Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,368 pages of information and 245,906 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Coventry Climax Engines

From Graces Guide
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1939. Exhibit at the Oxford Bus Museum.
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Coventry Climax Engines Ltd, fork-lift truck, fire pump, and speciality engine manufacturer, of Friars Road and East Street Works Coventry.


1917 Private company incorporated as Johnson and Smith Ltd., to acquire an old established engine manufacturing company of that name[1]. The address, East Street, Coventry, was similar to one previously used by Coventry Simplex Engines.

1919 Name changed to Coventry Climax Engines. Company acquired by Henry Pelham Lee; his son Leonard Pelham Lee later joined the company.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s they supplied engines to many companies manufacturing light-cars such as Abbey, AJS, Albatros, Ashton-Evans, Bayliss-Thomas, Clyno, Crossley Motors, Crouch Motors, GWK, and D. M. K. Marendaz, Morgan Motor Co, Triumph, Swift, and Standard.

In the 1920s the company moved to Friars Road, Coventry.

In the early 1930s the company also supplied engines for buses.

1931 With the closure of Swift in 1931 they were left with a stock of engines that were converted to drive electric generators giving the company an entry into a new field. This in turn led to the development of fire pumps; the "Godiva" saw widespread use during the Second World War.

Late 1930s: Acquired the ex-Riley premises in Widdrington Road, Coventry.

1937 Introduced the four-cylinder diesel Tippen engine known as the Colt for light commercial vehicles and cars

Late 1930s: With the changing policy of the motor-car industry, which led to motor-car manufacturers producing their own engines, the company took up the manufacture of diesel engines and trailer fire pumps, and petrol-driven electric generating sets. Their trailer fire pumps became standard equipment for the Civil Defence and Armed Forces.

1944 Advert for engines.

Post-war: Coventry Climax users included Clan, Hillman, Kieft, Lotus, Cooper, and TVR.

In the late 1940s, the company shifted away from automobile engines and into other markets, including diesels for marine and fire pumps and fork lift trucks. In 1946 the ET199 was announced, which the company claimed was the first British produced forklift truck. The ET 199 was designed to carry a 4000 lb load with a 24 inch load centre, and with a 9 ft lift height[3].

1950 Walter Hassan, ex Jaguar and Bentley joined the company, and a new lightweight overhead camshaft engine was developed called the FW (Feather Weight).

1951 Company made public.

1953 Acquired Vickers-Goodwin which became Coventry Climax Electrics Ltd

Late 1950s The fire pump engine was introduced into motor racing; the company later developed special engines for Grand Prix racing.

1959 Gained the "Ferodo Gold Trophy".

Away from the car engine business Coventry Climax used their marine diesel experience to further develop and build the Armstrong Whitworth supercharged H30 multi-fuel engine for military use. This has been fitted as an auxiliary engine in the British Chieftain and Challenger battle tanks and Rapier anti aircraft missile systems.

1960 Public company as Coventry Climax Engine Ltd. Manufacturers of fork-lift trucks, mechanical handling equipment, diesel and petrol engines, generating sets and fire-fighting equipment. Directors are: [2]

1961 Manufacturers of engines and generating sets, mobile fire pumps, fork lift trucks and mechanical handling equipment. 1,100 employees. [3]

1963 The company was purchased by Jaguar Cars,

1963 Motor Show exhibitor. Range of engines shown. [4]

1965 With the change of Formula 1 from 1.5l to 3l engines, Coventry Climax (which had supplied most of the British teams with its 1.5l engine) decided to stop manufacturing engines for Grand Prix racing at the end of the season[5]

1966 Jaguar was merged with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to form British Motor Holdings (BMH); BMH then merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968 to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which was then nationalised in 1975 as British Leyland (BL).

Early 1970s the fire pump business was sold back into private ownership, and the Godiva Fire Pumps Co was formed in Warwick.

Coventry Climax became part of the British Leyland Special Products division - alongside Alvis, Aveling-Barford and others. At the end of 1978 BL brought together Coventry Climax Limited, Leyland Vehicles Limited (trucks, buses and tractors), Alvis Limited (military vehicles) and Self-Changing Gears Limited (heavy-duty transmissions), into a new group called BL Commercial Vehicles (BLCV) under managing director David Abell.

1977 Coventry Climax acquired the Warrington forklift truck business of Rubery Owen Conveyancer, renaming it to Climax Conveyancer.

1982 BL sold the Coventry Climax forklift truck business into private ownership, to Coventry Climax Holdings Limited. Sir Emmanuel Kaye, also chairman and a major shareholder of Lansing Bagnall at the time, formed the company, independent of his other interests for the purpose of acquiring Coventry Climax.

1986 Coventry Climax, maker of forklift trucks, was put into receivership and was acquired by Kalmar Industries, maker of heavy trucks[6].

Trading as Kalmar Climax.

1990 a further change of ownership came when the engine business was sold to Horstman Defence Systems of Bath, Somerset thus breaking the link with Coventry.


Also see Coventry Climax Engines

The OC was an 1,122 cc straight-4 with bore of 63 mm and stroke of 90 mm with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves producing 34 bhp. It was introduced in the early 1930s and also built under licence by Triumph. A six cylinder version of the engine, the JM, was also made with a capacity of 1476 cc developing 42 bhp.

The FW 38 hp 1,020cc straight-4 was adapted for racing as the 1097cc FWA, producing 72hp. Other FW variants included a tiny 750cc FWC used by Dan Gurney, the 1500cc FWB and the FWM marine engine. The marine engine was adapted to automotive use as the FWMA and used in Lotus cars and the Hillman Imp. Climax powered Lotus cars won the "Index of Performance" numerous times during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The FPF was a pure-racing development of the FWB — it started life as a 1.5 L Formula Two engine, and was gradually enlarged as an F1 unit; a 2.0 L version took Stirling Moss and Maurice Trintignant to Cooper's first two Grand Prix victories against 2.5 L opposition; the engine later grew to a full-sized 2.5 L Formula One and grew to 2.7 L for Indy and the Tasman Formula, and even saw use as a stopgap in 1966 3.0 L Formula One racing.

One special engine from the company, developed from the marine engine, was the FWMV Coventry Climax V8. It produced 174 hp and was used by many racing cars from Lotus, including the Lotus 24, Lotus 25, and Lotus 33 and Cooper including the Formula Junior Cooper T51-Climax. Climax powered Lotus 25s and 33s won the Formula One World Championships in 1963 and 1965 driven by Jim Clark.

Climax built two notable engines un-raced in their original form — first the V8 FPE ("Godiva"), which was intended for the start of the 2.5 L Formula One in 1954 (withdrawn due to fears about the rumoured power of Mercedes and other engines, but in fact it would have been competitive). Paul Emery acquired a Godiva and fitted it to an old F3 chassis to make the Shannon F1 car in 1966, and the engine later ran in something close to its original form in the Kieft Grand Prix car when that was finally finished in 2003. The other unraced engine was the flat-16 FWMW; work on this continued through the later years of the 1.5 L formula with Lotus and Brabham the likely recipients, but the formula ran out before it showed any clear advantage over the V8.


See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Jul 27, 1960
  2. The Times, Wednesday, Jul 27, 1960
  3. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  4. 1963 Motor Show
  5. The Times, Feb 17, 1965
  6. The Times, December 02, 1986
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • The Modern Diesel edited by Geoffrey Smith. Published by Iliffe and Sons 1944