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The Book of the Standard Motor Company.
Published 2011. (Hardback, 208 pages).
Review date September 2012.
UK RRP £35.00.Buy this Book:
|Given how popular the cars of the Standard Motor Company were in the UK, right up until the late 1950s and early 1960s - the swan song for this marque, in Britain at least - it's a little surprising that more hasn't been written about them. Having owned a number of 1950's Standards myself over the years, most recently a Companion estate car, I was keen to have a good look at this recently-published book by Graham Robson, well-known motoring author and someone who in fact worked for Standard-Triumph himself in the early 1960s.|
|Cars bearing this maker's identity date back to the earliest years of the 20th Century, the Standard Motor Company having been formed in 1903. The first pages in this book guide the reader through the company's formation, the individuals involved, and their respective backgrounds. Vintage photographs, usually of mustachioed types in full motoring attire behind the wheel of perhaps a 15hp model, or the smaller Model S, accompany the text, leading up to the Great War period - covered in chapter two - where production of civilian motor-cars dwindled away, and was replaced by production of aircraft on behalf of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Images showing the types of aircraft produced, for example part-assembled Sopwith Pups within the facility at Canley, feature regularly, before attentions turn once again to the production of automobiles, following WW1.|
|The evolution of models such as the SLO and its derivatives, followed later by Nines, Twelves and Sixteens are discussed, including low-volume alternatives based on the company's mechanical offerings, from outside coachbuilder Avon. Year-on-year changes, accompanied by anecdotes and statistics, tell the story of Standard's growing product range throughout the 1930s, leading up to the introduction of the Flying Standards, a range of models incorporating the latest thoughts regarding streamlined design, even though similar features had been incorporated in road car design in the US for some years already by this point. In addition to both period and recent photos of familiar Flying Standards, there are also factory shots of pre-production prototypes which shed light on the evolution that new model designs underwent, before their final appearances were signed off in the Canley offices. While the Nines and Tens would prove popular, not everything that left the factory gates would be so well received. The 1936-1938 V-Eight was a flop, the reasons for which are discussed towards the tail-end of chapter five.|
|The advent of WW2 would again see the company's production facilities, bulked up thanks to shadow factories erected around Coventry, concentrate on wartime supply, with - for example - Bristol Hercules engines rolling off the line, destined for use with the RAF. Vehicle production continued at Canley, with utility vans and pickups based on the smaller models heading off to serve with the armed forces, and ancillary organisations. Complete aircraft, such as the DH Mosquito and the Bristol Beaufighter, would also be built using Standard's production might, while towards the end of the war components for the hush-hush new jet engines would also be constructed. This large-scale production of a wide variety of vehicles and supplies would lead to their plants becoming the target of several Luftwaffe raids.|
|The company survived the war, and found itself in a strong position. So much so that, as described in chapter seven, they were in a position to buy out the ailing Triumph car company, while re-commencing production of their (mildly updated) pre-war car designs. Brand new Eights, Tens, Twelves, and Fourteens would soon be hitting the roads, along with the new Triumph Roadster, of 1946.|
|The building of Ferguson tractors receives fair coverage, before another of Standards aviation-related activities are dealt with, that of building Rolls-Royce Avon jet engines from 1951, a time when the UK government was rapidly re-arming the Services, and extra production capability for the new jet engine, on top of that offered by R-R themselves, was urgently needed.|
|I hadn't realised that Standard had been involved with the post-war BRM V16 racing car project, a dream of Raymond Mays to produce a world-class single-seat racing car to take the fight to, and beat, the Italian opposition, fielded by Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Ferrari. The project never delivered on its promises, although when on-song, there was no denying the car's epic speed - and noise. Tool-room facilities, and support with engine testing, would be Standard's contribution to the project, as would the use of their Chief Body Engineer for penning the BRM Mk1's bodywork.|
|The BRM work was just a sideshow to the main event though, and the 1950s would be busy times for Standard-Triumph. Production of the Vanguards, 8s, 10s, and the various Triumphs on offer at the time would keep their designers and production engineers fully occupied. While not necessarily the last word in excitement, the Standard-badged cars sold well both in the UK and overseas, thanks to their simplicity and sound, if un-remarkable, design.|
|In part due to their successes in overseas markets, North America in particular, the Triumph brand would rise to the fore, buoyed undoubtably by the glitz and glamour of their sporting models, something that never featured in Standard's own line-up. By the end of the 1950s, the momentum behind the Triumph marque was taking the fight squarely to the likes of MG in the sportscar world, while BMC, Vauxhall and Rootes did very nicely with the saloons market, large and small. Standard as a brand was becoming overlooked, fielding a range of dependable but less-than-exciting designs. The sharp-suited Herald for 1959, despite using the engine of the 8/10/Pennant range, was badged as a Triumph and not a Standard, despite taking over where the Pennant had left off. Overseas markets had already known the outgoing 10 as a Triumph rather than a Standard, and the 1147cc Herald would only ever be badged as a Triumph in this country. The writing was on the wall for the marque, and the development of the new Triumphs is described in full, as is the Leyland take-over of 1960 and the ultimate disappearance of Standard-badged cars altogether in British showrooms.|
|The books ends with a review of the cars built in overseas markets from knocked-down kits, and the production of the four-door Herald (interestingly badged as a Standard) in India which, in modified but recognisably Herald-derived form, continued until 1982, by which time the re-vamped car was sold as a Standard Gazel. The final hurrah for this once-proud marque would be a brief appearance on the tailgate of Indian-built Rover SD1s, known locally as the Standard 2000.|
|The company's motorsport activities are given brief coverage in the appendices, rounding off this look at one of Coventry's largest car producers.|
|This book serves as not just a historical look back at a once-common make of car, but also the diverse uses to which a company's production facilities can be put at a country's hour(s) of need, in Standard's case during WW1 and WW2 alike.|
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