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Scott Glover recollections - last chapter of
The Hillman Imp and Linwood

The Creating of Chrysler UK
from the point of view of Manufacturing


  1. Overall Organisation
    1. Manufacturing Organisation
    2. Ryton
    3. Stoke
    4. Linwood
      1. Stampings
      2. Power train
      3. Car Assembly
      4. Logistics, wages and Organisation
    5. Implementation of the manufacturing strategy
  2. Linwood - 1969 and Beyond
    1. Sixteen tough months
    2. A different world! - January 1971 to mid 1972
    3. The wheel turns full circle
      Linwood, September 1972 to December 31st 1975
  3. Epilogue


Overall Organisation:

The Rootes company was rightly called the 'Rootes Group', because in organisation terms it was a group of many different companies most with their own complete management structure. So each manufacturing unit was a complete company.
There were many:

Car Marketing, Sales, as well as Design were each under one head for all products, but Van & Trucks were self-contained with their own separate departments for these functions.
In addition there were separate companies for the wholly owned Retail Dealers & Distributors.

Very shortly after the takeover, Chrysler implemented a much more centralised organisation. So there was (reporting to Gilbert Hunt) the new Managing Director, one Director for each of:

Clearly a sensible move, designed to enable the changes necessary to implement the strategy. Most of these appointments were Chrysler men with the notable exception of George Cattell as Director Manufacturing. The Headquarters were initially at the old Rootes HQ at Devonshire House in London, but before long more space was needed (!) so more offices were taken in Bowater House in London. Eventually they moved to Coventry (Whitley).

Manufacturing Organisation:

Before the final takeover was completed, Rootes had purchased the Linwood part of the Pressed Steel Company. And Peter Griffiths, the Director and General Manager of that Business, became a Rootes/Chrysler employee and was then appointed Head. He was to integrate both plants under one management structure, with the Body Design team for the Imp being moved from Pressed Steel (Oxford) to Linwood. A key part of Burke Hyde's Manufacturing strategy was thus in place, i.e. ultimately to make the painted and trimmed bodies for the company's complete car range.

So what was this Manufacturing/Product strategy? First and foremost it was about the car business, with the Truck manufacturing being left largely unchanged. In the next two years the plan was to introduce a new 'B' car i.e. the Avenger. The complete car would be built at Ryton, with its engine being produced at Stoke (in Coventry) with the gearbox and rear axles being produced in Linwood, which would also produce the body panels for all the car bodies. It was a massive undertaking with every plant being subjected to huge change in an overall national environment of union militancy and somewhat beleaguered management.

So what did this mean at each location?
This is a summary of the key parts of what was planned from late 1967 to mid 1969.


For over 20 years Ryton had received painted and trimmed bodies, largely from Pressed Steel in Oxford. Therefore substantial building work was required for a new body shell assembly shop and a new paint shop, after which the necessary equipment was procured and installed. During this period the final assembly of the very successful Hillman Hunter and derivatives (Humber Sceptre, Sunbeam Rapier, etc.) was continuing. Then finally, as production of the Hunter was starting in Linwood, production of the Avenger started in about mid 1969.

Those few sentences summarise what was a massive change in Ryton's role, necessitating a great deal of employee recruitment and training.


To create space for the new Avenger engine Machining & Assembly facility, the capacity of the Hunter and Imp engine production units were reduced, thus releasing space and machinery. New machine tools and assembly equipment were then purchased and installed.
Although not as much of an upheaval as Ryton, still a massive amount of change.


Although initially under one management structure, the plan was effectively to create three plants on the one site, namely:

  1. body panel pressings (stampings)
  2. power train manufacturing and
  3. car assembly.

This is a summary of the impact in each of these plants:

     foundations for three new major press lines for body stampings at Linwood
Cleared for Action - The foundations for 3 new major press lines for body stampings at Linwood
Photo in 'Arrow' of February 1968, page 2
  Linwood: trim assembly line conveyors
Ready for Work - The new (Feb. 1968) trim assembly line conveyors being installed at Linwood. These conveyors can be used to carry either Arrow or Imp bodies. ('Arrow' was the code name for the Hunter range when it was in development.)


The Press Shop needed to be upgraded to increase capacity and productivity. Main body panels would be produced on 15 major press lines (each a series of 4 to 6 presses located one behind each other). The dies for a given panel were set in the appropriate line and then in 2 or 3 days a batch of 4 to 8 weeks usage was produced, then the next panel and so on.

