Diamond Motors was a well-known maker of motor bikes but falling sales saw it change direction in the early 1930s and start to produce pedestrian controlled electric vehicles, having brought the rights to use the ‘Graiseley’ name. Graiseley is in fact a district of its home town, Wolverhampton.
The DM60 road vehicle was introduced in 1937 and was built as an 8 – 10 cwt bread van with a forward control cab and very low step height. However the windscreen and side windows were so shallow visibility must have been compromised. Graiseley seems not to have made much of an impression on the driver-controlled road vehicle market but was much more successful producing large numbers of pedestrian-controlled vehicles.
Sydney Guy was works manager at Sunbeam but resigned in 1913 to form his own company, also based in Wolverhampton, which would concentrate not on car production but on commercial vehicles. It built a range of lorries and buses and in 1922 attempted to break into the municipal refuse collection market with a normal control electric wagon that looked a good deal more comfortable than contemporary offerings from the likes of Garrett or GV.
By a twist of fate, in Guy acquired the Wolverhampton end of the Sunbeam business from the Rootes Group in 1948.
GVs were built by the General Vehicle Company in Tyseley, Birmingham from 1916. Birmingham was chosen at the site of the UK factory because of its location in the industrial heart of the country. This was the British arm of the American GVC concern (founded in 1899 and taken over by General Electric in 1901) and its output was to their designs, adapted for the UK market.
Vehicles had already been imported since 1914; the Commercial Motor carried an account in 1915 of a day spend with a GV meat van carrying carcases over 45 miles from central London out to places like Twickenham and Kingston. The degree of water-proofing of all the electrical equipment was good enough to allow the vehicle to be comprehensively hosed down at the end of every day, which was just as well considering what it was carrying. The company claimed that by 1919 there were fleets of up to forty GVs operating in Britain, used in twenty different applications. Municipal applications were in the fore of course, and one innovation pursued by Croydon council was to take GVs with interchangeable bodies. One example could carry either a tipping refuse collector or a 750 gallon water tank for street cleaning.
The initial British range included 10 cwt, 1 ton, 2 ton and 3½ models. Low sales led to the withdrawal of the 10 cwt machine in 1921. The emphasis was on simplicity and quality of construction. The 2 tonner featured a vertical steering column. There were drum brakes on the rear wheels, and a transmission brake. The series-wound motor sat transversely ahead of the rear axle. A chain drive connected the motor with a countershaft which contained the differential. Open roller chains off either end of the countershaft drove the rear wheels. The drum controller employed sets of resistances to bring up the speed in four steps with the motor fields in series, until at the fifth step the field windings were in set in parallel.
GV was the only exhibitor at the 1925 Olympia commercial motor show to display only electric vehicles, and its display must have looked pretty old-fashioned compared with the much more elegant and refined fare coming from its petrol-powered rivals. Contemporary advertising showed a trio of Carter Paterson delivery vans still with completely open cabs.
By this point the range had extended up to 5 tons. An interesting choice of exhibit for the show was a 2 to 4 ton electric tractor hauling a specially designed two wheel trailer for ‘the collection of offensive refuse’. The body was lined with sheet metal thorough and had a 2 ft loading line to make handling this stuff as easy as possible. Goodness knows what it was.
In 1924 GV unveiled what was probably the largest road-going battery electric built in Britain up to that date. The GV Giant was an articulated lorry with the battery installed behind the cab of the tractor unit. The whole unit was 38 feet long and one example was used to convey large electrical cable drums for Manchester Corporation. It was withdrawn from the catalogue in 1928.
At long last in 1926 GV started to update its range. A new 2/2½ tonner had a longitudinally-mounted motor driving an overhead worm rear axle. There was a quick change battery cage arrangement, and a much more modern raked steering column. By 1928 all GV models were using the shaft drive system. A six-wheeler was introduced in 1930 to carry a large tipping refuse body. It embodied a single motor and twin overhead worm axles.
Surprisingly perhaps, given its form up to this date, GV was actually one of the first manufacturers to enter the lighter vehicle market. In 1930 it brought out a neat 25 cwt forward control chassis. It followed that in 1933 with a 10/15 cwt machine that had curiously reverted to an upright steering column, and a normal control 5/7 cwt van which carried the battery under the bonnet. These both featured a low speed motor, running at up to 1,000 rpm. This allowed there to be a short prop shaft to the rear axle wherein the bevel gear differential would reduce the rotation speed out to the wheels.
