Sir John Black (Obituary)

Black, Sir John Paul (1895–1965), motor vehicle manufacturer, was born on 10 February 1895 at Kingston upon Thames. Black was educated locally and studied law, which brought out an aptitude for clear-cut decisions that was further developed in the First World War, during which he attained the rank of captain. In 1919 Black was recruited by the Hillman motor car marque in Coventry. He soon became joint managing director, with Spencer Wilks. Their success led to Hillman’s being taken over by Rootes Ltd, a move which prompted both to resign in 1929.

Black joined the Standard Motor Company the same year, at the invitation of its founder, Reginald Maudslay. The marque was in dire financial straits and Black, who became general manager in 1930, set about restoring the company’s fortunes. He ended the costly in-house manufacture of components and started to introduce mass production techniques. Black also brought in Edward Grinham from Humber as chief engineer; he was able to interpret Black’s ideas for stylish and competitively priced models, especially in the Flying Standard series. By 1939 total car production had reached 50,000 units a year, making Standard Coventry’s largest motor car manufacturer and earning the marque a place in the ‘Big Six’ league of leading British-based producers. Although Black did not officially become managing director until Maudslay’s death in December 1934, he was effectively in command from the start.
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