To achieve this, many existing presses had to be relocated (each needing a substructure up to 5 metres deep) and more presses obtained. Plans had already been drawn to find other sources for the products that were made at the notoriously militant BLSP, so finally that business in West London was closed. This enabled, after much hassle, any presses of value to be dismantled and moved to Linwood. In addition further presses were purchased along with much ancillary equipment. Then, as the transfer of the Hunter early in 1969 from Ryton and Pressed Steel Oxford was started, the production of body panels was transferred.
As production volumes increased the Press Shop moved from 2 shift working to 3 shift to maximise the capacity.

A significant facility already existed at Linwood to manufacture the press dies for new panels but its capacity was increased and was busy producing the dies for the Avenger panels.

Power train:

The 'UMB', ie the building which was originally dedicated to the production of Imp transaxles and front suspensions, had from the outset had an empty space, originally planned for the production of the Imp engine, before a late decision was made to locate this in Coventry. In addition it was clear that the originally installed capacity of 3000 Imps per week would (sadly) never be required.
So space and machine tools could be released. In addition an extension to the building was required. With this juggling, enough space was created to enable new manufacturing facilities to be installed for the machining and assembly of the Avenger gearboxes and rear axles. Again a great deal of change, but the prospect of much more work was a great motivator to the work force. Production of Avenger units started in mid 1969 and built up over the next 6 to 9 months.

Car Assembly:

With Imp volumes well below the installed capacity, there was much under-utilisation. In the original car assembly building a considerable amount of space was taken up by the packing of components for overseas assembly (CKD). The volume was now low, so this activity was sub-contracted and the space created enabled the assembly line in this building to be changed from one line running the length of the building to a continuous line making 3 circuits - thus enabling the trimming of the painted body shells to be transferred across the road into this space.

With the freeing up of this space and reducing Imp body shell capacity and some new building an area was cleared for the production of Hunter body shells. However a decision was made to change the assembly method from the traditional buck build (i.e. assembling a significant part of the shell in one fixed location - there were a number of bucks) to the American Gateline process - a more moving build method.
This meant that changes had to be made to some of the panels where the sides and roof joined and the quality of build was never as good. Objections were steamrollered out of the way!

Some changes were needed in the Paint Shop but nothing of a major nature.

As was the case everywhere again: existing production had to be maintained whilst all these alterations were taking place.


So finally the new car plant was there. Body panels from the adjacent Press Shop, two separate Body Shell Assembly facilities, one Paint Shop and then one final Trim & Assembly line on the south side of the road with in due course a mixture of Imps and Hunters and derivatives coming down together.
As was the case in many North American plants: back up supplies of components were stored in high level racking by the side of this Trim & Final Assembly line. Good space management, but it did create a very hemmed in and claustrophobic working environment for those on the line.

Logistics, Wages and Organisation:

The inescapable problem of this manufacturing strategy was there was a need to move a great deal of metal up and down the country!!

From Coventry to Linwood:

And in the opposite direction:

Railway logistics
All were loaded into normal containers which were placed onto dedicated trains (two a day I think).

Pressed Steel at Linwood had, many years ago, had a major contract to build railway trucks, so there was a rail head right in the plant, which needed little change to take on this task. In Coventry a dedicated siding was established off the main railway close to the Stoke plant and the containers were trucked the last few miles to the plants. It was very successful and caused few problems.

Wage structures
On wages there were hurdles to be overcome as Rootes and Pressed Steel had different wage structures, although care had been taken from the very earliest days to ensure they were roughly comparable. Nevertheless it was obviously essential to establish one pay structure over the whole site of three plants. Peter Griffiths was the leader who accomplished this.

Once the new look facilities were in place, Peter Griffiths returned to the headquarters in Coventry as Director Personnel and Industrial Relations, and he was replaced by Bob Irwin (more later). A management structure was put in place for three plants although with only one Finance and P&IR function for the whole site.

Implementation of the manufacturing strategy

The Chrysler way
Whilst the staff of all the plants all had major roles to play, it was the responsibility of the Manufacturing Services function under Burke Hyde, its Director, to provide co-ordination, guidance, extra resources and leadership over doing things the Chrysler way. This was split into the following departments:

The rest were very experienced people and whilst their people relationship skills were sometimes different, they had a great sense of purpose. Alongside them I felt somewhat inexperienced and having to hurry to catch up! I was fortunate, however, to have inherited an existing organisation and fairly early on, the guidance of a mentor from Detroit (who also arranged a fortnights indoctrination in Detroit, where I was staggered by the sheer size and costly nature of the not very busy central staffs!!).

