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24 September 2014
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    Vauxhall's history in Luton

    Vauxhall workers protest.
    Vauxhall workers protesting a year ago, about the closure of the Luton car plant.

    Ian Pearce, looks at the history of the company which put Luton on the map as a car-maker rather than a hat making town.

    Vauxhall started 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 it’s 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.

    Vauxhall employed 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 A35’s and Morris Minors that represented British economy motoring at this time.

    More.

    How do you feel about the closure of the Vauxhall plant one year on? Send us your comments for the message board.

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    Internet Links.
    BBC News archive:

    Vauxhall to close UK car plant

    Devastating blow for Luton

    Vauxhall chief faces angry workers

    Union fight to save Vauxhall plant

    Vauxhall workers march on Luton


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