JAGUARS ABBEY HABIT.
‘I had the finest panel beaters in all of Coventry.’
Jaguar author – Paul Skilleter profiles Edward Loades, whose company, Abbey Panels, played a vital role in Jaguar’s success.
You may not think so, with the many books and the countless articles penned about Jaguar over the years, but there are still some mightily important Jaguar stories yet to be fully told. And that of Ted Loades (as he was known throughout the industry) is surely one of them. Yes, every enthusiast worth his salt knows that Abbey Panels ( now Loades Plc) built XJ220’s body and helped in various ways with bodywork for other models, but just how vital Ted and his company were to William Lyons’ success has only become apparent- to me at least- recently.
In fact as one former Jaguar executive has observed, without Abbey Panels, Jaguar’s expansion in the 1950’s and 1960’s might have been far smaller than it actually was. So, but for Ted Loades, it could be argued, Jaguar today might have been very different, without quite the same heritage of wonderful models produced in such relatively quick succession since the war.
Ted Loades has unfortunately passed away, but his craggy features told of a hard upbringing and of a determination to succeed. His father, he recounted, was a Grimsby fisherman who ‘‘died when he was 27 and left my mother and four sons, of which I’m second.
And there was no widow’s pension then, so she had to struggle. She took in washing- they would fetch it to her front door, supply the soap, and she got half a crown for a bag of washing’’. Even then there was the threat of the workhouse, should the authorities feel Mrs Loades was not providing properly for her children. But she persevered and ‘‘gave all the boys a trade’’.
He went straight into Marine engineering at 14, as a sheet metal worker on the fishing trawlers at Grimsby.
Wishing to better himself, after some 11 years Ted left marine engineering for aircraft work, first at Westland Helicopters where ‘‘they put me in the Experimental Department on the first Lysander helicopter- locked me in, and I’d got to know my stuff because there was nobody to tell me…’’ Then after just a few months, he moved to Blackburn Aircraft near Hull. ‘’I said I’m an experienced aircraft worker!’’ While there he met and became friendly with Robert ‘Bobby’ Blackburn, the founder. Together with a working friend Ted took flying lessons with the RAF Reserve Flying School at the Blackburn airfield and passed. Coincidently at that moment a test pilot’s job was advertised, both applied and Ted landed the job. When his friend announced that he was getting married, Ted passed the flying position to him as it offered more money.