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A brief History of Karrier Motors Ltd. - outlining their Progress and Activities in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Industry.

Sales Promotion Department, Karrier Motors Ltd., Luton c.1961

Since the formation in 1907 of the original company from which Karrier Motors Ltd. was developed, the firm has been engaged continuously in the manufacture of motor vehicles of the goods, passenger and municipal types.

The first Karrier vehicle - a 50 cwt. lorry with 18 h.p. two-cylinder engine - was designed in 1907 by the late Mr. R.F. Clayton and built in the following year by Clayton & Co. (Huddersfield) Ltd.

Originally, there was one small shop alongside the River Colne within a mile from the centre of Huddersfield where component parts were machined and chassis assembled, and it is interesting to learn that the total number of employees at that time was 35.

The first twelve months marked the experimental stage and the following year 1909 saw the construction and delivery of 15 vehicles, some of which gave excellent service for more than twenty years.

Following extensions and an increase of employees, deliveries in the third year increased to 46 which included vehicles of from 20 to 80 cwts. capacity, and among them were models fitted with Omnibus and Char-a-banc bodies.

Whilst the smaller models were powered with two-cylinder engines developing up to 20 b.h.p., the larger incorporated four-cylinder engines giving up to 30 b.h.p. Both types had magneto ignition.

These early Karrier models had three forward speeds, were chain driven and ran on solid rubber tyres. In some cases driver was positioned behind engine whilst in others, the open driving cab was placed above the engine thus giving more body space and pioneering the way for the now popular type of vehicle with full forward control.

The passenger carrying vehicles delivered in these early years were of the boneted type. Chassis were identical with the goods-carrying type and whilst their comfort was not comparable to present day standards they were extremely popular with the public - primarily for local outings previously undertaken by horse-drawn char-a-bancs.

Incidentally, a Karrier 50 b.h.p. char-a-banc with a full load of 21 passengers was the first motorised public service vehicle to climb the then dreaded Porlook Hill in North Somerset. This was on 3rd June, 1914.

The day of the municipal and rural bus service had not yet dawned and in the larger towns and cities the noisy tramcar still held 'sway' .

In 1913, a 3-4 ton lorry was designed to comply with the War Department's Subsidy Specification, and along with a number of other leading makers' vehicles it took part in the trials held in October of that year by the War Office. Oil and petrol consumptions, accessibility, speed and hill climbing capabilities were special features of these trials, and as a result of the performance of the Karrier lorry, Clayton & Co. (Huddersfield) Ltd. were awarded a Subsidy Certificate.

A number of these subsidy lorries were ordered by the War Office, and by a fortunate coincidence were ready for delivery when the First Great War commenced in August 1914. The next four years saw very great activity on the part of the firm, for upwards of two thousand 4 ton lorries were turned out for the Government during this period, in addition to a considerable umber of components for Tanks.

Rapid developments took place following the Armistice in 1918, and two years later Karrier Motors Ltd. with Mr. H.F. Clayton as Chairman and his son, Mr. R.F. Clayton, and Mr. H.W. Hattersley as Joint Managing Directors took over the business established by Clayton & Co. which was transferred to new and substantial works not far from the centre of Huddersfield. This new home - Karrier Works - covering an area of approximately ten acres was systematically arranged with a view to economic production and gave employment at the peak of its activities to well over a thousand persons.

About this time, the Karrier range of models expanded considerably and much pioneering work of great value was undertaken. 0n the municipal side attention was given to perfecting a street sweeping and collecting machine, and refuse collecting vehicles of various types were evolved. These models were well received by officials in the Public Cleansing World and were instrumental in effecting great economies in municipal expenditure.

Karrier were also British Pioneers of the rigid-frame six-wheel type of vehicle both for passenger and goods transportation, and apart from the fact that a great many of our leading municipalities operated single and double-deck minibuses of the six-wheeled type with every success, the remarkable ability of the goods model six-wheeler to traverse rough and broken country quickly and without detriment to its own mechanism, resulted in the acquisition of machines of this description in large numbers by Govemnent departments and private users both at home and in distant parts of the Empire.

