After months of tough behind the scenes negotiations the biggest merger in Britain’s industrial history had been concluded successfully. The formation of the British Leyland Motor Corporation was announced on 17 January 1968, as a wave of speculative share buying began hitting the Stock Exchange.
The story of Rover and Triumph: enter the truck men
www.aronline.co.uk excellent website. Article by Ian Nicholls
As 1961 dawned, Standard-Triumph entered its last weeks as an independent concern. Despite the problems, Standard-Triumph had manufactured 85,926 cars in 1958/59 followed by 138,762 in 1959/1960, but these figures preceded the devastating credit squeeze instigated in Spring 1960.
Standard-Triumph reacted to its falling sales with a plan to introduce a cheaper version of the Herald, the stripped out ‘S’ model. Unfortunately, as well as making the Herald cheaper to manufacture, it also expected its 6000 workforce to take a pay cut in order to pay for the price reduction.
Difficulties and strikes for Standard Triumph
On 12 January 1961 the Shop Stewards at Standard-Triumph International unanimously rejected proposals by the firm to cut wages of the 6000 workers to reduce car prices. The decision was taken at a 90-minute meeting between stewards from all the firm’s Coventry factories and full-time union officials.
A union spokesman said afterwards: ‘The rejection was unanimous. The stewards will now report back to the management.’ At the time, some men worked a three-day week and others four days. The new piece-work rates would be brought in when a five-day week was resumed.
The company, in a statement confirming that proposals for piecework rate adjustments had been made, declared: ‘They are consistent with the company’s efforts to reduce costs in order to meet increasing competition in export markets.’ A management spokesman commented: ‘Production and administrative costs must be cut to the utmost. The time has come when pay increases cannot be passed on to the customer.’
One of the nine union officials who attended the meeting said: ‘It is not sufficient to say there will be such and such a reduction in wages. We want to know how much the new car is going to cost to make and what effect on the ultimate price of the car the pay reductions will have. The firm have just talked in general terms about competition, economic production and what have you.’
Agreement reached on Triumph cost-cutting
Five days later over 150 Shop Stewards of Standard-Triumph agreed to consider some reductions to help the company in an attempt to cut production costs. After the meeting, a leading union official said: ‘The feeling was that if there are anomalies in some piecework rates then procedure exists for ironing them out. But there must be some indication that the firm is also making an effort to reduce managerial costs.’
At long last, on 19 January, the British Government relaxed the credit squeeze, but it had been too late to save Standard-Triumph International’s independence, as Leyland Motors waited in the wings to officially take control of the company.
On 31 January, Sir Henry Spurrier, the Chairman of Leyland Motors, wrote to the company’s stockholders. He told them bluntly that substantial losses were being incurred by Standard-Triumph International which would not be made good by the end of the financial year to August 1961, although later in the year the company expected to be operating at a profit. Bank facilities had been made available to meet the current trading position. Having completed the purchase of Standard-Triumph, the men at Leyland were now looking at the books.
A line in credit extended
On 15 February, Standard-Triumph, now officially part of Leyland Motors, announced theTriumph Herald S model. It was not fitted with either a heater or screen-washer and would sell for £664 2s 6d, which was £38 5s less than the standard model. This equated to a 5.4 per cent price reduction.
The Herald S was the first car to be made in the new £2,500,000 assembly hall, able to produce 4500 cars a week, at the Standard-Triumph factory at Canley. Two days later, Standard-Triumph announced that, as a result of the company’s improved trading position, the majority of its 7000 workers would return to a five-day week by the end of February 1961. Standard-Triumph stated that some sections had already reverted to full time.
On 8 March, Standard-Triumph held another Board meeting. The Board was told that the costings for the ‘Zest’ (TR4) programme had increased by £259,000 to £933,000. The 15 March 1961 has gone down in history as the day the Jaguar E-type was announced – it was also the day Standard-Triumph announced a further price reduction for the Triumph Herald S, down £15 to £648. It was now 7.69 per cent cheaper than its launch price. As it turned out the company was trying to clear out its stock in preparation for an upgraded Herald model.
Quality improvements for Triumph
On 29 March, Standard-Triumph announced that from that date it had started a stringent before sale check up of the cars in the factory. Alick Dick, the Chairman of Standard-Triumph said: ‘I believe that this should be the responsibility of the manufacturer. It is up to us to produce motorcars at the factory, which are right in quality and right in every way before handing them over to the distributors and customers. From now on we will take the onus of responsibility of seeing that small but annoying defects are not passed on to the customer.’
From this point on the news emanating from Canley began to have a more positive note. On 10 April, following hot on the heels of an announcement for orders worth £12,500,000 had been placed for the company’s TR sports car and Triumph Herald saloon at the New York International Motor Show, came the announcement of the new Triumph Herald 1200.
By enlarging the 948cc SC engine to 1147cc Standard-Triumph was able to make the Herald a much more saleable car, lifting it out of its slot as a Mini rival. It retailed at £708 for the Saloon, £736 for the Coupe and £772 for the Convertible. These were soon joined by an Estate version which sold for £799.
Triumph Herald adjustments
However, the Herald 1200 was still a Ford Anglia rival. At the time, the basic Anglia 105E retailed for £606 and the better equipped De Luxe sold for £628. BMC has received much flak for poor cost control in relation to Ford of Britain, but clearly Standard-Triumph was no better.
On 16 May 1961 Standard-Triumph held a Board meeting. Among those attending were the Chairman of Leyland Motors, Sir Henry Spurrier and Donald Stokes, (right) another Director of the company. Born in 1914 in Plymouth, Donald Stokes had joined Leyland in 1930 as an apprentice. War service resulted in Stokes attaining the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In the summer of 1945, from his posting in Italy, he wrote to Sir Henry Spurrier on his ideas for the future.
The crux of his paper was that Leyland should target export markets and outlined how it should be done. In 1946 Stokes was put in charge of Leyland’s Export Department and in 1953 he was elevated to the Board.
Stokes on Standard-Triumph
In 1968 Stokes gave his opinion of the Standard-Triumph he encountered in 1961. ‘To be honest it was ghastly. The place was badly run and top management was not good.’ At the Board meeting Sir Henry Spurrier said: ‘The company, at the moment, relies entirely on the Herald, and there is nothing to supplement this in the near future.’
Having adopted a hands off approach since its acquisition of Standard-Triumph for several weeks, Leyland Motors now started to assert more control. Two days after the Board meeting it was announced that, in order to integrate the operation of the two companies, Sir Henry Spurrier had become Chairman of Standard-Triumph International, with Alick Dick, the former Chairman, continuing as Managing Director.
‘To be honest it was ghastly. The place was badly run and top management was not good.’ – Donald Stokes on Standard Triumph
Stanley Markland, Sidney Baybutt and Donald Stokes had also joined the board. In addition, Alick Dick and Frank Dixon had been invited to join the board of Leyland Motors.Stanley Markland was the Deputy Managing Director of Leyland Motors and the firm’s production expert.
Born in 1903, he had joined Leyland in 1920, becoming Assistant Chief Engineer in 1942 and Chief Engineer in 1945. In 1946 he joined the Leyland Board and in 1953 became Works Director. He was also Managing Director of Albion Motors Limited, a subsidiary of Leyland. He became Deputy Managing Director of Leyland Motors in March 1961. By 1961 he was heir apparent to Sir Henry Spurrier.
The Leyland men move in
Leyland had now installed its Chief Accountant, sales maestro and production expert on the Standard-Triumph Board to knock the company back into shape and not before time. Standard-Triumph had expected to move into profit in May 1961, but instead it lost £215,000.
With Sir Henry Spurrier, Donald Stokes and Sidney Baybutt having responsibilities elsewhere in the parent company, it fell to Stanley Markland to assess Standard-Triumph’s capabilities and sort the wheat from the chaff. It is difficult to ascertain who was actually in charge of Standard-Triumph at this stage.
