The Men of Austin
Throughout the history of the British motor industry there have been many influential
men that created and brought to ruin the great household car manufacturers of the
1950s. This is the gallery and biographies of several of those key leaders.
Called in during 1933 to lead Morris, Lord joined the Austin Motor Company in 1938
after a bitter row with Lord Nuffield (William Morris).
Lord famously declared his intention of taking Cowley apart 'brick by bloody brick’
and the discussions of an Austin/Morris merger in 1949 floundered as Nuffield and
Lord were not even on speaking terms.
Lord kept the Austin factories going throughout the war by switching production
to ambulances and even limited numbers of government cars.
He finally won the battle against Nuffield when Austin took over Morris in 1952.
Born in 1866 he emigrated at the age of 17 with his uncle to Australia, where he
was an apprentice in the engineering trade. He made improvements to sheep shearing
machines, and ten years later his employer Frederick Wolseley (of Wolseley Sheep
Shearing Company) asked him to return to England to supervise their manufacture.
He founded his own factory at Longbridge, seven miles from Birmingham. The original
factory occupied 2½ acres and could produce 120 cars per annum. Under his direction,
the factory expanded until by the outbreak of war in 1914 it was producing 1500
cars per annum. Production was then switched to munitions.
He designed the Austin Twenty with a six-cylinder engine, the Austin Twelve and
the Austin Seven, the forerunner of the world-famous Mini. In 1939 factory production
was once more turned over to the war effort. At the time of his death in 1941, he
had been chairman of the company for 36 years.
WILLIAM RICHARD MORRIS (LORD NUFFIELD)
Born in 1877, in 1901 he began motorcycle manufacture and repair and established
the Morris Motor Cycle, which was at first little more than a motorised pedal cycle.
Morris's experience with motor cycle manufacture made a venture to manufacture cars
an obvious extension. In 1912 he began car manufacture from a factory in Cowley,
Oxford. Inspired by the example of Ford in America, he pioneered production line
assembly in Britain.
In 1913 the first car, the "Oxford" was produced. All components were purchased
from other manufacturers. During this period Morris visited America to learn the
secrets of mass production. He also negotiated a contract to purchase engines from
America at a price that could not be matched by any English company.
Rapid expansion followed in the years after WW1, with the opening or acquisition
of numerous factories and major bases in Oxford, Abingdon, Birmingham and Swindon.