It was before the Second World War, that fellow motor racers, Tony Rolt and Freddie Dixon formed a company with the express idea of developing a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The declaration of war stopped the project in its tracks. Fast forwarding to the 1950s, Rolt and Dixon brought Ferguson on board to finance their four-wheel-drive project. Next moment, Harry Ferguson Research was born, with Ferguson now heading the project. Ferguson had hoped to have interest from a large scale car producer, like Ford; it never happened. Meanwhile the Jensen brothers; particularly Richard; were interested. This led to a licensing agreement between the two companies, and in 1965 the Jensen four-wheel-drive CV8 was born.
FREDDIE DIXON – JOINT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESERCH
Freddie Dixon (Frederick William Dixon) was born in 1892. From a young age, Dixon was showing himself as a young hopeful in the world of motorcycle racing., and by the 1920s had moved over to motor racing, where he would race Rileys. A great innovator, Dixon was constantly trying to find ways to improve his vehicles for racing. By the 1930s, he was thinking about the possibility of four-wheel-drive. He teamed up with fellow motor racer, Tony Rolt, and together they formed a company, Dixon-Rolt Ltd, with the idea of building a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Second World War put a stop to any work. After war ended, Dixon and Rolt continued with the idea of developing a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but had issues with financing the work. Dixon new Harry Ferguson, as before the war he had stored his Rileys in Ferguson’s Belfast garage. Having mentioned the four-wheel-drive project to Ferguson, Dixon found Ferguson was immediately interested, and agreed to back the project financially.
The project was called the ‘Crab’ and was powered by a Riley engine. As the project developed, Ferguson formed Harry Ferguson Research Ltd in April 1950, with the idea of creating a ‘safety’ family car with four-wheel-drive. Dixon was made a Joint Executive Director of Harry Ferguson Research Ltd, along with Tony Rolt. Unfortunately Dixon felt that Ferguson had taken over ‘his’ project and became disenchanted. He left Harry Ferguson Research Ltd shortly afterwards. Dixon died in 1956.
HARRY FERGUSON – FOUNDER OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Born on the 4th November 1884, Ferguson had made his name in tractors, after winning a tractor law suit against Ford that brought him in £3 million. In the late 1940s, Ferguson was approached by Dixon, asking him to back the ‘Dixon-Rolt’ four-wheel-drive ‘crab’project. Ferguson liked the concept and backed the project financially, however, it wasn’t long before Ferguson thought that the project could work on a much larger scale as a new breed of ‘safety’ based family car with a four-wheel-drive system. Ferguson founded Harry Ferguson Research Ltd in April 1950, making both Dixon and Rolt Joint Executive Directors. Eventually the idea of a ‘safety’ based four wheel drive car would bring him into contact with Richard Jensen. Initially, Ferguson had hoped to get a large manufacturer like Ford interested in the project, but nothing materialised, so with no other interest forthcoming, Ferguson started discussing the project with Jensen. This led to an agreement between the two companies that Jensen Motors Ltd would produce a four-wheel-drive high performance Jensen using the Ferguson system. Ferguson died on the 25th October 1960.
CLAUDE HILL – DIRECTOR & DEVELOPMENT ENGINEER AT HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Hill had worked with Bertelli and Renwick after school and then was offered a position at Aston Martin. Hill had established his reputation as a fine engineer, and became the Technical Director of Aston Martin in 1949. Hill developed the chassis design for both the DB1 and DB2. Tony Rolt approached Hill, believing he would be the right man to further develop the ‘Ferguson-Formula’ system. Rolt was correct in his assumption, and Hill agreed to join Harry Ferguson Research as a Director & Development Engineer. He went on to patent a controlled central differential system. This system coupled with various other improvements to the original concept, turned a primitive system into the advanced four-wheel-drive system used in the Jensen FF. It was Hill that also designed the famous Ferguson P99.
NOEL F.NEWSOME – DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Noel Francis Newsome was born in December 1906 in Pill St George, Somerset. He was educated at Oundle School and won an exhibition to Magdalen College, Oxford. He joined the navy in 1920 and then worked at the “Bristol Times and Mirror” before moving to the “Bristol Evening Times” in 1930. In 1932 he helped to launch the “Bristol Evening Post”, where he was Foreign Editor until December 1932, and then joined the “Daily Telegraph” as a sub-editor/leader writer.
In 1934 he was appointed Assistant Editor of the “Malay Mail” in Kuala Lumpur and also made Malayan Correspondent of the “Daily Mail”. In November 1935 he returned to the “Telegraph” as a foreign news sub-editor. By the end of 1936 he was in charge of their foreign news pages. In September 1939 Newsome was appointed to the BBC as Assistant, Overseas News, and in December was made European News Editor, in charge of the Central News Desk.