With new Chairman Sir Henry Spurrier absent for most of the time, officially it was Managing Director Alick Dick and General Manager Martin Tustin running the show. But with Director Stanley Markland having a hotline to the Leyland Chairman, who was actually dictating forward strategy? According to author Graham Robson, Harry Webster was told that he could develop a new Standard Vanguard replacement.
Project Barb continues apace
Webster’s car was codenamed ‘Barb’ and Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to style it in April 1961, but this pre-dates the 16 May Board meeting that saw the official hands-on takeover of Standard-Triumph by Messrs Spurrier, Stokes and Markland.
It was during this period that Stanley Markland was shown the discarded ‘Bomb’ prototype by Harry Webster and promptly gave instructions to develop it to production reality as theTriumph Spitfire. On 8 June, Standard-Triumph announced that night shift working had started again at its factories in Coventry – the first time since the slump hit the motor industry in the autumn of 1960.
A Standard-Triumph spokesman also said that production of the firm’s Triumph Herald was being stepped up. At a Standard Triumph Board meeting on 13 July, Harry Webster reported on the progress of Project ‘Barb’ and approval for the tooling expenditure for Project ‘Bomb’ (Spitfire) was given. This indicated that Stanley Markland was indeed calling the shots.
The cracks start to appear
Markland and Dick got on well enough for the Leyland man to take on board the latter’s masterplan for Standard-Triumph. Alick Dick realised that Standard Triumph could not compete with the likes of BMC, Ford and Vauxhall for mass market cars. The future was for Standard Triumph to make upmarket cars.
On 17 August 1961 Leyland’s dissatisfaction with the way things were going at Standard Triumph came to a head. On this day at Standard-Triumph, Sir Henry Spurrier and Stanley Markland used Technical Director Harry Webster’s office to fire most of the Standard-Triumph Board. Spurrier was said to have told Alick Dick that as head man, he had to carry the can.
The media was told of the mass dismissals on 21 August. Sir Henry Spurrier, Chairman and Managing Director of Leyland and Chairman of Standard-Triumph, said in an official statement: ‘Leyland Motors have decided that they must streamline and integrate the Standard-Triumph organization into the parent company at an early date. Mr A.S Dick is to resign from the company, and S. Markland is appointed Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International from today.
‘Further, Leyland Motors have asked Messrs K. Aspland, E. Brimelow, M.J. Tustin, H.S. Weale, M. Whitfield, and L.A Woodall to retire from the Board of Standard-Triumph International, some of whom will be retained with the company in an executive capacity.’
The reorganisation nears completion
Two of the three Directors who remained on the board of Standard-Triumph were Sidney Baybutt and Donald Stokes, who were of course also Directors of Leyland Motors. The following day Standard-Triumph in Liverpool announced that the reorganisation of the company’s Board would not affect building of the new Standard-Triumph car body works at Speke.
Work of extending the existing Hall Engineering factory was going on and the £11,000,000 scheme to provide a million square feet of factory space had reached the stage where the contract for clearing the site had been settled. Meanwhile, the media looked for the ousted Directors. Martin Tustin and Mike Whitfield were allegedly away. Only Alick Dick could be found at home at Leamington Spa.
Dick had been offered the job of head of the Australian division of the business, although it is not clear whether this meant Standard-Triumph or Leyland Motors. It was an offer he declined. Martin Tustin eventually accepted the job of President of Standard-Triumph Motor Co., New York.
Economy measures for Standard-Triumph
On 29 August Sir Henry Spurrier, said that Stanley Markland, the newly-appointed Managing Director of Standard-Triumph, was to introduce immediate economy measures. These were designed greatly to reduce all overhead expenditure and generally to run the organization on lines similar to those of the parent company.
‘The practical putting into effect of these necessary economies must result in a severe cutting down of numbers of executives and other staff employed, in addition to drastic reductions in day-to-day non-productive expenditure,’ Sir Henry’s statement said.
‘Concurrently, active work is proceeding on the development of new products, and we think it desirable to state categorically that it is the intention of the company to stay prominently in the motor car business. New models will be announced in due course and will become available as speedily as they can be. Finally, I would remind our friends of Leyland’s world-wide reputation for giving the highest quality and greatest value in all its products. It is our intention to maintain this standard throughout the entire group.’
Expected improvements never materialise
The statement said it had been expected that conditions in the motor industry would improve rapidly in the spring of 1961. ‘Unfortunately, losses continued to be made during these months and it became clear … that it was essential to bring in drastic economies without delay in order to meet effectively the intense competition now prevalent in the motor industry throughout the world.
‘The Leyland Board, recognizing its responsibility to Leyland shareholders, felt that this far-reaching exercise at STI should be borne entirely by the top Leyland executives and that they should have a clear field in which to put their plans into practical effect.
‘This requirement was discussed with, and made clear to, all members of the original STI Board, who readily appreciated Leyland’s point of view and subsequently tendered their resignations.’
Sackings as well as redundancies
It was also reported that around two hundred executives and staff of Standard-Triumph were to be sacked. The men who would go were in the £40 to £60 a week pay bracket .
One of the executives whose job was in danger said: ‘If one man on the shop floor was fired there would be a strike because they are organized. About 200 of us will go and nothing will happen.’
On 31 August, Stanley Markland met with officials of the Coventry district of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. Markland was able to assure them of a bright future for Standard-Triumph.
Triumph TR4 launched
Then the next day ‘Zest’ was announced as the TR4 sports car. The new Michelotti-styled body featured an enlarged tractor engine of 2138cc. The new more civilised TR4 could now reach 110mph. Some 40,253 would be manufactured up to 1965.
With the authority of the parent company behind him Stanley Markland began to cut costs. On 4 September, 700 workers at the Hemel Hempstead New Town factory of Alford and Aldred, a Standard-Triumph subsidiary, began a four-day week. At Standard-Triumph International Limited, 2500 production workers employed on the Triumph Herald car dropped from a five-day week to three days.
The bulk of the men would be idle on Mondays and Fridays, the short time working being arranged to enable them to claim Unemployment Benefit. The reduced hours were necessary because of the effect on the industry of an increase in Purchase Tax and a general credit squeeze, which were expected to reduce sales in the coming months. One hundred employees of Beans Industries Limited – another Standard-Triumph subsidiary at Coseley, Staffordshire – had been given a week’s notice, it was announced.
Details emerge of Coseley closure
The company stated that it intended to close the works within the next few months and to transfer the equipment and machinery to its second factory at Tipton. It also hoped to transfer ‘most of the employees’ from Coseley, but the possibility of redundancy could not be ruled out.
Leyland had started to comb through the Standard-Triumph executives, seeing who it could keep, reassign at a lower grade, or fire. This led to the discovery of perhaps Standard-Triumph’s most outstanding employee, Keith Hopkins. Born in 1930, this son of a Coventry car worker went to Oxford University and the Sorbonne in Paris where he learned to speak French fluently.
Keith Hopkins groomed for greatness
He was taken on by the Publicity Department of the Standard Motor Company partly because Alick Dick wanted a French speaker to aid continental sales. After the 17 August dismissal of the STI Board, Hopkins wasted no time in getting another job as Press Officer for Coventry City Council before the axe inevitably fell on his own position.
Keith Hopkins found himself summoned to justify his position at STI before Donald Stokes. With the security of his new job offer, Hopkins spoke his mind, impressed Stokes and was promoted to run Standard-Triumph publicity from the Leyland headquarters in Berkeley Square House in London.
It was the start of a professional relationship between Stokes and Hopkins that lasted until 1995* and would prove crucial in the years to come.
