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British Motorcycles

The Rover Co.

of Meteor Works, Lode Lane, Birmingham

Rover was a British manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles and cars.

  • 1905 The name was changed in November from the Rover Cycle Co to the Rover Co.
  • WWI. During the First World War, they made motorcycles, lorries to Maudslay designs and not having a suitable one of their own, cars to a Sunbeam design.
  • They acquired a factory at Tyseley
  • 1919 Colonel W. F. Wyley (Chairman), Harry Smith (MD), John Kemp Starley, Mark Wild
  • The business was not very successful during the 1920s, and did not pay a dividend from 1923 until the mid 1930s.
  • 1926 J. K. Starley is MD.
  • In 1929 there was a change of management with Spencer Wilks coming in from Hillman as general manager. He set about reorganising the company and moving it up market to cater for people who wanted something "superior" to and Austin.
  • 1930 He was joined by his brother Maurice Wilks, who had also been at Hillman as chief engineer. Spencer Wilks stayed with the company until 1962 and his brother until 1963.
  • 1932 E. Ransom Harrison (Chairman) and H. Rowe Graham.
  • In the late 1930s, in anticipation of potential hostilities which would become World War II, the British government started a re-armament programme and as part of this "Shadow Factories" were built. These were paid for by the government but staffed and run by private companies. Two were run by Rover, one at Acocks Green, Birmingham, started operation in 1937, and a second, larger one at Solihull, started in 1940. Both were employed making aero engines and airframes. The original main works at Helen Street, Coventry, was severely damaged by bombing in 1940 and 1941, and never regained full production.
  • 1940 In early 1940 Rover were approached by the government to support Frank Whittle in developing the gas turbine engine. Whittle's company, Power Jets had no production facilities and the intention was for Rover to take the design and develop it for mass production. Whittle himself was not pleased by this and did not like design changes made without his approval but the first test engines to the W2B design were built in a disused cotton mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, in October 1941.
  • 1942 Rolls-Royce took an interest in the new technology and an agreement was reached in 1942 that they would take over the engines and Barnoldswick works and in exchange Rover would get the contract for making Meteor tank engines which actually continued until 1964.
  • After the Second World War, the company abandoned Helen Street and bought the two Shadow Factories. Acocks Green carried on for a while making Meteor engines for tanks and Solihull became the new centre for vehicles with production resuming in 1947 and would become the home of the Land Rover.
  • 1947 E. Ransom Harrison (Chairman), 
  • 1954 E. Ransom Harrison retires due to ill health and H. Rowe Graham is new chairman.
  • 1956 H. Rowe Graham (Chairman) 
  • 1958 Spencer Wilks is Chairman.
  • 1964 69th AGM. L. G. T. Farmer is Chairman.
  • 1965 Bid for Alvis 
  • In 1967, Rover became part of the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), which already owned Triumph.

Sources: Graces Guide


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