Special Purpose Machines - Part I 1950s
A rare event
Growing up in Hangleton during the late 1950’s and early 60’s, there were very few cars in Amberley Drive. It was probably about 1961 that my best friend Eddie Benton’s dad purchased a second hand car. It was such a rare event that when he got it home about 20 kids were waiting to help him wash and clean the new car!
A boom in car ownership occurred in the 1960’s as standards of living rose and car prices fell. Brighton machine tool manufacturer CVA/Kearney & Trecker/KTM played a major part in this, with the design and manufacture of Special Purpose Machines at their Hollingbury factory. The sole function of these machines was the fast, repetitive, accurate machining of major automotive parts; engine blocks, cylinder heads, crankshafts, manifolds and similar components. These new efficient production methods were a significant factor in making cars more affordable.
Commencement Date of Special Purpose Machines at Hollingbury
There is no mention of Special Purpose Machines in the Chairman’s Report in the Audited Accounts of the early 1950’s. However the report for 1954 states that “the Company is well in the forefront in the production of this type of specialised equipment”. In the report for 1955, the Chairman Eric Aron states, “our capacity is fully booked until the middle of 1957 for the production of specialised equipment for the motor industry”. A Kearney & Trecker report, written around 1974 lists the quantity and types of Special Machines built “since the commencement of the Special Division in 1954”. In all probability it’s most likely that the first Special Purpose Machines were manufactured in the very early 1950’s, but the Company were not able to take full advantage of this market until the 2 new larger factories at Hollingbury were completed in 1953 and 1958.
Special Purpose Transfer Machines
Early Special Purpose Machines were relatively simple, typically having single, 2, 3 or 4 fixed work stations. However around 1957, as the technology developed, the size and complexity increased. Furthermore the ability to move or “transfer” the components automatically between the different workstations became common.