My role was

  1. to manage a few central functions-
    • Quality Audit
    • Quality Engineering
    • Supplier Quality Assurance and
    • Warranty Analysis
  2. to work with and provide support to the Quality Manager in each of the plants
    - often needed with the huge amount of change being forced through by some very determined people, who could revert to chasing quantity at the expense of quality!

Mindful however of that latter issue, at every month's Board meeting I was required to make a presentation of the results and trends of Quality Audits and Warranty Analysis costs. The Directors of Manufacturing and Engineering were then held to account!

In 1969 as the implementation of the facility changes started to reach a conclusion. The emphasis moved to actually producing! The role of Burke Hyde's function diminished somewhat and in some cases the plants needed strengthening. As referred to earlier Bob Irwin was moved to Linwood to become Manufacturing Director of the whole site.

A few months later he asked me to return to Linwood at the beginning of September as Plant Manager over the Stampings and Power Train plants. With Linwood still in my bone marrow and with the West of Scotland being my wife's home area, neither of us needed much persuasion! So a second spell at Linwood started with great enthusiasm!

Linwood - 1969 and Beyond

Sixteen tough months:

When I returned to Linwood we had to move into rented accommodation for 4 months, as the house we had agreed to buy would not be available until the end of the year. However it meant that personal plans were sorted and with our two girls a little over 4 and 2 there was no pressure on schooling yet. As a result I felt able to throw myself into the new job with enthusiasm.

Then I discovered how manic the whole scene was!

Planning panel making
The last of the Hunter pressing dies had arrived from Oxford; panel stocks were not what they were meant to be, but the body assembly process had started, and so the dies had to be run sooner than expected.
But much more serious in the overall Company plans: Avenger production had started at Ryton and only small quantities of some of the panels had been produced and the dies were still being refined.
Under these sets of circumstances one has no option but to run smaller batches of panels than planned, in order to run the dies for the next urgently needed panel and so on. The net result is the presses are producing for a much smaller proportion of the time and capacity is lost: a nightmare vicious circle!! After several months, we gradually got on top of this launch chaos.

Other problems
Meanwhile the machining of some of the Avenger components was struggling in the Power Train plant across the road. So supplying units to Ryton was under pressure! As I referred to earlier, in part this was caused by the same problem as at the Imp launch: neither maintenance personnel nor setters had had nearly enough training before production started. John Haigh's central manufacturing engineers provided assistance. But part of their time was occupied with machining lines that had problems attributable to the machinery suppliers. (One line never did fulfil its specification and a very ad hoc replacement ran for years afterwards!)

In the midst of all this mayhem, for reasons I have forgotten, all the foremen on the site went on a wildcat strike!! Consequently all management had to fulfil that role and the site was working 2 and 3 shift patterns! Fortunately it only lasted a few days, but it was exhausting!

Management style
Bob Irwin was a very experienced manufacturing man, but a very overbearing and dominating manager - not easy to work for. He had brought in some other Chrysler men into the management structure - primarily in the car plant and the stampings plant. Some of them and some UK members of management thought therefore that was how they should manage. With their role being much nearer the shop floor and their competence being much lower, it was not a successful imitation, often causing local flare ups in what was a very turbulent employee relations scene.

Stampings management
After about 3 months I agreed with Bob Irwin that it was impractical for me to continue trying to run both plants, so thereafter I concentrated on running the Power Train plant and someone else took over the Stampings plant (which was never an area I had any significant experience in).
Producing adequate quantities of the right quality of Avenger (and Imp) units continued to be a struggle. A factor in all this was the divided responsibility and accountability for the machinery installed. Local manufacturing engineers blamed the central engineers who specified it and vice-versa plus they all thought the production people were incompetent!!!

Not being involved in the management of the car plant I cannot remember what & when various model changes or improvements took place - so other sources are much more reliable!

Finally by the end of 1970 the plants were running moderately well, but I was exhausted and had had enough! In addition I was into the second half of my thirties and wondered if I wanted to stay in the Automotive industry all my life. So I found another job in a very different environment and resigned. It was embarrassing to receive a second leaving present from many of the same people I had worked with 4 plus years earlier!

