; comfortable and well built. Ostentatious they were not. The pop stars of today would not be seen dead in one and they were, to be blunt, rather staid.
All of that changed in 1952 when the new Sapphire 346 was unveiled at the London Motor Show. This was not a traditional Armstrong Siddeley car and the directors were worried that it could damage their reputation. After all, did the class of person who bought their very excellent cars really want one that was capable of 95mph? Should a car as stately as this really be allowed to career down the road at high speed? Many of the top brass of the company feared that their clients would view this in the same way that a Lord Mayor would look at a Morgan +4. An excellent car no doubt but not really suitable for the purpose. However their fears were all for nothing and the car went on to be a success.
The powerplant was designed by that master of the art WO Bentley. it was a 3.4 litre straight six twin cam engine producing 120 brake horsepower and despite the fact that this was one very large car it could easily reached it's planned top speed; when twin carburettors were fitted, which boosted the power output 250 brake horsepower, it could exceed 100 mph! Heady stuff indeed for a gentleman's conveyance.
The rest of the car was extremely traditional. The build quality was impeccable and whilst the interior was all wood and leather there was no excessive ostentation. As befits a car designed to be driven by a chauffeur the doors were hinged to the rear. The bonnet was topped by the company's sphinx motif signifying 'silence'; the front seats could be either individual or a bench for the chauffeur who would not, of course, require the luxury of a comfortable seat! It was stately, traditional and relatively dull; apart from it's performance, which, for the day, was sparkling!
A car as heavy as this could not be expected to be economical to run; a consumption figureof just under 19 miles to the gallon was recorded by a tester. However, this was a vehicle that, despite its size, to go from zero to 60 in 13 seconds; not bad for a limousine in the 1950s!
This was not a cheap car to buy at around £1750; however it sold reasonably well, with a total of just under 7700 manufactured.
By the end of the 1950s the company had merged with Bristol Aero Engines and by 1960 car production was abandoned. Competition had reached a level where profitability was doubtful and a decision was made to concentrate the company's efforts on the aero industry.