Standard Motor Company

Standard Motor Company

The Standard Motor Company was founded in Coventry, England in 1903 by Reginald Walter Maudslay (1871-1934). The Standard name was last used in Britain in 1963, and in India in 1987.



The company was set up in a small factory in Much Park Street, Coventry and employed seven people to assemble the first car, powered by a single cylinder engine with three speed gearbox and shaft drive to the rear wheels. This was soon replaced by a two cylinder model quickly followed by three and four cylinder versions and in 1905 the first six. As well as supplying complete chassis, the company found a good market in selling engines for fitting to other cars, especially where the owner was looking for more power. The company took a stand at the 1905 London Motor Show in Crystal Palace where a London Dealer, Charles (later Sir Charles) Friswell agreed to take the entire factory output. In 1907 Friswell became Chairman of the company and worked hard raising its profile culminating in supplying 70 cars for King George V and his entourage at the 1911 Delhi Royal Durbah. Friswell sold his interest in Standard in 1912 to C.J. Band and Siegfried Bettmann the founder of the Triumph Motor Cycle Company which later became the Triumph Motor Company. In 1914 Standard became a public company.

First World War

During World War I, the company produced over 1000 aircraft including the Royal Aircraft Factory BE12, Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, Sopwith Pup and Bristol F.2-B in a new works at Canley opened in 1916 which would become the main centre of operations in future.


Civilian car production restarted in 1919 with a range of small cars and by 1924 the company had a share of the market comparable to Austin, making over 10,000 cars in 1924, but by the late 1920s profits had fallen dramatically due to heavy reinvestment, a failed export contract and poor sales of the larger cars. In 1929 Captain John Black joined the board from Hillman as joint Managing Director and one thing he encouraged was the supply of chassis to external coachbuilders such as Jensen, Avon and Swallow (which would become Jaguar). Reginald Maudslay left the company in 1934, and died shortly afterwards at the age of 64.

In the 1930s, fortunes improved with new models, the Standard Nine and Standard Ten which addressed the low to mid range market and at the Motor Show of 1935 the new range of Flying Standards was announced with semi streamlined bodies.

World War II

During World War II, the company continued to produce its cars but now mainly fitted with utility bodies ("Tillies"). However, the most famous war time product was the Mosquito aircraft, mainly the FB VI version of which over 1100 were made. 750 Airspeed Oxfords were also made as well as 20,000 Bristol Mercury VIII engines, and 3,000 Bristol Beaufighter fuselages.

Other wartime products included 4000 Beaverette light armoured cars and a lightweight "Jeep" type vehicle.

The Post War years

With peace the pre-war Eight and Twelve cars were quickly back in production. Of greater significance was, in 1945, the purchase arranged by Sir John Black for £75,000 of the Triumph Motor Company, which had gone into receivership in 1939. Triumph was reformed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard called "Triumph Motor Company (1945) Limited". Also, a lucrative deal was arranged to build the small Ferguson tractor which helped fill some of the large war time factory space. This arrangement was seen primarily by Black as a means to securing increased profits to fund new car development.

A one-model policy for the Standard marque (alongside a range of new Triumphs) was adopted in 1948 with the introduction of the Standard Vanguard, which was styled on American lines by Walter Belgrove, and replaced all the carry-over pre-war models. The beetle-back Vanguard Phase 1 was replaced in 1953 by the notch-back Phase 2 and in 1955 by the all-new Phase 3, which gave rise to variants such as the Sportsman, Ensign, Vanguard Vignale and Vanguard Six.

The one-model policy lasted until 1953 when a new Standard Eight small car was added. In 1954 the Eight was supplemented by the slightly more powerful Standard Ten which featured a wider chrome grill: the Ten was followed in its turn in 1957 by the Standard Pennant featuring (to modern eyes) implausibly prominent tail fins, but otherwise little altered structurally from the 1953 Standard Eight.

