Archive : A Motor Manufacturer WHO Likes To See For Himself

Sir Henry Spurrier
Sir Henry Spurrier

Motor manufacturers whose lives have been bound up with the industry since its beginning become something more than leaders of a family business. They succeed to a dynasty. Sir Henry Spurrier, chairman and managing director of Leyland Motors, and latterly chairman of Standard Triumph International was known at Leyland in his youth as Henry III.

It was in this Lancashire village before the turn of the centurv that his father, son of the founder of the dynasty, Henry I, went into partnership with the blacksmith’s son and began to make steam road wagons. Their concern, the Lancashire Steam Motor Company. employing about 20 people, grew directly out of an investigation into the application of steam power to tricycles, lawn mowers and ” horseless carriages “.

One of their earliest customers for a steam-powered lawn mower was Dr. W. G. Grace, and his machine was used at the Oval for many years, indeed long after Henry III had begun his apprenticeship on the shop floor. This was during the 1914-18 War, but even before then, during his holidays from Repton, young Henry had started work in the firm and found he liked it.

When he was old enough he joined the R.F.C. and served as a pilot (he has a private aircraft today). In the early twenties he worked with the late Parry Thomas in developing Leylands’ first petrol-driven car, the famous Leyland Straight Eight, which broke many world records. It was also reputed to have nearly broken the firm, during the slump of 1922- 23. At one time the company’s £1 shares, which now stand at almost £5, fell to 1s. 9d.

The Straight Eight was succeeded by the solid-tyred Trojan-a curiosity with only seven moving parts-but from 1928, when this vehicle was discontinued, Leylands had no connexion with passenger cars until their acquisition of Standard Triumph. Sir Henry recently discovered a Straight Eight, however, which he later bought and often drives. He is a man who likes to see for himself. For example, yesterday he drove a new lorry assembly. He is energetic and tough- minded.

Unlike many motor companies. Leylands seldom have labour troubles. A keen yachtsman, he owns a Scottish drifter, the Gladiolus, at Rhu.  Today Leyland Motors are the largest exporters of heavy-duty vehicles in the world and the parent company of an organization embracing nearly a score of subsidiary and associate companies. Sir Henry sees the acquisition of Standard Triumph as economically in tune with the motor industry’s movement towards bigger units.

With about 60 per cent of the organization’s turnover in exports, and an extensive foreign sales and service network, he believes that their range of heavy commercial vehicles can be greatly broadened, without much increase in costs. Now he seeks a further streamlining of the two companies.

Sir Henry and Lady Spurrier have no sons, but their two daughters are married and they have five grandchildren.

Keith Adams

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