By the late fifties, the electricians at Canley had devised a system whereby when car shells came from Liverpool they were hoisted by crane onto what was called skids, on the second floor. We then took charge with an electric panel in the basement of the building, among the stores. The track was on the ground floor, constantly on the move, each worker had a time limit to fit his piece.
Now my job with a couple of colleagues was to place the shells on the track from the floor above in a sequence that allowed the worker to complete his job. We could not place two overdrives to follow each other, or two Spitfires together. There were many snags, we had to have the cars in order, about twenty cars in front of the track to allow our typists to type the sequence for all depts to have the necessary parts in order. Also the sheets the girls typed out, only a little ‘o’ was typed above the car to denote an overdrive car, if she missed typing such then the car got the wrong engine fitted etc, and there was many things to sort out, disc brakes or drum brakes, left hand or right hand steering, so it ran on fine timing.
The whole of the second floor of the factory was like a giant rail siding. When a body shell was placed on the skids, we then with our electric panel moved it along the track into side bays, so my colleague would move a Spitfire onto the main track and I would move a Herald from its bay onto the track behind it, and my other colleague would move another shell behind that and so forth. We passed this knowledge to the typist so they had the sequence, each sheet of about a dozen or so cars was then run off and distributed to all stores etc. But every foreign country sent engineers and experts to see this and ask questions, went home, copied our methods, and that put us out of business long term.
Two guys came in one day, one stayed with the bosses keeping them talking, the other one came over to us, pumped us with questions, which we answered. As he left he gave us each a card, said to get in touch with him in about three months time and he would offer us a top class job. The card read ‘General Manager of General Motors USA’.
This giant panel was about 16′ long and 4′ high, full of lights and numbers and buttons etc and devised and built by Coventry guys.