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British Industrial History

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Louis Coatalen

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Louis Hervé (Rene) Coatalen (1879-1962), automobile engineer.

1879 September 11th. Born in the Breton fishing town of Concarneau

Studied engineering at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers at Cluny in France.

1900 After working for De Dion-Bouton, Clement-Bayard and Panhard-Levassor he left France to work in England.

In England, after a short time with the Crowden Motor Car Co he became chief engineer with Humber.

1902 November 24th. Married(1) in Birmingham to Annie Ellen Davis (divorced final 1908 on grounds of cruelty and adultery) and they had one son Louis Herve Coatalen

1906 Went into partnership with William Hillman to form the Hillman-Coatalen Motor Car Co. It is commonly stated that in 1907 he married one of Hillman's daughters, now disproved.

1909 The partnership was dissolved when Coatalen moved from Coventry to Wolverhampton to join Sunbeam

1910 Married(2) to Olive Bath (daughter of Henry James Bath, a Sunbeam director)

1911 Living at The Orchard, 39 Finchfield Road, Wolverhampton: Louis Coatalen (age 31 born Concarneau, France), Chief Engineer - Motor Car Works. With his wife Olive Coatalen (age 19 born Swansea). One servant.[1]

1914 Became joint managing director of Sunbeam.

WWI Designed aircraft engines for Sunbeam.

1920 Sunbeam joined with Talbot and Darracq to form STD Motors Ltd and Coatalen had a seat on the board as one of the directors remaining chief engineer of Sunbeam.

His main interest became racing cars and Sunbeam became heavily involved in land speed record attempts including the successful 1,000 HP car of 1927 and the failed 'Silver Bullet' of 1930.

1923 Married(3) in London to Iris Enid Florence Van Raalte born Graham

In 1926 Sunbeam's racing activities were taken into the STD company and moved to Suresnes in France and although Coatalen continued working part time in Wolverhampton, he spent most of his time in Paris.

1931 STD failed but its affairs were so complex it took until 1934 to sell the Suresnes works to Lago.

1934 Married(4) to Amy Bridson.

Coatalen's innovations included balancing the wheels (a technique also claimed by Sig Haugdahl), re-locating the oil pump into the sump, and he was an early advocate of shock absorbers.

From the proceeds of his STD share sale, Coatalen bought control of the French branch of Lockheed hydraulics and from the income from this bought a yacht and a villa on the Isle of Capri.

During World War II he lived in France although he had earlier taken out British citizenship and continued living there until his death.

1962 May 23rd. Died.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1911 Census