Leeds Engine:Histories: Car Makers

Hunslet Engine built Scootacar
Scootacar made by Hunslet Engine Co (Photo - Andrew Johnson)

A Brief History of Car Manufacturing in Leeds

All | Appleyard of Leeds | Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co | Day - Leeds | Dougill's Engineering | Electromobile (Leeds) | Ginetta | Glover's Motors | Greenwood & Batley | Hunslet Engine Co | Rice & Co | Rodley | Sterling Engineering | West Leeds Motor Co

Were there any cars made in Leeds? The simple answer to this is YES. It gets rather more complex as the majority of the vehicle makers in Leeds were involved with commercial and military vehicles. In the early days of motoring we also find several small firms in little back street garages that might once have been the local smithy turning their hands to vehicle production. In some cases there is little more than a reference in an old trade directory to tell of these firms and below we list some of the firms found in the directories available online through the Graces Guide website.

Hunslet Engine Co
Hunslet's first venture in to car production was the Attila in the early 1900s. The Engineer of 24th March 1905 describes a petrol wagon version on display at a motor show at Islington. "The Hunslet Engine Company, Limited, Leeds, exhibits a four-ton wagon which is propelled by a three-cylinder petrol motor, 120mm by 120mm, capable of developing 20 horse-power." Little seems to have been written about Hunslet's early venture in to road vehicles so it would seem that they can't have been a great success, however The Engineer goes on to note "The wagon shown at Islington is of substantial construction and gives the impression of soundness and simplicity of design."
About 1955 Henry Brown who had previously developed the Rodley car looked around for another backer and he found a keen Rae Fryers at Hunslet who were looking at diversification. Scootacar was devised as a Hunslet subsidiary company. Design work was carried out to provide a vehicle which could accommodate a driver and passenger with good all round vision. Power was provided by a 197cc Villiers air cooled motor cycle engine. Production of three different models ran to about 950 cars. The Scootacar Register (owners club) think that as many as 10% of these survives. To purchase the Scootacar cost �235 10s 3d plus tax (�60 19s 9d). As a comparison a Bentley Mk VI cost �3,100 plus �1,292 15s 10d tax.

Other rubber tyre fitted vehicles were produced by Hunslet in more significant quantities. A range of mines tractors designed around the flame proofed successful mines locos were produced for locations without rail lines. Models such as the MT25 (25hp) all wheel drive slew steered tractors were approved to operate underground. Other tractors with more powerful engines were also produced.
As airlines purchased larger aircraft with the introduction of the likes of Boeing 747 many airports needed to get more powerful tractors for positioning these planes at terminals. As a result Hunslet produced the ATT77. Four of the planned seven were built, three of these were used at Heathrow and one at New York JFK. Axles were designed and manufactured at Kirkstall Forge (also in Leeds). One of these was heavily disguised and is a star of the film Alien (picture below.)

Internal Website Links
If road vehicles is your thing, the next size up on our site is our page on bus making in Leeds
As well as the Hunslet vehicle used in the Alien film we have a list of Leeds built items in films

External Website Links
Much of the information on this site was found in Graces Guide online material on Britain's industial heritage.
Scootacar Register
The Leodis website has several images relating to Appleyard of Leeds
Ginetta's website

This article was produced by Kris Ward and Andrew Johnson, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.