The Leyland annexation of Standard-Triumph continues
On 11 September, more Leyland men were drafted into Standard-Triumph. Walter West and Mr C. Robertson were appointed Executive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of Beans Industries. Walter West was Deputy Chairman of Leyland Motors, Chairman of Scammell Lorries, and Managing Director of West Yorkshire Foundries. Robertson was Director and General Manager of West Yorkshire Foundries.
Also that September the Land Rover Series IIa was announced. This revised model featured a 2286cc diesel engine which shared some of the production facilities with the similarly-sized petrol engine. Then, on 2 October, Standard-Triumph announced price cuts ranging from £18 to £29 on the Herald range.
Parent company Leyland Motors said the cuts were ‘the first benefits of the amalgamation.’ The next month Standard-Triumph approved the styling of Project Barb and Pressed Steel was asked to make drawings and tool the body. Leyland had originally wanted a 1.6 litre version, and a solitary prototype was built in 1962, but it was underpowered and fell by the wayside.
Stokes pushes for price reductions
Leyland in the form of sales expert Donald Stokes also pushed for cost reduction, at one stage harbouring the hope that Project Barb could be sold for as little as £900, although in reality everybody thought a sub-£1000 price tag was unobtainable. Even so Pressed Steel was persuaded to reduce its prices by 8.5 per cent
Apart from the seemingly obligatory strikes, Rover had been absent from the headlines in 1961. On 22 November, the company announced its financial results. In a difficult year for the motor industry, at the time 1000 of their car assembly workers in the Midlands were on a four-day week, the Rover company’s sales were marginally higher than for the previous 12 months.
These sales, said Spencer Wilks, the Chairman, in his annual report, would have been appreciably better had it not been for the labour troubles experienced by some of their suppliers during the year. Loss of output due to stoppages also contributed to the higher costs which resulted in a 19 per cent drop in earnings before tax. In common with the rest of the motor industry Rover was engaged on a long-term expansion programme. This would require £10,500,000 of which £3,800,000 was committed for the current year. Of net current assets totalling about £9m, over £6m was liquid.
Work starts on new Rover factory
The following day officials of the Rover Car Company saw the foundation stone laid of a £2,500,000 factory at Pengam Moor, Cardiff. The hope was that by 1963 about 2,000 people would be employed there. The spare parts side of the firm would be transferred to Pengam in its entirety.
Pengam was also earmarked to produce transmissions for the Rover range. Rover thought they had grounds for optimism. The Vice-Chairman, George Farmer, said at the luncheon after the ceremony: ‘We achieved an all-time record output in the last financial year up to the end of July and we look forward to the future with every confidence.’
The factory was more than welcome to Wales, which had long cried out for greater diversification of industry. It had arrived there in response to ‘the amiable arm twisting’ of the Board of Trade, as William Martin-Hurst, Deputy Managing Director of Rover, put it ‘This left us no alternative but to expand our industries, in places which we certainly would not have chosen and which at the time not infrequently appeared unattractive to us.’
Export staff relieved of duties
Meanwhile, back at Standard-Triumph, it was revealed in the press that STI had fired 26 export staff including 47-year-old James Dick, brother of the deposed Alick.
The sacked staff said they had been told that because of ‘financial difficulties’ the company could not consider paying general compensation for the loss of their jobs.
Now the group decided to kill off Standard-Triumph Export Sales Limited, the subsidiary which handled export sales to customers who collected their cars in Britain. The work, involving £500,000 worth of cars each year, would be done by another Standard-Triumph depot .
Another week, another cull
James Dick, Manager of the subsidiary in Headfort Place, Westminster, was given two weeks notice. So had seven office staff and 18 fitters and mechanics. One of Mr Dick’s staff said: ‘We feel the firm should at least pay compensation. Some of the sacked men have been with the company thirty years.’ On 28 December Leyland Motors Group announced a reallocation of duties at Board level.
Sir Henry Spurrier, Chairman and Managing Director, would take over all those sections of the organization – including direction of the Leyland headquarters factories, production, purchasing, material control and quality control – previously undertaken by Stanley Markland, in his capacity of Works Director.
Stanley Markland, recently appointed Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International Limited, would be enabled to give practically his whole-time attention to problems involved in the reorganization of the Standard-Triumph group. He would continue as Managing Director of Albion Motors Limited.
The Managing Director is out…
The Board of Standard-Triumph International Limited announced that Frank Dixon, Deputy Managing Director, was expanding his business activities by mutual agreement, so the Board had agreed to release him from his position as Deputy Managing Director to enable him to devote more time to activities outside the Standard-Triumph group.
Frank Dixon would, however, spend the greater part of his time within the group supervising and coordinating the expansion of the group’s body building activities at Speke, Liverpool, and would take up the appointment of Executive Chairman of Standard-Triumph (Liverpool) Limited, from which office Sir Henry Spurrier would retire. Frank Dixon would continue as Chairman of the two other companies in the body division of the group, Auto Body Dies Limited and Technical Woodwork Company Limited. He would retain his seat on the board of Standard-Triumph International Limited.
Stanley Markland had reduced capital spending, shut down the Competitions Department and sold off a lot of company owned and run cars. The Cessna light aircraft was sold to parent company Leyland while the new car plant at Speke had been put on hold. In the meantime, build quality on the Triumph Herald had been improved. So ended a dramatic year for Standard-Triumph. Alick Dick and his Board had looked long and hard for a partner, but paid for success with their jobs.
History : The Rover-Triumph story – Part Two : 1960 – expanding horizons
www.aronline.co.uk excellent website. Article by Ian Nicholls
Speke plans take shape for Standard-Triumph
9 February 1960, Standard-Triumph International announced that the company was to spend £11 million building a new plant on Merseyside. The scheme, part of an £18 million expansion funded by the windfall from the sale of the company’s tractor assets, embraced a three-year plan under which 4500 would be employed at Speke.
Government policy was normally strongly opposed to further industrial development in the industrial Midlands, where the lowest level of unemployment in Britain was combined with a high degree of industrial congestion. The Board of Trade granted industrial development certificates to firms there only when the applicants could prove that an extension was wanted for an integrated industrial process that could not be located away from existing plant.
Therefore firms like Standard-Triumph were directed to areas like Wales, Scotland and Merseyside, where unemployment was seen as high in this era of post war optimism. There were estimated to be 25,000 unemployed on Merseyside at the time.
New factory growth through mergers
This was followed on 22 February by the news that Standard-Triumph offer, worth over £500,000 for the Ordinary share capital of Alforder Newton, had been accepted by all the Ordinary shareholders.
Then, on 2 March, the Rover Car Company confirmed that they were negotiating for a site in South Wales for the building of a new factory.
A spokesman for the firm said: ‘We now confirm that we are negotiating for a site in Cardiff, and until these negotiations are concluded we regret we have nothing to say.’ All was not revealed until 12 May.
Amid a climate of niggling industrial disputes, Mulliners Limited, the Standard-Triumph subsidiary, dismissed the entire production force of 120 workers at its Coventry plant on 14 March. The men said they received an hour’s notice and a week’s pay. Mulliners Limited had no statement on the dismissals, but a spokesman for the parent company, Standard-Triumph International, said: ‘A contract between Mulliners and us for the supply of Vanguard car bodies has been ended. The future of the Mulliners’ plant has yet to be considered.’
Niggling industrial disputes rumble on
The media was told that the termination would not affect the current or future production of Vanguard cars. In the afternoon trade union officials met representatives of Mulliners at the offices of Coventry Engineering Employers’ Association and were told that the firm’s decision was irrevocable. A request that the dismissed men be reinstated was refused.
Maintenance and stores men continued working. Charles Gallagher, Coventry Area Organiser of the National Union of Vehicle Builders, which had 74 men among those dismissed, said: ’The dismissals came like a bolt out of the blue. This is a wildcat lockout. There had been no hint of sackings at all.’
