Scotsman Alexander Govan served his apprenticeship in the cycle industry in Redditch, near Birmingham, taking careful note in the very infant days of the motor car of his employers move towards importing the new-fangled motor car for re-sale. Govan returned to Scotland in 1899, obtained financial backing from Warren Smith of the National Telegraph Company and set up business in the Hozier Street premises in Bridgeton of the defunct Scottish Cycle Company. Govan established the Hozier Engineering Co. and designed and built his first voiturette before the turn of the century. Early Argyll cars used De Dion, Simms and MMC engines. Govans cars were immediately successful, although it is thought that this cannot be attributed entirely to his own genius as the new cars bore an uncanny resemblance in design to the contemporary Renault models. A vertical, single-cylinder engine was forward mounted, driving through a three-speed gearbox with shaft drive to a live rear axle. A distinctive wrap-around radiator was used with cooling on thermo-syphon principles. Early cars featured vertical tiller steering and were equipped with larger size rear wheels. For the 1901 season more conventional wheel steering replaced the tiller and for 1902 the horse power rating was 8hp rather than the 5hp rating of earlier cars.
This car was originally shipped to Ireland for use by an army officer and registered in Dublin. The precise details of its early history are not fully recorded but in the 1914 Motor Directory RI 44 was registered to a Walter Lewis Fleming of Harcourt Terrace, Dublin, and it is thought that his family had acquired the car some considerable time earlier. In 1915 or so the car belonged to a Frank Barratt and was acquired by the Ryder family of Dublin in 1938, remaining in that ownership for twenty years until acquisition by the present family in 1958. Its new engineer owner, Geoffrey McCrea of Belfast, embarked upon a meticulous restoration of a highly original car, carefully conserving and preserving originality in all major respects. Upon completion of restoration the car participated actively in events organised by the Irish Veteran & Vintage Car Club (taking part in the inaugural rally of that organisation), the Leinster Motor Club and the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, regularly participating in the London to Brighton Run in the late 1950s and 1960s, taking part in the V.C.C. Scottish Rally in 1959 and the FIVA International Rally in Ireland in 1967. On all of these outings RI 44 demonstrated outstanding reliability.
RI 44 is powered by a single cylinder Simms engine, with automatic inlet valve and low tension ignition. Drive is transmitted through a cone clutch and three-speed gearbox with reverse, while braking is effected through apple wood blocks on the rear drums and a foot transmission brake. The original coachwork is liveried in green with red coachlining and the car retains its original Dietz oil sidelamps and oil rear lamps. The brown upholstery has that delightful patina that comes only with the most careful ownership. Interestingly the rear part of the tonneau coachwork is detachable, enabling the car to perform still more briskly.
RI 44 comes with an excellent history file with invoices recording its restoration some fifty or so years ago. It comes also with copies of photographs recording past and present ownership and owners correspondence with fellow enthusiasts over many years.
In recent years the car has been exhibited at The Grampian Transport Museum in Scotland and exercised only occasionally in appropriate events. It is Veteran Car Club dated, (Certificate No.772), and comes with old style Northern Ireland buff log book from 1958 and modern Northern Ireland V5 registration book. Scottish veteran cars with such perfect provenance and originality are exceedingly rare in private hands and this car comes from a family where that originality and provenance have been much cherished.