Simms’s Motor Scout was the first armed petrol engine powered vehicle ever built

David Goran
Featured image

In 1898, British inventor Frederick Richard Simms designed and built the Simms Motor Scout, a vehicle powered by one and a half horse power Simms petrol engine and was armed with a standard mark IV Maxim machine gun. It was the first ever armed petrol powered vehicle.

It was not intended for running over ploughed fields or charging but designed to provide a cover or support infantry and cavalry wherever good roads were available. Simms mounted a standard mark IV Maxim machine gun above the front wheels of a quadricycle. The Maxim gun took, with its readily accessed 1,000 rounds of ammunition, the place of a second rider. The driver operated the machine gun and he put an iron shield in front of the car for the driver’s protection.

Rare photo of Simms's Motor Scout, June, 1899. Source

Rare photo of Simms’s Motor Scout, June 1899. Source

A one and a half horsepower Simms’ Patent Automatic Petrol Motor with Simms magneto-electric ignition was fitted and the standard tank carried enough fuel for 120 miles. The Motor Scout was convertible to a two-seated quadricycle. The quadricycle was also available without the gun for non-military purposes as a two-seated vehicle for £120. Simms acquired some of the foreign patent rights to the petrol engine.

In 1900 he set up Simms Manufacturing Company Ltd in Bermondsey and moved the business in 1902 to Welbeck Works in Kimberley Road, Kilburn. There they made Simms-Welbeck cars, lorries and marine engines, fire engines, agricultural vehicles, military vehicles and guns, and aeronautical devices until about 1908. Simms invented the first rubber bumper and a prototype indicator.

For comparison- A De Dion quadricycle of 1900 at the Louwman museum, Netherlands. Source

For comparison- A De Dion quadricycle of 1900 at the Louwman museum, Netherlands. Source

Frederick Simms not only invented the first armed petrol vehicle he also invented the very first armoured car (article soon). Two other things his is famous for are that on the 15th October 1895 Frederick Simms organised the very first British Motor Show , which was called  “the Horseless Carriage Exhibition”. This was held in the Agricultural Show Grounds at Tunbridge Wells. He was also the founder of the Automobile Club of Great Britain, Which later became the RAC. The next vehicle designed by Simms, the Motor War Car, can be considered the world’s first real armoured car.