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 1903 - 1963

Reginald Waiter Maudsley

The story of Standard starts with one Sir John Wolfe Barry, who designed London’s famous Tower Bridge. After his young assistant, Reginald Waiter Maudsley, was left in financial straits by his father's death, Sir John Barry provided a cheque for £3000 to enable him to leave civil engineering and establish himself in the nascent British motor industry. Maudslay formed the Standard Motor Company in Coventry on 2 March 1903, with a total capital of £5000, a small factory in Much Park Street and offices in Earl Street.

Chairman of the tiny company was Maudslay, while his chief engineer was Alex Craig. The car that they produced incorporated only those principles which had been tried, tested, and found to be reliable ( many of them seemed to have already been tried in Craig's designs for Lea Francis and Singer). Because the car was built on proven principles, Maudslay named it the Standard. The first Standard was a solidly built Motor Victoria with a very over-square engine of 5 in bore x 3 in stroke (available in both single and twin-cylinder forms) mounted under the driver's seat. The two-cylinder version cost £367 10S in the UK. Total 1903 output was six cars; the workforce consisted of six men, who the following year increased production to the staggering total of nine cars.

The First Standard Exported to Canada

For 1904, a three-cylinder version of the over-square engine was available in a motor Brougham costing UK£415, whilst the company advertised that they could improve the performance of low-powered cars by fitting one of their 12/14hp four-cylinder engines at a cost of £85. Although business slackened off during 1905, the little firm (at that time there was a labour force of sixteen) kept up with the times by producing an 18/20 hp six-cylinder car. They also made their first export sale, after a Canadian walked into the works and bought a car on the understanding that it would be shipped immediately.

Such high-powered business amazed the press, who described it as a 'bold bid for the export market'. Standard cars were exhibited at Olympia in November 1905, and Charles Friswell, a London motor agent, was so impressed that he offered to take the entire output of the factory. Friswell subsequently was appointed sole distributor, and the rate of production stepped up. A larger factory at Bishopsgate Green was taken, in order to turn out the 18/20 hp six-cylinder model at a rate of at least ten per week, and the labour force grew. Despite some financial difficulty, production went on at a steady rate.

In March 1906, the 18/20 was replaced by a 24130 hp six, and by a 50 hp luxury model. With the increasing demand for Standard cars, the company took over the works of Pridmore and Co, elastic web weavers, in Cash's Lane, the Bishopsgate Green factory now being concerned solely with the production of coachwork. The Widdrington works, in Aldbourne Road, were acquired subsequently in order to carry out repair and servicing work. A milestone in the company's history occurred in late 1908 when the soon well-known circular Union Jack radiator badge was introduced.

1903 Standard 6 hp 1006cc single cylinder
1903 Standard 6 hp 1006cc single cylinder.

1910 Standard Model 20
1910 Standard Model 20.

1912 Standard Model 20 3620cc six cylinder
1912 Standard Model 20 3620cc six cylinder.

1914 Standard Rhyl
1914 Standard Rhyl, powered by a 1087cc four-cylinder engine.

1923 Standard 13.9 hp
1923 Standard 13.9 hp.

1926 Standard 14 hp Charlecote two-seater
1926 Standard 14 hp Charlecote two-seater.

1932 Standard Big Nine Swallow
1932 Standard Big Nine Swallow.

1932 Standard Prototype, which used the 12 hp chassis
1932 Standard Prototype, which used the 12 hp chassis.

1935 Standard 9 hp 4-door sedan
1935 Standard 9 hp 4-door sedan.

1938 Standard Flying Twelve
1938 Standard Flying Twelve, powered by a 12 hp engine.

1937 Standard Flying 20 V8
1937 Standard Flying 20 V8. It would only remain in production for two years.

1953 Standard Vanguard Phase II
1953 Standard Vanguard Phase II.

1954 Standard Eight
1954 Standard Eight, powered by a 803cc engine.

1959 Standard Vanguard 12cwt Utility
1959 Standard Vanguard 12cwt Utility.

1961 Standard Ensign
1961 Standard Ensign.

The 1909 Imperial Press Conference

By this time Friswell, now Sir Charles, had become chairman of the company in addition to being sole distributor. He was a very conscious publicist, and when the Imperial Press Conference of 1909 was held, he arranged for a fleet of twenty 20 hp six-cylinder cars to be laid on for the benefit of the 'gentlemen of the Press'. They ran a total of 40,000 trouble-free miles, and received much favourable publicity. In 1911 Friswell sailed for India. Here, he convinced the Government of the worth of his cars, and entered into a contract to provide all the cars for the Coronation Durbar celebrations to be held in December.

