Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Life & Times Of Stan Sharman
West Bromwich born, Stan Sharman, was de-mobbed from the RAF just after World War II, and along with the multitude of military personnel being de-mobbed, he needed to find employment, and quickly.
Initially finding employment with the West Bromwich-based Ford dealers, Frank Guest, he quickly moved to Jensen Motors – doubling his wages in the process. Starting as a humble labourer helping to build Jensen lorries, Sharman rose to become the Chief Production Engineer.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | Early years
Sharman was born in Bowater Street, West Bromwich, on 6th June 1924. He was the middle child of Jack and Doris Sharman, his older brother was John, and younger sister Margaret.
Stan Sharman’s father, Jack, had started life as a canal boatman, as had his father (Stan Sharman’s grandfather) Richard. But with canal work in decline, by 1939 he was a general labourer for the council.
Jack Sharman married, a local West Bromwich girl, Doris Crump, in October 1921. Doris was 25, and had been a domestic servant since she was 14.
Stan Sharman was a bright boy and did well at school. He passed the test (pre-cursor to 11+), which would allow him to go to grammar school. Unfortunately, his parents could not afford the required uniform so the young Stan Sharman went to Cronehills Central School in West Bromwich.
This was in the mid-1930s, and during a period of deep recession – his father Jack was out of work for six years. The young Sharman remained at Cronehills Central School from 1935 through to 1938, his headmaster gave this final report on Sharman’s time at school,
“Stanley Sharman has been a pupil in this selective central school for 3 years. Throughout this time, he has been regular and punctual in attendance and has made very good progress in his studies.
For the past twelve months has has specialised in practical subjects, and for these he has shown considerable aptitude. He has constructed some very artistic and accurate models and his workshop drawings have reached a high standard of workmanship and neatness.
He is quite honest, truthful, reliable and trustworthy and I can confidently recommend him to his employer as a sound, steady and intelligent lad who will give good service.”
And so, having left school at 14, it was left for the young Sharman to make his way in the world. Unfortunately , the mists of time stop us from knowing exactly what he did on leaving school, but in all probability, he undertook some basic local work.
According to his son, Lee, when war broke out in 1939, the young Stan Sharman worked as a ‘look-out-boy’ for the the local fire brigade. But even at this young age, Sharman had decided that as soon as he could, he would volunteer to join the RAF.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | War Years & RAF Service
In 1942, and at the age of 18, Stan Sharman joined the RAF – he was accepted as a cadet, and this time was not held back by a need to buy a uniform.
Initial training was in Birmingham, where the war-time Elementary Flying training School (EFTS) gave a recruit 50 hours of basic aviation instruction, including some air training in something such as the de Havilland Tiger Moth.
But outside of flying time, there was courses in mathematics and the theory of flight, engines and airframes. There was some navigation theory and learning to send and receive Morse code with a lamp.
In addition to lectures, there was parade drill, physical training, cockpit drill, and an occasional camp inspection parade. After completion of the EFTS, Sharman was moved down to the south of England.
It isn’t known exactly what Sharman was doing in the south of England. During 1943 he was stationed at RAF Oldiham, in Hampshire.
It seems unlikely that Sharman was undertaking flying training while at Odiham, and it is possible, he, and many of the other cadets were utilised for other more general duties, to help keep the RAF base operational.
By 1944, Sharman, and the other cadets were shipped off to Africa. They were initially stationed in Egypt, but then moved again to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Pilot cadets who showed potential during their EFTS training would go onto to undertake further training at a Service Flying Training School (SFTS) where, once they had completed the full training program, they were awarded their “wings.”
The SFTS provided intermediate and advanced training for pilots, including fighter and twin-engined aircraft, on American Harvards, and Airspeed Oxford aeroplanes. Other trainees went onto different specialities, such as wireless, navigation, or bombing and air gunnery.
