West Midlands: CM Directory
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Graham N/ontgomerie takes ie panoramic view of e manufacturers who hail from the West Midlands and looks at how they're faring in e mar Ket
THE AREA around Coventry and Birmingham has long been thought of as the centre of the British automotive industry. Apart from the actual car makers, many of the component giants are also situated in this area.
In this survey of the automotive activity in the West Midlands I have been looking at those companies with an involvement on the commercial vehicle side. Sheer lack of space has prevented any comments on
the many involvements of corn1 panies like GKN and Lucas both
of whom would need a complete issue of Commercial Motor for this purpose.
On a point of definition, the We St Midlands includes Stafhire, Warwickshire, Shrop, Hereford and Worcester the new -countyof West ands.
ford shir and Mid PA 9T OF the Bristol Street Gro p, Welford Truck Botes Ltd, has two factories Gov ring some 6500 sqm (70, 00 soft) at Tividale, Worcs and 12,000 sqm (130,000 sqft at Stoke-on-Trent.
he company which has a force of 200 is heavily ind in bodybuilding in aluum alloy, steel and timber dition to producing corn e trailers with steel or inium chassis. The product e caters for bodywork suitfor chassis from 11/2 tons s right through to dumpers for xport at 38 tons gross.
elford builds vehicles for the construction industry, local and country authorities, the bre eries, airline baggage handlin and for many electrical aut orities. In addition the compa y has bodyshops which bui d sliding door vans and Cur ain-siders. Most of Welfor s business is with UK custorn rs but a large portion goes for export. Welford supplies rTIO t of the bodywork for Ge rge Wimpey Ltd for use at ho e and abroad, as well as bei g involved in many Leyland an Dodge orders for export.
part from the bodywork sid of the business, Welford is als one of the leading hydraulic lor -loader specialists in the cou try, handling both Hiab and the Italian Pesci machines for whi h the company is the UK dist ibutor.
won vol min in a ple alu ran able gr0
business which began ma ing and repairing farm carts in ral Warwickshire is now — 86 years later — specializing in the design and manufacture of Pu pose-built bodywork in a var ety of materials for fleet operators throughout the country, This is the story of Wilsdon and Co Ltd of Solihull, which has grown from a small family business to one employing 180 people with facilities for all types of bodywork manufacture with flowline or modular construction.
The Wilsdon range of products is extensive and includes
the "Herculiteand -Lodemaster" trade names. The former is a lightweight aluminium body designed to use standard components with body panels and pillars prepunched for interchangeability and ease of repair.
As a company, Wilsdon was a pioneer in the construction of
box bodies built in grp-faced plywood, -Lodemaster" bodies use this construction and can be built with or without tail-lifts.
On the subject of tail-lifts, Wilsdon pioneered a develop ment on this theme whereby the lifting platform is built entirely within the general body frame work. Wilsdon claims that this design allows the body to retain all its strength and rigidity while allowing loading and unloading to take place under cover.
Michelin at Stoke-on-Trent has been producing tyres for the motor industry for over 50 years. The factory, which employed some 300 people when the first tyre was produced in 1927, now has a labour force of more than 7000.
The plant produces radial car and lorry tyres, cycle tyres and tubes. As well as being the headquarters for a UK group of factories which includes plants at Burnley, Belfast, Ballymena, Dundee and Aberdeen, the Stoke factory also includes a lorry tyre retreading unit.
Currently Michelin is exporting to some 100 countries worldwide and gained a Queen's Award in 1977. Total sales turnover in 1978 including export was £398 m.
Quinton Hazel! Ltd claims to be Europe's largest manufac turer of automotive replacement parts and has its group headquarters at Leamington Spa.
The company manufactures 80 per cent of what it sells, with six manufacturing plants and two distribution centres in the UK.
The company is the market leader in the UK parts aftermar ket for water pumps and steering /suspension items. It also has a large share of the clutch and silencer aftermarket.
Quinton Hazell is also an original equipment supplier to such companies as General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Datsun, Peugeot, Leyland, David Brown and Lansing Bagnail.
The QH Underider — an example of which is fitted to CM's own Crane Fruehauf test trailer — has earned the company three major awards. the Automobile Association Gold Medal,the Don International Safety Award and The Design Council Award.
Metro-Cammell Weymann, the Birmingham-based bus producer, has approximately 1,100 employees, of whom 800 are direct production workers. Turnover is currently running at £20 to £25m per year.
The company is now concentrating most of its efforts into double-deck Metrobus production for which orders for around 1000 units have been placed for delivery in 1979, 1980 and the early part of 1981. The Metrobus with its Gardner/ Voith running gear is MCW's first complete bus — previously it has bodied other people's chassis.
The UK orders for the Metrobus are for the 9.5m (31 ft 2in) version and all the PTEs, London Transport, National Bus Company and Scottish Bus Group have placed orders, together with a handful of municipal operators. For the export market one particularly interesting variant has been produced, an 11.45m (37ft 7in) 'Super Metrobus' for the China Motor Bus Company Ltd of Hong Kong.
