Jensen Motors Draughtsman | Day In The Life
Continuing our Day In The Life series, Nick Maltby gives us his Day In The Life of a draughtsman at Jensen Motors. Maltby joined Jensen Motors in 1959 as a draughtsman, working at the Carter’s Green factory. After leaving briefly to join Ford, he re-joined Jensen Motors as a draughtsman at Kelvin Way. The Museum is given a unique insight to the workings of the Drawing Offices at Jensen Motors.
I left school in 1957 at the age of 16, having been given the opportunity of employment as a trainee draughtsman at a Birmingham-based company, Concentric. The firm was a supplier of water pumps and oil pumps to the motor industry.
During 1959, I saw an advertisement for a junior draughtsman at Jensen Motors. This was an interesting job for me, firstly, and foremost, because I wanted to work for a car manufacturer, but also the fact my wages would increase. I was accepted for interview, and was interviewed personally by Eric Neale, Jensen’s chief engineer and body stylist.
Luckily, I was given the job, and recieved wages of £9 per week. Some small increase from what I was earning at Concentric. As was accepted back then, I was also allowed one day per week as ‘day release’, when I went to Aston Technical College to study for my ordinary National Certificate in mechanical engineering. I started work in the body drawing office of Jensen Motors, at their Carter’s Green factory.
This would be my first spell at Jensen Motors which took place from 1959 to 1961. I left Jensen Motors in 1961 to work at Ford’s drawing office in Birmingham. Once again for two reasons. Firstly, I felt that adding a company such as Ford to my CV would be valuable for my future career, and secondly, yes, you guessed it, I was offered a better salary.
At Ford’s Birmingham Body drawing office, I worked on aspects of the 105e Estate and Corsair models. The office was transferred to Aveley, Essex, in October 1962. I decided to make that move too. This was a difficult time for me for a number of reasons. One, I wanted to return to my family and friends in the Midlands, and secondly, I had realised by now, that I did not have the required level of artistic skills to be a car stylist. That had been my childhood dream, and being a car body draughtsman did not hold much interest for me. So, in July 1963, I decided to switch disciplines and became a chassis draughtsman with Rootes, Coventry.
About a year later, I saw an advertisement in the Birmingham Mail for a chassis design draughtsman at my old employers Jensen Motors Ltd. I applied and was invited to an interview. I was interviewed by Peter Swain, the Drawing Office Manager, and was accepted for the position of design draughtsman in Kevin Beattie’s chassis drawing office, located at Jensen’s Kelvin Way factory.
One of my overriding memories of working at Jensen Motors as a draughtsman, was the way we were left to get on and do things. There seemed to be an expectation that the finished drawings were correct and ready to go. Luckily most times the drawings were. It was quite rare for Kevin Beattie to come in to check on my progress, or to offer advise. That said, he would come in from time to time to go over some calculation or detail with the likes of George Coleman (senior chassis draughtsman / designer).
As a point of reference, at Ford, all drawings had to be inspected by a ‘checker’ before they could be signed off and passed to production. The biggest reason for the difference in the two systems, was that at Jensen, all drawings would initially go the Development Department, where the item was made up in prototype form. Any errors or improvements needed, would come to light there, and could be corrected before the drawings were issued to production.
I remained at Jensen Motors between 1964 and 1967, moving on to Austin and Standard before being recruited, along with thirty two other Brits, for a contract job in Detroit, USA.
This is my ‘typical’ day as a draughtsman, working for Jensen Motors, at their Kelvin Way factory in 1965. All the events happened, but some have been merged together to create this ‘typical’ day.
The day started normally enough, I set off from home in Upper Thomas Street Aston, in my cherry red, with black roof, Mini Cooper (998cc). By this time I had worked out the quickest route to West Bromwich.
Instead of getting onto Victoria Road, then the Lozells Road to join the Soho Road in Handsworth, I could cut off a huge corner by travelling through the side streets of Aston and Handsworth; this brought me out onto the Soho Road just as it changed its name to the (West Bromwich) Birmingham Road close to ‘The Hawthorns’ home of West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
The reason for me telling you about my navigational prowess is because on this particular day the route proved to be a false friend.