In line with the trend of dropping the loading line on municipal vehicles, in 1932 GV bought out a 3 tonner with a low straight chassis and 26 in by 5 in solid tyres to give a load line of just over 2 feet. The enclosed cab was perched well ahead of the front axle. The fact that the frame was not dropped at the front suggests that some of the electrical equipment was installed under this cab.
The range was rationalised in the early 1930s in the face of falling sales, with a focus on lighter vehicles. By 1934 it consisted of 5/7 cwt, 10/15 cwt, 15/20 cwt and 25/30 cwt models. On the smallest machine, the driver stood at the rear of the box body. However, the range did not last long. The company went out of business around that time, apparently being acquired by Metrovick.
J & E Hall Limited started out in the commercial vehicle business making petrol machines, beginning with a three tonner built to a Swiss Saurer design. It worked with W A Stevens Limited of Dartford to produce the Hallford-Stevens petrol electric bus around 1909.
In 1922 it announced two pure electric chassis, rated for payloads of four and five tons respectively. There was a fair deal of carry-over of parts from the firm’s petrol lorries. The design was pretty conventional for the time, with batteries housed in panniers in the wheelbase, except that the single motor was mounted behind the rear axle, driving forward to a differential that connected with an enclosed chain to each wheel.
Harrods, the London store, was an enthusiastic early adopter of electric vehicles and built up a fleet of dozens of delivery vans before the First World War. By the 1930s those that remained were inevitably getting tired and the question of replacements came up. Their principal supplier, Walker, was not actively selling in the UK, and presumably no other makes appealed, so the company decided to design and build its own machines.
The first of a fleet of EVM1 vans was produced in 1932, using motors from Brice Peebles of Edinburgh, Chloride (rather than Edison) batteries, and a fair quantity of Walker components. Whether these were re-conditioned from the original fleet or new is not clear. The chassis and body were built, at the rate of one a fortnight, at Harrod’s own Engineering and Coachbuilding Works at Barnes.
The (possibly deliberately) rather antiquated looking body had a single nearside cab door. These vans had a range of up to 60 miles and were capable of 19 mph. A number survived into the late 1960s. An example now kept by the Science Museum had done about 320,000 miles by the time it was retired in 1967.
The Lancaster Electrical Company was founded in New Barnet, north of London. Its principal early line of work was recharging wireless (radio) batteries. Its first vehicle was called the Lecar. Built in 1940, it came about not because of a strategic desire to enter the electric vehicle market, but because the little company struggled to get fuel for its petrol van.
It had a 5-7 cwt payload. The chassis was in fact that of a used Jowett petrol van, thus avoiding the major supply problem. It was rated higher than 7 cwt, but the conversion was deliberately conservative regarding the safe payload. Even though the original Lecar was forward control, the source chassis probably was not as there did not appear to be any such types operating in Britain at the time. The batteries were sited ahead of the rear axle. The motor was under the driver and, most unusually, was connected to a three-speed gearbox. This allowed the rear axle to be retained and meant the speed range could be greatly reduced. An elongated, almost horizontal, gear lever extended into the cab, which must have been tricky to use – especially in the absence of a clutch. Nevertheless, it was claimed that this feature gave a 25% increase in range, and a top speed of up to 30 mph.
Having developed the vehicle to solve its own problem (and had it fitted with an Arlington body) the firm decided to market the design, knowing that the donor chassis be likely to be in reasonable supply. However, the announcement of the Lecar chassis for public sale in April 1941 was remarkable in that it was done in the face of acute shortages of materials.
Two variants were offered. The JFD had a 130 cu ft body and had an ex-works price of £175. The JFSD had a bigger 168 cu ft body and a semi-forward control layout, plus such refinements as a bucket seat for the driver and side doors with glasses windows. All this for just an extra £20, except that headlamps and a windscreen wiper would cost more still! In spite of favourable reviews in the trade press, orders only dribbled in. One went to a farmer who used it to carry produce and livestock. Another went to a drapery shop but was fitted with a salesman’s car body. The most elaborate was a personnel carrier for a London film studio.
