It all started when Absolom Harper and his two sons founded A. Harper & Sons, ironfounders, at Waddams Pool Works in Hall Street, Dudley. In 1907 the name was changed to A. Harper, Sons & Bean in 1907 when principal shareholder George Bean became chairman. The business greatly prospered during the First World War thanks to a plentiful supply of ministry contracts for munitions. After the war George Bean received a knighthood for his services to the war effort, and his only son John, known as Jack, who also worked in the business, was made a CBE.

The Bean Car

At the end of hostilities the lucrative munitions orders ceased and something had to be quickly found to replace them, so that the business could survive. At the time motor cars were becoming increasingly popular, and so the decision was taken for the company to become a car manufacturer. In January 1919 the company purchased the jigs, patterns, tools, and manufacturing rights for the Perry car, and production soon got underway. The company’s first car, the Bean 11.9, a slightly updated Perry design, was launched at the 1919 Motor Show, but sales were not good, because the selling price was a little on the high side. Although prices were slashed, the recession in the car industry in 1920 rapidly led to spiralling debts. A receiver was appointed, and production ended at Tipton in October 1920. In November Jack Bean resigned from the company.

During November 1921 a huge investment of capital by Sir George Bean, Barclays Bank, The National Provincial Bank, and Hadfields enabled them to buy a 55% controlling interest from Harper Bean and repay the creditors. This allowed A. Harper, Sons & Bean to manage their own affairs again, but would have serious financial implications five years later. Car production started again in 1922, and slowly increased to 100 cars a week by August. October 1923 saw the launch of a new car, the much larger Bean 14, powered by a 13.9 hp. engine, and fitted with a 4-speed gearbox. The engine and gearbox would prove to be ideal for the company's first commercial vehicles.

The Tipton factory in 1925.

Bean Commercial vehicles

During the six and a half years of commercial vehicle production at Beans, many small single-decker buses and coaches were produced on the company's standard range of chassis.

In November 1924 the company launched the first Bean commercial vehicle, a 25 cwt. chassis based on the 14.9 hp. engine and gearbox. The vehicles mainly appeared as lorries, but vans, ambulances, coaches and light buses were also made. The engine and gearbox were mounted on a separate chassis, and initially, the vehicle only had rear wheel brakes. The 20/25 cwt. chassis sold for £265. From 1926 front wheel brakes were available for an extra £20.

Unfortunately Bean suffered from an acute shortage of cash, with debts totalling £1.8 million, mainly due to the restructuring in November 1921. As a result Hadfields, the Sheffield steel producer, rescued the company and renamed it Bean Cars Limited, in June 1926.

In June 1927 the 25 cwt. chassis was replaced by a 30 cwt. model designed by Hugh Kerr Thomas. It had a 2.3 litre Ricardo high turbulence cylinder head engine, and sold for £325. By this time the commercial chassis accounted for about 60% of the total production at Tipton.

The 30 cwt. chassis continued in production until 1929 when it was replaced by the 'Empire' model, powered by a 3.6 litre Ricardo high turbulence cylinder head engine.

It only remained in production for about 18 months, when it was replaced by an updated version of the original 20/25 cwt. chassis, powered by a 2.3 litre Hadfield engine.

The new chassis was only manufactured for just over three months, because Bean Cars Limited went into receivership on the 19th June, 1931, when vehicle production ended. The cars had not been selling well, and soon gained a bad reputation as a result of many problems with the company's latest model, the 14/45.

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