He also contracted with the Viceregal authorities to provide cars for the Royal suite and trucks for the beaters for tiger hunting expeditions. Seventy Standards were sent to India. Fleets of cars were established at Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Nepal. Friswell was attempting during this period to dictate the design of Standard cars, and offered to acquire all Maudslay's shares in the company. However, Maudslay was not prepared to sell and made a counter claim which eventually resulted in Friswell leaving the company to pursue his other interests. C. J. Band, a Coventry solicitor, replaced him on the board. Standard had experimented with light cars as early as 1909, when they had produced a 12 hp model with the rare distinction of being able to take spacious landaulette coachwork, thanks to a 6.5:1 backaxle ratio which restricted top speed to 25 mph.

The Standard S 'Rhyl'

And in March 1913 the company announced a real 'big car in miniature' in the shape of the 1087cc 9.5 hp S model, or 'Rhyl', which proved so successful that it virtually dominated the output of the Standard factory, approximately 1300 of these little cars being built during the period 1913-16. A modern touch was the 3-year guarantee offered with each Rhyl, which was the first car to employ the classic Standard radiator with the shouldered header tank of the early models rounded off and mounted on a tubular cooling element with no side panels. When war broke out, the Standard factory was turned over to the manufacture of munitions, and it was decided to undertake aircraft production, for which a new factory was constructed at Canley, in the countryside outside Coventry.

Standard RE-8 'Harry Tate' Biplanes

Here Standard built some 1600 of the angular RE-8 'Harry Tate' reconnaissance biplanes, an obsolescent machine known as the 'Rigger's Nightmare' from its cat's cradle of flying and landing wires. But when peace came, and Standard relinquished the production of 'Fokker fodder', they had a nice new factory all ready for car manufacture, and henceforward Canley was the centre of their operations. The first post-war model was the 1328cc SLS, which was a modernised, long-stroke version of the S, but it was not long before this was replaced by a truly postwar design in the shape of the 11.4 hp SLO, which, as its initials denoted; was an overhead-valve model. This dated from 1921, and with it was launched Standard's famous advertising slogan: 'Count them on the road'.

An enlarged variant of this model was introduced in 1922 as the 13·9hp SLO 4. This was a period of expansion for the Canley factory: a test track now encircled its buildings, and there was now a production line for coachwork. The early vintage Standards were innovators in the field of all-weather coachwork, the tourers had rigid side-screens which could be swung away into the interior of the doors, a distinct advance on the detachable side-screens fitted to many of the SLO's contemporaries. The popularity of the new Standard models was shown by the 1923 production figures, over 5000 of the SLO variants were delivered that year.

For 1924, model names were allotted to the various incarnations of the SLO: on the 11 hp chassis there were Canley and Coleshill two-seaters, Kineton and Kenilworth four-seaters and the Piccadilly saloon, while on the 14 hp chassis were Leamington, Warwick, Portland and Pall Mall bodywork. Expansion continued at the Canley Works, but demand for the company's products suffered an alarming downturn in 1926, and the following year Standard introduced its first six-cylinder model since before the War. This was the 18/36 hp, which replaced the 11 hp Standard in production. The rapid development of this model was illustrated by the state of the car on show at Olympia: its bonnet was locked, thus excluding the prying enthusiast from discovering that the car was devoid of an engine. In any case, this wasn't the right model for the times, and sales continued to slump.

The Standard Nine

Hastily, Standard moved in the opposite direction, developing a new 8.9 hp light car, the 1159 cc Standard Nine, normally supplied in 'Teignmouth' form, with four-seated fabric saloon coachwork. It proved an instant success and the saviour of the company; 1928 saw the announcement of a larger power unit (1287cc) and a longer wheelbase as options for this model, and there was also a sports version with raised compression ratio and wire wheels. The bodywork included a proper luggage trunk at the rear, and there were also two nick-nack containers concealed in the rear seat armrests. Top speed was 51 mph, fuel consumption was 40 mpg.

Captain John P. Black

The success of the Nine staved off the financial crisis until 1929: but then the company had to be drastically reorganised to escape bankruptcy. Captain John P. Black, previously in charge of Hillman, was appointed managing director of Standard in 1930, and under his control the product range was completely reorganised. For 1931 the Big Nine of 1287cc acquired a 'smart new radiator and a roomy body finished both inside and out in good style and replete with every modem appointment'. The cheapest of the Big Nine range was the Popular six-light, four-seater, four-door fabric saloon, while the most expensive was the Special fabric saloon, which for UK£245 offered a four-speed 'twin-top' gearbox, leather upholstery, safety glass, bumpers, wire wheels and sunshine roof.