The plant, it was reported, had not been operating economically since it was taken over in July 1958. At that time it was intended to build up a labour force of 1000, but since then there had been long and uneasy negotiations over pay rates, which, it was thought, had delayed efforts to get the factory fully operational. Union leaders were outraged at the sackings and resolved to reverse the decision.
Unions, 1 Management, 0
The following day the management made a partial climbdown. An offer of re-employment for 80 of the 120 men summarily dismissed by Mulliners was accepted by the unions concerned. Standard-Triumph offered to absorb the men on the production of Triumph Heralds at its Canley factory.
The offer came at a time when the 11,000 men at Canley had refused to handle Vanguard car bodies on which the dismissed men had been employed and were threatening a complete ban on overtime on all models.
On 23 March Standard-Triumph reached an agreement with the unions on a shorter working week. In return for an increased track speed to maintain existing production rates, the working week was reduced from 42.5 hours to 40.75 hours.
On the last day of March 1960 Standard-Triumph International’s scheme for a new 104 acre car plant at Speke was inaugurated. Having acquired control of an existing engineering plant there – Hall Engineering, where body parts for the Triumph Herald were being made, the company already had one foot in the door.
Managing Director Alick Dick, who had flown in from Canley by helicopter, climbed into the driving seat of a caterpillar tractor which was coupled to an earth-scraping machine. He drove the whole device round the field where the new plant was to be built with considerable dexterity and cut the first sod.
With him on the machine was Alderman John Braddock, leader of Liverpool City Council, who had campaigned to attract industry to Merseyside. Alderman Braddock aptly remarked later that this was ‘a day of triumph for Merseyside.’ ‘Liverpool looked like becoming a boom town,’ he said happily. It would be some time before Speke No.2 came on stream.
New names join Standard-Triumph
Then, on 4 April, Standard-Triumph announced some appointments. Frank Dixon joined the main board. Following the reorganization of the group in 1959 and its continuing development, two new, wholly-owned subsidiary companies had been formed:-
• Standard-Triumph (Liverpool) Limited, which would be the manufacturing subsidiary at Speke, Liverpool, with the following Directors: Alick Dick, Executive Chairman; Frank Dixon, Managing Director; Martin Tustin; and Les Woodall.
The following changes were also made to the boards of certain subsidiary companies in the Standard-Triumph group:-
Standard-Triumph Sales Limited and Triumph Motor Co. (1945) Limited – Alick Dick relinquished his seat on these boards and was succeeded as Executive Chairman of each company by Mike Whitfield.
Standard Motor Company Limited – Martin Tustin relinquished his seat on the board; Cliff Swindle was appointed Works Director. Standard-Triumph Group Services Limited – Ken Aspland, Harold Weale, Harry Webster, and Mike Whitfield relinquished their seats on the board and the following new appointments were made: John Carpenter, Executive Director; Walter Boardman, Director and Group Financial Accountant; F.J. Leaver, Director and Group Cost Accountant. Alforder Newton Limited – Ken Aspland and SG Seymour joined the board.
Mulliners Limited – E. B. Montesole retired and was succeeded as Chairman by Colonel C. White, who continued as Managing Director. Harold Weale joined the board. Forward Radiator Company Limited – Leonard Woodall was appointed Executive Chairman. Frank Dixon was the Managing Director of Hall Engineering Limited. Then, on 5 May, Trevor Knox joined the Board of Standard-Triumph Sales Limited.
With manufacturing assets at Hemel Hempstead, Coventry and Merseyside, Standard-Triumph decided to splash the cash and spent £32,000 buying a Cessna light aircraft for travel between its factories.
Rover announces factory in Wales
On 12 May, the Rover Car Company announced its plans for a new works to be sited at Cardiff’s old airport, Pengam Moor. Three months of speculation were ended by George Farmer, Joint Managing Director of the company, when at a lunch at Cardiff he said that negotiations had been concluded with the city authorities for the purchase of the airport site.
He said that the first stage of development there would be to provide as quickly as possible production facilities to supplement existing Rover capacity at Birmingham, which was inadequate.
George Farmer said that the Board of Trade had shown their full approval by granting adequate industrial development certificates. He thanked the Lord Mayor, Alderman Mrs Helena Evans, and the City Council for their ‘confidence in the company, shown particularly by their undertaking very substantial obligations in connection with preparing the site.’
His comments referred to the financial help given by Cardiff of an estimated £1,500,000 to cover the cost of extra piling in preparing the site. Congestion at the Rover plant at Solihull had resulted in a delay of nine months in the P6 project while the company looked at expanding its production capacity.
Government intervention shapes expansion
The Conservative Government of Harold Macmillan was engaged in a policy of trying to push industry into expanding in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation.
Rover refused point blank to move its car production out of Solihull, but it did concede on moving component production elsewhere as part of a deal that enabled them to build what became known as North Block at Solihull to build the P6.
Triumph model plans take shape
On 18 July Standard-Triumph held a board meeting. Projects ‘Zest’ (above) and ‘Zoom’ were discussed. The minutes stated; ‘It was resolved that Zest be called the ‘Triumph Dolomite’ and that Zoom be called the ‘Triumph Vitesse’.’
‘The Secretary reported that the trademark ‘Dolomite’ was registered in the name of the Standard Motor Company Limited but that it would not be possible to register the word ‘Vitesse’ as a Trade Mark.’
‘Zest’ was the codename for the forthcoming Triumph TR4, while the ‘Zoom’ was meant to be a up-scale sports car with a bespoke engine.
Tough times were returning
By September 1960 there were fears among thousands of car workers and union officials that harder times were returning. The slowing pace of car exports to the United States in recent months, coupled with a toughening in home market sales, had brought uneasiness to the industry. It was not helped by one of the British Government’s periodic credit squeezes, announced in its Spring 1960 budget.
On 19 September Standard-Triumph International officially announced that short-time working was to be introduced in the near future at their Coventry factories because of the credit squeeze. At the same time Mulliners Limited said that a cut in its labour force was being considered. Both companies gave as their reasons the seasonal decline in orders ’aggravated by the Government’s financial policy.’
A Standard-Triumph official said that the introduction of short time at Coventry would enable the company to retain their labour force. Mulliners were chiefly concerned with the production of TR3 sports car bodies. George Turnbull, then Standard-Triumph’s Divisional Manager, Car Production was of the opinion that the regular credit squeezes by central Government were hugely damaging to the British motor industry.
The Government wasn’t helping
Interviewed in the 1980s, George Turnbull recalled: ‘In those days it was just a little fiscal regulator. If the economy was overheated, put some more purchase tax on motor cars.
‘The British motor industry was the main employer of labour; it was the biggest manufacturing industry by a mile and the Government treated it with derision. There’s no other word for it.’ – George Turnbull
‘The Government was totally oblivious and if I was ever going to apportion blame for the parlous state that the British motor industry got into, you have got to put it at the door of the Government. I don’t care which complexion or which colour.
‘The reality is that they didn’t handle the industry in a sensitive way. It was the main primer for so many service industries; it was the main employer of labour; it was the biggest manufacturing industry by a mile and they treated it with derision. There’s no other word for it.
‘From one day from virtually full employment, I had got to sack 3000 men, which I did with great reluctance. It drove more and more men into militant unions for protection.’
Triumph model plans adjusted
Standard-Triumph held another Board meeting on 19 September. The Board decided thatTriumph Zebu project be discontinued forthwith and that, consequent upon this resolution, a ‘live axle’ be maintained for ‘Zest’ (TR4).
‘Zebu’ had started life with a backward slanting rear window, but that was swiftly abandoned when Standard learned that Ford were working on such a feature for its 105E Anglia saloon. Next came the idea of upscaling the Herald design, before Giovanni Michelotti was brought in to do a complete restyle.
