MOT’URS – PLACES – FIRMS – “I FIND YOUR LACK OF ‘WIN’ DISTURBING”
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I’ve never bought a new motor. In fact, I’ve only paid a fairly high price for one car, a Citroen GS Pallas, breaking my golden rule (don’t spend money!), out of love for its luxurious qualities.
My first was a very old motorbike, a 1925 Sunbeam S7, which I found in a roadside hedge near Waterbeach. I restored it and frightened myself, and covered my friends in mud with it.
I sort of lost interest in this, giving it away to a friend, when I learn to drive using this, my dad’s 948cc inline OHV Standard Super 10:
While I was at Farnborough I bought one of these, a NSU Prima 3KL scooter for £12, and commuted fairly frequently across the Marlborough downs between Lyneham and Farnborough.
I then automatically became the road mechanic for my girlfriend’s titchy little Austin A30:
While in Hampstead I acquired these scooters in rapid succession – a Lambretta D – which I loved:
– and a Raleigh Roma which was OK, but not heart-pulling:
The first car we had after we married was a “Harry Potter” Ford 105E Anglia:
That rusted away rapidly, but then this unassuming motor caught my eye; a Citroen 2CV Bijou – awkward, ungainly, with the tiniest engine in the world, it seemed; a 425cc horizontally-opposed 4-stroke air-cooled twin producing a tiddling 25 BHP:
It was the only car I know to do 70mpg at 70mph. On a level surface with NO water on the road. It was easy to maintain, and could drive through conditions that could stop 4×4’s, and I drove it for many hundreds of thousands of miles. I miss it right now. The poor thing fell to underbody corrosion from road winter salting.
Then the Austin/Morris 1100. Comfortable and quiet, it also fell to salt:
But I found another Bijou:
…which also fell to salt… Then a Volvo Estate which quietly settled on its springs one day:
And then my Citroen Pallas, which was removed from me by an inattentive lawyer who tailgated and totalled me while I was waiting for traffic lights to change. (That took a long time to recover financially from!):
and I then picked up a Talbot Horizon for a song:
This was a very nice car, which was stolen and driven about a wood until it became unrecognizable. I obtained another, renewed its camshaft and drove that about. This was better than most modern cars, in that it could be maintained by hand – nothing would stop you by the roadside.
I then earned myself a Citroen 2CV Dolly (remembering the Bijou with affection):
And my last car was this, a Seat Ibiza, which was a license-made Volkswagen Golf:
Was there a car I wished I had? Yes, this, a Zundapp Janus, a push-me pull-you masterpiece of identical panels and central engine. Fantastic!
But these days I don’t have a car. Shank’s Pony (+ dog!)
PLACES I have lived in (or very near!) in chronological order:
FIRMS I have worked for:
NGTE Pyestock – Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners – Jack Howe & Andrew Bain – Shankland Cox – Shell – Air Products – Unilever – Associated Octel – Lakers (Northern) – UKAEA – BIB – BICC – Warehouse Planning – Springfix – Core Associates – Taylor Woodrow – Hawker Siddeley – 3Com – Cerberus – Dexion – Johnson Matthey – Babcock & Wilcox – Lewden Industries
NGTE Pyestock – gas turbine research.
This was a research establishment of several thousand people coupled with test cells and all facilities required to keep things running. It was powered by a small power station coupled to large motor/turbine impellers sufficient to run half-a-dozen test cells simultaneously, if that were required. Its machine workshop and stores was possibly the finest in Britain. I considered myself privileged to work there. While I was there I worked on components for the supersonic wind tunnel for the ‘Olympus’ engines for the Concorde.
Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners – motorway civil engineering
This company was located close to St. James’s Park tube station. Even in the mid-sixties it was hell to get to… It was an international company concerned with massive civil contracts; in this case the M4 Motorway, and I became intimately involved with the finest details of the section between Tormarton and Liddington.
Jack Howe & Andrew Bain – industrial engineering design
This consultant partnership on the Edgware Road allowed me to design exhibitions, locks and safes, and microwave towers.
Shankland Cox – architects
This was close by the Liver Buildings in Liverpool. Here I worked on various small, medium and large scale architectural projects.
Shell – petrochemical engineering
This company had a small office in Mold, where I detailed the oil pipeline from Amlwch to Ellesmere Port. It passed within fifty feet of the house where I lived (Bryn Polyn, in St. Asaph), so it really was quite interesting.
Air Products – cryogenic engineering
This compact (American) company had a factory in Acrefair, near Llangollen where it designed and manufactured all manner of cryogenic plants, vessels, tanks and tankers. This was a tough and professional company, working under American standards. It was fun.
Unilever (Merseyside) – estate architecture
This small office concerned itself with the upgrading of its model village estate. (Some of the original plans were on silk!)
Associated Octel – petrochemical engineering
This was a dynamic enterprise in Ellesmere Port conducting many specialized petrochemical projects. I became mainly involved with lead casting and the handling of liquid sodium, and the design of the appropriate equipment for this.
Lakers (Northern) – petrochemical engineering
Here (also in Ellesmere Port) I became involved in the mass-production of SOAP.
UKAEA – nuclear engineering
This office, in Hayes, was devoted mainly to the detail design for the nuclear decanning system at Windscale/Seascale. This was in the early eighties.