The Standard Ensign Light Six

There were now two ranges of six-cylinder models: the Ensign light six was virtually an enlarged version of the Big Nine, with a 2504cc engine, while the 2552 cc Envoy was 'a full five-seater of the commodious type popular overseas, and had a chassis up-to-date in all mechanical details'. Standard were also supplying chassis to specialist bodybuilders like Avon and Swallow; the Swallow Standard eventually grew into a distinct marque, the SS, progenitor of the Jaguar. Total Standard production for 1930 was 6000 cars. A new small Standard, the Little Nine, with a 1-liter engine, appeared at the end of 1931, costing only £155 in coachbuilt sedan form; the Big Nine was improved in appearance and the specification of the two six-cylinder models was upgraded.

The Standard Little Twelve and Big Twelve

Demand for these 1932 Standards was such that the entire output of this model year was sold by July 1932. Consequently, the 1933 models were introduced ahead of schedule: new to the range were two small sixes, the Little Twelve and the Big Twelve. The Little Twelve was basically a 1337cc derivative of the Little Nine, with the chassis lengthened to accommodate the two extra cylinders, while the Big Twelve had a 1497cc power unit. At Olympia, it was announced that the Big Nine and Big Twelve models would be available with the Wilson self-changing gearbox, and most models offered the Bendix automatic clutch control as an optional extra. The design of coachwork was rationalised throughout this rather complex range, while the 2552cc Twenty now had a new design of chassis incorporating cruciform cross-bracing, and was available with seven-seater saloon coachwork.

1933 saw the start of a thorough reorganisation of the Canley works, with extra facilities being constructed to enable the company to concentrate all its production here. By the middle of 1935 the factory had been completely mechanised, with overhead conveyors in all departments; and in 1936 alone, over £350,000 was spent in enlarging and re-equipping the plant to cope with an output of some 34,000 cars. Sadly, Maudslay did not live to see the fulfilment of this programme of expansion, he died in late 1934 at the age of 63, and was succeeded by John P. Black.

Design of the Standard cars was completely revised for 1934: now all models had cross-braced chassis and flexibly mounted engines. There was a new Nine, available in saloon form at only £135, which featured an underslung chassis, as did the Ten (£168); all the year's Standards now had four-speed transmissions with synchromesh on the upper three ratios (the Wilson box was still available as an extra), while all models save the Nine and the cheapest Ten had a free-wheel incorporated in the transmission. Only modest changes were made to the range for 1935, though the Twelve now boasted 'Tri-Comfy' coachwork, the centre section of the rear seat sliding forward to accommodate a third passenger.

Speed, Speedline and 'Flying' Standards

Streamlined sports sedans known as the Speed and Speedline were available on the 1O-12 hp sports chassis, which had an aluminum cylinder head and twin carburetors. Much of 1935 was spent in the development of radically new models, which were announced on the eve of the Olympia Show: these were the famous 'Flying Standards', with streamlined swept-tail coachwork developed from the 10-12 hp Sports. To keep the overall height to a minimum, the chassis was sharply cranked over the rear axle, which thus operated inside an arched slot in the frame. At first, only 12 hp, 16 hp and 20 hp Flying Standards were available, at prices ranging from £259 to £315. Standard waxed eloquent about their manifold virtues: 'A car of astonishing beauty with flowing lines simplified for practical reasons only: to give comfortable seating within the wheelbase ... to make cleaning a simple easy matter, to remove every obstacle to silken, silent, unbroken speed ... it's called the "Flying Standard" because at speed it is as silent as a bird on the wing ... it combines brilliant speed, family roominess with economy.'

The Flying 20 V8

The new styling became universal on the 1937 models: there were the Flying Nine (£149), the Flying Ten (£169), the Flying Fourteen (£249), the Flying Twelve (£199) and the new Flying Twenty (£349), with a 2686 cc V8 power unit. Only 200 of these V8s were actually produced, though its 'fencer's mask' radiator grille was to set the style for the following year's production, and the power unit was also used in the Raymond Mays car. At the 1938 Motor Show, three new models were exhibited: these were the 8 hp Super Ten and 12 hp Saloon De Luxe. All had independent front suspension by transverse leaf spring. Conventional semi-elliptic springing was retained on the continuing models, the 9 hp, the 14 hp and the 20 hp, and the 'Flying Standard' styling was on the way out, as the 9 hp, 10 hp and 12 hp models could be ordered either with the sloping tail of the Flying range, or with a more square-tailed version with luggage lockers built in the rear panel.

