The Roots of Rootes

Page 2

It's an aeroplane?.... and a Sunbeam is a Bristol?

In 1914, Europe plunged headlong into war. In addition to motorcars and motorcycles, Sunbeam had built up a thriving aero engine business. The war created a sudden demand for aero engines. Many were fitted to seaplanes and Bristol fighters.

It's a lighter-than-air ship?

Arguably, the greatest moment for Sunbeam in the air came later, in 1919. The airship R34 made the first aerial crossing from the UK to the USA and back in 183 hours. This feat was not to be repeated until 1928, when Germany's Graf Zeppelin made a double crossing. R34 was powered by five Sunbeam Maori DOHC V12 engines. Many other components for the R34 were also made in the Sunbeam works.

Here come the French!

On Friday, the 13th of August 1920, Sunbeam merged with the French company Darracq. Alexandre Darracq built his first car in 1896. One Darracq, known as Genevieve, became the world's most famous veteran car when it starred in the film of the same name. (To be precise, Genevieve was actually two Darracqs, having been built from the remains of two cars.) Alfa Romeo and Opel started out in the car industry by building Darracqs under licence.

There go the French!

After M. Darracq retired, the firm was taken over by British interests. In 1919, Darracq bought the London-based firm of Clement-Talbot. Clement-Talbot was founded in 1903 for the import, and later licence production, of French Clements. The new company was named STD Motors Ltd. The group also included the commercial vehicle producer W & G Du Cros, the spring makers Jonas Woodhead and the equipment and dynamometer makers Heenan & Froude.

A note about the French...

Talbot of Suresnes, France was purchased by Anthony Lago who had worked for STD for many years. French Talbots and Darracqs built under M. Lago are popularly known as "Lago-Talbots" or "Talbot-Lagos". Although now an independent company, the story does not end here. We shall be hearing more of Talbot of Suresnes.

STD Motors went into receivership in 1934. Talbot of London was the only healthy component of STD at this time. In January 1935, Clement-Talbot Ltd was sold to the Rootes Group. Despite Talbot being a profitable concern, Rootes set about phasing out the old Roesch-designed models and replacing them with Hillman- and Humber-based Talbots. This horrified enthusiasts, but the Roesch cars did not fit in with Rootes' plans of being a mass producer.

Your Tiger is a Jaguar?????

With Talbot of London sold off, the Receivers had to find buyers for the rest of STD. A deal was struck with William Lyons of SS Cars to buy Sunbeam in 1935. Lyons needed a new name for his cars because of the Nazi connotations of SS. By purchasing Sunbeam he would be acquiring instant heritage and prestige.

Just as it looked like everything was settled, Rootes stepped in and snapped up Sunbeam Motor Cars from under Lyons' nose. Lyons was somewhat annoyed, to put it mildly. He went on to invent his own marque and build its heritage from scratch. He made quite a good job of it too, as the Jaguar name today is vastly better known than Sunbeam.

WHOOPS! Missed being a Jaguar "by that much "

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