Two more conventional forward control four-wheelers were unveiled in 1946, branded as Lancasters. The JR1 had a payload of 5/7 cwt, and the JR2 could carry 10/15 cwt. Neither was revolutionary in any way except that Commercial Motor noted its chassis was more heavily built than those of some of its rivals. Perhaps this helped to explain its limited range and speed.
1952 saw the introduction of the Lusty 12 cwt chassis, whose small wheels, narrowness and limited 15 mile range pointed towards its use as an inner urban milk float – a popular segment at the time. Even though the 18 cwt payload was competitive, few were sold.
Lancasters were popular with smaller, independent customers like bakers and dairies, whereas bigger suppliers like Morrison-Electricar tended to focus on the corporate fleets. As the pressures of increased competition for sales, lower prices from rivals, and the consolidation of dairies into large groups intensified, Lancaster’s business became unviable and the last vehicle left the works around 1955.
Sidney Holes Electric Vehicles was established some time before 1943 in Hove. Holes and Davigdor Dairies was a large local dairy and probably starting building vehicles because it could not find what it wanted from the existing manufacturers. It produced the Manulectrics range of pedestrian controlled vehicles which were quite popular for several years. The three-wheel 1 tonner was even road tested by Commercial Motor in 1951.
In the mid-1950s the Standon was introduced which had four tiny wheels and a narrow doorless cab. The driver could perch on a kind of misericord to take some of the weight off their feet on longer stretches. A sales leaflet shows it in various roles – milk float, closed van, refuse collector and street washer. One was displayed at the 1958 Dairy Show.
More sophisticated fare was on display at the same show seven years later. The Model 730 30 cwt was a full cab milk float capable of 22 mph. Its moulded fascia panel included a gently curved and raked windscreen and foot level corner windows to spot any hazards near the kerb.
By 1965 manufacture of the Manulectrics range had passed to Stanley Engineering, based at Exeter airport. Road vehicle production had probably ended when the operation was sold to Crompton Electricars in 1972.
Metropolitan-Vickers came about in 1919 when, having taken over the British end of the American Westinghouse company, the Metropolitan Carriage & Wagon Company and Vickers were urged by the US firm to drop the name British Westinghouse and give their joint acquisition a different name. This was quickly summarised to ‘Metrovick’, a very large manufacturer of a diverse range of electrical products with its main facilities at Trafford Park, Manchester. Battery electric vehicle production took place in Manchester and the Attercliffe district of Sheffield.
Surprisingly perhaps it waited until 1932 before venturing into the battery electric vehicle field. The first product was a small three-wheeler. In 1934 a more comprehensive four wheel range was announced as a consequence of acquiring GV.
The 432 was a 7/9 cwt light van, the 442 a 10/15 cwt machine and the 455 a 15/20 cwt model.
Each one had a box section frame with the battery in panniers. The batteries could easily be removed using a stillage truck. The single traction motor was by Metrovick and there was a Stevenson jacking system. The controller had a clever feature whereby the brake and control speed pedals were connected. As soon as the brake pedal was depressed the controller was automatically returned to the neutral position. Furthermore there was an interlock to prevent the vehicle from being driven off while connected to the charger. The 432 had Lockheed hydraulic brakes whereas the larger models had Girling brakes.
Customers included the Co-op (as in a bakery van for Walkden Co-op) and Express Dairy. The Metrovick, like other makes, was advertised in a number of formats including open dairy (conventional milk float), semi-closed dairy (with compartment for goods like butter and eggs), bakery van (with a separate confectionery compartment), general purpose van, streamlined van (with a swept roof line down to the tail) and open lorry. Huddersfield Corporation Electricity Department employed one of the streamlined vans to deliver domestic appliances from its showrooms.
The range was extended up to a 18/22 cwt variant. And there was a short-lived three ton model. This was used as the basis for a refuse collector for Glasgow looking like a compact version of the city’s Garrett GTZ type. A more modern cab was introduced across the range in 1939.
Vehicle production came to an end in 1944 as the firm focussed its capacity on producing heavy electrical equipment for the war effort. Brush took over manufacture and based its four-wheel post-war models on the Metrovick designs.