A different world!
January 1971 to mid 1972

Whilst I had had little home life in the last 16 months, as a family we were well settled and our daughters had started school and we had all made many friends, so if possible we did not want to move again at this time. I was fortunate therefore to be offered the position of Director and General Manager of a group of Heavy Engineering companies in Glasgow, who had recently merged as part of a larger group. The business was manufacturing large cranes and bridge and structural steelwork. (One of the Companies was the remains of Sir William Arrols - the Company that built the world famous Forth Rail bridge. The problem was that it had hardly changed since the 19th century!)

The Company had a good order book but was running behind its contract dates and losing money. Whilst it was a very different business from my previous life, many of the problems were the same:

causing low productivity. Gradually, as a team, we were able to overcome these problems and get back on course, meet contract delivery dates and make a profit by the end of the year. This aided the gaining of new orders through the balance of 1971 and into 1972. However there were unsettling signs as to the future direction of the group in the middle of the year and Head Office wanted to impose whole new dictates on us, which would have (in my mind) destroyed what we had achieved. After considerable soul searching therefore, I tendered my resignation, because I felt it was totally the wrong way to go. My boss tried to dissuade me, but then agreed.

So, I was jobless with a family and a mortgage!! Having started to search for a new job it was clear that we would almost certainly have to move South, until out of the blue I received a totally unexpected phone call!!

The wheel turns full circle
Linwood, September 1972 to December 31st 1975

"Would you like to come back to Linwood?" said Bob Irwin. They want me to go South to take over all Manufacturing, but I have to find my successor first! Would you like to come and meet my boss? (another recent Chrysler import). On one side of the scales: the raging turmoil of Chrysler and on the other side: no job (Bob didn't know or if he did he never said!) and Linwood in the bone marrow - no contest!!
So I returned!

There had been more management changes and imports in the 20 months I had been away and during that period I had no inside information as to what was happening apart from periodic media stories. The only member of the senior management team unchanged was John Cameron the P & IR manager (an unflappable tower of strength!). The Stamping and Power Train Plant Managers were new arrivals from America, a different Finance Manager and various other new faces - and some old ones!

The issues facing Linwood at that time were not new ones.

Understandably morale was low throughout.
By this time, and with volumes well below the installed capacity, the majority of the reliability problems of the Imp range had been resolved. The greatest struggles were therefore with the Hunter range and producing the required volumes of the Avenger stampings and power trains.

My predecessor had started two significant projects in the car plant.

  1. Paint process
    The first was aimed at a major product defect on the underside and sill protection of all cars assembled at Linwood. This involved changes to the paint process (which could only be undertaken at a shutdown) in order to guarantee full immersion and coverage of this vulnerable area. Completion was therefore given priority and the much needed benefit was appreciated by the Dealers.

  2. Capacity
    The second project was aimed at increasing the capacity of the final stages of the plant i.e. the trim and final assembly line situated in the original Rootes car assembly plant. Production volumes at this time of all models combined was approximately 2200 per week, so a decision had been made to achieve the ability to produce at 60 cars per hour (which was regarded as the norm in North American plants). This meant that the required volumes could be achieved on one shift thus dispensing with the considerable extra costs of the second shift.
    However due to the nature of the paint plant, its capacity could never be raised that far without massive investment, so it would have to continue on two shifts and bodies stockpiled before trim and assembly.

    A number of bottle necks had to be eliminated to achieve 60 per hour, with the most difficult being the point at which the trimmed body met the mechanical units. In the original layout the bodies were lowered on the run by means of a drop section, but this method could not achieve the required volume. It was therefore necessary to modify the conveyor system to replace the drop section with a synchronised section of overhead conveyor that swooped down onto the lower conveyor holding the units - again a closedown job. Again this was achieved despite the complications of front end power trains for the Hunter and rear for Imps!

    It was a long time, however, before the 60 per hour was consistently achieved, largely because the original final line track was being run at nearly twice its original designed speed and reacted with periodic phases of surging and jerking which, of course, led to many employee problems! The benefits of this significant investment were never really enjoyed, as not long afterwards scheduled volumes dropped well below the 60 per hour.

