The History of Standard Motor Company

The company was set up in a small factory in Much Park Street, Coventry and employed seven people to assemble the first car, powered by a single cylinder engine with three speed gearbox and shaft drive to the rear wheels.

This was soon replaced by a two cylinder model quickly followed by three and four cylinder versions and in 1905 the first six. As well as supplying complete chassis, the company found a good market in selling engines for fitting to other cars, especially where the owner was looking for more power.

The company took a stand at the 1905 London Motor Show in Crystal Palace where a London Dealer, Charles (later Sir Charles) Friswell agreed to take the entire factory output. In 1907 Friswell became Chairman of the company and worked hard raising its profile culminating in supplying 70 cars for King George V and his entourage at the 1911 Delhi Royal Durbah.

Friswell sold his interest in Standard in 1912 to C.J. Band and Siegfried Bettmann the founder of the Triumph Motor Cycle Company which later became the Triumph Motor Company. In 1914 Standard became a public company.

First World War
During World War I, the company produced over 1000 aircraft including the Royal Aircraft Factory BE12, Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, Sopwith Pup and Bristol F.2-B in a new works at Canley opened in 1916 which would become the main centre of operations in future.

Civilian car production restarted in 1919 with a range of small cars and by 1924 the company had a share of the market comparable to Austin, making over 10,000 cars in 1924, but by the late 1920s profits had fallen dramatically due to heavy reinvestment, a failed export contract and poor sales of the larger cars. In 1929 Captain John Black joined the board from Hillman as joint Managing Director and one thing he encouraged was the supply of chassis to external coach builders such as Jensen, Avon and Swallow (which would become Jaguar). Reginald Maudslay left the company in 1934, and died shortly afterwards at the age of 64.

In the 1930s, fortunes improved with new models, the Standard Nine and Standard Ten which addressed the low to mid range market and at the Motor Show of 1935 the new range of Flying Standards was announced with semi streamlined bodies. The Southwards Car Museum on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand has on display a Standard Flying V8 registered with an English number plate and which it claims only 350 were made. They state in their exhibit that 9 still exist in the world and New Zealand originally had 3 of them. The engine was a 20hp Side Valve (90 degrees) V8 and the car had a listed top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h). It cost 349 pounds sterling when new.

World War II
During World War II, the company continued to produce its cars but now mainly fitted with utility bodies (“Tillies”). However, the most famous war time product was the Mosquito aircraft, mainly the FB VI version of which over 1100 were made. 750 Airspeed Oxfords were also made as well as 20,000 Bristol Mercury VIII engines, and 3,000 Bristol Beaufighter fuselages.

Other wartime products included 4000 Beaverette light armored cars and a lightweight” Jeep” type vehicle.


The Post War Years
With peace the pre-war Eight and Twelve cars were quickly back in production. Of greater significance was, in 1945, the purchase arranged by Sir John Black for £75,000 of the Triumph Motor Company, which had gone into receivership in 1939. Triumph was reformed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard called “Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited”. Also, a lucrative deal was arranged to build the small Ferguson tractor which helped fill some of the large war time factory space. This arrangement was seen primarily by Black as a means to securing increased profits to fund new car development.

A one-model policy for the Standard marque (alongside a range of new Triumphs) was adopted in 1948 with the introduction of the Standard Vanguard, which was styled on American lines by Walter Belgrove, and replaced all the carry-over pre-war models. The beetle-back Vanguard Phase 1 was replaced in 1953 by the notch-back Phase 2 and in 1955 by the all-new Phase 3, which gave rise to variants such as the Sportsman, Ensign, Vanguard Vignale and Vanguard Six.

The one-model policy lasted until 1953 when a new Standard Eight small car was added. In 1954 the Eight was supplemented by the slightly more powerful Standard Ten which featured a wider chrome grill: the Ten was followed in its turn in 1957 by the Standard Pennant featuring (to modern eyes) implausibly prominent tail fins, but otherwise little altered structurally from the 1953 Standard Eight. An option for the Ten, and standard fitment to the Pennant, was the Gold Star engine, tuned for higher power and torque over the standard 948 cc unit. Another tuning package, featuring a different camshaft and twin carburetors, was available from dealers.

