Sunday 8th February 1891
Frederick Simms, founder of the RAC and Daimler wrote a letter containing the first recorded use of the term “motor car”.
In 1889, the 26-year-old Simms met and became firm friends with Gottlieb Daimler, from whom in 1890 he purchased the rights for the use and manufacture of Daimler’s high-speed petrol engine and other patents, in the British Empire – ‘England and the colonies’ (excluding Canada).They were first used in motor launches but soon paved the way for the start-up of the British motor industry. In May 1890 his mechanic Johann van Toll was sent ahead to look after their borrowed launch at Putney and van Toll obtained premises in the new Billiter Buildings at 49 Leadenhall Street, London for Simms & Co Consulting Engineers. There had been no purpose in Simms bringing a car with him because of the restrictions in Britain.
In May 1891, Simms demonstrated the motor launch on the Thames, and in May 1893 formed The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited to fit petrol engines into boats becoming, possibly, the UK’s first motor company. This work was performed under Putney Bridge, where the launches were shown.
Following the signal success of Daimler-powered Peugeots and Panhards at the 1894 Paris-Rouen Trials, Simms decided to open a motor car factory. In June 1895, Simms and Evelyn Ellis bought in France and brought to England one of the first petrol–powered cars into the UK.
In early 1896, Lawson’s British Motor Syndicate Limited (about to incorporate The Daimler Motor Company Limited), bought The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited. In early 1896, Simms was appointed a director of Stuttgart’s Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft which later became Daimler-Benz. He remained consulting engineer to Lawson’s The Daimler Motor Company Limited but, perhaps wisely, did not join its board of directors.
On 14 November 1896, Simms and Daimler took part in The Motor Car Club’s Emancipation Day procession from London to Brighton, co-organised with H J Lawson, celebrating the lifting of the speed limit under the Locomotive Act which had required vehicles to travel no faster than 4 mph (6.4 km/h). This Emancipation Day drive is still commemorated by its annual replay, the London to Brighton run.
Simms founded the Automobile Club of Great Britain (later the RAC) in 1897. He also assisted with the foundation of what became the Royal Aero Club. Simms’ Motor War Car was the first armoured car ever built. It was designed and ordered in April 1899 and a single prototype was built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim on a special Coventry-built Daimler chassis with a German-built Daimler motor. Due to various mishaps Vickers was unable to complete it until early 1902 after the end of the Boer War.
In 1902 he founded, and was elected the first president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).