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British Industrial History

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John Young Sangster

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John Young Sangster (1896-1977) was an industrialist who became an important figure in the history of the British motorcycle industry. He is more commonly known as Jack Sangster.

1896 May 29th. Born in Kings Norton, Birmingham, the son of Charles Thomas Brock Sangster, an engineer, pioneer of cycle and motorcycle designs. Jack Sangster was educated at Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex.

After leaving school he began an engineering apprenticeship which was interrupted by the First World War. During the war, Sangster served with the City of Birmingham battalion of the 14th Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

In 1918 Sangster joined Components Ltd, of which his father was managing director. Sangster designed a small low cost car which he began manufacturing. The design of the car was later sold to Rover, with Sangster joining Rover to manage the production of the car which became the Rover Eight model.

In 1923 Sangster returned to his father's company.

By 1930 he was joint managing director.

1932 Components Ltd went bust. Sangster bought most of the company's assets from the receivers, to start a new company called Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd. Sangster rebuilt the company using the wealth of design and engineering talent employed by the company, which included men such as Edward Turner, Val Page and Bert Hopwood.

Sangster seized another business opportunity in 1935 when he bought the bankrupt Triumph Motorcycles company from the receivers, renaming it Triumph Engineering Co. Sangster gave Edward Turner and Bert Hopwood from Ariel the task of improving Triumph's product range. The Triumph Speed Twin, designed by Turner, with its parallel twin engine was the progenitor of a line of successful Triumph motorbikes that followed.

1944 Sangster sold Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd to the BSA company for a considerable profit.

In 1951, Sangster sold Triumph to BSA for £2.5 million pounds, which was not a bad return on the £50,000 he invested in buying Triumph in 1935.

Sangster joined the board of BSA following their acquisition of Triumph. Sangster became chairman of BSA in 1956, following a series of board room battles which ousted the previous chairman, Sir Bernard Docker.

1961 Sangster retired as chairman of BSA.

1977 March 26th. Died from cancer.

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