Before WWII even started the British Air Ministry had begun planning to set up air training centres outside Britain; away from where there was air activity over the country, and where the weather could be relied upon to be consistently good.
This is where Southern Rhodesia came in. No less than nine RAF bases, along with various relief-bases, had been formed for the purpose of training pilots.
Of the various bases in Southern Rhodesia, RAF Cranbourne (near Salisbury, now called Harare) was where pilots showing potential would end up. Here, Sharman began flight training on American Harvard aeroplanes.
The SFTS training program included learning the elements of bombing and air firing, formation flying and night cross countries.
The cadet was allocated an instructor, and in a Harvard trainer, they would go through a sequence of gentle, medium and steep turns, take-offs and landings, forced landings and instrument flying, but with the added new complications of a variable-pitch propeller, retractable undercarriage, flaps, boost control, radio, and a new array of instruments.
Lectures would continue with advanced plotting courses, studying the line of fall of various bombs, using a radio, understanding weather conditions, recognition of Allied and enemy aircraft.
Advanced instrument flying was practised on a link-trainer, landing by radio when the clouds “were down on the deck” and firing a machine gun whilst allowing for the deflection necessary when shooting at a flying bomber.
Hours were spent “under the hood” using instruments to fly from point to point on a map, and long night-time cross-country flights.
As the cadet advanced there would be formation flights in vic (“V” shape) echelon and line astern, learning to watch his leader and keep one eye roaming around the sky.
It seems Sharman arrived at RAF Cranbourne in 1945. As such, he was on one of the last courses which took place before the end of the Second World War.
This meant, that although Sharman had taken part in the SFTS training program, he never completed it before the end of the war. Because of this, Sharman never received his ‘coveted’ wings.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | De-Mob & back To Civvies
After the end of the war, Sharman returned to England, and married his sweetheart, Joan Glover in Autumn of 1945. He remained in the RAF well into 1946, possibly early 1947, before finally being de-mobbed.
Although we do not know exactly what work Sharman was doing for the RAF, we know he was based in Staffordshire, and would sometimes return home with a loan of an RAF lorry. But, typical of the immediate post-war period, it was on the cards that Sharman was going back to civvies.
Former Senior Draughtsman at Jensen Motors, George Coleman, remembers a conversation he had with Sharman about the RAF,
“I had been in the RAF myself up until 1959, and then went to Lucas for a couple of years before joining Jensen in 1962. One of the times Stan and myself were chatting, I happened to mention I had previously been in the RAF.
Stan mentioned he had also been in the RAF during the Second World War, and undertook flying training at one stage, before being finally de-mobbed. I asked why he didn’t move over to the commercial sector as a pilot after being de-mobbed from the RAF.
Stan laughed, and said, “George, every de-mobbed RAF pilot wanted to become a commercial pilot, the queues of ex-RAF pilots trying to get a job as a commercial pilot was as far as the eye could see. And the way I saw it was, since I hadn’t been awarded my wings, I would be at the end of the queue.”
Sharman’s son Lee, remembers there had been conversations about his father moving from the RAF to the commercial aircraft sector, but that his father had decided against it.
After being de-mobbed, not long married, and now with a baby boy, Sharman urgently needed a job. He was lucky enough to quickly find employment with Frank Guest, the local Ford dealer in West Bromwich.
Frank Guest had started his business in 1902 repairing bicycles in West Bromwich, but by 1915 had quickly pounced on a Ford franchise, when it was offered in 1915.
Frank Guest died in 1942, leaving his sons to run the company. Initially the Company struggled in the post-war era, but on the back of the availability of new Ford cars, things looked as though they would improve. As such the Company were taking on additional staff.
This was the atmosphere at Guests, when Sharman joined in 1947. That said, wages were low, and the newly employed Stan Sharman was on a fairly meager £5 per week.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | Job At Jensen Motors
Together with his new wife, and their baby boy, Lee, the family had moved in with Stan Sharman’s grand-parents. Sharman’s wife, Joan, was also working. She had found part-time employment at Jensen Motors, at their Carter’s Green factory, working in the office.