This was still not enough, and with tooling estimates of £800,000 from Pressed Steel, lower sales forecasts and Standard-Triumph in serious financial trouble due to the credit squeeze, the Board pulled the plug on ‘Zebu.’ The problem for Standard-Triumph was that the ageing Standard Vanguard still needed replacing and there was nothing in the pipeline.
The Board approved the four-door, six-cylinder version of the Triumph Herald, which became the Vitesse, and the finance for a running prototype of ‘Bomb’, which became the Triumph Spitfire. The Board was told that the ‘Zest’ (TR4) and ‘Zoom’ programmes would cost £676,000.
As a stopgap the Vanguard Six had been introduced in the autumn of 1960 featuring a new overhead valve 1998 cc straight six engine known as the 20S.
Redundancies in the pipeline
Two days later it was revealed that extensive short-time working was to be operated and some redundancy was likely at the Coventry factories of Standard-Triumph as a result of the credit squeeze. Production workers, already on a four-day week, faced a further reduction and talks were being sought with the management by unions. The nightshift had been ended and workers had been switched to day shifts.
The National Association of Clerical and Supervisory Staffs, fearing redundancy, sent a telegram to the Chancellor of the Exchequer stating: ‘We believe that the present difficulties of the motor industry are the direct result of the credit squeeze and we therefore urge immediate easing of the financial restrictions on the motor industry.’
At Mulliners, Ministry of Labour officials set up an advisory office. Mulliners had said that, because of the credit squeeze on hire purchase, at least 700 vehicle builders would be declared redundant later in the month. The Ministry men were advising workers of all the other jobs available in the Midlands. Standard-Triumph also announced that Frank Dixon had been appointed Deputy Managing Director of Standard-Triumph International.
Short-time working introduced at Triumph
On 22 September Standard-Triumph stated that some workers at its Coventry factories were to begin a 19-hour week. A spokesman for the firm said that less than 25 per cent of the 8000 workers at the factories were ‘in the early stage’ to work a two and a half-day week. The remainder, he said, would work longer hours than this.
The company spokesman added: ’To avoid redundancy the company has decided upon short-time working. The work available varies from department to department as do also the hours of work. Details of the work available are under discussion between the company and the workers’ representatives. It will be some days before a complete picture will be available.’
Standard-Triumph, which produced about 5000 cars a week, was understood to have cut production of the Vanguard range by half because of the credit squeeze and falling American sales. A 30 per cent cut had been made in the Triumph Herald and Triumph sports car output. The average wage of manual workers at the firm was £23 a week. The cut in hours was expected to reduce the weekly pay packets to about £11 to £12.
A deal struck in the USA, new factory in Belgium
While all this was going on, sometime during September 1960 American Motors of Detroit offered to sell Standard-Triumph CKD kits of body components for its forthcoming Rambler American model. The idea was that Standard-Triumph would transplant its own power train into the Rambler American body to create a cheap and quick replacement for the Vanguard.
While Standard-Triumph was putting workers on short time in the UK, in Belgium it was opening a new factory at Malines. On 4 October Standard-Triumph International marked the opening by the British Ambassador, Sir John Nicholls, with an immediate reduction in the Belgian price of the Triumph Herald.
Alick Dick, the Managing Director, announced that the benefits of manufacturing inside the Common Market, later known as the European Union, had made possible an important cut of £49 (7000 Belgian francs) to £496 10s. ’We are determined to keep pace with the demands of the continental markets. My company in common, I believe, with the rest of the United Kingdom motor industry, looks upon the division of Europe economically as little short of a catastrophe, but we cannot afford to wait for those whose responsibility it is to resolve the undoubted problems which still exist in bringing them together, and we have therefore launched this project,’ he said.
Benefits of European production
It was reported that Standard Triumph saved 14 per cent on tariff costs by assembly in Belgium rather than importing cars completed in the United Kingdom. The new factory, built in little more than four and a half months, was planned to initially turn out cars at the rate of 2500 a year, and it was hoped to raise this progressively up to 10,000 a year.
‘We are determined to keep pace with the demands of the continental markets. My company in common, I believe, with the rest of the UK motor industry, looks upon the division of Europe economically as little short of a catastrophe.’ – Alick Dick
Production would concentrate on the three-model Triumph Herald range and the Triumph TR3, and at first be devoted to the Belgian market, but, with the prospect of continuing reductions in internal tariffs among the Common Market countries, exports to the other countries of the six members would plainly follow.
The problem with describing the British motor industry in the period before the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, is that attitudes were very much UK-centric. It was all well and good for politicians and analysts to exhort the British motor industry to export, but they did not have to deal with trade tariffs that made British made vehicles price uncompetitive in EEC countries. Trade tariffs effectively kept Britain out of the larger EEC car market, but also kept cars from France, West Germany and Italy out of Britain in large volume.
Short-time working and redundancies
A week later Rover revealed that, in the wake of the credit squeeze, they were operating a four-day week. Then, on 18 October, it was reported that nearly 60 men employed at the Speke No.1 factory, Liverpool, of Standard-Triumph International had been declared redundant. It was hoped the men would be re-employed later.
During October Alick Dick and Martin Tustin flew to Detroit to discuss a deal between Standard-Triumph and American Motors over body supplies.
Rover held a Board meeting on 24 October where it was agreed to put the P6 project into production. The next day Rover revealed its financial results. Group profit rose to £2,764,973, from £1,902,046, after depreciation of £1,150,864 (£636,011). Tax required £1,589,404 (£905,209).
Rover’s movers and shakers
In November Rover announced some appointments. Mr E.G. Commander retired from the Board of Rover due to ill-health. It was proposed that George Farmer be appointed Executive Vice-Chairman after the Annual General Meeting in December 1960.
Maurice Wilks was to be sole Managing Director, and William Martin-Hurst, then Executive Director (Production) was appointed as Deputy Managing Director. A.B. Smith was appointed to the Board as Supplies Director. It was intended to appoint Geoffrey Lloyd Dixon as a Director after the Annual General Meeting.
Christopher J. Peyton, who would be joining the company in the near future, was to be appointed Executive Director (Finance). Mr W.J. Robinson was appointed Executive Director (Production-Solihull). Arthur Herbert, then in charge of export, had been appointed an Executive Director. Mr M.W.B. Knight had been appointed Executive Director (Industrial Relations and Welfare).
Bad news at Standard-Triumph
Meanwhile, over at Standard-Triumph, things went from bad to worse. On 8 November, the company announced that 1700 hourly paid employees at its Coventry factories were to be declared redundant. The company intended to begin a three-day week for its remaining 6300 manual workers. Dismissals were also to take place among the company’s 1400 staff employees.
News of the redundancies was broken to union officials at a meeting at the Coventry and District Engineering Employers’ Association. A statement by the company said the moves were being made ’in view of the general situation in the motor industry.’
The number of men affected was about equal, the firm said, to the increase in its labour force during the past 12 months. ’Discussions will be taking place during the next two weeks with the trade union representatives in accordance with an agreed procedure for dealing with such questions,’ the statement concluded.
The workforce is slashed
In some sections at Standard-Triumph the labour force was to be cut by as much as half. The largest number of men to be dismissed – 916 – was on the assembly lines at the company’s main factory at Canley. In the machine shop at the same works there would be 260 dismissals. The 1700 men affected were to be given a week’s notice or a week’s pay in lieu on 22 November.
This, in turn, was followed two days later by the news that a further 200 staff, clerks, draughtsmen, and scientific workers were to be dismissed by Standard-Triumph in the forthcoming week, and more in the near future.
Things were looking bleak for Standard-Triumph. It was haemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate on its expansion plans whilst it could not sell its existing output due to a collapse in the UK car market. Then salvation arrived in the form of a Lancashire-based commercial vehicle manufacturer.
