looks at the history of the company which put Luton on the map as
a car-maker rather than a hat making town.
making cars in 1903 in South London but moved to a new factory in
Kimpton Road Luton in 1905.
During the First
World War the company supplied cars for the war effort. After the
war the company started to develop rapidly although concentrating
on the sporting and touring car market, the Prince Henry being the
most famous car from this period with a racing pedigree to boot.
In 1925 General
Motors saw the opportunity to gain a foothold in the British popular
car market and took over Vauxhall although the company to all intents
and purposes retained its own identity and model range.
The Luton Plant
grew rapidly from then on, expanding across Kimpton Road from the
original site between the two railway lines.
In 1931 the
truck and bus arm Bedford was launched and Luton produced a staggering
range of cars, vans, lorries and bus and coach chassis. The first
Bedfords were reworked Chevrolet vehicles but, with the introduction
of the Q series Lorries and buses, Bedford became a distinctive
marque in their own right and Bedford boasted that their vehicles
could be found across the world.
During the Second
World War, Vauxhall became a major supplier of lorries, the Q series
being used in every configuration imaginable. The company produced
the Churchill Tank and these were tested in the grounds of Luton
Hoo. Wardown Lake was used to test water proofing on lorries for
use in D-Day.
thousands of local women to replace the men called up and along with
Skefco, Commer Karrier and other engineering and aviation companies,
Luton can really be said to have done its bit for the war effort.
In the fifties
truck production shifted to Boscombe Road in Dunstable, although
Luton retained van production until the demise of the Bedford brand
at the end of the eighties.
The post war
Vauxhall range increasingly bore the influence of Detroit with american
styling and the famous Vauxhall fluted bonnet. The late nineteen
fifties saw the PA Cresta and the fist Victor roll out of Kimpton
Road. These were scaled down American cars with white-walled tyres,
column shift and multi-coloured bodies - a breath of fresh air among
the ranks fo black and grey Ford Populars, Austin A35s and
Morris Minors that represented British economy motoring at this
do you feel about the closure of the Vauxhall plant one year on?
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