My books on manufacturing

My books on manufacturing
My books on manufacturing history
Showing posts with label Land Rover. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Land Rover. Show all posts

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Jaguar and Land Rover - odd bedfellows?

William Lyons and the Wilks brothers created remarkable companies which made iconic vehicles. Was it just fate that brought the companies together?

The route to the first ‘marriage’ was circuitous.

In the fifties, William Lyons and Jaguar were doing well, producing cars much in demand and they had virtually doubled in size by buying Daimler, but also Coventry Climax and Guy Motors. To be honest this was a pretty rich mix. It therefore still strikes me as strange that Lyons would enter into merger discussions with George Harriman at BMC. Yet, we have to remember the times  –  when BMC’s Mini was the must have vehicle for swinging sixties. BMC also owned MG and Austin-Healey whose sports cars were much in demand.  It seems that Lyons saw BMC as having the weight to finance the development of the Jaguar models which he had at least in his mind if not on the drawing board. Jaguar merged with BMC to become British Motor Holdings in 1966.

The Wilks brothers had retired from Rover in the early sixties and Donald Stokes of Leyland viewed the company as offering a slice of motoring quality to the bus and truck company which he ran. Rover would join Triumph which had become part of Leyland with the Standard-Triumph acquisition in 1960.

The mid sixties saw BMH running into trouble. The answer in the eyes of the new Labour government was size and this would be provided by the charismatic Donald Stokes and Leyland. The merger took place in 1968.

The new group had riches beyond price in terms of wonderful motor cars. The Jaguar E-type and XJ6, the Rover P6, the Triumph 2000 not to mention the MGB and Triumph TR5. It also had a vehicle originally made for farmers from aluminium left over from aircraft production – the Land Rover. Rather more ominously it had a large number of old factories, dominant shop stewards and mass market motor cars that the public didn’t really want.

I explore what became the British Leyland story in my next book, Vehicles to Vaccines.

For this blog I note just three events that ensured that Jaguar and Land Rover would survive.

The rationalisation of BL could so easily have led to the loss of the Land Rover; instead the factory at Solihull was made over to 4x4 production. The Range Rover had been introduced at the end of the sixties just as BL was running out of money. The car was perfectly timed and demand soon far exceeded supply.

A little later, a brilliant manager, Geoffrey Robinson, was appointed Managing Director of Jaguar. He had no intention of the marque losing it kudos and initiated an ambitious plan to bring the company back on track. A lack of money caused this plan to run into the buffers. The appointment of Michael Edwards to lead to the eventual breakup of British Leyland had for Jaguar a streak of brilliance for he appointed John Egan to take up the reins at the then floundering motor company. Egan and his team brought Jaguar back so much so that, following privatisation, Ford paid handsomely for what was to lead their new speciality car group.

British Leyland became the Rover Group and this was bought by BMW. They in turn sold Land Rover to Ford where it worked closely with Jaguar.

The rest as they say is history, Jaguar and Land Rover both now prosper as JLR as part of the Tata Group.

It is ironic that the Wilks family didn’t see the Land Rover as their great success; it was the experimental vehicle powered by a gas turbine – Rover had after all been part of the development of the jet engine. Had this been the case, Jaguar and Rover would have been head to head. Had Land Rover stuck to the utility vehicle so loved by explorers, Ford may well not have looked at them. Yet with the Range Rover successors, Land Rover and Jaguar together look to the luxury car market where they both can prosper.

The ashtray belonged to my Dad who owned one of the first SS cars to carry the name Jaguar  


Friday, August 18, 2023

Lucas - King of the Air

Lucas occupied a special place in the aircraft industry supplying electrical systems for aircraft.

The number of aircraft manufactured in the UK before and during WW2 was enormous and under continuous development, and so Lucas engineers were busy not only manufacturing but researching and designing new products. For example, some 200,000 Rotax magnetos had been supplied for Rolls-Royce Merlins.

After the war, they designed brand new magnetos for Rolls-Royce Griffins for Avro Shackletons and also for Bristol Hercules 730s. With the coming of the V bombers, Rotax supplied complete electrical systems for the Vickers Valiant. The Vulcan and Victor also had significant input from Rotax. This work flowed into a contract to equip the Rolls-Royce Dart for the Vickers Viscount; they also equipped the Bristol Britannia, de Havilland Comet and Hawker Hunter.

The increasing complexity of aircraft and the associated demand on the electrical supply partly wrong footed Rotax allowing English Electric, which had taken a license to manufacture Sundstrand constant speed drives for aircraft generators, a foothold in the supply chain.

As Gas Turbine engines became ever more powerful, the issue of the ignition unit became ever more contentious. This allowed Plessey and BTH another toehold. Lucas was never a company to be beaten for long, and it was Lucas that developed the electronics for the Rolls-Royce Avon.

Eric Earnshaw had been a driving force at Rotax and had begun a policy of diversification when he saw the market under pressure. One was the solid-rotor alternator developed for aircraft but also employed to advantage in the Chieftain tank. Another was the heat pump – many years before its time. Earnshaw’s focus and energy ensured that Lucas was at the head of the pack with aero-engine technology.

With the purchase of Bristol Siddeley by Rolls-Royce, he saw the need to combine component suppliers and went about a programme of purchases devoting much money, time and effort to support Rolls-Royce with the development of the RB211. This could so easily have been disastrous when Rolls ran out of money. The Lucas position was saved by the nationalisation of their customer and their work continued.

The focus of Lucas work in aviation was sharpened further by its renaming as Lucas Aerospace. Lucas Aerospace worked on the re-heat system to provide bursts in increased power for the Phantom. They also developed digital fuel control for jets which by their nature experiences extreme conditions. Little of this work was done in isolation. Lucas worked with Rolls-Royce but also with Bosch and computer manufacturers Marconi-Elliott.

Image with thanks to the British Motor Archive

 I write more in my forthcoming book, Vehicles to Vaccines.

How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World is now available to pre-order

Phil Hamlyn Williams has completed his sixth book beginning an exploration of British manufacturing. His great-grandfather exhibited at the ...