I was a Petrol Engine Designer at Longbridge from 1970 to 1976, and saw some very interesting sights. In the pre-launch days of ADO67 Austin Allegro, Harry Webster and Ray Bates were the big beasts in the Engineering Block at Longbridge. Bates was a big man whereas Webster was small and slight in stature.
Bates test drove the ADO67 one weekend and came back saying that the throttle action off-idle was too fierce for his Size 12 shoes (unlike Harry Webster who had no trouble with his Size 4s).
This led to kangaroo starts from the traffic lights. I had the job of redesigning what we called the ‘snail cam’ throttle lever on the SU carburettor. But whenever it was ‘soft’ enough to satisfy Bates, Webster would say that the throttle pedal had too much movement for too little throttle action. There was no compromise.
Seeing the big picture
Some management report must have said that we Designers were too close to our individual parts and too far from the whole cars. We were unable to see the big picture.
The answer was to erect a dozen or so trestle tables in the Engineering Block and to cover them with every single component of an ADO20 Mini. Each part was tagged with its part number, material, weight and cost.
It took a couple of days before I noticed the shiny new alternator had been substituted by a rather secondhand oil-covered unit – though still with the tag attached. Over the next few weeks, many of these new parts went missing and I could even name one Designer (who raced a Mini), who was figuring out how he could remove the entire body-shell one weekend without removing the double swing-doors into the block…