top of page

The Canley Factory 100 years ago – Part 1

The first production buildings on the Canley site in 1916 were used for building First World War fighters including BE12s, RE8s and the famous Sopwith Pups.

My first illustration is a winter scene showing these sheds in the early 1920s after the hostilities had ceased. You can see the original Office building, Ivy Cottage in the background of this shot. In the foreground are a couple of early 20’s Standard saloons and interestingly, an open-cabbed Petrol Tanker sign written for “Pratts”.

The site was subject to almost continuous construction work during the 1920s and 1930s to cater for the growing market for Standard Cars.

My next shot shows the construction of two identical what I call Double Apex sheds. The nearer one is more progressed that the one at the rear

You can see the blurred image of 3 cars being driven into the nearest shed and a number of workers dotted about.

My next photo shows cars being built in one of these “Double Apex” sheds. That has two peaks, both with glass roofs. The walls on either side are quite low, only just high enough for a door.

The bodies have been placed on the rolling chassis, though there is no evidence here of anyone actually hoisting the bodies into position, so that must have been done elsewhere.

You can see the full extent of the “mechanisation” of production at the time. The car wheels are placed on small “Dollys” that run on steel tracks set on the floor. You will see, for example, a double rail under the front wheel and a triple rail under the rear wheels. That allowed both short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase cars to be mixed on the “tracks”. So the cars' wheelbases were actually dictated by the spacing between the tracks, rather than the engineering drawing of the car. Note that the cars are moved sideways, being pushed by hand, as can be seen in this photo.

Two points of interest here:

· We can see the simple origin of the term “Production tracks”.

· Standard continued to build cars “sideways” right through to the Herald era.

Now let us discuss what is being produced here. In the foreground are mostly 4 seater Tourers, probably Model SLO4. You can see just a single Saloon, this is quite uncommon.

You can see the substantial extra amount of bodywork that needed to be coach-built into a saloon, adding much extra weight and cost, so they were unpopular with customers. There is an aluminium cylinder head cover sitting on a running board and a screw-type lever jack in the centre aisle, implying some trouble with a particular car. Maybe it is one of the famous “Friday Afternoon” cars!

To the rear and centre of the shot, there are smaller cars, these appear to be Model V2s, two-seaters with their weather equipment erected. You can see their “solid” wheels. Incidentally, there is no example of a V2 left on the road today. However, there is one surviving 1923 V2 4 seater model ( from 1000 sanctioned) and that is presently being restored.

To the rear right are more SLO4s also now fully built up and with their hoods erected. They seem to be ready enough to be moved out to sales. Maybe they could be driven from that point?

For completeness I have two more shots of the sheds being built, you can see the existing houses on Tile Hill Lane in the background, in both shots.

Following is a plan of the Canley factory at the peak of the “Triumph” era in 1976. The outline of the 1922 buildings are shown in red. You can see that the space between them has almost been completely infilled by this time.

My thanks go to Len Barr from the Standard Register for providing the images and to David Mileham, ex-employee, for his identification of where the buildings are situated on the “modern” plan of the site.

Unfortunately, everything you see in the photos was demolished following the lamentable demise of Austin-Rover and the sell-off of the site by Arlington properties. The whole site is now occupied by “Sainsburys” and a large number of modern warehouse units.

Come back later to see more early 20’s cars.

Phil Homer


Standard Motor Club

November 2022



Blog Header.JPG
bottom of page