Quality awareness
Whilst there were design and facility weaknesses which adversely affected product quality, we concluded (not very long after I returned), that much could be done to increase all employees awareness of their responsibilities for quality and how individuals actions and attitudes could and should be improved. We decided therefore to make and then show to all employees an audiovisual presentation to bring home this message. Money was tight and in those days professional videos were expensive. At this point our resident doctor (who was very good at sorting genuinely ill employees from malingerers!) volunteered to script and produce a synchronised slide/tape presentation. He did an excellent job - a bit corny in parts but well tuned to the local sense of humour! Plant Managers then had to organise their areas so that about 50 people at a time were released to see the half hour show. Not an easy logistical process particularly in the highly integrated car plant, but they managed it with minimum loss of output and there is no doubt that it had a significant measurable benefit.
At about the same time we also organised some publicity and events for the 10th anniversary of the official opening [link to an 18p. booklet] of the plant and the launch of the Imp.
It all helped to lift morale and attitudes for a while.

  Below is just one of many press cuttings which illustrate why my love affair with
Linwood finally ended !
     Glasgow Herald, Th. March 22, 1973 Hopes of early return at Linwood
  Hopes of early return at Linwood - Glasgow Herald, Th. March 22, 1973

In 1973 employment at the whole site peaked at over 10,000. Over recent years an increasing environment of guerrilla warfare had developed fuelled by many factors.

  1. Chrysler was weakening as a Company in the UK and in time in the USA too.

  2. The manufacturing strategy had maximised the utilisation of the assets they had purchased, but it meant that the two major manufacturing sites of Coventry and Linwood were wholly interdependent. As a result, a quite small localised dispute could very quickly have massive knock on effects.

  3. Despite this, top Chrysler management used a top down, very hectoring and bullying style of management, which naturally resulted in local blow ups and retreats soon afterwards!

  4. A charter for shop floor militant activists which they revelled in!
    As a result reasonable and sensible management actions often generated the same hostility as stupid and unreasonable actions! I recall one occasion where a dispute was developing over an issue, which should not have been causing a dispute at all. As crunch point approached I received a private phone call from the most senior and responsible Trade Union representative on the site. He said: "I agree with what you are doing and I totally disagree with those who are making trouble and I have told them. Will the hierarchy down South let you manage? If they back down at the first sign of trouble then not only you lose your credibility but I do too! If they left us alone to sort out these things out by ourselves it wouldnt take too long to sort out the trouble makers."

    Unfortunately his diagnosis and pessimistic forecasts were right and top down dictates and about-turns got worse.
    So it continued in this way for months running into years, with all employees being increasingly aware that we were producing increasingly ageing products and there was no significant money for new.

So about 3 years after returning I received an approach in about August 1975 from a head hunter. Finally it led to an offer to be Manufacturing Director of Massey Ferguson in Coventry to run what was then the largest tractor plant in the western world.
Whilst I felt a traitor to Linwood, the future for it all, particularly the state of Chrysler, looked very gloomy. So I accepted. Initially Bob Irwin was anxious to keep my departure at the end of the year confidential, but it wasn't long before it became official. I battled on until the end, but on my departure no successor had been identified and in fact was not appointed for another two months or so. Not very confidence building, given that they had over three months notice. So, a very quiet and sad departure and the end of a major influencing period of my life!


History shows that Linwood outlived Chryslers presence in the UK and Peugeot took over the business. However their plans were to use Ryton to increase the final assembly capacity of their existing models, but they already had in France the manufacturing facilities for power trains and stampings. So that finally sealed Linwood's fate in the early 1980s and it was closed.

Could it all have been different? Despite the Rootes family's protestations, I am quite sure they did not have the money to invest to produce the Imp in Coventry. Going to Linwood opened the door to Government grants and loans which funded some 70% of the investment. The Imp was so nearly a winner. Given more development time and better training and management of the workforce the early quality and reliability problems would have been much less. But give a dog a bad name! But if there had not been all the problems that there were, with the initial pricing, the profit margin was tiny so generating funds for significant long term development and new investment would have been a struggle.

But, the Imp and the subsequent developments at Linwood generated upwards of 10,000 jobs in a severely deprived area for some 20 years so the UK Governments strategy of dispersing Industry perhaps was not a failure!



The Imp Site
   Imp History
      Scott Glover's recollections
         Scott Glover's recollections (this file)
      Who is who within Rootes Personnel
      Opening of the Linwood plant
© Franka
Sent to me: 6 January 2014
File started: 4 March 2014
File version: 30 March 2014