As well as an overdrive for the gearbox, an option for the Eight, Ten and Pennant was the Standrive, a semi-manual transmission that automatically operated the clutch during gear changes. 1958 saw the launch of the Standard Atlas panel van and pick up, a cab over engine design. It initially used the 948 cc engine from the Standard 10, making the resulting vehicle woefully underpowered, even with its 6.66:1 final drive ratio.

In 1961, the Atlas Major was introduced, and sold alongside the original 948 cc Atlas. This variant was powered by the Standard 1670 cc wet-liner motor, as used with different capacities in the Vanguard cars, and the Ferguson tractor. The same motor was also used in Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4 sports cars. To use this larger engine, a substantial redesign of the cab interior and forward chassis was necessary. The vehicles were of a high standard but not competitively priced, which resulted in relatively fewer sales. In 1963 the Atlas Major became the Standard 15, with a new long wheelbase variant, with 2138 cc engine, became the Standard 20. Later that year, the Standard name was dropped by Leyland, and these models were hastily re branded as Leyland 15 and 20. By 1968 when production ended in the UK, all variants were powered by the 2138 cc engine and badged as Leyland 20s. As a point of interest, these vehicles were badged as “Triumphs” for export to Canada, and possibly other overseas markets.

By the later 1950s the small Standards were losing out in the UK market place to more modern competitor designs, and the Triumph name was felt to be more marketable; hence the 1959 replacement for the Eight, Ten and Pennant was badged as the Triumph Herald; with substantial mechanical components carried over from the small Standards. Despite the separate chassis and independent rear suspension, the differential, hubs, brakes, engine and gearbox were all common to the last Standard Pennants.

Overseas assembly plants were opened in Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. Sir John Black stepped down from control of the company in 1954. Ill health was cited as the ‘official’ reason for his resignation but it is now known the Board of Directors requested he should leave. His deputy and long-time personal assistant, Alick Dick, took over. The company started looking for partners to enable continued expansion and talks were held with Chrysler, Massey-Harris-Ferguson, Rootes Group, Rover and Renault but these came to nothing.

The Standard-Triumph company was eventually taken over in 1960 by Leyland Motors Ltd who paid £20 million and the last Standard was produced in the UK in 1963, when the final Vanguard models were replaced by the Triumph 2000. Triumphs continued when Leyland became British Leyland Motor Corporation (later BL) in 1968. The Standard brand has been unused in Europe since then and the Triumph or Rover Triumph BL subsidiary used the former Standard engineering and production facilities at Canley in Coventry until the plant was closed in 1980.

BMW acquired the Standard and Triumph brands following its purchase of BL’s successor Rover Group in 1994. When most of Rover was sold off in 2000 BMW kept the Standard brand along with Triumph, MINI and Riley. The management of British Motor Heritage Ltd, gained the rights to the Standard Brand upon their management purchase of this company from BMW in 2001. There was talk of a possible revival of the Standard name by MG Rover for its importation of the TATA Indi However, for reasons relating to the ownership of the brand by BMW, the car was finally launched as the CityRover.

In Australia
Standard bodies were made in the 1930 buy various body builders in Australia Holden body builders built 19 bodies in 1928 then manufactured the full range of bodies to suite 9/10/12 and 20hp chassis from 1932 to 1936 the last being the 10/16 chassis. In 1952 the Crosby family formed a holding company, Standard Motor Products Ltd, in cooperation with the Standard Motor Company of England to assemble cars at their new assembly plant in Port Melbourne. The Port Melbourne assembly plant was one of many new facilities which were set up to meet the post war demand for new vehicles. By 1955 the assembly complex had expanded to 33 acres (0.13 km2; 0.052 sq. mi) of land and the new engine assembly plant had a capacity of 100 engines per eight-hour shift.

Standard had a high Australian share holding of 88% in 1952 when the Australian company bought out its English partner. The remaining shares were held by the Standard Motor Company UK. As a sign of the close cooperation between the two companies, Sir John Black was made president of SMP and Arthur F. Crosby remained as chairman. His brother, Clive C. Crosby, became the managing director.

Standard Motor Company also held the franchise for Triumph cars and assembled Ferguson tractors through another subsidiary company of the group, British Farm Equipment. An extensive dealer network through out NSW and Victoria saw Standard cars and Ferguson tractors sold side by side in country areas. The Vanguard was the most popular car. The Standard Motor Company introduced a Coupé utility version of the Vanguard Phase I. It was fitted with the 2088 cc four cylinder engine and a diesel engine model with production ending in 1964.

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