The first Karrier rigid-frame six-wheeler of the goods carrying type was built in the latter part of 1924, and in February 1925 it was severely tested by the War Department at Wool in Dorsetshire, where its amazing performance over broken country was viewed with great astonishment.

It should be noted, incidentally, that two standard medium capacity Karrier six-wheelers had the distinction of being the first goods—carrying vehicles to encircle the vast continent of Australia, a distance of approximately 11,000 miles. During this journey through undeveloped, wild and trackless country, hundreds of miles of sandy wastes were crossed, whilst mountain ranges and endless miles of roadless country never previously attempted by heavy vehicles also had to be traversed, but it is noteworthy that the study Karrier vehicles - pushing along at an average rate of 500 miles a week for 22 consecutive weeks - ran to schedule throughout!

The valuable experience gained at this early date resulted in a passenger carrying six-wheeler being designed and constructed and the single-decker Super Safety Six-wheel Coach exihibited at Olympia in November 1925 - the only example of its type shown - proved to be a great centre of attraction.

During the next two years rapid development took place in the six-wheeler field, municipalities in particular taking a keen interest in the passenger models which afforded riding comfort far superior to that of the four-wheelers then available, and during this period the municipalities of Huddersfield, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Salford, Leeds, Portsmouth, Bimingham, Halifax, Blackpool, Oldham, Manchester, Wallasey, Sheffield and Wigan took delivery of single and double deck Karrier six-wheelers, the latter type accommodating up to as many as 66 passengers.

Following the success of the Karrier six-wheel omnibus in municipal service, attention was turned to the electrically propelled vehicle, and with the collaboration of an old-established firm of electrical engineers, Clough, Smith & Co.Ltd. of London, a six-wheel double-deck Trolleybus was designed and placed on the market in 1928.

This vehicle, known as the Karrier-Clough "E6" model, possessed all the comfort and mobility of the motor omnibus and enabled those municipalities, who by force of circumstances were having to abandon sections of their existing tramway routes, to utilise the overhead equipment and preserve the load on their electricity generating stations.

Six of these double-deckers purchased by Doncaster Corporation in 1928 were the first Karrier Trolleybuses to be placed in service and were the forerunners of the now considerable trolleybus fleets operated by municipal undertakings throughout the country. Incidentally, up to the outbreak of War this progressive South Yorkshire town's fleet of trolleybuses had increased to over forty, all but one being of Karrier manufacture.

Increasing interest was at this time being taken in the commercial vehicle for passenger transportation and the mobile omnibus was beginning to play a most useful and important part in the everday life of the community.

Concentration on the six-wheeler had not hindered Karrier enterprise in other directions, and in 1928 an entirely new range of passenger carrying vehicles - three four-wheelers (Cutter, Coaster, Chaser) and two six-wheelers (Clipper and Consort) - accomodating from 20 to 68 people was placed on the market and met with immediate response. Complying in all respects with the then new Ministry of Transport Regulations and designed specifically to give the utmost satisfaction under all conditions of service the new vehicles were amply powered, luxuriously sprung and incorporated brakes of greater efficiency than had previously been the case.

Each chassis embodied automatic chassis lubrication, and of particular interest was the fact that in the largest vehicle in the range, the "Consort" 68 seater, a single sleeve valve type of engine, tested and developed by Karriers during previous years, was fitted. This engine, which had a high thermal and mechanical efficiency, developed exceptionally high power without noise or vibration and carried all its auxiliaries in easier-to-get—at positions, and its introduction to the Karrier range of power units was yet another instance of the firm's determination to advance on lines or progress.

To this range a further four-wheel model - the "Monitor" 50 seat double-decker — was added twelve months later. Experience had shown that for a large capacity omnibus operating on a route of high traffic density the six-wheeler was much the better type of vehicle - due regard being paid to axle weights and the proper provision for overloading - but many operators preferred the more normal type of four-wheeler when considering the transport of smaller numbers of passengers and it was to supply this demand that the "Monitor" was introduced.

