The Advance Motor Manufacturing Co. Ltd

The origins of Advance are a little unsure. It seems likely that the company was started in the latter part of 1902 by Douglas Herbert Gainsford & Frederick Smart, both from Northampton. Prior to that Gainsford & Smart were thought to have had a bicycle shop which hired out primitive motorcycles with wicker trailers. It was based in premises near Abington Square, Northampton. Early in 1903 Joseph Charles Power of Watford joined Advance and together with Gainsford & Smart the design and manufacture of engines and motorcycle began. However in 1936 Advance placed an advert in Whipple's Directory which stated they were established in 1904. Their first engine was a 2 3/4 horse power single cylinder air cooled, with automatic inlet valve. This was built into a motorcycle from around 1903. An example of this model can be seen in the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham. It is the only known example of a complete Advance motorcycle.


An Advance 2 3/4hp Motorcycle.

What we do know for certain is that on 31st May 1905, The Advance Motor Manufacturing Company Ltd was incorporated, company No.84780. The registered office was at Louise Road. The three joint managing directors were:-
Frederick Smart. Mechanical Engineer, 37 Louise Road, Northampton.
Douglas Herbert Gainsford. Mechanical Engineer, 45 York Road, Northampton.
Joseph Charles Power. Mechanical Engineer, 69 Durham Road, Watford.
As part of incorporation, the company acquires Advance Motor Cycle and General Engineering Company of 37 Louise Road, Northampton. Presumably this was the business started by Gainsford & Smart. In addition to the three joint managing directors, there were other share holders. Caroline Alice Smart (presumably Smart’s wife), Kathleen Anna Gainsford (Gainsford’s wife), Alfred George Bradford. Shoe Laster,53 Lorne Road, Northampton and Joseph Power. Accountant, 69 Durham Road, Watford.It is assumed that Joseph Power was the father of Joseph Charles Power, but Bradford’s involvement is unclear. The original share capital was £10,000, 3,000 Preference shares of £1 and 7,000 ordinary shares of £1.


An example of Advance's 3hp engine.

The 2 3/4hp was soon replaced by the 3hp engine, an example of which is owned by the author. It was installed in a motorcycle. The 3hp was in time joined by the enlarged 3 1/2hp and a 6hp V twin, of the same bore & stroke as the 3hp. All Advance engines of this time were of the same basic design, which included Automatic inlet valves and one piece cylinder head and barrel. The Advance engines were very reliable, so much so that they became very much in demand from other motorcycle manufacturers. The engines were also available by mail order from the factory.

By 1906 Joseph Charles Power had moved from Watford to Northampton, to 16 Lorne Road in fact. To aid the accent of steep hills the 'Advance Adjustable Pulley' was invented and patented in 1907. In the same year Advance's sales catalogue displays 3, 3 1/2 & 6 horsepower motorcycles and a ladies version of 3 hp. In addition they made a 6hp forecar and 6 & 9 hp tricars, all of which were available with air or water cooled engines.


An example of a 3hp watercooled Advance engine in a Sphinx motorcycle.

Advance exported their engines all over the world. The above photograph shows a Sphinx motorcycle which was built in Adelaide, Australia. Sphinx also imported complete Advance tricars and badged them as their own. There is reports that an Advance tricar still exist in Australia. The above three examples are the only Advance engines known to still exist.


Advance's Louise Road site.

It’s not until 1908 that Advance start to appear in ‘The Motorcycle’ as motorcycle manufacturers. The same line up of motorcycles and three wheelers were listed, however the 9hp motorcycle was now available with an aircooled engine.

In 1912 the firm moved to larger premises on the corner of Kingsthorpe Road and Balmoral Roads. It was about this time that motorcycle and tricar production ended. It seems that Advance's efforts were channelled into reconditioning engines and the manufacture of the necessary components. A sister company to Advance was incorporated in 1916, Standard Valves Ltd manufactured replacement valves for the motor trade.


Advance's Kingsthorpe Road site.

Whipple's Directory of 1936 features an advert by Advance. It states they were Contractors to the War Office, Admiralty & Air ministry. Engineers Specialist Cylinder re-grinding, repairs and replacements, case hardening and grinding.

Somewhere between 1949 & 1953 Advance was sold to Sheepbridge Engineering of Chesterfield, who were well known for their thin liners for engines. Around this time they were renamed to Advance Motor Supplies Ltd. In 1979 GKN PLC purchased Advance from Sheepbridge and in 1982 changed it's name to GKN Replacement Services Ltd. By 1984 their name had changed again to GKN Autoparts Distribution Ltd. Another name change occurred on 25th Sept 1989 this tome to Autoparts Distribution Ltd. On the 1st January 1990 they then became Partco Ltd and on 1st October 1995 became Partco AutoParts Ltd.