Midland Electric Vehicles was established in Leamington Spa in 1935 and the first Midland electric was unveiled in January 1937. Judging by the amount of press coverage this range got over the years it was either technically remarkable or the firm had a most efficient publicity department.
The mechanical and electric design of the initial 10 – 15 cwt model was by J. Parker Garner, a prominent vehicle designer. The vehicle shown to the press was a van, having a smart body and no doors. The steering wheel was behind the front axle and the layout was intended to facilitate easy entry and exit by the driver on their rounds. The Midland had a pleasantly curved scuttle panel and a decent-sized windscreen. The batteries were mounted in the wheelbase and placed in boxes that could be slid out for checking and maintenance.
The principal market would be milk delivery, and Midland built up a sizable business manufacturing vehicles for the likes of Midland Counties Dairies. Midland provided the chassis and the dairy built the bodywork at its own works in Wolverhampton. The basic vehicle was supplied from Leamington Spa as a scuttle, designed to have the cab entrance behind the front wheels.
The larger B20, with a payload of 18 – 22 cwt, was unveiled in 1938, which Midland could produce as a complete van. As further evidence of its prowess in the promotional department, the firm exhibited a B20 sliced down the middle to reveal its design at the British Industries Fair at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, in 1938.
A variant of the B20 was built as a special tow tractor for the Gloster Aircraft Company in 1940. As well as drawing a trailer full of components around the factory site, it could also tow a finished aircraft and use its battery to start aero engines.
By 1943 its range spanned five models with payloads from 10/12 cwt (the B12) through to 30/35 cwt (the B30). After the Second World War the range was cut back to just a 15 cwt and 25/30 cwt model. In May 1951 a 30 cwt machine acquitted itself well on three days of road tests by the Commercial Motor magazine.
Aside from milk floats, Midlands were employed for coal transport, laundry delivery, as mobile shops and as tower wagons. Peter Jones, the London department store, operated a very attractive large Luton furniture van based on a Midland chassis cab.
In 1949 Midland attempted to break into the light milk float market with a 10 cwt model called the Vandot. This had tiny wheels and a spartan cab over the front axle. The driver’s bench covered the 60 V battery.
Over the years the basic design of the basic Midland did not change much, as its main customer, Midland Counties Dairies, built up a standardised fleet. Midland ceased production in 1958.
The Leicester firm of A E Morrison went back to the 1890s and by 1930 had produced a variety of products, including bicycles, gas-powered stationary engines and cinema equipment. Its entry into the electric vehicle market was the consequence of a conversation on a golf course between the then head of the firm, Alfred Charles Morrison (1902 – 1971) and Mr Squires, a local baker. Squires was looking for a vehicle that could do local deliveries better than his horse and Morrison duly built a prototype designed for a payload of up to 12 cwt.
The prototype created a very positive reaction and Morrison decided to enter the market properly in early 1933. The first model was an 8 – 12 cwt four-wheeler derived from the prototype, called the Terrier. The design was deliberately simple and rugged, and intended for delivery rounds in built-up areas. It was claimed to be capable for up to 20 mph with a range of 30 to 40 miles depending on the load.
The battery packs were arranged in three boxes across the wheelbase, with one box inside the frame. Each vehicle was supplied with an automatic charger. A new type of motor was developed, with a laminated armature, mounted directly on to the rear axle. A foot-operated controller gave two forward speeds, neutral and reverse.
Within two months of the Terrier’s launch the firm unveiled a more radical design, an 8 cwt three-wheel machine aimed at the small tradesman. This had more of a perimeter frame with battery boxes placed ahead of and behind the rear axle, and rear wheel drive. At the same time Morrisons announced a 20 – 25 cwt vehicle based on the existing 8 – 12 cwt model. This had four battery boxes across the wheelbase and a motor placed behind the driver with a chain reduction gear to a prop shaft propelling the rear axle.
Morrisons clearly had a very effective team of salesmen. Not only were its vehicles selling well in the UK, the firm was taking orders from Australia, New Zealand and (in left hand drive form) Finland. Such was the success of the vehicle side of the business that most of its other activities were phased out by the mid-1930s.