About this time (1929-30) further valuable pioneering work was undertaken by Karrier Motors Ltd. as instanced by the introduction of (a) Vehicles equipped with gas producer plant and (b) the Karrier ``Road Railer''.

The former embodied equipment developed by the Compound Gas Power Co. Ltd. of Reading. Designed to use vegetable fuels only of which raw wood was the chief, the plant operated equally well on maize cobs, nut shells, charcoal, cotton seed, rice or padi-husk, and was thus particularly suitable for overseas use in districts where any of the above named fuels were plentiful.

The unique design of the latter, the Karrier ``Road Railer'' was such as to permit a vehicle - goods or passenger - to travel with equal facility on either road or rail.

Officials in the railway world and manufacturers had long been interested in the possibilities of such a machine but this was the first successful attempt to combine in one vehicle the advantages of rail haulage together with the benefits of the road vehicle in being able to collect and deliver from "door to door".

The design was such that at any level crossing, or at points where a surface level with the tops of the rails was provided by means of filling, in with sleepers and ballast, the vehicle was able - without the need of special equipment other than that incorporated in its design - to run direct from road to rail, and in less than five minutes was able to proceed on its rail journey, where speeds in excess of those obtainable on the road where, in complete safety, possible.

Vehicles of both the passenger and goods carrying types which were supplied for service both in this country and on the continent attracted world wide attention and many enquiries were received by its originators, not only from railway engineers in both hemispheres, but also from people interested in all classes of industrial transport.

Another "landmark" in the history of Karrier Motors Ltd. was the introduction by them in June 1930 of the now well—established "Mechanical Horse" - a three-wheel tractor designed specifically to meet industry's need for a suitable motor vehicle to replace the horse for cartage work.

Up to its introduction, the only machines available were those designed and built for running considerable mileages at reasonably high road speed, and these, whilst proving ideal for the transport of goods over long distances, were definitely un-suitable for multitudinous collections and deliveries in localised areas.

It was well understood that the ideal conditions making for maximum economy in normal motor transport operation were those in which the vehicle or vehicles could be kept regularly running on the road thoughout the whole working day under full load, the mileage not being unduly reduced by frequent stoppages for any cause, or by reason of long periods spent loading or un-loading.

But the collection and delivery of goods as distinct from their transport, introduced conditions quite different from the ideal, and prior to the advent of the aptly named "Cob", horses proved to be more useful and economical for this particular class of work than the then existing types of motor vehicle; this in spite of the farmer's slow speed, and the acute traffic congestions which their pressure on crowded town streets caused.

Times and science gradually closed in on these four-footed toilers, however, and with the advent of the Karrier "Mechanical Horse" there became available a motorised alternative which, for mobility, speed, and cost of operation literally left poor old "Dobbin" standing.

The Railway Companies - always large users of the horse - were the first to try out the new "wonder", and following them came a host of industrial and municipal operators, who found it to be a great economy factor in the transport of their medium capacity loads.

In its initial form, the "Cob" - an extremely manoeuvrable three-wheel tractor employed in conjunction with quickly-detachable trailers or converted draws - was produced with a 7-17 h.p. engine and was capable of dealing with loads of from two to three tons.

Following upon its success both in the hands of railway and industrial users, there came a demand for a similar type of machine for dealing with greater loads, and as a result, a practically identical vehicle incorporating a more powerful engine, having increased speed and a greater range of operation, was placed on the market for dealing with loads of up to six tons.

Numerous instances occured where firms using normal type motor vehicles for dealing with their localised transport tasks found operating costs to be so great as to be almost prohibitive, but by employing the "Cob" tractor-trailer combination they were able to handle their "inner-zone“ loads easier, quicker, and at much lower cost, whilst at the some time they were able to release their long distance vehicles for more profitable traffic.

Side by side with the developments above referred to, Karrier were building up and maintaining a pre-imminent [sic] position in the municipal vehicle field, producing a wide variety of vehicles for cleansing purposes among which possibly the original Road Sweeper and Collector previously referred to is the best known. Together with the more nominal types of refuse collector and gully emptier, the Karrier "RSC" Sweep Collector is being used by progressive municipalities all over the world. It affords unequalled service by virtue of the high standard of engineering practice applied to its construction and the many patented features embodied in its design. In a simple sequence of operations under the immediate control of the driver the "RSC" model damps the surface of the road, sweeps up the refuse and collects it into the body of the machine and later transports the collected refuse to the dump, covering and cleansing some 30 track miles of street in the course of an ordinary day's work.