Leyland moves to swoop in on Triumph
On 14 November 1960 Sir Henry Spurrier, the Chairman of Leyland Motors, telephoned Alick Dick to discuss a possible takeover of the Coventry company. Leyland, with assets of over £52 million, made heavy commercial and passenger motor vehicles, trolley buses, fire engines and heavy oil engines. Leyland was the largest heavy commercial vehicle manufacturer in the UK at the time.
Since 1945 Leyland had targeted export markets, many in the Third World, as a way of bolstering sales and production. Not only had this been profitable, it had enabled Leyland to avoid the worst ravages of a domestic credit squeeze. Alick Dick had craved a partner in order to expand Standard-Triumph, now, as if by magic, it had appeared just in the nick of time.
On 16 November 1960 Sir Henry Spurrier travelled to Coventry to put his offer on the table. Then, on 28 November, Lord Tedder, having reached the age of 70, decided not to seek re-election to the Board at the Annual General meeting at Coventry, to be held on 21 December. Lord Tedder had, however, accepted an invitation to become President of the company. Alick Dick, Managing Director, would be elected Chairman of the Board. Quite clearly Lord Tedder knew that changes were afoot.
The story of Rover and Triumph: a warning shot fired…
The annual report was Lord Tedder’s last job as Chairman. In it he warned the Government that the car industry might not be able to keep up exports unless restrictions on hire purchase were eased at home. Lord Tedder said competition in all export markets was becoming more intense, and added: ’Unless we can work from a stable and profitable home base, it will become increasingly difficult to maintain or expand our foothold in overseas markets.’
In the year which ended August 1960, Standard-Triumph International produced 139,032 cars, and made a profit of £2,104,000. The period in the report did not cover Standard-Triumph’s more recent woes. News of the proposed merger between the ailing Standard-Triumph International and the successful commercial vehicle maker Leyland Motors seeped out on 5 December.
Leyland’s proposal was for it to acquire the whole of the ordinary capital of Standard-Triumph International on the basis of two ordinary stock units of £1 each in Leyland for 15 ordinary stock units of 5s. each in Standard-Triumph International. Lord Tedder, Chairman of Standard- Triumph International , said that the Standard-Triumph Directors considered that the proposed terms of the amalgamation with Leyland – ‘an entirely British concern’ – were fair.
Leyland becomes a player, while the lights go out…
They recommended their acceptance by all Standard-Triumph International ordinary stockholders and intended to do so in respect of their own holdings. Two days later it was announced that Standard-Triumph International was closing down one of their subsidiary body building factories in Birmingham. The factory, that of Mulliners Limited employed about 800 workers, having recently laid off some 750 as redundant because of a shortage of orders.
Trade union officials were told of the decision to stop production at the factory at a conference. A Mulliners official said: ’We have been informed by Standard-Triumph International that it is necessary to streamline the company’s factories in order to make the most economical use of the production facilities available. It has therefore been decided to move the existing Mulliners products to other Midlands factories within the group.’
While this had all been going on, Leyland had sent Sidney Baybutt, the company’s Chief Accountant, to examine Standard-Triumph’s books. So ended 1960 and Standard-Triumph’s independence.
Heralding a brave new world
www.aronline.co.uk excellent website. Article by Ian Nicholls
In 1959, the Rover Company was best known for producing staid cars for the professional classes and the best-selling Land Rover utility vehicles, then in its Series 2 incarnation. Its assembly plant was a former wartime shadow factory at Solihull that the company had taken over after its existing Coventry site had succumbed to wartime bombing.
Since 1933 the firm’s management had been dominated by the Wilks family, who had rescued the company from financial ruin. Spencer Wilks was Chairman while his brother Maurice Wilks was Joint Managing Director alongside George Farmer. Maurice Wilks was the technical expert while George Farmer was the financial brains.
As is well known, the Land Rover came about because the Wilks brothers aspired to produce a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle for farmers. What is not generally commented on is that the decision to proceed with the Land Rover project, like the Issigonis Mini, was a seat of the pants decision that would probably have been frowned upon by the likes of Ford with its sophisticated product planning techniques.
The Land Rover took off, particularly in the important export markets, buying time for Rover to develop a post-war range of saloon cars.
Rover’s 1959 market position
By 1959, this consisted of the archetypal ‘auntie’ Rover, the P4 and the Rover P5, which was marketed as a luxury car. Despite its reputation for producing quality cars for discerning customers, Rover was a low-volume car manufacturer with its saloons only taking up 29 per cent of its overall production.
1959 Rover P6 prototype
The salesmen scoffed at plans to produce a four-cylinder P6 at 550 cars a week, predicting that 250 cars a week was a more realistic projection. In addition to this Maurice Wilks was sceptical about an overhead camshaft engine, thinking it would be noisy, and also had doubts about the de Dion rear suspension, feeling it added unnecessary cost to the car.
Robert Boyle, aided and abetted by a new generation of Engineers that included his assistant Peter Wilks, Spen King and Gordon Bashford, pushed for the P6 to have advanced features as a selling point. In the end, their design philosophy won through and Jack Swaine of Rover set about designing a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre overhead cam engine
On 24 February 1959 Rover registered the first P6 prototype in London as WUL 432. This prototype (above) looked very different from the car revealed to the media in October 1963, having a much more aerodynamic nose that actually improved top speed.
Rover and Standard merger talks go public
Then, on 6 March, it was revealed in the press that Rover and the Standard Motor Company were engaged in merger negotiations. Standard had been founded in 1903, moving into its Canley factory in 1916, and in 1945 it had bought out the bankrupt Triumph concern.
This was not the first time the two firms had discussed a merger, previous talks had been broken off in July 1954. The management of both firms knew that, in the long-term, neither was big enough to compete with the big boys.
In 1959 Standard was run by Alick Dick, who had taken over from Sir John Black in 1954 after the latter’s 20-year reign in charge of the Canley-based manufacturer. Dick took care of the overall strategy, leaving the day-to-day running of the firm in the hands of General Manager Martin Tustin, who had joined from Ford in 1955, and Production Manager George Turnbull.
Martin Tustin had been the Senior Product Planner at Ford. He was replaced by a man called Terry Beckett. Alick Dick (right) was born in June 1916 in Norfolk, this son of a doctor joined Standard in 1934 as an apprentice, becoming Personal Assistant to the firm’s boss, Sir John Black, in 1947.
Like Rover, the Standard range of saloon cars was nothing out of the ordinary, but it did manufacture the Triumph TR3A sports car which had been successful in export markets. The TR3A used a 1991cc four-cylinder engine originally developed for the Ferguson TE20 tractor. With a top speed of 105mph and a 0-60 mph time of 10.8 seconds, the TR3A was a benchmark performance car of the 1950s and proved popular in the important North American market.
It was during the merger negotiations that Rover discovered that Standard was also developing a compact 2.0-litre executive saloon to replace its existing Vanguard model which had been in production since 1947. At the time of the talks it was codenamed ‘Zebu’ (above) but was later cancelled and replaced by another project codenamed ‘Barb.’
Like Rover with the Land Rover, much of Standard’s overall production was not of saloon cars but the Ferguson tractor range. Since 1946, Standard had manufactured Ferguson tractors at its Banner Lane plant in Coventry.
In 1953, Ferguson merged its operations with Massey-Harris of Canada, which made Standard determined to extricate itself from the agreement. Therefore it came as a surprise when dictatorial Chairman Sir John Black announced that Standard was to continue to make tractors for Massey-Harris-Ferguson until 1965. Shortly after this Black was seriously injured in a car accident and he was deposed in the new year to be replaced by Alick Dick.
