Commercial Vehicle Building in the
Black Country

In a busy industrial area with several successful car manufacturers, it was inevitable that some of them would add commercial vehicles to their range of products, especially as some of them, such as Star, had been producing cycles for many years, including accessories such as the tradesman’s carrier, a trailer for carrying goods or tools.

Star was the first manufacturer in the area to produce complete, purpose-built lorries and vans, which went into production in 1902. With a capacity of 6 cwt. they proved to be very successful. Within a few years Star was joined by Sunbeam, which always saw itself as a car manufacturer, but did produce a small number of commercial vehicles on its standard car chassis. Star’s allied company, Briton was also producing light commercial vehicles before the First World War, as was the Black Country’s largest, and leading commercial vehicle manufacturer, Guy Motors, which was formed in 1914. During the war, the company supplied large numbers of 30 cwt. trucks to the Russian forces, and ambulances were supplied to the allied forces by Star, Briton, and Sunbeam.

An early Guy 30 cwt. lorry.

In January 1924 William Morris acquired a factory in Foundry Lane, Smethwick which became the headquarters of Morris Commercial Cars Limited, formed to manufacture commercial vehicles. A range of vehicles were produced on the site, based on the company's one ton chassis. At the end of the year Bean entered the market with its 20/25 cwt. chassis, which was used for lorries, vans, ambulances, coaches, and light buses.

In 1929 motorcycle manufacturer A.J.S. began building commercial vehicle chassis at Lower Walsall Street, Wolverhampton. The chassis, known as the ’Pilot’, and the ‘Commodore’ were used for lorries, vans, coaches, and buses. After the closure of A.J.S. in 1931, the ex-owners, the four Stevens brothers founded Stevens Brothers (Wolverhampton) Limited, and in 1932 began to produce a 3-wheeled van. In the mid 1930s another ex-motorcycle manufacturer, Diamond, began producing a range of small electrically powered trucks, under the ‘Graiseley’ name.

A Jensen 'JNSN' lorry from 1951.

In 1939 Jensen Motors of West Bromwich entered the field with a lightweight truck, later followed by the ‘Jen-Tug’ articulated vehicle, and the JNSN lorry and coach. The last manufacturer to begin production in the Black Country was the Turner Manufacturing Company of Wolverhampton, which produced 2 and three-wheeled vehicles under the LDV name, and also the ‘Yeoman of England’ agricultural tractor.

The last commercial vehicles manufactured in the area were produced by the largest and most well-known company, Guy Motors. The business closed in 1981 after manufacturing vehicles for 67 years.

Since the early years of the 20th century, the local manufacturers built large numbers of lorries, vans, coaches, and buses, which greatly added to the prosperity of the area. Large numbers of people were employed in the industry, which was supplied by many local component manufacturers, including chassis builders, foundries, engine makers, tyre makers, lock makers, and nut and bolt makers.

Although the once important industry has almost been forgotten, many of the locally made vehicles still survive, and are well looked after, and cherished by their owners. They can be seen at vehicle rallies, and museums, such as the Black Country Living Museum, and will be a permanent reminder of what was achieved.

Return to the List of Manufacturers