Following full development of the "Cob" the Karrier concern was acquired by Routes Securities Ltd. in August 1934, and thus became associated with the Rootes Groupup of companies, Humber, Hillman and Commer.

To facilitate economic production it was found desirable in July of the following year to transfer prodution of Karrier vehicles to the Luton factory of Commer Cars Ltd. which, to allow vehicles of the two 'marques' to be manufactured side by side, was enlarged considerably.

Design revisions enabled standardised Commer components to be incorporated in many Karrier models, the economies thus effected reducing to a minimum overhead and manufacturing costs, and enabling greater headway to he made in the overseas market where the Rootes Associated Companies, particularly strongly entrenched, exported some 25% of vehicles produced.

Apart from Trolleybuses which had become an important phase of Karrier's business it was decided to cease the manufacture of passenger carrying vehicles and concentrate on goods and municipal vehicles.

Trolleybuses continued to be built at the Huddersfield works of Karrier until the acquisition of Sunbeam Commercial vehicles by Rootes Securities Ltd. when their manufacture was transfened to the Sunbeam factory at Wolverhampton where the four-wheel and six—wheel types which had become well represented throughout the country continued to be built.

At Luton, up to the outbreak of war in September 1939, Karrier produced a wide range of specialised products including goods transport vehicles of from two to six tons capacity and municipal motor appliances of diverse types. The wealth of a considerable experience was successfully blended into their newly marketed models and as a direct outcome had as their chief characteristics, dependability, economy of operation, manoeuvrdbility, and as may rightly be expected from products of one of the oldest firms in the industry, all continued to enjoy an enviable reputation in their various spheres of operation.

Prior to the Second Great World War, Karrier were producing more Municipal Motor Appliances - and in a wider variety of types - than any other single organisation, and such had been their continued success throughout the years that at that time some 600 public authorities were employing Municipal Karriers with every satisfaction.

With the outbreak of war, the needs of industry had to make way for the needs of the fighting services and Karrier had perforce to concentrate on the production of vehicles of military value.

They had for long been identified with the design and pxoduction of cross-country machines and for many years had supplied to the Government large numbers of rigid-frame six-wheelers capable of carrying five ton loads over made roads or three tons across rough and un-developed country.

Important Government contracts were placed for vehicles of this type together with contracts covering a newer type of three-ton four-wheeler with power applied to all four wheels; and the production of these together with a most efficient type of Amoured Fighting Vehicle kept Karrier more than busy during the years of the war.

This was indeed a period of great achievement and Karrier are justly proud of the part they played in meeting the needs of Britain's fighting forces.

With the cessation of hostilities developments proceeded apace, full advantage being taken of the invaluable knowledge and experience acquired during the war years, and improved models including the popular 'Bantam' both as a two ton load carrier and as a tractor for dealing with trailer loads of five tons were made available together with the moeuverable "CK3" three-four tonner, whilst on the Municipal side all products, refuse collectors and gully emptiers alike, were brought completely up to date in specification and appearance.

In 1948 the "Bantam" was completely re-designed with a comfortable, all steel cab of pleasing appearance, whilst two years later the "CK3" was superseded by the "Gamecock" 3-4 tonner, the latter powered by a six-cylinder o.h.v. engine mounted almost horizontally beneath the floor of the driver's cab and incorporating for the first time porous choome cylinder bores, which have the advantage of increasing engine life very eonsiderably, and enables phenomenal mileages to be run before re-boring becomes necessary.

The usefulness of these models was extended in 1954 by the offering of a diesel engine as an alternative to the petrol engine, that in the "Gamecock" being the remarkable Routes Group's ``TS3'' two-stroke - a three-cylinder of the opposed piston type - which, because of its layout gives a greater thermal and mechanical efficiency than a normal oil engine. A low capital cost, lower fuel consumption, greater torque at low speeds, silence of operation and singlicity of maintenance are highlights of this remarkable engine - the first to be produced by the Rootes Group.