MCW also has the capability to produce the Metrobus in single-deck form and the company will supply the chassis only in either single or double-deck form for bodybuilding by alternative builders if the customer requires.
Although the Metrobus represents the major part of the MCW effort in the psv field, the company still offers MetroCammell VVeymann bodywork on competitors' double-deck chassis. An example of this is the order for 80 bodies on Fleetline and Atlantean chassis currently being completed for Tyne and Wear PTE.
From its Kenilworth factory, Buckingham Vehicles Ltd exports no less than 82 per cent of its production (by value). The company produces bodywork in general, with the accent on tankers in a variety of shapes and sizes, including those for handling water, fuel oil and agricultural slurry as well as general-purpose tankers and industrial waste tankers.
Nearly 400 tankers of various types and capacities, plus other various types of vehicle bodies, were produced last year by a workforce of 75.
The main export markets for Buckingham products are the Middle and Far East, West and East Africa.
Although Guy has stopped making trucks, there is still a tremendous amount of activity going on at the Wolverhampton plant, courtesy of a £.5m investment programme by Leyland Vehicles.
The plant, which employs 700 people, currently builds the Leyland Victory range of singleand double-deck bus chassis, which are only for overseas markets. The export-only nature of the Guy operation is to be continued with the future introduction of a new range of bonnetted trucks.
Demand for the Victory chassis is currently high, with firm orders for over 2000 chassis — over half of which are going to Africa. Chassis are delivered both in kit form and as built-up units.
The Guy plant occupies 271/2 acres, most of which are under cover. It was first established in 1914 as Guy Motors Ltd and was taken over by Jaguar Cars in 1961. In 1966 Jaguar became part of BMC which itself merged with the then Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968.
Triplex, the UK's biggest safety glass manufacturer, has its headquarters and laminating plant at Kings Norton, Birmingham. The factory was set up in 1928 to supply laminated windscreens for the motor industry. These days it also makes the Ten Twenty safety windscreen (though only for cars at present) and a range of highly specialised windscreens for aircraft and locomotives.
Triplex produces nearly half a million laminated windscreens a year, most of which are fitted to cars where Triplex forecasts a total swing to laminated within the next few years — even without legislation.
On the commercial side, more than two out of three British-built buses and coaches are fitted with laminated glass as standard.
Based at West Bromwich, Brockhouse Transmissions Ltd employs about 350 people in the manufacture of hydraulic torque converters. The product range includes TCL13CV and TCL17CV torque cony 3rters which incorporate a lock-up clutch facility specially designed for commercial vehicle applications.
The units are installed between the engine and the con ventional mechanical gearbox of the vehicle, thus incorporating the advantages of torque converter drive while retaining the features of the mechanical gearbox. One feature of the Brockhouse design is the provi sion of an electrically operated lock-up clutch which gives a direct drive between engine and gear box for on-highway work. The automatic lock-up operation is determined by a vehicle speed, although there is a manual override. In the event of an electrical or hydraulic failure, the lock-up clutch will fail safe in the direct-drive mode.
Brockhouse has recently joined forces with Longton Transport to promote sales of the transmission. The association has made it possible to offer the torque converter as a fitted option on new vehicles, current models so equipped being mainly from the Leyland Redline range.
Craven Tasker (Woodville) Ltd at Burton-on-Trent has been established in the area for some 10 years. It is part of the Craven Tasker group of factories, all of which are engaged in the manufacture of road transport equipment.
The Woodville factory has gained a particular reputation for its range of bodies which are sold in the UK and increasingly overseas with the heavy-duty steel versions. The factory site occupies some 30 acres and employs 200 people.
Although the company is now known for its manual and powered steering gears and oil pumps, Burman and Sons Ltd was originally engaged in the manufacture of agricultural equipment in the years following the company's formation in 1873. It was in 1930 that Burman entered the steering gear market with the Douglas worm-and-nut design.
Burman steering gears are now used world wide and an increasing number of overseas companies are producing Burman designs under licence, including the USA, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Poland, India and Korea.
The total product range encompasses both manual and power recirculating ball as well as rack-and-pinion steering gears for cars, commercial vehicles and tractors.
Burman currently employs approximately 1350 people at two factory locations in the West Midlands and has a turnover of £26m.
Goodyear's factory at Wolverhampton was opened in 1927 to produce truck tyres. Within 12 months this was ex panded to include equipment for cars and tractors. Now the factory produces every type of tyre you can think of, from bicycle tyres up to aircraft tyres by way of tyres for the giant earthmovers. The factory employs 4500 people and last year had a turnover of £180m.
Motor Panels (Coventry) Ltd is Europe's largest independent cab manufacturing company which, over the last 12 years has produced approximately 300,000 cabs of various types. Of these, over 40 per cent have been exported.
The current production rate is running at over 25,000 cabs per year from a workforce of just under a thousand. As well as making panels, frames and cabs for commercial vehicles, Motor Panels also produce car bodies, including for example the Daimler Limousine.