The range was now known as the 600 series, with payload ranges of 5/8 cwt, 10/12 cwt, 18/22 cwt, 18/22 cwt, 25/30 cwt and 2/3 tons. Most of each electric was built in house, including the chassis, motor and controller. Axles and brakes were bought in, and some of the bodywork was built by Brush in nearby Loughborough.
In 1934 the company became known as Morrison Electric. That year it announced the Trilec, which reversed the layout of its first three-wheeler. It had two front wheels that steered and a chain driven single rear wheel. The driver sat over the rear wheel. A lack of weather protection and occasional difficulties seeing over the load meant it was not a success.
Undeterred, it reverted to its original three-wheeler with the introduction in 1936 of an 8 – 10 cwt vehicle with the motor over the front wheel that was connected to it with a chain reduction drive. The driving position was set so that the base of the seat was at chassis level, precluding cross-cab access. An up-rated version of this was built as an articulated tractor for the Midland Railway to try alongside mechanical horses.
As sales increased the firm moved from the centre of Leicester to nearby South Wigston in 1935. The following year Associated Electric Vehicle Manufacturers was formed (see Electricars) and Morrisons – still very much a family firm – became part of a larger group. Business was booming.
In the late 1930s, Morrison offered a number of body styles that reflected contemporary taste. The Airstream had a gently curved dash panel and high-capacity van body. The Airline had a body that swooped down behind the driver’s cab, creating a profile like an aircraft wing. The Airflow was a normal control variant, with a streamlined bonnet and an obvious similarity with petrol-powered vans of the period.
On the outbreak of war in 1939 the government redeployed many Morrison employees on to war work, including transferring a number to Brush. Alfred Morrison was sent to London to work as a consulting electrical and mechanical engineering, helping to develop a number of advanced devices used to support the fighting.
Whether or not this was a cover for his secret work, in 1940 he was appointed chief research manager at Brush. Despite moving to a firm that would soon be a competitor of Morrison Electric, and subsequently helping to set up his own electric vehicle maker (Douglas-ACM), relations with his family continued to be cordial. In 1947, for example, he took out a patent with his father for an improved electric vehicle drive. He later built up two successful businesses in the fields of pumps and generators.
In 1941 AEVM announced a new Morrison-Electric and Electricars range shortly before the whole business was taken over by Crompton Parkinson and the Morrison family sold their interests. The Morrison contingent consisted of 10 cwt and 20 cwt vans, and a two ton lorry. Under the new owners, the single brand name became Morrison-Electricar and the Morrison side of the story continues under that heading.
Following the takeover of Associated Electric Vehicle Makers by Crompton Parkinson in 1941, the whole range of both firms was marketed as Morrison-Electricar. Press reports tended to emphasise Crompton Parkinson as the manufacturer, making it clear that the battery-electric operation was certainly not arms-length.
Many vehicles carried enamel badges, some saying ‘Morrison Electricar’ and others saying ‘Morrison Electricars’. For consistency, we shall stick to ‘Morrison Electricar’.
The range was rationalised to 10 cwt, 20 cwt and 40 cwt models. There was a growth in demand for larger vehicles – possibly due to a need to consolidate milk rounds in the light of labour shortages – which Morrison-Electricar was able to serve with the two tonner. Midland Counties Dairies and Hornby’s Dairies of Bristol both took this machine. Whereas Midland Counties opted for a conventional float, Hornby’s went for a flatbed lorry configuration for deliveries large consignments of milk to local schools.
In 1946 the range was relaunched as the 10 cwt BM, 20 cwt CM, two ton EM and a new 3 ton model called the GM.
The success of Morrison-Electricar caught the attention of the Austin Motor Company, one of Britain’s biggest domestic producers of cars, but also light and medium weight commercial vehicles. In 1946 Austin acquired a 50% interest in the company alongside Crompton Parkinson and the next incarnation of the business was called Austin Crompton Parkinson Electric Vehicles Limited (often thankfully shortened to ‘ACP’).
With effect from 1 January 1947, Austin would be responsible for managing the manufacturing side of the business. Among other things this move provided an opportunity to incorporate mass-produced Austin components such as wheels, saving cost and often weight. Whilst home market vehicles were badged as Morrison-Electricar, those for export were Austin-Electricar.