The arrangement work well, as their son, Lee, could be looked after by the grand-parents while Joan was working.
It was probably Joan that had realised that there was far better opportunities at Jensen Motors, than at Frank Guest. She was also in a position to ask if there was any openings within the factory. It seems that Stan Sharman didn’t take much convincing.
Sharman took heed of his wife’s suggestion, and an interview was arranged at the Carter’s Green works during July 1947.
How much his wife had helped him to get the job at Jensen isn’t known, but suffice to say the interview went well, and on 11th August 1947, Sharman officially joined the labour force at Carter’s Green.
Incredibly, Sharman’s wages doubled. At Frank Guest, he was on just £5 a week, and his weekly pay staring at Jensen was £10. At Carter’s Green, Sharman was put onto lorry construction.
With a stable job, and reasonable wage, the Sharman family purchased their own house in 1951. There was a new development of houses at Great Barr, Birmingham, and they moved into 72 Appleton Avenue.
This was just outside West Bromwich, towards Sutton Coldfield, so it wasn’t a big move from Sharman’s parents house. Not long after moving to Appleton Avenue, Sharman purchased his first car, a beige coloured Ford Consul.
At the beginning of the 1950s, Sharman, along with others, were moved across to a new factory at Pensnett, just outside Dudley. This new factory was opened to allow the growing work load to be dealt with.
The fact was, the Company were running out of space at Carter’s Green. Much of the lorry building was moved over to Pensnett, but work on Austin A40 sports, and others also took place there, depending on space and work load at Carter’s Green.
As with many employees at Jensen Motors, Sharman undertook a variety of jobs, depending on what was required at the time. According to George Coleman, Sharman, was also trained up as a machine-setter.
With space at a premium, and promises of further large contracts for Austin, the Jensen brothers took the decision to move everything over to an entirely new factory at Kelvin Way. This was a decisive period, as some older personnel took it as a good time to retire rather than move across to Kelvin Way.
However, the majority of the work force did move to Kelvin Way. The move of the work force was achieved in waves, allowing maximum output to still be achieved from both Carter’s Green, and also at Kelvin Way as various bays were completed.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | Move to Kelvin Way
Once ensconced at Kelvin Way, Sharman, and another long-term employee from Carter’s Green, Ron Freckleton, were asked if they would be interested to move into, and to work within the Planning Department.
Meanwhile, it was also time for a car change. Sharman purchased a brand new white Ford Anglia 105E. Sharman’s son, Lee, remembers the Anglia well,
“I particular remember my father’s white Anglia. I learnt to drive in the Anglia at the age of 17. I even remember the registration after all these years, ‘637 AON’ – I wonder if the car still survives. My father kept the Anglia for a few years, and then purchased a new Ford Corsair in a pale silvery blue colour.
He was very particular, and always kept his cars like new. Because of this, there was always someone from the family that wanted to buy his second-hand car. As such, my father never needed to trade his old car in against a new one.”
By 1965, this department had recently been amalgamated together with the Rate-Fixing Department. Ron Freckleton remembered his time, working together with Sharman in the Planning / Rate-Fixing Department, and gave the Museum this insight back in 2008,
“Working in the Planning / Rate-Fixing Department, meant that we had staff status. As such, we were allowed to park inside the Works, shop floor personnel had to park at the front, just across the road from the factory, or at the back of the Works near the Service Department. Likewise, as staff, I could wear casual clothing, and didn’t need to clock in or out.
The Planning Office was on the upper floor of the main office block [Bay A], next to the Buying Office and the Computer Room. There were about eight of us in the room, including planners, costing chaps, and typists. Typically, myself, and fellow planning officer, Stan Sharman, would start the day by checking if there were any new drawings to go through.
