The Major and the Phoenix

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 11

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 11

While travelling Scotland on military leave, the Major drove a Phoenix 11.9 as well as an Austin 7HP, also known as “7/9 Swift” through the Scottish countryside.

Phoenix Company was founded by J. van Hooydonk. Allegedly burned as a young child, Hooydonk named his company after the mythical phoenix, a bird that would burst into flame and later resurrect itself. Originally, Hooydonk was interested in cycling, but later, his interests turned to motorcycles. Phoenix Company began by producing motorcycles, then tri-cars and finally in 1907, four-wheeled cars. However, the company only lasted 23 years from 1903-1926.

The Phoenix 11.9 had a 1492 cc four-cylinder engine, a three-speed transmission, and a worm gear axle. To the left is a photograph album page that features a photograph of the Major in his Phoenix 11.9. The 1919 model year featured a scuttle radiator while the 1921 model year featured a more conventional front radiator. One side of the cylinder block was closed off by an aluminum block, to prevent cracking during the winter months. The engine mountings were bolted to the side-members of the chassis, strengthening the frame. The crankshaft ran in three die cast white metal bearings. White metal is a combination of antimony, tin, lead, cadmium, bismuth, and zinc. The pistons were made of a light alloy. Fragments on Forgotten Makes describes the car’s drive as having a “very smooth metal cone clutch running in oil to a 3-speed and reverse gearbox with r.h. change, the lever working in a substantial gate, of which it carried the selective section.”

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 17

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 17

Initially, the Phoenix 11.9 had an overhead-worm back axle which gave the car a high ground clearance. This high clearance made the car extremely popular among the British colonies where paved roads were less common. Because of this popularity, the Phoenix Company continued to produce the Phoenix 11.9 with a high ground clearance. Brakes on the Phoenix 11.9 were operated both by foot and by hand. While the gearbox on a Phoenix looks normal, it runs in reverse of a normal gearbox.  

The Major also drove what was marketed as both an Austin 7Hp and Swift 7/9, in the photograph album the Major calls it the “7/9 Swift.” It can be seen in the page from the album on the right.

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 7

Military family motor tour of India photograph album, Page 7

The "7/9 Swift" had a one cylinder 1087 cc engine. Both the crank-shaft and the gearbox revolved in unbushed bearings. Limited in speed, the car at most reached 30 miles per hour. The cars vibrated excessively making the ride uncomfortable, which most likely contributed to its short production life of only two years.

The Major also drove a Phoenix 8/10, which can be seen in the photograph album page to the left. The car was first produced in 1907, and it possessed a twin cylinder 1272 cc engine that had an output of 8 horsepower. The three-speed transmission was connected to the wheels via a chain-drive.