A surprise industrial attack
However, Massey-Harris-Ferguson was not impressed with Standard’s production of their tractor range and in secrecy built up a 20 per cent stake in Standard shares. Sensing that this was a hostile bid, Alick Dick resolved to build up Standard’s industrial base and get out of its arrangement with Massey-Harris-Ferguson.
Part of this involved finding a new partner, hence the talks with Rover in 1954 and 1959, and purchasing supplier firms. The first of these was Beans Industries of Tipton in 1956, followed by a Daimler factory in Radford, Coventry in 1957. Standard paid for these purchases by issuing new shares. In May 1958 Standard made a move to purchase Mulliners Limited of Bordesley Green, Birmingham, a supplier of bodies among other things. Standard again decided to pay for the purchase by issuing new shares, which would further dilute the overall Massey-Harris-Ferguson stake in Standard.
This was the final straw for the tractor men and they made their own outright bid for the Mulliner shares, bypassing the Standard board in the process. Standard prevailed and took over Mulliners, which also incorporated the Forward Radiator Company, in July 1958. It was only a matter of time before there was a parting of the waves.
Some impressive production targets
It was during 1958 that Alick Dick told the Standard board that, in order for the company to remain viable, it had to manufacture 261,000 vehicles a year, and that figure included 100,000 tractors. Everything Standard did in the next few years was dictated by a policy of expansion in order to meet this criteria.
Then, on 22 April 1959, Standard announced its new Triumph Herald car, available in both Coupe and Saloon versions. Including the larger-engined Vitesse variants, 599,521 were produced up to 1971. The Herald started life as project ‘Zobo’ and was intended to replace the Standard 8/10/Pennant series which had been launched in October 1953.
The 1953 Standard 8 had adopted unitary construction, with its bodies built by Fisher and Ludlow at its plant at Tile Hill, Coventry. When the time came to replace the 8/10/Pennant series, Standard naturally assumed that Fisher and Ludlow would build the bodies for them as they had since 1930.
However, since August 1953, Fisher and Ludlow had been part of the British Motor Corporation and, in 1957, Alick Dick was firmly rebuffed by the BMC Chairman, Sir Leonard Lord, who had no intention of helping a rival manufacturer. Pressed Steel, run by recent BMC refugee Joe Edwards, then offered to find capacity for Standard’s needs but the Canley firm decided that they could not rely on outside suppliers.
Car body-building stand off
Because of BMC’s refusal to build bodies for Standard at its Fisher and Ludlow subsidiary, Standard resourcefully decided to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. By returning to the separate chassis concept for both projects ‘Zobo’ and ‘Zebu’, Standard could design cars that were easier to assemble in its overseas facilities by inexperienced workers.
Using many components carried over from the Standard 8/10/Pennant series combined with cutting-edge styling by Giovanni Michelotti, the basic design also lent itself to upgrading with larger engines, as will be seen.
Priced at £702 for the saloon and £731 for the Coupe, Standard’s marketing men forecast sales of 136,100 for 1960/61 and 158,480 for 1961/62. These were ambitious targets which were ultimately never realised despite the acclaim foisted on the car. It appears that Standard saw the new Herald as a catalyst for expansion. The Herald was more modern than either BMC’s Austin A35 and Morris Minor or the Ford Anglia 100E.
Merger talks break off, industrial unrest begins
Then, on 20 May, it was officially announced that the Rover-Standard merger talks had been broken off. It appears one of the main reasons for the breakdown in negotiations was that Rover were less than impressed with Standard’s finances, believing them to be too dependent on the tractor side of the business.
However, there were problems ahead, not least in producing the Herald. By 15 June, customer inquiries for the new car were estimated at 17,000 when the Standard Motor Company announced that it was to dismiss the entire body shop force working on their new Triumph Herald models, rather than pay the wages the men were demanding.
About 117 men were involved and the firm said they would engage new employees, including any of the dismissed men ’who are prepared to work for reasonable terms.’ For the previous eight weeks the men had been disputing the piecework rates offered and the previous week they had banned overtime. Matters came to a head when the firm attempted to increase production to meet the demand for the new models.
Guaranteed wages rejected
The firm, in a statement, said that to save valuable time it offered guaranteed wage rates to operate temporarily until agreement was reached on piecework prices. ’The offer was intended to dispel any doubt which body shop personnel might entertain about the level of future earnings that would result from the successful conclusion of negotiations and was made in the full knowledge that earnings would be considerably higher when piecework prices had been agreed.’ However, this practical demonstration of good faith by the management was flatly rejected.
The company claimed that the rejection made it clear that the body shop personnel were seeking high wages in return for below average efforts. It was also clear that they intended to press their demand regardless of the consequences to the company and to their fellow employees.
Production time amounting to several thousand Heralds had been lost, as well as much goodwill and future trade of the company, and the well-being of its employees was threatened. The Directors, said the statement, would not be ’forced into paying piecework prices and therefore wages which would adversely affect the selling price of the company’s products.’
Simple solution – not good enough
A spokesman for the three trade unions with membership involved said: ‘The firm’s action is a complete breach of the agreements with the unions and is irresponsible. One wonders what they hope to achieve by such irresponsibility other than a complete cessation of production. The firm tried to impose piecework rates. Their offer was the subject of conditions which would have had the effect of establishing the company’s own piecework prices.’
‘The patience of the company has been exhausted. We have leaned over backwards to reach an agreement with these men. The offer of a day rate would have meant earnings with overtime of over £25 a week.’ – Standard Motor Company spokesman
The unions involved were the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the National Union of Vehicle Builders. At a press conference in Birmingham, a Standard Company spokesman said: ’The patience of the company has been exhausted. We have leaned over backwards to reach an agreement with these men.
‘The offer of a day rate would have meant earnings with overtime of over £25 a week. The men at first asked for a piecework rate which would have meant earnings of something like £40 to £50 a week and, although they have reduced their demands, there is still a big gap between us.’
New facilities, inward investment, poor industrial relations
Standard stated that it had spent £800,000 on the body shop, and it was designed to produce 25 bodies an hour. At the time it was producing only 2.5 an hour. On the following day 24 maintenance men at Mulliners Limited, the car body firm which was a subsidiary of the Standard Motor Company, staged a 24-hour token strike as a protest against the breakdown in negotiations for a wage increase.
This resulted in 300 other men being laid off and a complete closure of the Herald bodyline. There was also a hold up of bodies for the dollar-earning TR3. On 18 June, the 117 body shop workers who were dismissed by Standard accepted by a majority vote the conditions which had been negotiated for their reinstatement.
Output was to be doubled to five cars an hour immediately. The men were to receive about 4s. 6d. a week more than the £20 previously offered and negotiations for permanent pay rates were to take place as soon as possible.
Long and damaging dispute settled
After a meeting in Coventry, Douglas Fairbairn, District Organiser of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, said that the men would receive the basic pay for the three days they had been out. He added: ’The dispute from our point of view has been caused by the company insisting that they were right on each point they were putting forward – the number of cars which could be produced, what payment should be made, how many men should be on the job and how fast they should work. We were not prepared to accept that – and we have established that there should be proper negotiations to determine these points.’
In a nutshell, Standard had managed to double the production rate of the Herald, to five cars an hour, and certainly nowhere near the 25 cars an hour they had capacity for. The root of this problem was the ‘Yellow Peril’, a yellow-covered set of agreements with the unions at Standard which, in the view of some managers, told Supervisors to appease the Shop Stewards.
This was a legacy of the now-departed Sir John Black, who saw stoppages as lost sales and marketing opportunities for his competitors. In the post-war world employers had tried to reduce piece work rates, while Standard continued to pay at wartime levels.
Labour issues, tractor settlement
Sir John Black was accused of causing wage inflation in Coventry at a time of labour shortages with his attitude of production at all cost. With the Canley Shop Stewards used to having a major say in the day to day running of Standard, the new generation of managers tasked with the job of bringing the company into the harsh new world of the 1960s would have their work cut out.
