Ted also had a great regard for the then head of Jaguar, Sir Nick Scheele. In him he saw the same straightforwardness, the honesty of approach and the huge interest in every aspect of Jaguar that Sir William displayed. That Nick Scheele also had an impressive capacity for hard work is another attribute which Ted naturally admired!
Not everything at Jaguar was done quickly, and Ted cited the ‘E’ type as an example. “Do you know how long it took him to do that? Seven years. We did most of the tooling for that, for £40,000, but not the fixed head roof because we hadn’t got a press for that.
The reason I could do the car for that money was I brought in Kirksite tooling for the bonnet, zinc-based soft tooling out of the aircraft industry. If you go into our place and look at the tools for the bonnet, we’re still using them today!
Kirksite is ideal today with all these crash tests. If you’ve made the tools in steel and something needs altering after a crash test, it costs a fortune. With Kirksite it can just be melted down and you start again.
Bill Heynes wanted me to fully tool up for the ‘E’ type and cut the production costs down, but Sir William couldn’t afford it.
His percentage of profit was good alongside other motor manufacturers, but it wasn’t sufficient for the tools Bill Heynes would have preferred. The right way was to tool it, no doubt about that, but you’ve got to pay hundreds of thousands out before you earn a penny”.
Ted had much to do with Jaguar’s chief engineer, of course. “Bill Heynes was brilliant, one of the finest engineers in the country. I’m pleased that his son Jonathan is emulating his father with the Reliant company. I’m sure he’ll put Reliant back on the map.”
The XJ 220 project under way at Abbey Panels in 1992. This is the main body assembly shop.
Abbey Panels very nearly tooled up for full XJ-S production too. “I did the prototype for that, and we were on about 350-400 ‘E’ types a week (that was top whack – he always watched so that he’d got more in orders than he could cope with – he’d switch the men to another car or something). Sir William said ‘I want you to start at 500 for the XJ-S – not get to it. I’m asking you if you can do it.’ ‘oh yes,’I said, ‘I can do it.’”
It would have meant putting up new buildings and investing heavily in tooling but there was space enough at Bayton Road to do this. Then, not long after; came a call from Mr. McMillan (who had succeeded Mr. Whittaker as chief buyer) with the news that Pressed Steel were to have the job. After the merger which resulted in British Leyland, things had changed and it was the in-house company that had to make the XJ-S bodies.
But Abbey Panels continued to do much for Jaguar and at about this time they rebuilt the XJ13 which, as Ted puts it, “Norman Dewis had crash-tested at MIRA,” when a wheel collapsed at three-figure speeds. Work did decrease during the Egan years, although, in the early 1990s , Abbey built all the XJ220 bodies for Jaguar Sport, a magnificent undertaking achieved in an amazing 27 months from nothing to the first complete body.
We have so far dwelt largely on the past, but since Ted Loades handed over the day-to-day running of the company to his two sons in 1975 Abbey Panels was vastly expanded and became a major subsidiary of the Loades group, still family owned with Tony Loades as chairman & Rob Loades as managing director. Their two sisters, Susan and Joan, were not actively involved with the company but were certainly part of the Loades team, while Ted himself was quick to acknowledge “my wife Olive, who has been a wonderful support and a key part of my business success. I couldn’t have achieved what I have done without her’’.
In 1972, Ted was elected a ‘Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce’