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20 Things You Should Know About...
Coventry And Cars
  • In late 1896, the Daimler Company began making cars in a former cotton mill in Coventry, thereby founding the motor industry in Britain.

  • The following year Coventry journalist and engineer Henry Sturmey completed the first ever John O'Groats to Land's End journey by car. It took him two weeks, driving a four-horsepower Daimler carriage

  • The company went on to became the first British manufacturer to sell a car to the Royal Family, delivering three cars to Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, in 1900.

  • Since then more than 130 companies have tried their hand at making cars in Coventry.

  • In April 1900, Coventry sweethearts William Riley and Ellen Simkins created a new fashion by using a motor car for their wedding.

  • Shortly afterwards a Daimler worker in the city became the first person in Britain to be taken to his final rest by motor hearse. Coventry was also the scene of the first newspaper delivery by motor vehicle.

  • William Iliffe started Autocar magazine in Coventry in 1895. One of its first cub reporters was Alfred Harmsworth, later the press baron Lord Northcliffe.

  • Coventry's first electric car appeared on the streets as early as 1894. The city is now one of the European partners in the Zeus electric traction project.

  • In 1912 local man Charles Humpherson invented traffic indicators to be fixed to cars.

  • Three years later, Britain's first military tank was made at Coventry Ordnance Works, but was found to be unable to negotiate a double row of trenches and was scrapped.

  • In 1919, four Coventry schoolboys built a car in their spare time and became familiar figures around town, driving about in it.

  • In 1938, with war looming, Daimler and Rootes both began building shadow factories on the edge of Coventry in anticipation of air raids. Sixty years later they are still in business as manufacturing headquarters for Jaguar and Peugeot.

  • In 1943 Coventry manufacturer Humber made the so-called 'Victory car', used by Field Marshall Montgomery from D-Day until the end of the war in Europe. It's on display at Coventry's Museum of British Road Transport.

  • The Rover Company of Coventry demonstrated the world's first gas turbine car in 1950.

  • Four years later, the Standard Motor Company, another of the city's manufacturers,  introduced the first British diesel-engined private car, a version of the Vanguard.

  • Coventry was known as Britain's Detroit in the 1950s. Car workers in the city were the first blue-collar workers in Britain to receive a 5 note in a peacetime wage packet.

  • In the film The Italian Job, the famous scene of Mini Coopers being driven at speed through Rome's catacombs was actually filmed in Coventry, using what were then the country's biggest sewer pipes.

  • The London black cab, symbol of Britain abroad, is made in Coventry, at LTI.

  • The automotive design course at Coventry University is widely regarded as the best of its kind in the world. Recent graduates have been responsible for the Ford KA and the Mercedes A class.

  • A consortium of Coventry engineering companies made a key contribution to Thrust SSC, the supersonic car which smashed the world land speed record in 1997. Its record-breaking predecessor, Thrust 2, is on permanent display at the city's motor museum.


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CWN / Heritage / Heritage Open Days / 30 Aug 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM