Factory Methods in the Vintage Era

Author

W.B.

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No. 5: Crossley

In the late vintage period Crossley was a well-established make emanating from the Gorton factory in Manchester, where they built hand-made, as distinct from mass-produced, motor cars. The weekly output in 1929 was, indeed, between 35 and 50 cars, mostly the 15.7 h.p. although the 20.9 h.p. Crossley was still in production.

The bigger of these two carefully-constructed six-cylinder cars had the distinction — rare even then — of being hand-painted and varnished. Crossley were busy in those days with no fewer than six different types of chassis and 24 coachwork styles, apart from their cross-country and public service vehicles. They had their own bodybuilding department but not a single conveyor belt was to be found in the Gorton factory. The amount of hand-finishing of parts by craftsmen wielding scrapers and files was exceptional, even for 1929/30. Every engine was run-in and tested on the bench before meeting its hand-built chassis. Every chassis was tested both up and down the notorious Cat and Fiddle hill (1,690 ft.) on the Macclesfield-Buxton road, loaded with iron ballast representing a saloon body and four passengers.

Crossley had foundries only for casting aluminium and brass, buying their iron castings, but great care was taken in the machining, particularly of crankshafts, which were balanced and the bearings scraped by hand. Reverting to engine bench-testing, those destined for colonial work were run in a room in which air temperature was kept at 100 deg. F. Crossley carried out their own heat-treatment of parts, gear wheels being treated in an Allday’s furnace and small components being heated to 900 deg.C. Much aluminium was used about the engine and the oven of the aluminium foundry could hold up to 400 lb. of this material.

Radiators were hand-made by deft craftsmen and the body shop contained a well-equipped wood mill and a drill for boring “square holes.” Practically no open bodies were being made by 1930 apart from an occasional sports/tourer, but the saloons could be had with neat sliding roofs; fabric had given place to coachbuilt bodywork. Although the emphasis at Gorton in vintage times was on hand-built cars, Crossley’s had one shop alone containing 700 machine tools. Incidentally, they could still supply spares for models back to the original Crossley of 1903 Those few enthusiasts who still run vintage Crossleys may like to be reminded of these things. — W. B.