Leeds Engine:Histories: Car Makers

Hunslet Engine built Scootacar
Scootacar made by Hunslet Engine Co (Photo - Andrew Johnson)

A Brief History of Car Manufacturing in Leeds

All | Appleyard of Leeds | Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co | Day - Leeds | Dougill's Engineering | Electromobile (Leeds) | Ginetta | Glover's Motors | Greenwood & Batley | Hunslet Engine Co | Rice & Co | Rodley | Sterling Engineering | West Leeds Motor Co

Were there any cars made in Leeds? The simple answer to this is YES. It gets rather more complex as the majority of the vehicle makers in Leeds were involved with commercial and military vehicles. In the early days of motoring we also find several small firms in little back street garages that might once have been the local smithy turning their hands to vehicle production. In some cases there is little more than a reference in an old trade directory to tell of these firms and below we list some of the firms found in the directories available online through the Graces Guide website.

Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co
Robert Blackburn built his first aircraft in 1908, as fully covered on the aircraft builders page. In 1913 he moved to the Olympia Works in Roundhay Road, Leeds (formerly the Olympia Skating Rink) and the following year renamed his business as the Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co., suggesting that there were plans to diversify the product range. Any such diversification was delayed by the demands of the First World war, however.
Initially the aircraft produced at Roundhay Road were test flown from nearby Roundhay Park, but as production stepped up this became unsuitable so, in 1915 a site was acquired at Brough, East Yorkshire, with facilities for testing both land and sea planes. In 1916 the Brough site was requisitioned by the Government, being returned to Blackburn's following the end of hostilities.
After the war Brough was briefly used by a subsidiary of Blackburn's, the North Sea Aerial Navigation Company, to operate a passenger and freight service to Holland, as well as resuming its testing duties.It was already becoming clear that it would make sense to move aircraft production to Brough (although it would be a number of years before this happened- the process was begun "by 1925" and completed in 1932) so the plans for diversification were dusted off, the intention seemingly being to keep the Leeds factory fully occupied by increasing the output of other products as aircraft production wound down.
The first manifestation was the production of a small number of luxury motor car bodies, beginning in 1919. It is stated that Robert Blackburn had financial links to Jowett Cars Ltd of Bradford; the latter was reformed as a limited company in 1919 so it is likely that this involvement was as a shareholder. Jowett had moved to a new factory (at Springfield Works, Idle) following the end of the First World War, but it was not ready to start production until 1920, the implication being that some production was carried out at Roundhay instead. It is not known if the resulting cars were branded Jowett's or Blackburn's.

Internal Website Links
If road vehicles is your thing, the next size up on our site is our page on bus making in Leeds
As well as the Hunslet vehicle used in the Alien film we have a list of Leeds built items in films

External Website Links
Much of the information on this site was found in Graces Guide online material on Britain's industial heritage.
Scootacar Register
The Leodis website has several images relating to Appleyard of Leeds
Ginetta's website

Acknowledgements
This article was produced by Kris Ward and Andrew Johnson, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.

Page last modified: 19 June 2021

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