I was less than half a mile from home, I had just turned from a side road into a busier road when I heard a bang on my side of the car. I immediately pulled into the kerb and stopped.
To my horror there was a small boy of about eight years of age lying in the road. It transpired that he had started running across the busy road at the exact moment that I had turned into it and collided with the side of my car. He might have just bounced off the car and carried on his way, just a little shaken, because I wasn’t travelling at any speed.
But one of the Mini’s classic design faults came into play! His jacket or jumper caught in the forward facing, open ended door handle and he had been dragged along the road for the short distance it took me to pull into the kerb. I cannot remember too much of what happened immediately after the accident other than the inevitable crowd gathering.
An ambulance and police car arrived very quickly and the boy was attended to. The police took a statement from me and fortunately a young woman came forward as a witness.
She testified that I could not have done anything to have avoided the boy running into the side of my car, so that was the end of the matter as far as the police were concerned. I carried on my way to work. I called in to see the boy on my way home that evening, he was recovering well from his experience. The following year, 1966, BMC introduced a ‘safety boss’ to plug the gap between the Mini’s open forward facing door handle and the bodywork. This was in recognition of the fact that there had been numerous incidents similar to the one that I was involved in.
So now, having arrived at work considerably later than my normal 9.00am start, I climbed the concrete steps to the first floor, past Mr. Beattie’s office (very much Mr. Beattie to me) and small meeting room, into the main ‘L’ shaped drawing office.
The long leg of the ‘L’ was occupied by the Chassis Department, with six drawing boards with drafting heads, and the foot of the ‘L’ was occupied by the Body Department with horizontal layout boards. Each department employed about four draughtsmen with a couple of trainees assigned to the Chassis Department.
Although within the drawing office there was no clocking in or registration, I found myself explaining my morning’s misfortune, and received a degree of sympathy.
On this particular morning, the first thing that greeted me was a large cardboard box with my name on it. This contained a Restall reclining bucket seat for my Mini. As I removed the seat from the box, Eric Neale, the chief engineer and body stylist walked in and took a great deal of interest.
He wanted to know who had supplied it and why I had ordered it. This was right up his street, and he spent some minutes looking at how it had been manufactured. I am pleased to say that Restall are still in business, they specialise in making seats for commercial vehicles and buses now.
Unlike management who had a member of canteen staff that came around with a trolley bearing tea or coffee, in the drawing office we had our own facilities, and made our own. After my unfortunate morning, I was really in need of a cup of tea.
Eventually I sat in front of my drawing board, and continued work on the front sub-frame and differential carrier for the C-V8 FF prototype, which had been fitted with a four-wheel-drive system supplied by Harry Ferguson Research.
All was quite in the drawing office with everyone busy on their given work. The door opened, and in came Mr. Beattie. He had come in to talk to senior chassis designer, George Coleman, who happened to have his drawing board next to me. I very much liked George, he was a quite unassuming (but very talented) man in his thirties. Mr. Beattie relied heavily on George in regard to suspension, steering and geometry calculations. The pair of them quietly discussed a calculation for about ten minutes before Mr. Beattie left.
It wasn’t long before I was interrupted by Albert, the technician from the development department (which was located next door to the drawing offices). They were building up the sub-frame, and Albert wanted me to have a look at the cross bracing strut that he had welded in position.
Albert and I had a very good working relationship, he was older than me, and more experienced of life, he used to refer to me as the ‘Second Lieutenant’. By 11.0, I was back at my drawing board.
Not long afterwards all the drawing office staff were invited into the development workshop to have a look at a very attractive small sports car that had arrived from Rootes, Coventry. As was normal at that time there were no words exchanged, no reason given as to why we had been asked to look at this car. It was only in later years that I learned that this car was the ‘Asp’ prototype, based upon Hillman Imp running gear, albeit with the engine mounted in the front.
Jensen, who at the time were assembling the Sunbeam Tiger for Rootes, were being asked to tender for the manufacture of this new proposed sports car. It came to nought, firstly because Rootes didn’t have the money to develop the car, and secondly when Rootes were taken over by Chrysler, they did not believe that such a small sports car would succeed in the all important American market.