From spring 1941 he broadcast several times a week for over three years as part of the news service in English to Europe: talks that were translated into other languages and heard all over Europe. His second wife edited a volume of his talks: ‘The Man in the Street’ Talks to Europe (1945).
Newsome was appointed to the new post of director of European broadcasts in December 1941. He continued his daily directives and weekly notes, and his daily news conferences, managing to retain a considerable degree of independence from the Government’s political warfare executive (PWE), based at Woburn Abbey, which was supposed to guide the policy of the BBC European service.
In October 1944 Newsome was seconded as Chief of the Radio Section of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. He resigned from the BBC in May 1945 and unsuccessfully contested the seat of Penrith and Cockermouth in the General Election, as the Liberal candidate. In December 1945, Newsome was appointed as the first Director of Recruitment at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, joining the National Coal Board in September 1947 as head of their Public Relations Department, and from May 1948 he worked at Harry Ferguson Ltd, tractor manufacturer, as their public relations officer.
Newsome died in May 1976.
JOHN R.PEACOCK – DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Background information required.
TONY ROLT – JOINT EXECUTIVE & TECHNICAL DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESERCH
Anthony Peter Roylance Rolt was born shortly before the end of the First World War. His family lived for a time on a farm in North Wales and the young Rolt enjoyed driving an old Singer and an early G.N. before his parents provided him with a Morgan three-wheeler as a surprise, just before he left for Eton.
One was permitted to drive three-wheelers at the age of 16, so this willing workhorse was immediately put to work in trials; “it wasn’t particularly suitable with that two-wheel-front, one-wheel-rear arrangement. But that’s all there was, so I made do.” Rolt became pationate about motoring, and in particular, motor racing. His favourite car being a 2.8-litre Roesch Talbots. According to Rolt, Bentleys were just tanks, Bugattis too finicky. Talbots always won the team prize.
Rolt’s first “real” motor car was a 1936 Triumph Southern Cross “Ex-Donald Healey, overhead inlet, side exhaust, straight six. Which if pushed could exceed 110 m.p.h. The Triumph was duly dispatched to Spa for the 24-hour sports car race shortly after Rolt’s seventeenth birthday where he achieved a worthy fourth place in the 2-litre class. “First, second and third were a team of German Adlers; that this web was real Teutonic efficiency for you. But I’d actually competed in the same race as Dick Seaman he was driving a Lagonda which gave me a great thrill to say the least.” Unfortunately, a slight disagreement with the local constabulary in rural Wales as to the precise speed achieved on one occasion with his later, and rather rare, Triumph Dolomite was responsible for his reduced programme in 937, even though the RAC were not obliged to suspend competition licences automatically!
By this time Rolt had moved to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, duly passing out and being commissioned into the Rifle Brigade before the Second World War broke out. However, just before the war, Rolt had purchased “Remus” from Bira for the 1938 season and embarked on a very ambitious programme of racing. It was during the winter of 1938/39; when searching for more speed and road-holding from the E.R.A; that he met Dixon who had already built up a substantial reputation for preparing and driving Rileys.
Dixon agreed to carry out the preparation of Rolt’s E.R.A. while also mentioning the fact that he’d prepared plans for a four-wheel-drive record-breaking car. Rolt took a great interest in this project, but managed to persuade Dixon that his ideas would be better if they were applied to circuit racing rather than record breaking. By this stage, very little development had been done in the sphere of four-wheel drive. Back in 1903, Spyker had built such a car which, powered by an 8.6-litre engine, had won a Birmingham Motor Club hillclinib. In 1932, Ettore Bugatti built his hillclimbing pair of four-wheeldrive Type-53s and Rene Dreyfus had actually established a new record for the La Turbie hillclimb near Nice, being the first competitor ever to ascend the 6-kilometre course at more than 100 k.p.h.
It was eventually agreed that Dixon would prepare a four-wheel-drive chassis powered by Rolt’s E.R.A. engine, but although plans were drawn up for this project in 1939, the onset of war meant that they had to be shelved. Nevertheless, the two men formed a small company called Dixon-Rolt Ltd. with the intention of examining such systems and Rolt spent a lot of time attempting to persuade the War Office that they would be ideal for military vehicles. However, they were not particularly interested and the matter was left in abeyance when the newly promoted Major Rolt was captured at Dunkirk. Rolt made various escape attempts from German prisoner-of-war camps, which led him to be finally imprisoned at Colditz. Dixon meanwhile, continued with other work for the War Department.