The firm decided to offer new models for refuse collection in 1949 with capacities of 2 or 3 cu yd and side-loading end-tipping bodies. Such was the effect of weight on range that the 2 cu yd vehicle would be sold in either BM43 form for bulkier, lighter refuse, or BM43-A for the denser stuff. Two 3 ton models were unveiled later in the year – one a flatbed lorry and the other another refuse collector.
In 1952 ACP announced a trio of 30 cwt models, distinguished by their respective load bed lengths. There was the SD30 (short), MD30 (medium) and LD30 (no need to explain). The vehicles had a more up-to-date look than their predecessors, with a deeper two-pane windscreen and a less stern look to the cab. These models were collectively known as the D1 range and proved be to very successful.
The following year the mobile shops range was rationalised to 20 cwt or 30 cwt sizes – the smaller vehicle retaining a wooden frame whilst the heavier had adopted light alloy. Improvements were also made to the one ton vehicles (the SD20 and the MD20), with improved turning circle and better visibility for the driver.
A more basic 25 cwt float, named the D5, was introduced in 1954 with a shelter rather than a cab. It had an all-metal body on a welded steel frame. The one ton D4 was aimed exclusively at the burgeoning dairy trade, and was of compact and narrow design
For some reason (probably expense) many Morrison-Electricar vehicles of this era tended to have small windscreens with a high dash line. Added to a rather set-back driving position this meant that drivers had no view of what was immediately ahead of the vehicle. Despite the low speed of the vehicles there must have been incidents of children and others being struck, so in 1955 the company offered an optional driver’s safety mirror. This device – looking like a slim sun-shade across the top of the screen gave a clear view of whatever was just in front.
Even though the 3 ton GM model was withdrawn from general sale in 1952, 142 examples of a tractor version – called the GT – were sold to British Railways in the early 1950s to move trailers around yards and carry out local deliveries. They were in use nationwide. This success arose out of trials of a four-wheel prototype in 1949. Even at that time, the newly nationalised BR had over 7,000 horses.
During the 1950s and into the 1960s the range was further revised and there was lots of innovation. In 1958 the range embraced 21 different models with five different chassis lengths. That year the EH20 replaced the D5, sporting an improved cab. In 1960 the EH/F20 was the first model to have a glass fibre cab.
In 1963 the first electronic controller was offered, called the Powermiser. It did away with the resistor-based method of regulating current into the motor in favour of using semi-conductors to feed pulses of current to the motor at decreasing intervals until the full battery current was flowing. A brochure put together by ACPEV promised that – in spite of a higher initial outlay – the savings over four years on operating a 20 cwt vehicle would be almost £110. Operators were not that convinced and it took many years before electronic control became the standard.
A more obvious development was the introduction of the distinctive Morrison-Electricar glass fibre cab in 1964. A problem with traditional hinged doors was that the driver had to open and shut them dozens of times on a round, the hinges and catches would wear out, and there was always the risk of hitting someone as the door was opened. Building on an idea proposed by one of its customers the firm designed a system where the doors swivelled forward on opening and swung so that they rested behind the windscreen. In other words when the doors were open the driver would be looking through two panes of glass as they drove along.
The driver could have the doors shut from the depot to the start of the round, keep them open during deliveries, and then shut them for the trip back. What made the new cab particularly distinctive was that it was tilted back about five degrees from the vertical. The new door arrangement meant any normal kind of raked windscreen was impossible so perhaps this was a way to achieve that effect.
Older models were phased out to be replaced by the E/Fg series in 16, 24 and 30 cwt versions.
In 1961 ACPEV bought the electric vehicle interests of the London coachbuilder T H Lewis, which made the Electruk pedestrian controlled vehicles and milk floats, mainly for Express Dairy. Morrison-Electricar took up manufacture of these, probably renaming the float the E15.
Although the great majority of Morrison-Electricar products were based on standard designs, the company did produce a number of specials to meet the needs of customers who were prepared to pay for them. In 1960 John Lewis ordered four large box vans for movement of bulky furniture items within London. Electrics were the most practical option as the loading bay was in the basement of a West End store. The fulfil the brief, Morrison-Electricar housed battery and running units in an Austin three ton chassis and the bodywork was fitted by Marshall of Cambridge. In 1967 a prototype electric delivery van was supplied to Royal Mail, followed by five more two years later.