If a drawing was for a relatively simple part, then it could easily be produced by the standard tooling already available in the Press Shop. If the Press Shop were involved, then I would see Jack Eggerson. He was the Foreman of the Press Shop at that time. Together, Jack, myself, and the Press Setters, would work out the best and most economical way to make it.
If the part was more complex, I would have discussions with Ray Meanley, Foreman of the Tool Shop. Together, we would see if a tool could be made for the Press Shop to produce the part more quickly. If we agreed this was the case, then I would arrange the paperwork to sanction the expenditure for production.
Some of the operations required to produce an item, could (in some instances) be too complex for the limited resources of the Tool Shop. In a situation like that, I would pass the the drawing to the Development Department, where discussions would take place with Joe Belcher the Foreman.
On the odd occasion, there would be an item which we just could not produce in the factory. In that event, the work would have to be out-sourced, and typically I would be in charge of that.”
Sharman and Freckleton had already become friends at Carter’s Green. Both men had been trained up as machine-setters around the same time. So, working together with Freckleton was nothing new. Within the Planning / Rate-Fixing Department, Sharman dealt with a lot of the rate-fixing.
Although Piece-Work was finished, it remained important to work out reliable times for each area of work undertaken in the factory. As such, it wasn’t unusual to see Sharman somewhere in the factory with his timer, discreetly checking on how long a team took to complete various jobs. That said, the actual factory floor timing of jobs was generally undertaken by one of the other staff members.
Sharman was well liked at Jensen Motors, and made a number of close friends. Outside of the Freckletons, which the Sharmans saw socially, there was also the Harpers.
Arthur Harper had joined Jensen Motors in 1961, with the job title Foreman Mechanical. However, he very quickly found himself undertaking a lot of final inspection duties, along with specialised fault finding work.
It was Harper’s job to test drive Jensen cars after the general inspection period was completed. Testing the dynamics of the car, Harper would often drive the car before the entire trim was fitted, a selection of so-called ‘slave parts’ fitted in place. This would include a slave driving seat, slave steering wheel, and a slave speedometer.
Harper lived at 78 Appleton Avenue, Great Barr, just a few doors along from Sharman. The two men would often take it in turns to give each other a lift into work. Harper’s job meant that he was often driving a Jensen home while he was testing it. This meant that Sharman often had the chance to be driven in various Jensen cars.
With Sharman’s natural aptitude for draughtsmanship, and model-making, his areas of responsibility at Jensen Motors certainly increased, as the Company progressed with the Italian-designed Interceptor, and then the Jensen Healey. This inevitably led to his promotion as Chief Production Engineer at some point in the early 1970s.
According to Sharman’s son, Lee, his father was sent over to Italy by Jensen Motors on a few occasions,
“I do remember my father going on a few work-related trips to Italy during the 1960s. I’m guessing this was to Vignale, when they first started building the initial Interceptors for Jensen Motors.
My father liked Italy, and even started to learn some Italian. After being introduced to Italy via work, we started going there on holiday. I’m guessing Italy must have had an influence on his car buying, as in the early 1970s, he purchased a new Ford Capri. It was bright red with a black vinyl roof. “
Closer to home, Lee Sharman remembers his father ended up travelling to Hethel, Norfolk, at the beginning of the 1970s,
“Apparently there were a lot of problems with the Lotus engine, which was being used in the Jensen Healey. My father was asked to travel to the Lotus factory at Hethel, near Norwich , to help with the on-going problems. Other trips relating to work, took him down to London, as some years my father was asked to represent Jensen Motors on their Earl’s Court Motor Show stand.”
In regard to the Lotus engine, and trips to the Lotus factory at Hethel, there certainly were a myriad of problems associated with the Lotus engine, and the Jensen-Lotus Agreement.
Sharman was one of many Jensen Motors employees either travelling by car or sometimes by plane to Lotus, to try and sought out the engine and supply problems.