Then on 23 July, the Standard Motor Company announced that it had reached agreement with Massey-Ferguson, the Canadian tractor group, for the sale of the Standard tractor manufacturing assets for the sum of £14,900,000. This included Standard’s holding in Societe Standard-Hotchkiss, the French tractor firm.
Lieutenant Colonel William Eric Phillips, Chairman of Massey-Ferguson, said in London that the purchase of Standard’s tractor assets, which had an annual capacity of 125,000 machines in England and France, would make Massey-Ferguson the largest manufacturer of farm tractors in the world. The deal included four major sections.
Massey-Ferguson free to expand
The first involved the sale of the tractor assets for £14,900,000. When other items had been taken into account, the Standard company’s cash resources would be increased by £12,500,000. The existing arrangements between Standard and Massey-Ferguson for the manufacture of tractors would be gradually terminated, but complete disengagement would not be effected until 1 May 1961. Until that date the Standard group could not sell tractors.
Secondly, the Standard Motor Company proposed to distribute nearly £4 million of the £12,500,000 to stockholders. This would take the form of a payment of 2s. 6d. for every 5s. ordinary stock unit held free of income tax or surtax to individual stockholders.
Thirdly, Standard also proposed to offer the 7,757,938 ordinary stock units in Standard’s then held by Massey-Ferguson to Standard stockholders. The company had made arrangements with two City merchant banks (J. Henry Schroder and Co. and Helbert, Wagg and Co.) under which Massey’s holding would be offered on 1 September to Standard stockholders at a price of 5s. 9d. a unit in the proportion of three units for every 10 units held.
Small-car revolution from Birmingham
On 26 August 1959 British Motor Corporation announced its new small car to replace the Austin A35. Far from being a revamp of the outgoing car, the new Austin Mini Seven and Morris Mini Minor was an automotive sensation, combining a transverse engine, front-wheel drive, space efficiency and superb handling.
The BMC Mini redrew the parameters of small car design and, whilst its rivals could and did profit from its many teething troubles, the sheer brilliance of the Mini conquered all before it and stunted the sales of cars like the Herald and Ford Anglia in its wake. It was not just the advanced technology of the Mini, it was its price. The De Luxe version of the Mini retailed for £537, while the Ford Anglia 105E De Luxe sold for £610 and the Triumph Herald sold for £702.
The Herald was 30 per cent more expensive than the Mini and 15 per cent pricier than the Anglia. Maybe the Mini was too complex and unreliable for some, but the Anglia was a more than competent alternative to the Herald. The Herald could not compete with the Mini for innovation or the Anglia for cost control.
Standard-Triumph International is formed
An Extraordinary General Meeting of Standard Motors on 28 August approved the sale of the company’s tractor plant to Massey-Ferguson for £14,900,000, plus about £2,750,000 for stock, work in progress and spare parts. A resolution authorizing the change in the company’s name to Standard-Triumph International Limited was also approved. This came into force on 28 September.
Marshal of the RAF Lord Tedder, the Chairman of the company and General Eisenhower’s wartime deputy, said it was felt that the sale was both rational and equitable to everyone concerned. He added that, during the past 50 years, the meaning of the word Standard had changed until, in America, it just meant ‘ordinary’. People there asked where was the de luxe… ‘We are up against the problem of international publicity whereby we are having to use the name Standard in Britain and Standard-Triumph in other parts of the world,’ he said.
Now the newly re-branded Standard-Triumph International Limited had the authority to go ahead with a major expansion programme, using the proceeds from the sale of its tractor plant. The aim was to produce 260,000 vehicles by 1961.
Improved Rover P4 launched
Meanwhile, apart from industrial disputes, which were all to common at the time, Rover had been absent from the headlines. On 1 September the company announced the Rover 80, 100 and 105 derivatives of the P4 design at a media event in London presided over by George Farmer, Joint Managing Director of the Rover Company. Born in 1908 in Bridgnorth, Lovedin George Thomas Farmer had joined Rover in 1940 and will play a prominent role in this story.
While the other P4 variants used the inlet-over-exhaust straight-six engine, the new Rover 80 used the four-cylinder 2286cc overhead valve engine used in the Land Rover. However, the Rover 80 was not a great success and it was discontinued in 1962 after around 5900 were produced.
At the launch George Farmer took the opportunity to criticise a strike that had just halted production of the new BMC ‘baby’ cars. He would live long enough to see the Rover Mini reach the showrooms…
On 6 October, Standard-Triumph International announced the introduction of a new organizational structure for the Standard-Triumph group, of Coventry, ’so that the financial and managerial resources of the organization can be more effectively employed in the production and sale of cars.’ Another object of the move was ’to ensure that the cash obtained from the sale of the tractor assets is re-employed in this direction as early as possible.’
The major changes were: the change of name of the Standard Motor Company to Standard-Triumph International Limited (STI) with a Board of Directors comprising Lord Tedder, Chairman, Mr Alick S. Dick, Managing Director, Mr Ken Aspland, Mr E. Brimelow, Mr Martin J. Tustin, Mr H.S. Weale, Mr Mike Whitfield, and Mr Leonard A. Woodall, Directors.
Because of pressure of other business interests Mr C.C. Crosby relinquished his directorship of the company, the announcement added. The Standard Motor Co. (1959) had changed its name to The Standard Motor Company Limited, which became the major manufacturing subsidiary in the United Kingdom, and two subsidiary companies had been put into operation.
Launch date set for Rover P6
Back over at Rover, and undaunted by the news that Standard-Triumph was working on its own 2.0-litre saloon, Maurice Wilks formally proposed on 24 October to the Rover board that the P6 project should be adopted for production with a launch target of October 1963.
Rover had cause for celebration on 2 December when it was revealed that the 250,000th Land Rover had been produced at its Solihull factory. Geoffrey Lloyd Dixon, Executive Director (Sales) said that 183,266 (or 74 per cent) of the 250,000 models produced went to export markets.
These Land Rover exports had earned more than £87 million. They went to 157 markets, of which the principal was Australia, with nearly 28,000, followed by Belgium with more than 10,000, and British East Africa with nearly 10,000.
Standard-Triumph gets acquisitive
On 16 December 1959 Standard-Triumph held its Annual General Meeting in Coventry. Chairman, Marshal of the RAF Lord Tedder, revealed that talks were in progress between the Directors of Standard-Triumph International and Alforder Newton Limited of Hemel Hempstead, with a view to Standard-Triumph acquiring the share capital of Alforder Newton for cash. No cash price was revealed.
Alforder Newton was a privately-owned firm which manufactured all of the front suspensions for the Standard-Triumph range, and also supplied Jaguar Cars and other motor car manufacturers. This was followed on 22 December by the news that the Directors of Standard-Triumph International had announced that agreement in principle had been reached with Hall Engineering (Holdings) with a view to acquiring the motor car body building and die-making sides of their business.
This would involve a cost of some £2 million. A statement issued by the company said factories at Speke (Liverpool), Dunstable and Basildon, in Essex were involved. The Speke factory was at the time engaged on the production of body panels for the Triumph Herald. This proposed purchase was in line with the policy of the Directors of Standard-Triumph to expand the body pressing side of the business, the statement said.
Speke joins the fray
The Directors emphasised that, if the conversations reached a satisfactory conclusion, it would be their intention to continue to reserve capacity for existing customers of Hall Engineering and indeed to expand the body pressing and die-making businesses outside the Standard-Triumph group.
Having got its fingers burnt over the Herald, Standard-Triumph had decided to act and secure its own body supply. The Hall Engineering plant would eventually become known as Speke No.1.
So ended 1959, a year when Standard-Triumph, having liquidated its tractor assets, had decided to go for a programme of expansion.