About this time, too, was introduced a small 14 seater coach chassis and an ambulance, each with a 50 b.h.p. four-cylinder engine embodying life extending porous chrome bores and synchromesh gearbox.

In 1955 announcements were made which were to make Karrier models even more popular with already more than satisfied operators. In the "Gamecock" 3-4 tonner a ``TS3'' diesel engine developing 75 b.h.p. was offered as an alternative to the already fully proved 85 b.h.p. six-cylinder o.h.v. petrol engine. In addition the 'Gamecock' was fitted with a new robust four-speed synchromesh gearbox and an improved and strengthened rear axle. In the 'Bantam' two tonner a P4 52 b.h.p. four—cylinder diesel engine was made available as an alternative to the fully proved four-cylinder 48 b.h.p. petrol engine. The versatility of the ‘Bantam' was still further enhanced by the introduction of an alternative 10ft. 2in. w.b. chassis to the existing 8ft. 2in. version.

In 1936 after a lapse of almost twelve months, the Karrier 'Bantam' 4-5 ton tractor with 'J' or 'BK' type coupling was re-introduced. The standard power unit was the 54 b.h.p. o.h.v. four-cylinder porous chrome bore petrol engine with a 43.5 b.h.p. four-cylinder light diesel available as an alternative.

The light diesel engine became so popular with Karrier 'Bantam' operators, by virtue of its outstanding economy and exceptional reliability, that it became necessary to make this diesel engine available as an optional power unit in the Karrier 14-seater coach and the Karrier Ambulance. In August 1957 this was proclaimeda to the public and was met with great approval.

1958 brought further improvements to the Karrier range. In March four new versions of the popular 'Bantam' municipal range were introduced. They were a 10 cu.yd. side-loader with single cab, a 10 cu.yd. side-loader with double cab, a 10-12 cu.yd. Dual Tip 'Junior' with single cab and a 10-12 cu.yd. Dual Tip 'Junior' with double cab.

In August 1958 the Karrier-Walker 12-seater bus, which fully complied with the Ministry of Transport P.S.V. regulations, was introduced. Powered by either a four-cylinder petrol or a four-cylinder diesel engine this new bus proved the saviour of many country and local feeder services which could not run larger vehicles.

At the Commercial Motor Show at Earls Court came the announcement of a new Karrier 'Gamecock' with a new cab and incorporating the new Karrier Medium diesel engine. This new engine was a six-cylinder o.h.v. unit of the Perkins C.305 design developing a gross b.h.p. of 87 at 2,400 r.p.m. and a torque of 216 lb.ft. at 1,300 r.p.m. The new all-steel cab was designed to afford superb driver comfort. A deep, wide one-piece windscreen gave panoramic vision and the headroom was increased over the previous model.

Hard on the heals of the success of tha new 'Gamecock' cab, a similar unit incorporating the one-piece windscreen was announced for the 'Bantam' 2-3 ton and 4-5 tan tractor models in February 1959.

In June of the same year, at the Institute of Public Cleansing Conference in Brighton a new version of the Karrier 'Bantam' 4-5 ton tractor was shown. It was a battery electric operated trator designed by Karrier Motors Ltd. in collaboration with Smith's Delivery Vehicles of Gateshead.

The beginning of 1961 saw the introduction of a new type or refuse collection body on both the 'Bantam' and 'Gamecock' models. This was the Blenheim Refuse Collector available in three sizes, 11-15, 18-24 and 22-30 cu.yds. and incorporating the latest techniques of hydraulic refuse collection.

So the story continues. Two World Wars have altered the form of the world during the half century that has passed since the origin of Karrier Motors. Ltd. but the policy of this company has remained un-altered, to meet the demands of operators with economical, long-lasting and reliable vehicles.

next up previous contents
Next: Acknowledgements Up: Rootes Archive Centre Trust Previous: Milestones   Contents
Rob Allan 2016-01-03