Jensen Motors Assembly Line Finisher | Day In The Life
Clive Kendrick joined Jensen Motors as an apprentice in 1963. After working in various sections of Jensen Motors, and gaining his City & Guilds, Kendrick chose to become an Assembly Line Finisher. He initially worked on the Austin-Healey 3000 track, and then when that finished, moved to the Interceptor track. Kendrick remained at Jensen Motors until 1976.
In 1963 I was 15 years of age. At the time I was still at Spon Lane Secondary Modern School, which was 5 minutes away from Jensen Motors. My uncle Fred (Kendrick) worked at Jensen Motors as a transport driver, and used to transport the finished Austin Healey 3000s down to Abingdon.
Occasionally, my uncle would let me go with him when he was doing a Saturday delivery. That was a real treat at the time. It was this connection with Jensen Motors, which led me to send a letter to the Company, asking if they would have a vacancy for an apprentice. After some few days I received a polite letter back from Ron Phillips (the Personnel Manager) saying there wasn’t any vacancies at that time.
Well, the next time I saw my uncle Fred, I told him what had happened. He said, right, let’s pop around and see my mate Gordon Rowe, who was the Sub Assembly Section Manager on the Austin Healey 3000. Fred in turn told Gordon that I wanted a job at Jensen Motors, and he replied, “come to the Gate House at Jensen Motors on Monday, and bring what ever qualification certificates you have. They will telephone through to me.”
So, on the Monday, I got myself all cleaned up and made my way to Jensen Motors. Good to his word, Gordon had told them I would be coming, and the commissionaire (we all called him ‘Sarg’ because of his uniform) phoned through. Five minutes later Gordon, along with Bill Sylvester (Production Manager) came over to the Gate House. Bill Sylvester did most of the talking, asked me a few questions. I produced my neat envelope of school exam certificates, which he had a quick look at (I had the feeling he wasn’t that interested). He then told me what the job of apprentice entailed, what hours I had to do, and what the pay would be. I agreed then and there, and with that, Bill Sylvester said, “right, you’ve got yourself a job then.”
Anyway, that was that. It was September 1963, and I had myself a job as an apprentice at Jensen Motors, and if my memory serves me correctly I was on a starting wage of £3.15.3, working 5 ½ days a week, with one day a week off to go to college.
I was enrolled at West Bromwich College, where I was doing a car body building and vehicle construction course. This would involve things like wheeling and panel beating, and eventually gave me my City and Guilds qualification.
This was quite a long day for me. The day course was 9 – 5, but then you ran home, had some supper, and then back to the college in the evening from 6 – 9.
I was living with my parents in Tantany, West Bromwich. It was a quick enough walk to get to college, but to work was a different thing. To get to Kelvin Way was about three miles away, and took about 45 minutes walking at a good pace. I could have taken buses, but I would have to take either a 74 or 75, then changed and got a 16, and then walk the last bit. I preferred to walk. Not long after I had been working at Jensen Motors, and started to get to know a few of the chaps, there was often someone who would give me a lift into work.
It was pretty exciting being an apprentice at Jensen Motors. The Company’s philosophy was that an apprentice should have an understanding of virtually every job done in the factory. So, at the start you were moved around from one section to another.
After an apprentice had gained their City & Guilds certificate, the Personnel Manager would ask you what your job preference was, you might prefer welding, or trim work, bodywork etc.I had enjoyed my time in the Trim Shop, not least, as I had got to know one of the girls, and started to go out with her (I later married her). However, I asked if I could do body build, which was agreed.
After I had served my apprenticeship, and was on full pay, I was working initially on the Austin-Healey assembly track, and later I was on the Interceptor track.In some respects I had picked the right job, as the Company needed its assembly workers right through to 1976
My Day In The Life is based on a day in early 1970. At this time I am a qualified Assembly Line Finisher. I picked this day, as it was a day that really stood out for me. It was the day I went to see the Managing Director, Carl Duerr.
My day officially starts at 8.00am when I clock in, but I like to be early and prepared for the day ahead so I arrive at 7.30am. My first job of the day is to make a mug of tea and open my tool box
At 8.00am, a hooter sounds to let us know the working day has started. Arthur Holloway, Line Foreman, is the first down the stairs from the management morning assembly. Before Arthur has passed me and said his usual “Good Morning”, I am already at my station, Stage 4, preparing harnesses and lamps for my first car of the day.
I am engrossed in my work and by the 10.00am break I have completed over half of my first car; the heater is in, main harness, door harness and interior lights are all fixed and ready to go. Break lasts 10 minutes and I eat as fast as I work, managing egg on toast from the canteen (a bargain at 4½d old money!) before getting back to my station for 10.10am.