De Havilland Mosquitoes

When World War 2 broke out the Canley factory once again turned to the manufacture of aircraft: this time over a thousand De Havilland Mosquitoes were built as well as Airspeed Oxford trainers. Component manufacture included items as large as complete Bristol Beaufighter fuselages and as small as bomb releases; 20,000 Bristol Hercules aero-engines were built, and 417,000 cylinders for Bristol Mercury and Pegasus engines. Vehicles were produced, too: some 10,000 light utility vans were built for military use, based on the pre-war Flying Standard 14 chassis, as were 2800 examples of the curious Beaverette. This was a light armoured car on the 14 hp chassis, intended mainly for use by groups such as the Home Guard in the event of invasion.

The Standard Beaverette

Powered by the Standard 14 engine, the Beaverette was about as basic' as an armoured car could be: early examples had armoured bodywork, but retained the far from bulletproof radiator grille, wings and bonnet of the civilian Fourteen. Later models had full frontal armour, though the wheels were still exposed. Armament consisted of either machine guns or anti-tank guns, and the armour was made from mild steel plating protected at the sides by a backing of oak planks; the floor, apparently, consisted of petrol tins beaten into shape. Experiments were also carried out with four-wheel-driven military scout vehicles - 'jungle jeeps' - which could have formed the basis for a post-war utility car costing no more than £100-£140, but the project was dropped when the war in the Far East came to an end.


Once the fighting was over, Standard quickly resumed production for the civilian market, as the necessary tools had all been carefully stored during the war. In 1945 the assets and goodwill of the Triumph company were acquired: this firm had gone into receivership just before the war, and its factory had been destroyed in the blitz, so the new Triumphs were also produced at Canley. Standard's immediate post-war line up consisted of the Eight, Twelve and Fourteen, but these were all swept away in 1947 when production was concentrated on one new model, the Vanguard. It was intended that this rather bulbous unit-constructed car should be offered in only one body style, a four-door sedan: it was powered by a rugged four-cylinder engine with wet cylinder liners which was also used in the Ferguson tractor, another Standard product.

The Standard Vanguard

The transatlantic styling of the Vanguard made it relatively easy to sell in the export markets, and in the early years of its production it was a relatively rare sight on British roads. By 1951 an station wagon version was available, as was the option of a Laycock de Normanville overdrive, the Vanguard being one of the first British cars to offer this facility. The 1952 Vanguards underwent a mild styling improvement, with a lower bonnet, new radiator grille and larger rear window: this was known as the Phase I Vanguard, and was replaced the following season by the Phase II Vanguard, which incorporated a more radical re-styling, including the provision of an extended boot to replace the rounded back end of the original Vanguard.

In 1953 a new Standard Eight appeared, though this was a very different animal from its namesake of the 1939-47 period. With unit construction and bland styling and the most basic equipment, it was intended as a kind of sub-economy model. This idea was soon dropped, and a more lavishly appointed variant appeared in the spring of 1954, as did a 948cc Standard Ten. These models, intended to establish Standard in the lower-priced popular car market never quite made the grade, handicapped possibly by somewhat vague handling characteristics. An estate version of the Ten was originally to be marketed as the 'Good Companion', but it seems as though the marketing department at Canley lost its nerve at the last minute, and the car was eventually named merely the Ten Companion.

The Standard Pennant and Ensign

For 1956, the Vanguard was completely restyled, with all-new Phase III bodywork, and the following year there was also a Sportsman version, with two-tone paintwork, an MGA-like grille and a high-compression twin carburetor engine. The 1958 season saw a more expensive Ten, the Pennant, and a cheaper Vanguard, the Ensign, but it was becoming apparent that the name 'Standard' was now a very debased currency. Originally it had signified a yardstick by which others should be measured: now it was applied by other makers to their basic models, and meant the opposite of 'de luxe'.

Rebuilding was taking place at Canley to provide production facilities for a new family car, but this was to be built under the Triumph label as the Herald. The announcement of the restyled Vignale Vanguard in 1958 was little more than a stay of execution, and once the merger between Standard and Leyland Motors took place in April 1961, there was no hope for the continuance of the marque, beyond a new six-cylinder Vanguard that appeared in 1962. This engine later powered the Triumph 2000, but it was to feature in a few Standards. The last car to bear the Standard name, an Ensign De Luxe, was produced at Canley in May 1963, though the marque's demise didn't become official until the autumn of 1963, after all the cars in stock had been sold.
1934 Standard
1934 Standard.
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