They worked with Fred Gardner and his pattern makers in the sawmill, in a well-guarded enclave distinct from the official styling and prototype build shops. This formed what could be called Lyons’ secret kingdom. „I always had six men in there, always under Sir William Lyons, and the first thing he did when he walked into the factory was to go straight to my people.”
Until 1974, Abbey Panels made the ‚E’ type bonnet, in the foreground is minor steel pressing and its former
„The only people he called by their Christian names were my panel beaters in there. Edgar Williams was the leader. ‚Edgar’, he’d say, picking up a panel which wasn’t quite right but was near what he was looking for, ‚Edgar, I’m going away to Scotland, and I would like to see it finished when I return on Tuesday.’ And they would say, ‚Oh, my jobe’, but he would get it, with them working all hours.”
„There were no drawings, or very few drawings. I was with him on the limousine, the one that finished a couple of years ago, and he’d drawn what he wanted on a fag packet.”
But that’s jumping ahead. The first big job Abbey Panels did for Jaguar was the original XK 120 – they built both the styling mock-ups and the run of 250 (or 240 as it turned out) aluminium bodies. When the XK 120 went over to steel construction, they might have had the production job too, but at that stage Abbey didn’t possess the presses for making steel panels in volume.
The competition cars were firmly in Ted Loades’ province, however. The ‚C’ type bodies came from Abbey and so did the ‚D’s. Aircraft construction techniques were natural to Ted and „I put them together aircraft fashion, using special pop rivets. You had to hire the gun, they wouldn’t sell it to you.” Sayer was mainly responsible for the ‚C’ and ‚D’ shapes, but while Ted remembered working with the aerodynamicist, it was mainly Sir William he interacted with on the styling side, who would often ask him for his views on the current styling project.
Lyons’ eye for costs is legendary, and Ted had many stories to tell. He even had a letter from Arthur Whittaker, reproduced here, about the price of ‚D’ type body shells. This cost-consciousness ran through the company and it came from the top. „I was walking through the factory once and Sir William saw me. ‚Mr Loades, I’ve just got an account come through from you.’ I thought, what have I done now? ‚It’s for 12s 6d – what’s it for?’! „I said, ‚Sir William, I’ve got the finest panel beaters in the country and they’re always on your work, and in there you’ve got the pick.’ ‚I didn’t say I hadn’t, Mr Loades, but what a price for a bumper…’”
„He knew the price of every nut and bolt, and whilst Whittaker was the buyer, he daren’t make a move on anything unless he spoke to Sir William. Whittaker was a nice guy, but if anybody controlled the factory, Sir William Lyons did.”
„I’ll tell you another little thing about how good he was. He was the only man in the industry who wouldn’t agree a price with Pressed Steel until he saw the figures of what it cost them. „He was a hard man, but he was hard with himself too. If ever I rang Jaguar he was always there, even if it was seven or nine o’ clock at night. He was a hard man but somehow or other he always won you over.”
A long way from thumb-nail sketches or even blueprints – the CAD surfacing and programming department of Abbey Panels.
“And on top of that the Jaguar was such a successful car, everybody wanted to work for Jaguar Cars, even the sub-contractors.”
„I wish we had him here today. I’ve been right through the industry, Rover, Ford, the lot, but the one man that I admired the most at the time, was Sir William Lyons. I personally think he should have been made a Lord, not a Sir.’’
„He went into BL but it was crumbling. What should have happened is that Sir William should have held the top job there. He wasn’t that much older than Lord Stokes.”
This machine was at Albany Zinc (a Loades company). It’s temperature controlled cubing studio digitised the shape of a master prior to tool machining.