Arthur God­dard was the leader of the team that de­signed the very first Land Rover. 4X4 Aus­tralia’s Bruce Mcma­hon caught up with him for a chat.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - ARTHUR GOD­DARD

The god­fa­ther of the Land Rover is a crafty old bug­ger with a quick wit and a ready laugh. He’s a doer and a stir­rer.

The mind is sharp and that in­fec­tious laugh punc­tu­ates yarns. He has much to chuckle about after years of au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer­ing and man­age­ment tasks – none more poignant than be­ing the de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer for the orig­i­nal Land Rover.

Arthur God­dard, now 95, was the fixer, the minder and the leader of the English team that de­signed and built the first Land Rover – achieved in just ten months.

The pro­ject be­gan with an idea from Rover’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Mau­rice Wilks. The first chap­ter closed in 1948 with Arthur driv­ing the square-jawed Land Rover to de­but at the Am­s­ter­dam Mo­tor Show, where he was snowed un­der with or­ders.

“I thought to my­self, we’ve got an oil well here!” Arthur re­calls.

It was an oil well that was capped when pro­duc­tion of the Se­ries 1’s suc­ces­sor, the De­fender, ceased in Jan­uary, 2016. In be­tween those two dates, more than two mil­lion of the iconic Se­ries Land Rovers were sold around the world.

Arthur has a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion for this four-wheel drive’s long life.

“We gave peo­ple what they wanted. It’s pleased a lot of peo­ple and it’s kept on pleas­ing peo­ple,” Arthur says. “We met a need. I must say some of the needs we met we didn’t know were there. On the other hand, some of the stuff we thought would be an ab­so­lute win­ner was an ab­so­lute woof.” He breaks into a hardy chuckle.

Th­ese days Arthur is an Australian liv­ing in Bris­bane, but there re­main hints of grow­ing up in the north of Eng­land and work­ing in Land Rover’s Soli­hull plant, out­side Birm­ing­ham.

Here in 1947, Mau­rice Wilks, backed by his brother and Rover man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Spencer, de­cided Rover should build a go-any­where, do-any­thing ve­hi­cle. The idea was partly in­spired by the World War II Jeep on Mau­rice’s hobby farm.

Arthur, then chief de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer on Rovers, re­calls Mau­rice was also keen on an army ve­hi­cle after talk­ing to pals in the De­fence Min­istry.

“They were look­ing for a Jeep-type ve­hi­cle, so it had to meet all the army re­quire­ments and it had to be a use­ful ve­hi­cle on the farm, where you could go off down the road to do a bit of shop­ping or you could take a bale of hay across a snow-bound field or what­ever. And a much more use­ful com­bi­na­tion than your trac­tor,” Arthur says.

Mau­rice wanted power take-offs (PTO), and a drive up the cen­tre be­cause he saw

pos­si­bil­i­ties for in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tions, arc welders and more.

“I said ‘how many ve­hi­cles is this?’” Arthur laughs.

He knew some­thing about army ve­hi­cles. “But who the hell knew about trac­tors, who was work­ing in the au­to­mo­bile in­dus­try in the UK?” Here he was grate­ful for help from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture.

Arthur is sure that the first Land Rover wouldn’t have come to­gether, cer­tainly not in just 10 months, if not for team­work and prompt de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

He says the hard­est part wasn’t the en­gi­neer­ing, but build­ing en­thu­si­asm across the fac­tory floor. Arthur even took to or­gan­is­ing an open day – com­plete with straw­ber­ries and cream – for wives, fam­i­lies and girl­friends.

“Lead­er­ship was ab­so­lutely vi­tal in this, a lot of things were be­ing done at once; things nor­mally done in se­quence… hav­ing en­gines and gearboxes and body shapes and seats all done at once.”

De­ci­sions were made smartly, most through in­for­mal meet­ings be­tween Arthur, Mau­rice and Spencer twice a week.

“He’s (Mau­rice) no fool; knows per­fectly well that I know the an­swer al­ready… I wouldn’t be ask­ing him if it mat­tered what he said,” Arthur chuck­les.

For in­stance, that orig­i­nal, pale-green body colour was dic­tated by the canny Rover en­gi­neer. Un­der­stand­ing the po­ten­tial for army or­ders, Arthur de­cided on a mil­i­tary shade. “What colour do you want?” he’d asked Mau­rice. “If you want more than one, put the date (for com­ple­tion) back two months. Not putting pres­sure on you.”

While Mau­rice was the con­cept man – the one who de­cided the clock should go in the mid­dle of the dash­board, as on his mother’s man­tel­piece – his en­gi­neer un­der­stood how to pull it all to­gether.

“Mau­rice knew, or ap­peared to me to know, what peo­ple would buy, I hadn’t got that. But I knew how to get it made.”

That in­cluded us­ing the ser­vices of Jack Swaine, the en­gine man for Rover cars, and Frank Shaw, the gear­box man who de­signed the trans­fer case for drive to the front wheels and power to a PTO plus V-belt drive for im­ple­ments.

“I could pick peo­ple to do the jobs,” a mod­est Arthur says. “I didn’t have to be all that good my­self, be­cause I had a sus­pen­sion man, a steer­ing man and so on.”

But this Land Rover chas­sis was all-new. “The chas­sis made it pos­si­ble. You haven’t got a com­plete body, but you want a frame on which to mount every­thing. That was the en­gi­neer­ing prob­lem… what does that frame look like? Looks like noth­ing you’ve ever seen be­fore.”

Credit for the chas­sis and body­work went to Gor­don Bash­ford and Olaf Poppe for the rare box-sec­tion chas­sis with up­right pieces below the A-pil­lars.

Arthur says as much was learnt about what not to do, as what to do from the World War II Jeep.

“One was, if you wanted a rust bucket, you copied the Jeep. The fact that th­ese (Land Rovers) were all alu­minium and gal­vanised pretty much took us out­side every­thing of the Jeep.”

Arthur and his team dou­ble-checked each com­po­nent – from door locks to dif­fer­en­tials – to counter risks when the Land Rover jig­saw was first as­sem­bled.

“We were try­ing to make sure every­thing got to the fin­ish post at the same time – be­cause Mau­rice fin­ished up say­ing he wanted the job done in 12 months. For a nor­mal ve­hi­cle it’s three years, never mind this fancy one that does all th­ese dif­fer­ent things. So I think it was a bloody mir­a­cle that he got it.”

Lit­tle de­tails caught the Rover lads out when test­ing be­gan in the pad­docks and up and over old Nis­sen huts.

“You get stupid things, like that bloody clock. If you run over a cer­tain thing, the clock jumps out, lands on the floor and gets smashed. There’s a lit­tle clip at the back which ei­ther clips into the groove or doesn’t. If it doesn’t, that’s the sort of thing that catches you.”

He’s proud of the Rover team­work, but says his big­gest mis­take was not adding eight inches (20.3cm) to the orig­i­nal wheel­base of 80 inches and 86 inches (2.18m), some­thing he did later to cater for army needs for a six-seater with two troop­ers ei­ther side at the rear.

That job done, Arthur left Rover in 1955, took up posts with other au­to­mo­tive con­cerns, in­clud­ing one in Aus­tralia in 1972. He liked the place and bought a small Bris­bane en­gi­neer­ing firm as a hobby, then semi-re­tired 16 years back. Now, with the aid of en­gi­neer­ing son, Chris, the busi­ness, called Ve­hi­cle Com­po­nents, is a de­signer of trailer sus­pen­sions and cou­plings.

Arthur is just about to move into a re­tire­ment vil­lage. He’s hung up his driver’s li­cence for his beloved Jaguars and packed away the golf clubs.

He’s sure there’ll be another De­fender. He pats the dash­board of the Her­itage 90 and looks for the door catch. It’s not where he put it at the rear of the door un­der the lock. It’s up front.

“Why did they put this over here? I hope they had a bloody good rea­son… they’d have needed one.” Arthur breaks into a laugh, stir­ring the

pot as he goes.

Land Rover pro­duc­tion lasted nearly seven decades in the UK.

The orig­i­nal was in­tended for farm­ers, as well as sol­diers. Land Rover’s tub-like body was sim­ple, nim­ble and use­ful.

In 2015, Arthur once again vis­ited Land Rover’s UK fa­cil­ity. Arthur was a leader in a leg­endary team. Ve­hi­cles be­come older, men be­come wiser.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.