Service for the services

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Adlards Motors, Ltd., once makers of Allard Specials, now on big-scale overhaul of Army vehicles.

Many enthusiasts now serving with our mechanised forces must wonder what becomes of their vehicles when they are reported unfit for further service. They will be interested to know that vehicles which have served them faithfully, perhaps in the heat of battle, are not reduced to scrap when their active life appears, from an Army viewpoint, to have terminated. Back in “civvy street” highly-organised repair shops are continuously restoring to 100 per cent. condition these weary, worn-out or smashed lorries and cars.

To go round any such depot is to appreciate that here the civilian, man or woman, is doing his or her share of war-winning under highly specialised conditions, such as must interest anyone who has planned motoring competitions or run a racing stable or pit before the war. Motor Sport had the good fortune, last month, to visit one of these Army auxiliary workshops, where additional interest was lent by reason of the fact that S.H. Allard, who put his Allard Specials into small-scale production before the war and was one of our most successful competition drivers, was managing director of the firm, Adlards Motors, Ltd., who control this workshop.

The Ministry of Labour leaves the organisation of each repair centre very largely to the firms concerned, and it is very much to Allard’s credit that, starting from scratch, he has built up the premises, worked out the scheme and developed the shop until it represents one of the-largest and most efficient of its kind. Our world can take much of the credit, for besides Allard himself, who is on the spot all hours of the day and night taking a very practical part in the smooth running of this complex organisation, Reg. Canham is manager of the vast stores, and Harold Biggs supervises the intricate stock records. Several other enthusiasts, less well known in the realm of the Sport, are among the managing staff.

In 1939, when Allard Specials could no longer occupy their former place, and Ford service seemed to have lost much of its meaning, Adlards Motors took over further premises and began Army repair work, taking in Humbers, Bedfords and Fords and sending them out fit for further work. As the need for speedy service became more apparent and, after Dunkirk, more extensive, a decision was made to concentrate on vehicles of Ford manufacture only, and, for the better part of two years, Allard has developed and improved a system of complete renovation of such vehicles. In cold figures, five vehicles are completely overhauled each working day, and in two recent months a total of 282 vehicles was passed out. A good week clears 42, and an average of 33 has been maintained for some time. Think of that, you who took a couple of years to assemble a “special”! It is a comforting thought, too, for those who have been under fire and have seen the need for a continuous stream of new vehicles being fed to the mechanised forces. The aforementioned figures suggest a vast plant, but the interesting fact is that the actual workshops are not staggeringly extensive, and only 225 workers are employed – intensive organisation and willing co-operation on the part of shop and office staff is the solution. Albeit the depot is large in the light of the work undertaken by the firm in peace-time, and this is yet another instance of how the British Motor Industry has adjusted itself to the task of smashing the Axis. The man-in-the-street should (but probably doesn’t!) say, with fervour, “Thank God for our Motor Industry!”

All the Army versions of the Ford come to Adlards. In the reception park you see ‘W.O.T.6 and W.O.T.8, W.O.T.2, and W.O.T.1 vehicles (English-made four-wheel-drive, in two chassis lengths, and 15 and 30 cwt. trucks, to the uninitiated). Then there are 2004s, Canadian 3-tonners, 2019s, Canadian four-wheel-drive jobs, W.O.C.1s, personnel-carriers, staff cars, and two versions of the ubiquitous “Jeep”; mostly we saw F.W.D. lorries. These cars are towed, five per day, into the first bay of the repair shop, although sometimes the vehicle is a real warrior with war scars that obviate any such easy means of handling; a line scheme may be used at a later date, the vehicles then progressing through the shop on a track. In the case of a normal overhaul, which means in all probability most units are in need of reconditioning or replacement, the renovation goes ahead on what is known as the “fast moving” method.

First of all a report is made out on the general condition, missing and damaged parts being specially noted. The body having been removed by an overhead crane, the chassis then moves into the shops. In two hours the entire front end, with the engine and radiator, has been dismantled and both axles removed. The next two hours see the bare chassis thoroughly cleaned by a squad of girls and reconditioned axles installed. Meanwhile, the axles which have been removed are themselves being overhauled in readiness to being fitted into a later job. The last four hours of the journey through the shops are devoted to fitting a “new” engine and radiator and finishing details.

The engines are completely reconditioned units and this work, to W.D. standard, is carried out alongside the general overhaul. A “float” of something like 100 virtually-new engines must be maintained and units direct from the Ford Motor Company are brought in to effect this at times when the week’s output is making new records. This engine section interested us especially. Adlards have designed, and constructed in their own electric-welding shop, a very neat portable engine stand, which allows one person easily to move a V8 unit to whereever it is required. There were about 50 of these mobile stands in operation at the time of our visit. After overhaul, each engine is given a two-hour run on one of two test benches to ensure complete satisfaction and reliability when the engine is installed and, due to the ease with which mechanics can get at the components, makes final check and adjustment a matter of extreme simplicity. A Crypton tester is freely employed at this stage.

We hasten to point out that, whilst the chassis overhaul is going on, the preremoved body has been receiving attention and is refitted during the last four-hour stay in the shop.