Seddon Atkinson, Shelvoke and Drewry and Fodens use Motor Panels cabs in one form or another and ERF buys the steel framework which goes underneath the SMC bodywork for the B-Series cab.
The Motor Panels standard panel concept, is the only cab system in the world designed for commercial vehicle manufacturers irrespective of their production volumes. It gives the manufacturer a flexibility to use a basic set of panels for a wide variety of applications, claims the maker.
These standard panels represent 70 per cent of the complete cab shell while the tooling provides for cabs manufactured to either the full 2.5m (8f1 21/2in) width or to a narrow version in normal or sleeper cab styles.
The Reliant Motor Cornpany is the main trading subsidiary of the Reliant Motor Group, which currently employs more than 1 600 people in the Midlands and North of England.
Reliant's headquarters are located at Tamworth, Stafford shire, where the business was founded in 1934 for the production of three-wheeler vans.
The Two Gates factory, on the site of the Old Midlands Red bus garage, is in two parts strad
dling the A5 which CM often passes on the Scottish road test
route. About 600 people work at the plant, which is the administrative centre of the company as well as the chassis and main assembly plant.
The company claims to produce the world's widest range of hand-built glass-fibre bodied
vehicles, with some 8000 vehicles produced annually for home and export markets. On the commercial side, the 250 kg (5cwt) three wheeler Robin van has a load volume of 1.4 cum (50 cuft). Its four-wheeled brother the Kitten, introduced in 1976, has a 300 kg (6cwt) payload capability.
Since its beginnings in the vehicle industry in 1934, Reliant has specialised in manufacturing vehicles for lowvolume markets and has deve loped production and design techniques which enable the maximum manufacturing con tent to be achieved with the minimum of capital investment. As an example, an operation was established in Greece in 1 969 with Mebea of Athens for the manufacture of the Reliant TW9 pick-up, a three-wheeler with an 800kg (16cwt) payload. The first Rolls-Royce diesel engine ran at Belper in Derbyshire in 1 949. The Oil Engine Division, later to become the Diesel Division, was esta blished in 1950 with the first production engine — a sixcylinder 1 80 horsepower model — being delivered in 1952.
By 1956 the division has outgrown its original premises so a move was made to the old Sentinel works at Shrewsbury, where the company is still in stalled. The Oil Engine Division became the Diesel Division of Rolls-Royce Motors when the
new company was formed in 1971. This particular section of the old R-R empire is not statecontrolled.
In fact there are two diesel sections at Shrewsbury — one for military and one for civilian products. The civilian product line of course includes the Eagle range — six-cylinder designs with power outputs ranging from 153 to 253 kW (205 to 340 bhp).
The military side of the operation comes under the Rolls-Royce Motors Military Engine Division, which was formed in 1975. This is responsible for the sale of all the companies diesel engines for military applications in the UK and overseas. In 1978 the turnover of the company rose by 25 per cent to over £152m.
Also based at Shrewsbury is the Precision Fabrication Division of Rolls-Royce which specialises in producing components for gas turbines.
The West Midlands area also includes several companies in the vast Leyland organisation, Self Changing Gears at
Coventry was one ot the pioneers of the automatic gearbox being responsible for the Wilson pre-selector gearbox introduced during the 1930s. The company today produces semiand fully-automatic gearboxes for many different applications, including military, marine, locomotive as well as the -conventionalareas of buses and lorries.
Also based at Coventry is another member of the Leyland group, Alvis Ltd, which produces the Scorpion range of lightweight, tracked armoured vehicles, which are at present in service with the British and Belgian armies as well as other overseas armed forces. Alvis also produces components for other vehicles including the turret for the Fox armoured car.
Coventry Climax is, not surprisingly, based at Coventry and produces a wide range of mechanical handling equipment, including electrical and mechanical fork-lift trucks, the first example of which was produced in 1946.
Another tyre company based in the West Midlands is Dunlop with its Fort Dunlop headquarters at Birmingham. From this factory the company last year despatched radial tyres for light and heavy commercial vehicles to 32 countries in Europe; Africa; the West Indies; the USA; South America; the Middle East; and Japan.
Although perhaps better known for its radiators, thee Serck Group is also involved in the exchange field of water pumps, turbochargers and clutches via its subsidiary Serck Services. The company has an export market mainly in the field of radiators and oil coolers and has lust set up some subsidiary companies in the middle East, notably in Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Situated at Stourbridge, M and G Trailers Ltd is a member of the J and J Dyson group of companies and employs 120. production personnel . The company produces a line of trailers including extendables and skeletals and for 150 containers as well as a full range of flats and dry freight vans.
Linktip Ltd of Willenhall was formed in April of this year to specialise in the design and manufacture of tipping bodies at the lower end of the weight scale. Currently bodies are available for all vehicles operating in the UK with a gross weight of up to 3.5 tonnes but the company has plans to extend this up to 7.5 tonnes.