BIB – industrial design
Here (in Holland Park) I worked on new versions of a consumer electric drill, and a production precision exhaust valve welding machine.
BICC Data Networks – industrial design
Here (in Wood Green) I developed the mechanical package for the world’s first ethernet transceiver. A big thrill…
Warehouse Planning – warehouse design
This was a tiny company in Berkhamstead. Most of these warehouses were for the Middle East, and gargantuan in scale.
Springfix – industrial design
First in Camden Town, then St. Albans, I designed a mass-produced paper-shredder, and a bunch of other stuff…
Core Associates – industrial design
Here (in King’s Cross) I worked on a counterflow air-to-air heat exchanger, street furniture, a style package for office ethernet equipment, a battery-powered self-launching glider, a high-speed catamaran.
Taylor Woodrow – heating and ventilation
Remedial work done (at the Elephant and Castle) on a massive London office estate complex called Little Britain. Boring but necessary. I had seen all this material before…
Hawker Siddeley – alarm and safety equipment
Welwyn Garden City. Safety systems for a nuclear establishment.
3Com – electronics
Berkhamstead. Style package for office ethernet equipment.
Cerberus – alarm and safety equipment
I can’t remember exactly where this was! Not far from the Barbican estate, which is what the equipment was for. Fifty massively-detailed A0 drawings in ten weeks. Thank you and goodbye…
Dexion – racking design
Racking designs and layouts.
Johnson Matthey – metal refining
Specialised equipment designs.
Babcock & Wilcox – steam generating plant
Borehamwood. Details and aspects of various steam generation configurations.
Lewden Industries – electrical engineering
East London. Design and development of a charging plug and socket for the Ford “Think” Electric Car.
The above is a list of the notable companies I worked for. There were dozens of others which I can no longer recollect, try as I may.
Did I enjoy them? In the main, no, I didn’t. Air Products, Associated Octel, and BICC, were professionally-managed and made me feel at home, tested me to the limits of my abilities, and sent me home with a good pay packet. They were enjoyable experiences!
The rest were without any real management, the workforces in general were sullen, hostile, and prone to subtle (and sometimes unsubtle!) sabotage, sometimes of me, sometimes of others.
British companies have been in crisis ever since WWII, when the country gave all it had to the war. It never had a “Marshall Plan” to revitalize its industry, and disintegrated itself while slowly climbing its way out of a very deep recession.
“I FIND YOUR LACK OF ‘WIN’ DISTURBING”
By the time I had left school in 1962 to be a student mechanical engineer at Pyestock, the British aircraft industry had committed, and was headed for, a string of poor management decisions.
1. It chose centrifugal-compressor jet engines (why, I cannot imagine – it wasn’t is if it treated Frank Whittle well – it didn’t), instead of axial-flow designs, when the advantages of an axial-flow layout are overwhelming. Doomed to fail…
2. It picked the De Havilland Comet design for a civil transport aircraft (with those centrifugal-compressor engines) – it was too small and carried too few passengers – its engines were mounted in its wings – it was subject to poor detail design and testing – and it killed people. Doomed to fail…
3. It picked a long-take-off, expensive, POINTLESS and fragile design (TSR-2) for its high-speed fighter contract. Doomed to fail…
4. It picked the Fairey Rotodyne (the world’s LOUDEST aircraft) for its intercity commuter ‘bus’. INCREDIBLY doomed to fail…
5. It picked the Concorde for its ‘flagship’ transport aircraft, and squandered billions of pounds on it which was never recovered in trade. Was anyone prepared to accept sonic bangs as part of their daily life? NO. Doomed to fail…
In this its management was on a par with the rest of the country’s management, which has never had a “center of excellence” and doesn’t require professional standards to enter it. Hence it is doomed to fail…
Welcome To Pyestock NOW:
“Soon there will be very little physical evidence of the existence of one of the most significant research capabilities of its type in the world.” – Ian Mckenzie
Britain no longer has its own motor industry either, nor a machine tools industry, nor a shipbuilding industry, nor engineering and crafts apprenticeship schemes. (Apparently, robots were immediately going to do such jobs – yeah, right!) For good measure it also halved its rail system, removed its rail industry, lost most of its post offices and markets, and sold off most of the public enterprises the Victorian era had struggled so hard to provide.
Without them it is doomed to fail…
It has become a European suburb, but without its own backbone, and also without the support of the European community. In so many different ways it is doomed to fail…
Its monarchist and class-ridden ‘memes’ are in the process of destroying it from within via its propagandist media. It is doomed to fail…
But at least Britain has still held on to a free public health system and (at one time completely free) education system for all (to each according to his need, from each according to his means) – unlike their cousins in the States.
Those people in the US who suffer beneath the weight of its cruel health insurance schemes, shoddy public education system, barbaric death penalty, conscription to the OIL ROBBERY in Iraq, being “taught the controversy” (ID versus Evolution), living the “war against terror” as their country terrorizes others, have 5% of my sympathy…
…the other 95% of my sympathy goes to the millions of strangers they’ve never seen or known, whom their country oppresses in their name, sometimes to and sometimes beyond the point of death…
NOT in my name…
Not in MY name…