Jensen’s Project Manager, Phillip Campion, remembers Sharman, and some of the work he was involved with,
“Although I worked in the same Department as Stan for the time I was at Jensen, we did not work closely on anything of particular note. I know he worked on the shop floor in the Press Shop before I joined Jensen (1970) and was promoted to the Production Engineering Department, which was also referred to as the Planning Office.
Stan worked on Interceptor/FF production planning covering the press shop, welded sub-assembly and bodies in white. When the Jensen Healey was launched, he became the lead engineer for the pre-production planning & tooling on the welded sub-assembly section, and also body in white of the Jensen Healey and it’s on going production.
At some point towards the middle 1970s, Stan was promoted to Chief Production Engineer. I remember he bought himself a bright red Ford Capri, and was very proud of it.”
It would seem that when Don Large, who started at left Jensen Motors in or around 1970 as Chief Production Engineer, left in 1974/75, that Sharman was promoted to Chief Production Engineer.
Campion isn’t sure why Sharman would have been asked to visit Lotus at Hethel, and states that he didn’t visit while Campion was based at Hethel for Jensen. He believes it may have been relating to the “interface” of the Body and Mechanicals (ie Engine/Gearbox), in the pre-production stage of the car.
Outside of factory work, and issues with Lotus, there were also more pleasant duties. Sharman was one of those asked to help man the Jensen Stand, at the yearly Earl’s Court Motor Show. The forward thinking Jensen Motors would ask key hands-on members of staff to help on the Jensen Stand.
This allowed customers to speak direct to the men that were actually involved with building the cars, rather than sales staff, that were just trying to sell the cars. It was a simple but clever marketing strategy by Jensen, and was applauded by the motoring journalists at the time.
And, of course, there was all the famous, and not so famous customers, that would come and visit the factory to see how the cars were made. Senior Draughtsman, George Coleman, remembers a funny occurrence when the boxer, Henry Cooper, was visiting the factory,
“When Henry Cooper was visiting the factory, Stan asked one of the girls from his office if she would get Henry Cooper’s signature for him. Unfortunately, by the time she had tracked him down, Henry Cooper had already been escorted into the MD’s office, so she came back empty handed.
Stan was out of the office when she came back, but Frecko (as we always called Ron Freckleton) – mischievously – said he would do a Henry Cooper signature for Stan. With that he scribbled a ‘Henry Cooper’ signature on a piece of paper, and gave it to the girl to give to Stan. It seems everyone kept a straight face when it was later handed to Stan, and I don’t think anyone ever told him.”
Sharman was very typical of the top-level of non-management personnel at Jensen Motors, such as Ron Freckleton, and Bill Silvester. They all took on levels of work-load, and responsibility, way above their pay level, and certainly a level of responsibility that someone in a parallel job with another company, wouldn’t have.
Sharman’s interest in photography never waned, and he would often be seen around the factory with his trusted Zeissikon Contina Prontor camera, which he had purchased in the 1950s. That said, at the beginning of the 1970s, he purchased a new instant Polaroid 100 camera, which he used alongside the Zeissikon.
Back at home, he even had his own dark-room, where he would develop his own photographs. At Jensen Motors there was the so-called Photographic Club. It wasn’t a club in the truest sense of the word.
However, once a week a few of the chaps interested in photography, would meet up in the staff canteen to chat about their cameras, and photography in general. Although not into photography himself, assembly line man, Clive Kendrick, remembers some of the group,
“There was about 15-20 chaps that regularly met up once a week after work. There was the Chief Inspector, Harry Taylor, also my old friend, Ken Beauchamp (another Inspector), there was Jimmy Parker, a tall chap that also worked on the line, along with Harold Evans and Alan Spicer (both on the assembly line). Stan Sharman was also keen on his photography, and would meet up with the others.”