I am well accustomed to building LHD/RHD cars, but various changes in US Federal specification has resulted in additions to the wiring specification, and some equipment has changed.
While I’m up in the store immediately above the track, I discover there are literally hundreds of the old LHD / US Federal spec door harnesses left unused and going to waste. I ask Pat Gywme, the Storeman, why we aren’t using them up, but he doesn’t know. With that I ask if I can take a few to investigate a little further.
Checking the old LHD / US Federal spec harness with the new ones, I notice the new ones simply have an additional wire and a couple of new connectors. To me, it looks to be a relatively easy fix to add in the appropriate new wire and the new connectors, which would mean the stock of old harnesses could be used up. Close to completion of my first car (with only headlights to fit), I decided, rather boldly, to take my discovery to the Managing Director, Carl Duerr. I would never have done this with previous Managing Directors (or even those that came later), but Carl Duerr was approachable. He would often walk along the track early in the morning saying hello to everyone, and asking how people were doing. All the assembly line guys liked him.
I walked to Carl Duerr’s office, which was on the upper floor of Bay A, wiring in hand, plus the modified version I have made up. After introducing myself to his secretary, I ask if I can speak to Mr Duerr and, to my surprise, my request is granted and I am ushered into his office.
Sitting behind his desk, Mr Duerr bids me in with a hand gesture and a “Good Morning, what can I do for you.” I try and remain confident, getting straight to the point. I explain that I can modify 500/800 obsolete harnesses from the stores, and will only need some different connectors, and some wire to get the job done. The wiring is simple and the cost to the company will be minimal.
Mr Duerr seems interested, and asks me if I would be willing to undertake the job. I said that I would be more than happy to do the job. After thanking me, Mr Duerr says he will OK my idea with the relevant foremen and someone will come and see me later on in the day.
I leave Mr Duerr’s office and feel my legs gradually stop shaking! I return to my station to finish my car. Not long after I restart work, I am approached by Arthur Holloway, my Foreman, and Desi Blakemore, Electrical Oversee Foreman.
They don’t look too happy, and ask me to follow them. With that I find myself being marched into the Foreman’s Office upstairs, legs shaking once more, convinced now that I am about to get the sack.
The two men immediately set about questioning me about my unauthorised meeting with Mr Duerr. I am now being bellowed at, with both men asking questions about why I hadn’t come to them first, and why I had thought it appropriate to meet with management alone.
All I can think of is the truth and I tell them that, in all honesty, I hadn’t occurred to me to go to them first. They make it clear to me that if I have any other bright ideas in future, I should tell them first.
I leave the office, relieved to not have been sacked, but shaken up nonetheless. I head straight to lunch which lasts from 12.00 – 12.45pm
Back on the track, I start my second car, and try to keep my head down, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Although I’m acutely aware that even some of the guys on the track have got wind of my morning’s visitation.
By the time of afternoon break at 3.00-3.10pm, I have nearly completed the car. During the break, several colleagues, who obviously couldn’t wait to find out more, asked me about what had happened. Listening with disbelief, they questioned my sanity as I explained it to them.
Well, the ten minute break goes so quick I have barely finished my tea. Back at the track, I complete my second car and spend the remainder of the afternoon preparing cars for the next day’s work.
I clock out at 4.30pm. Homeward bound at last. What a day !
It didn’t take long before everyone knew about my impromptu visitation, and are quick to make their opinions known to me. Most thought it was great, applauding my confidence and ingenuity. However, there was inevitably a handful that thought I was trying to hob-nob with management.
A few days later, Carl Durer, accompanied by my Foreman, Arthur Holloway, come over to me on the track. Mr Duerr thanks me again, and Mr Holloway presents me with the wire and connectors I had asked for, along with a white envelope. I know that a dismissal letter comes in a brown envelope, so it is with some relief that this is white. I am intrigued to see what’s inside.
After Mr Duerr, and Mr Holloway leave, I quickly open it. Inside is a letter thanking me for showing initiative, along with a cheque for £25.00. Considering that my wages for five and half days’ work are just £30.00 at this time, I am delighted. I feel like I have won the lottery !
With my bonus, I buy some very expensive plaster to create a feature wall in my first house. My cousin Michael, who is a painter and decorator by trade, fits this for me.
When I sell the house in 1983, I am sad to not only leave the house, but also to leave behind something that held such fond memories for me of Jensen Motors Ltd.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Clive Kendrick, former Assembly Line Finisher at Jensen Motors
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Clive Kendrick
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