In some ways I found it strange that the draughtsmen were invited to the development workshop to view this car, particularly as none of the draughtsmen had ever been asked to drive the cars they were preparing the drawings for, or even to be at testing sessions or debriefing meetings. Surely that would have been more purposeful. One was very much a cog in one’s own department, and were not given any concept of the bigger picture. From what I later heard, that would all change when Carl Duerr came in as Managing Director, but by that time I had left Jensen Motors.
Lunch time. Most Fridays the draughtsmen and clerks would go to one of the pubs in West Bromwich High Street. It was always an enjoyable departure from the norm. However, that was a few days away, so today, myself, and a couple of the other draughtsmen, headed down to the Staff Dining Room. This was just a small room capable of holding about a dozen people, but generally there would be less than that number using the room on any one day.
The food was okay here, unlike the canteen at the old Carter’s Green factory, where the food was absolutely awful, and served up by ‘Fag Ash Lil’ (I guess you get the picture). I was in the middle of my lunch when the door burst open. It was the new Service Manager, David Millard. He didn’t frequent the Staff Dining Room, and was anxiously seeking out a member of his staff for an urgent consultation. I never did find out what it was about.
And here I am, back behind my desk. I’m still working on the CV8 FF sub-frame and differential carrier. These drawings alone would take me some few weeks to complete. I am particularly pleased with my work on the new differential carrier, as I had been given pretty much carte blanche to create something to work, as I saw fit.
In fact, my only restrictions were the spacings of the retaining bolt holes. These obviously needed to match the differential which was being bought in from Salisbury Transmissions, Birmingham.
Based on the prototype welded steel plate differential carrier that had a very perfunctory appearance, I came up with the idea of using top grade aluminium (LM25). This made sense as it was the perfect material for casting batches of them at very moderate expense. As the drawing developed, I took away the rigid lines of the prototype, and for once was able to apply my styling skills in designing the carrier. Even the required cross braces were to my mind a pleasing design feature.
Time for our afternoon tea. In the drawing office, we didn’t have a fixed time for morning or afternoon tea, and it was often dictated by when the Development Department stopped for theirs. It’s fair to say the drawing office was often pretty quite, with us draughtsman concentrating on our work, so the short tea intervals would inevitably lead to general chit-chat.
Back to the drawing board as they say. Time has gone quickly, and before I realise, its 5.0 clock, and time to go home. For some reason there was often overtime when I was working as a draughtsman at the Carter’s Green factory, but that seemed to have finished after the Company moved to Kelvin Way. Shame, as the extra money was always useful.
I tidy my desk, and put away my equipment. I have been worried about the boy that ran into me on my way to work this morning, and want to call in on him and make sure he is okay.
NOTES: In the 1960s through to the 1980s, it was quite common for draughtsmen in the motor industry to move from one company to another on a regular basis. This was for three reasons- i) for a pay increase as a consequence of a particular company’s recruiting campaign. ii) to gain additional experience to put on one’s c.v. iii) to avoid the boredom that occurred between the completion of one model and the start of a new one.
My peripatetic period as an automotive draughtsman came to an end in 1970. At which time I joined Chrysler U.K. as a product planner at their Parts Division in Birmingham. Getting married in 1972 and becoming a father also encouraged me to put down roots. I remained with Chrysler and its successor, Peugeot, for thirty two years, rising to the position of Consumer Programmes Manager for the car division. A job which entitled me a ‘job car’ plus two management lease cars.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: By the end of 1965 there was tension between Beattie and Neale. An acrimonious boardroom meeting over a replacement body for the CV8 had led to Beattie, and MD, Brian Owen, opposing the Jensen brothers, and Neale. Beattie and Owen wanting the replacement body styled in Italy, and the Jensen brothers and Neale wanting the styling achieved in-house. With the backing of John Boex, who was representing the bank that financed Jensen Motors, Beattie and Owen won the day. The Jensen brothers would retire not long after the boardroom decision, Neale would do the same. Meanwhile Beattie and Neale had to work together, but they did as much as they could to stay out of each others way.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Nick Maltby, former draughtsman at Jensen Motors.
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Nick Maltby
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