1958 saw the launch of the Standard Atlas panel van and pick up, a cab over engine design. One report claims that it initially used the 948 cc engine from the standard 10. Another says it was the 1200cc motor as used also in the Herald. in either case the resulting vehicle was woefully underpowered. This situation soon resulted in the installation of the famous Standard 2088cc motor, which had proven it's worth in the Vanguard cars and the Ferguson tractor. The same motor was also used in Triumph TR3 and TR4 sports cars. This larger motor may not have been available in Standard Atlas's sold in the UK. The vehicles were of a high standard but not competitively priced, which resulted in relatively fewer sales. Production of the Atlas continued into 1963 when the company was absorbed by Leyland. Some changes were effected and the vehicles continued as Leyland 10's and 12's until 1965. As a point of interest, these vehicles were badges as "Triumphs" for export to Canada and the USA.

By the later 1950s the small Standards were losing out in the UK market place to more modern competitor designs, and the Triumph name was felt to be more marketable; hence the 1959 replacement for the Eight, Ten and Pennant was badged as the Triumph Herald; the only carry-over from the small Standards was the engine.

Overseas assembly plants were opened in Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. Sir John Black stepped down from control of the company in 1954. Ill health was cited as the 'official' reason for his resignation but it is now known the Board of Directors requested he should leave. His deputy and long-time personal assistant, Alick Dick, took over. The company started looking for partners to enable continued expansion and talks were held with Chrysler, Massey-Harris-Ferguson, Rootes, Rover and Renault but these came to nothing.

The Standard-Triumph company was eventually taken over in 1960 by Leyland Motors Ltd who paid £20 million and the last Standard was produced in the UK in 1963, when the final Vanguard models were replaced by the Triumph 2000. Triumphs continued when Leyland became British Leyland Motor Corporation (later BL) in 1968. The Standard brand has been unused in Europe since then and the Triumph or Rover Triumph BL subsidiary used the former Standard engineering and production facilities at Canley in Coventry until the plant was closed in 1980.

BMW acquired the Standard and Triumph brands following its purchase of BL's successor Rover Group in 1994. When most of Rover was sold off in 2000 BMW kept the Standard brand along with Triumph, MINI and Riley. The management of British Motor Heritage Ltd, gained the rights to the Standard Brand upon their management purchase of this company from BMW in 2001, (reference BMH website linked below)

There was talk of a possible revival of the Standard name by MG Rover for its importation of the TATA Indica (reference Channel 4 website below). However, for reasons relating to the ownership of the brand by BMW, the car was finally launched as the CityRover.

tandard in India

However, the Standard name lasted into the 1980s in India, where Standard Motor Products, Madras manufactured the Triumph Herald with the basic 948 cc engine as the Standard Herald in the 1960s, eventually with additional four-door and five-door estate models exclusively for the Indian market.

After 1970, Standard Motor Products split with British Leyland, and introduced a bodily restyled four-door saloon based on the Herald called the Standard Gazel in 1971, using the same 948 cc engine but with a different rear axle as the Herald's 'swing-arm' one was not liked much by Indian buyers and mechanics alike. The Gazel was built in small numbers — it has been suggested that it did so to keep its manufacturer's licence — until 1977. With the company concentrating solely on producing commercial vehicles based on the Leyland 20, badged as Standard 20, production of Standard cars ceased until the Standard 2000, a rebadged Rover SD1, was launched in 1985. The car rode higher and had a slightly modified old 1991 cc Standard Vanguard engine, as the company could not procure the license to use the original Rover engine on this car, and was thus not successful, apart from the reasons that it faced competition from cars with Japanese and other newer, fuel-efficient technology in India. It ceased production in 1987 and was the last car to bear the Standard name.

British Car Models

Pre World War 1

Military and Commercial

ee also

Australian Motor Industries- the Standard associated company in Australia

External links

* [ Standard Cars of the mid-1930s]
* [ Standard Motor Club]
* []
* [ Unofficial Austin Rover Resource: Standards of India]
* [ Hari's Motor World—Indian cars]
* [ British Motor Heritage Ltd] - British Motor Heritage Ltd
* [ Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource] - Austin Rover Web Resource
* [ MG Rover may revive Standard brand] Channel 4

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