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16 October 2014
Social Change: Employment 1945 to 1979

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Car manufacturing in Scotland before 1960

A badge from the Albion motor company.

Albion

At the beginning of the 20th century, cars were hand built and they were expensive to buy. Scottish carmakers were among Britain's leading manufacturers before the First World War. Three of the most important companies were Argyll, Arrol Johnston, and Albion, but there were nearly fifty car manufacturers in Scotland before 1914. Scotland's small scale car manufacturers were very different from the large factories that we associate with car production. In the days before automation, computers, and robots, cars were built by small teams of highly skilled craftsmen and women.


A badge from the Argyll motor company.

Argyll

In the USA, Henry Ford developed a system of mass-producing cars on what was called an assembly line. This made cars more affordable for many people. By the 1930s many families in the UK owned cars. But they were not Scottish built. During the 1920s and 1930s Scotland's small-scale car manufacturers closed down as a result of foreign competition, poor management, small local markets for their cars, and the small scale of their production methods.


A badge from the Galloway motor company.

Galloway

At the end the Second World War, the Labour government tried to persuade one of Scotland's largest engineering companies to use a factory that had been used to build tanks during the war, to build cars. This plan came to nothing. A modern car factory would not be built in Scotland until the 1960s.


A badge from the Arrol-Johnston  motor company.

Arrol-Johnston

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