What Could Have Been

Lea-Francis

Lea-Francis

Draw a map of the UK’s motor manufacturing history, and you’ll find that an awful lot of automotive ley lines converge on Coventry. It certainly was the Detroit of Great Britain. One of the minor but significant pins in that map would be marked Lea-Francis, and, as with so many ...

Wolseley

Wolseley

Frederick Wolseley was born in Dún Laoghaire, just south of Dublin, in 1837, to a military family. Army life wasn’t for him, though, and in 1854, at the age of just 17, he set sail for the new world, joining his sister and her family on a huge New South ...

Gilbern

Gilbern

The industrial areas of Wales have always provided British manufacturing with many of the components needed to build cars. There seems to be a bit of a renaissance going on there, too, as the likes of Aston Martin have moved assembly to Welsh factories, and even the reborn TVR factory ...

Standard

Standard

Students of Industrial Revolution-era history may well be familiar with the name Henry Maudslay. Amongst his many achievements, probably the most significant was his screw-cutting lathe, which he built as the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth, and which cut standardised, repeatable threads into bolts and nuts. Prior to that, ...

Sunbeam

Sunbeam

John Marston was born into a well-to-do landowning family in Ludlow, Shropshire, in 1836. At the age of 15, he went to Wolverhampton, where he served his apprenticeship at Edward Perry’s tinplating and japanware outfit. At 23, he left Perry to set up on his own, buying a factory in ...

Rover

Rover

It all began when the bicycle was king. James Starley was well known for making sewing machines but, in 1869, made the transfer into the bicycle trade. One of his employees was his nephew, John K Starley, who left his uncle’s company, joined forces with William Sutton and founded Starley ...

Lanchester

Lanchester

Born in 1868 in south London, the middle of eight children, Fred was a gifted scientist and engineer, and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Science. At the age of 21, he joined the Forward Gas Engine Company in Birmingham, where he made some very successful refinements to ...

Armstrong-Siddeley

Armstrong-Siddeley

A-S was based in Coventry, the British Detroit, and came about through some large industrialists shuffling the deck. John Davenport Siddeley came to the automobile field, as many Victorians did, through bicycles. He worked for Humber Cycles before moving to the Pneumatic Tyre Company, but left when it became the ...

Humber

Humber

Over the past few instalments of What Could Have Been, we’ve looked at a number of motor manufacturers from the Coventry area; here’s another: Humber. Many people (OK then, perhaps it’s just me) always assumed that Humber Limited was named for its location. Not so. The company name has nothing to ...

Alvis

Alvis

f you join the dots of Greater Birmingham, Luton, Dagenham, Cowley and back to Birmingham, you’ll have a very long, thin diamond shape. Going back a few decades, most of the UK’s motor car production happened within that narrow rhomboid, and one of the liveliest spots within it was Coventry. ...