South Coast Dairies (part of Unigate) wanted a vehicle where the driver could leave the cab through the back to pick up bread and groceries off shelves at the front of the deck and then collect milk from further back. The vehicle was based on the F30 chassis but had a rear mounted motor, and a body by Unigate’s transport subsidiary, Wincanton Transport & Engineering. Morrison-Electricar chose not to put this model into full production, but Smiths (its main competitor) also saw the potential of this layout and developed the Cabac.
Morrison-Electricar made a belated return to the three-wheeler market in 1965 when Express Dairy requested that it develop a product. The two versions (3D6-G and 3F11) were adapted from four-wheel designs by using a Scammell front wheel and steering unit as employed on that firm’s own Scarab mechanical horse. The smaller version carried an adapted E/Fg cab, whereas Mickleover Transport (an Express subsidiary) bodied the larger one.
The following year Morrison-Electricar unveiled the 3K2 which was based on the 3F11 but had a wraparound windscreen and a 26/28 cwt payload capacity. It featured a new in-house front wheel arrangement.
Such was the demand for Morrison-Electricar products (both road vehicles and electric trucks) in the 1960s that the firm needed to expand. The Board of Trade would not allow growth in the Leicester area owing to the local shortages of skilled labour, but offered to build a new factory in a development area.
Ultimately ACPEV agreed to move to a site in Tredegar, South Wales. The plant opened in 1968 and all work was transferred there, done by local people who had received training and a fair number of people who chose to move from Leicester.
At this time the core range consisted of the D36/25 (around one ton payload), the E/Fg, the F/Fg and the E15. The BM was still available as a chassis for the few customers who wanted a composite body but it was soon withdrawn – after 22 years in the catalogue.
It was recognised by everyone that the home delivery of milk was in decline and that the company needed to develop new markets if it was to stay in the electric road vehicle business. In 1970 it unveiled the A1, a compact 5 cwt van or pick-up combining ME electrics and chassis with the front wheel drive assembly and rear sub-frame and wheels from the Austin Mini. There was a separate series-wound motor for each wheel. Its selling points were its small size (it was under 9 feet long) and its manoeuvrability, not to mention a 33 mph top speed. Few if any were sold.
Faced with the success of the Smith Cabac vehicle, Morrison-Electricar introduced the K or Commando range in 1971, which had the driver sat behind the front axle rather than on top of it, and access through the rear of the cab. The K36/75 and K36/85 were big vehicles, handling up to 75 and 85 cwts respectively. A municipal market version with a crew cab soon followed.
Austin had merged with its big rival Morris and a number of smaller firms in 1952 to form the British Motor Corporation. This in turn merged with Leyland Motors in 1968 to form British Leyland. The owners of Morrison-Electricar now became Crompton Leyland Electricars Limited.
Morrison-Electricar did not stay long in the Leyland fold, and BL’s share was sold to Hawker Siddeley in 1972. Hawker Siddeley was a diverse aerospace and engineering company with several electric vehicle interests, which were rolled into what became simply Crompton Electricars. They included the Brook Victor and Brush ranges, all industrial trucks except for the venerable Pony.
The final part of the Morrison-Electricar story is told under its last brand name, Crompton Electricars.
Murphy Cars and Trucks of Maidenhead had been building Auto-Electric vehicles since around 1924. In the 1930s, at the behest of its director Leonard Murphy, the company decided to become an full electric vehicle producer in its own right.
The Auto-Electric range was refreshed and rebranded under the Murphy name in 1935. The MP Servitor three-wheel 8 cwt model (with the driver standing on a platform at the rear), the four-wheel 10/15 cwt MT model, and the 20/25 cwt MV. By 1943 an 8/10 cwt and a 10/12 cwt machine were available.
Murphy electrics were notable for their robust construction, with tubular chassis cross-members, and aluminium rather than wooden battery boxes. The motor was directly connected to the rear axle of the four-wheelers, dispensing with the complication of universal joints and a propeller shaft.
Murphy’s premature death in 1942 seems to have sapped the enthusiasm of the firm for electrics, and production ended not long afterwards.
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