This vehicle overhaul may appear superficial to the onlooker, occupying, as it does, a mere eight hoursm, and it seems to be singularly free from pitfalls. Nevertheless, every component, every accessory, is stripped, examined and renewed if the smallest fault or sign of wear appears.

Fourteen operatives work on dismantling and reassembling “front ends,” six remove and replace axles, two recondition gearboxes, four attend to steering gears, five overhaul front axles and six rear axles, two concentrate on road springs, nineteen, mostly female (and some exotic blondes among ’em) strip and replace faulty chassis details such as gauges, piping, wiring, etc., whilst half a dozen experts cope with the electrical department. Fourteen welders repair torn wings and metal bodywork, ten look after trimming and upholstery, and sixteen carpenters are busy on repairs to woodwork, body repairs and the making of new floorboards, etc., seven men remove, replace and renovate cabs, including the fitting of screens and windows, in conjunction with the eight responsible for the removal and replacement of the actual body. Finally, some twelve are engaged on rectification and final test before handing over to the Ministry of Supply tester for passing out. This, then, is the working plan for the fast-moving repairs, i.e. those which literally roll through the shops on their own wheels, there being no chance of hold-up on operations or spares supply. That five vehicles a day can he dealt with so thoroughly is largely attributable to two things. One is the cunning method of overhauling the engine and axles separately so that the chassis can be kept moving on axles reconditioned previously from another vehicle, with a new engine dropped in at the appropriate stage. The second is the use a an auxiliary or “line” stores actually beside the repair line, which is supplied each day with everything required for the type of vehicle on the line at that time, and is augmented when necessary so that workers can get the parts they require without delay, almost without leaving their job. That alone is a nice bit of planning, but one which needs definite organisation, as anyone with a knowledge of the complexity of modern vehicles can well imagine. Naturally, a check must be kept on the progress of each vehicle, for which purpose each “patient” has a large job number painted on its screen on admission. This number is then entered on a “blackboard” in the progress office, where coloured discs indicate at a glance exactly what stage the repair course has reached. If a bad hold-up develops a red disc goes up, and that particular vehicle can then be by-passed so that the flow is uninterrupted.

As we have stated, the foregoing applies to fast-moving repairs. Other vehicles, which present especial problems, usually because they have been crashed or “blitzed,” are not neglected. They are dealt with separately by four gangs of five men apiece, particularly skilled in this class of renovation. Four men, incidentally, are kept very fully occupied merely marshalling vehicles in the reception park and making out the relevant condition reports, after tools and other loose equipment have been removed and stored. Here we may mention that the Army mostly delivers its own vehicles, and a canteen is available to the drivers, now mostly A.T.S. girls who arrive in groups of from twenty to thirty on busy days, returning in a single collection van. We believe that there is no truth in the rumour that men get beer and the girls “a lovely hot cup of tea” in the Adlard canteen, but they do get a piece of cake!

The stores needed to cope with the complete restoration of upwards of 30 vehicles of so many varied types per week is something at which the mind boggles. The main stores is binned to cover 14 Ford models, and comprises over 5,000 bins holding parts worth about £20,000. Everything is there, from copper-lead lined bearing shells to engine-driven tyre pumps. The Ford Motor Company’s part numbering system, common throughout their various models, facilitates the task of keeping check on this gigantic stock. In a separate and smaller stores bins bearing “G.P.” prefixes contain parts for two types of “Jeep.” Twenty people “man” these stores, including three girls, who keep an immense card index which ensures that stocks of all parts, even to the smallest nut or washer, are kept above the minimum set by the production requirements. This ensures that production is not held up by shortage of vital parts. Before leaving the stores department we must mention an additional building, larger than the main stores, which is reserved for heavy and bulky parts as wings, road springs, unit assemblies and the like.

Bodywork is handled at this depot, but the paint-shop is a separate establishment presided over by Denis Allard, better known to motor-cycling “fans.”

That, then, is one method by which your Army vehicle, which has served you in this country or overseas, is given a new lease of life. Britain has at last mechanised its Army and given it the best possible of first-rate equipment. We are glad to be able to tell those who are fighting with these vehicles that, at home, the civilians at those repair depots are doing all they can to keep up the supplies, and to give you back overhauled vehicles that are every bit as dependable as when they were new. They have but one aim – to get more and more vehicles back to you in a given time without lowering the standard of repair. All they would ask you, were they permitted, is – treat your vehicle fairly so that the maximum time elapses before they see it again!

Enthusiasts will be particularly interested to know that Sydney Allard has been responsible for the depot described, and we can assure them that he has plenty of right-minded people around him whom we shall expect to see competing against, or serving, fellow enthusiasts after the war. On the store office walls hang many photographs of Allard Specials, one of “S.H.A.” taking Prescott’s nastiest corner in his Allard, another of him on the line at the Track with his Morgan 3-wheeler. Outside, a tattered B.A.R.C. plaque adorns the wholscreen of a well-worn Tazio-red Fiat “500,” but the folk at Adlards talk little of such things. Their aim is to get back into service as many Army vehicles as they can.

We should not be surprised to hear that the present two months’ record of 282 vehicles cleared has been exceeded ere these words are read. In any case, we believe that Adlards can claim the highest output of any such Army auxiliary workshop.