From Wolves to Rams: Iconic Midlands Motor Company Remembered 35 Years On

 

Credit: @Richard Wallace. Caption: Following the sucess with the wartime Guy buses, in 1950/1 East Kent turned to Guy for a massive order of 80 Arab Mk. III buses turning its back on its established supplier Leyland.  They saw a good life, many lasting nearly 20 years in service.  FFN 397 was one of the second batch seen at Hythe in its final years.

35 years ago this year, Guy Motors’ Fallings Park factory shut its doors for the final time as the nearly 70-year-old company went out of business. However, time hasn’t dulled the fond memories many people still hold of the company, either as employees or as drivers of their vehicles.

The company was started up by Birmingham-born Sydney Slater Guy in 1914 and produced motor vehicles from its plant in Fallings Park. As well as being a civilian motor factory, it would also play a part in creating vehicles for the war effort in both the world wars. It was during World War 2 that Mr. Guy and his company, through their innovation would end up saving the lives of countless soldiers. At the beginning of the war, Guy Motors was ordered to build armored cars for the soldiers. However, Sydney Guy soon realised there was a dangerous problem with their design as if the cars took a direct hit, the rivets which held them together could shear off and cause further injury to those inside the vehicle. Therefore, after months of experimenting, Mr. Guy and his engineers found a way to weld the cars together, it is thought that this method helped save the lives of thousands of soldiers in the war. Robin Hannay joined the company in 1950 as a student engineer and describes Guy Motors as, “a very happy place to work at where the workforce was friendly and helpful”. Mr. Hannay also spoke of the closeness between employees and stated, “many generations of one family would work there”. Extraordinarily, his journey started off because of a chance sighting of an apprenticeship advertisement in a transport magazine and from winning that apprenticeship, he ended up working for Guy Motors for nearly a decade.

Credit: Richard Wallace. Caption: Guy buses went on to see further use as East Kent converted many to open-top format. FFN 379, also from the second batch of Arab III chassis is pictured at Ramsgate in the 1970s epitomising the Guy product starting from Wolves and ending up with ‘Rams’!

But it wasn’t just in the West Midlands that Guy Motors were famous, their “Arab” model buses were even used by the East Kent Bus Company at the other end of the country, operating in Kentish locations such as the harbour town of Ramsgate. John Lines is a Church Minister from Deal in Kent who has had a lifelong interest in the Guy Arab Buses and remembers how, “my Mum took me up to London where I saw these funny-shaped buses” it was this post-war encounter with a Guy Motors’ bus that sparked his fascination. Mr. Lines talks about how these buses went into service at the East Kent Bus Company in 1945 in order to replace the fleet, which had sustained significant damage during the war. The Guy Arab Buses would continue to be used by East Kent for a quarter of a century until being taken out of service in the early 1970s.

Credit: @Richard Wallace. Caption: A number of East Kent Guy buses have been preserved and attend rallies across the county in the summer. MFN 898 is one of the last Guy buses purchased by East Kent and is owned by John Lines together with a similar vehicle. It is pictured at a rally in Deal in 2016 in celebration of East Kent’s centenary.

Whilst Mr. Hannay and Mr. Lines have experienced Guy Motors from different perspectives, neither had a bad word to say about the company. Mr. Lines has gone so far as to argue that, “Guy Motors’ workmanship is beyond compare”, whilst Mr. Hannay adds, “the Guy Arab buses were a very reliable and economic vehicle”.

Despite their valuable contributions to both world wars, financial difficulties led to the company shutting in 1982. However, their much-loved vehicles can still be seen at the Birmingham Transport Museum. There are also some Guy Arab buses which served in the East Kent colours at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway and various bus rallies across the south coast.

Sophie Wallace

 

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