Outside of photography, Sharman was a very keen golfer, and was a long-time member of the West Bromwich Dartmouth Golf Club ( he remained as a club member into his early eighties. Sharman’s other great love was with West Bromwich Albion Football Club. He always had a season ticket, as did his brother.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | Jensen Special Products
Sharman remained at Jensen Motors all the way through until the Company’s bitter end in 1976. As Jensen’s gates closed for the last time, another – unlikely – door opened.
Director of Development (a relatively new title instigated by Qvale) Alan Vincent, had been working with the Receiver to get approval to create a further off-shoot from Jensen Motors. This would be known as Jensen Special Products. This new Company would work on prototyping, one-offs, and various levels of development work for other manufacturers.
A former mechanic from the Development Department, Richard Peckover, was one of the majority from the Development Department that was asked by Vincent, if he would like to move across to JSP. He remembers Sharman,
I didn’t know Stan in a working capacity in the JML days as he would have no involvement in our department, I knew him to speak to in passing and that’s about it. I believe he worked in the Production Timing Department and was responsible for establishing and agreeing the timing for production line assembly tasks.
The first time I worked with Stan was after JML closed, and he came to work for Jensen Special Products. At JSP he was responsible for costing the external enquiries and providing detailed quotations.”
Jensen Special Products would consist of virtually everyone employed in the Development Department. Only five ‘outsiders’ (those working at Jensen, but not in Development) were invited to join JSP. Richard Peckover tells us about the invited ‘outsiders’,
“I think in total there were five ‘outsiders’ invited to join JSP. Stan Sharman, then Ray Whitehouse and Chris Francis from Fibreglass shop. Les Jenks from the welding shop. Also a guy from the tool room, but I can’t recall his name. He replaced one of our Jig and Tool guys who left a couple of weeks before the JML closure.”
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman | Another Move
Sharman remained with Jensen Special Products until their closure at the beginning of the 1980s. Once again, through the closure of the company he was working fro, he was forced to look for another job.
As with his move to JSP, Sharman was lucky, and transitioned quickly and easily to new employment. This time to the Wolverhampton-based firm, T.B.Precision. Similar to Jensen Special Products, T.B.Precision specialised in various one-off, or short run engineering jobs.
The Company also (as with JSP) had there own fibreglass workshops, were they had the ability to make fibreglass cabins for a range of lorries or other commercial vehicles.
T.B.Precision offered Sharman the position of Project Manager, which came with a Company car. The offer was quickly accepted, and as such Sharman’s as new looking bright red Capri was sold on to his brother-in-law.
Amongst contracts T.B.Precision had on the go when Sharman started with them was refurbishing old buses. In fact between 1982 and 1983, they had refurbished over 200 old buses.
Some of the refurbishing work was for the Greater London Council, where some old double-deckers were stripped out and refurbished as mobile social benefits offices.
This contract also led them to get the contract to change the remaining London Underground wooden escalators to metal. A job which was made particularly relevant after the 1987 Kings Cross Underground Station fire.
The fire had started with a lit match dropping under the wooden escalators. In fact T.B. Precision also received the contract to do all the clean-up work after the Kings Cross fire. Sharman headed about twenty employees organising the clean-up operation, and the work to change the escalators to metal.
In 1989, and at the age of 65, Stan Sharman retired from T.B.precision. Golf becoming the mainstay of his retirement activities. In July 2012, and at the ripe old age of 88, Sharman and his wife, Joan, moved down to Ealing, London, to be closer to there son, Lee, and other members of the family. Stan Sharman died on 28th February 2017, his wife, Joan, a couple of years later in May 2019.
Jensen’s Chief Production Engineer | Stan Sharman
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: George Coleman, former draughtsman, Jensen Motors |Neil Freckleton, son of Ron Freckleton | Clive Kendrick, former assembly worker, Jensen Motors | Richard Peckover, former mechanic in Development Department, then working at Jensen Special Products | Lee Sharman, son of Stan Sharman | John Staddon, CV8 Registrar, Jensen Owners’ Club | James Taylor, Landrover historian.
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Lee Sharman
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