After war ended, Dixon and Rolt continued with the idea of developing a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but had issues with financing the work. Dixon new Harry Ferguson, and had mentioned the idea to him. Ferguson was immediately interested, and put money into the project.
The project was called the ‘Crab’ and was powered by a Riley engine. As the project developed, Ferguson formed Harry Ferguson Research Ltd in April 1950, with the idea of creating a ‘safety’ family car with four-wheel-drive..
Both Rolt and Dixon were brought in as Joint Executive Directors of Harry Ferguson Research Ltd. Unfortunately Dixon felt that Ferguson had taken over ‘his’ project and became disenchanted. He left Harry Ferguson Research Ltd shortly afterwards. Rolt remained on, and Ferguson brought in Sheldon as Managing Director.
By the end of 1971, licensing arrangements made by Harry Ferguson Research Ltd. with GKN-Birfield Transmissions Ltd. for volume production of the Ferguson-Formula (FF) all-wheel control system led to a reorganisation at Ferguson’s Moreton-in-Marsh headquarters. Rolt set up a new company called FF Developments Ltd formed to carry out individual FF conversions and associated development work to customer requirements. Rolt started the new company at The Trading Estate, Siskin Drive, Coventry, and remained a consultant for HFR. Rolt died in April 2008.
ANTHONY .J. SHELDON – MANAGING DIRECTOR / CHAIRMAN OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Tony Sheldon was the son-in-law of Harry Ferguson and through this connection became Managing Director of Harry Ferguson Research Ltd, with Ferguson remaining as Chairman. After Ferguson’s death, Sheldon was made Chairman and Tony Rolt was given the appointment of Managing Director. According to Brian Spicer (former chief engineer at Jensen Motors) it was always Rolt who was ‘hands-on’ within the company. Sheldon’s role was more administrative led.
SIR ALEX ABEL SMITH – DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Background information required.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND & GORDON (FREDDIE RICHMOND) – DIRECTOR OF HARRY FERGUSON RESEARCH
Frederick Charles Gordon-Lennox, 9th Duke of Richmond, 9th Duke of Lennox, 9th Duke of Aubigny (French noble title) and 4th Duke of Gordon (5 February 1904 – 2 November 1989). The duke was a professional engineer, racing driver and motor racing promoter. Freddie Richmond, as he was known, was the son of Charles Gordon-Lennox, 8th Duke of Richmond. An interest in engineering started while Freddie Richmond was at university, and afterwards he was apprenticed to Bentley Motors. He began a motor racing career in 1929 when he took part in the JCC High Speed Trial. In the next year Freddie Richmond became a member of the Austin team and won the Brooklands 500 Miles. He created his own team of MG Midgets in 1931 and won the Brooklands Double Twelve race, but then became more involved in the organisational side of motor sport.
Freddie Richmond had inherited the Dukedoms in 1935, along with the Goodwood Estate and the racecourse. Death duties meant he had to sell the family interests in Scotland, including Gordon Castle, and settle on the Goodwood Estate near Chichester. He designed and flew his own aircraft and served with the Royal Air Force during World War II. For a time he was based in Washington, working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production.
After the war Freddie Richmond faced the task of rehabilitating Goodwood, and saw the potential for creating a motor racing circuit from the fighter station built at Goodwood during the Second World War. Horse racing was an important part of the Goodwood scene, but Freddie Richmond did not share his ancestors’ interest in the sport. The Goodwood Circuit became an important venue in motor racing, however, by 1966, Freddie Richmond was concerned at the increasing risks involved in motor racing and closed the circuit except for minor club activities and private testing.
Tony Rolt and Freddie Richmond had known each other back in the 1940s, and during the early 1960s, he was asked by Rolt if he would like to join Harry Ferguson Research Ltd as a director, an offer he immediately accepted. Freddie Richmond undoubtedly offered HFR a great package, with his sound background in engineering, and association with the world of motoring and motor racing. Freddie Richmond was the longest-serving Vice President of the Royal Automobile Club, with which he was associated since 1948. As early as the thirties, he was the motoring correspondent of the Sunday Referee, and became the Founder President of the Guild of Motoring Writers.
The following list comprises of senior workstaff known to have been working at Harry Ferguson Research
WILLIAM (BILL) CHATTERTON
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Former HFR employee, Bill Chatterton | Churchill Archive, Cambridge | Bill Munro | Former Jensen Motors Chief Engineer, Brian Spicer.
COPYRIGHTS: All images and text copyright of The Jensen Museum | Churchill Archive, Cambridge.
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