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British Industrial History

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Humber: 1906 Coventry Factory

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Note: This is a sub-section of Humber: Cars.

Coventry Humber Motor Vehicles [1]

One of the firms which has rapidly forged ahead in the motor industry is Humber, Limited, of Beeston and Coventry. The 10-12 h.p. Coventry Humber car has proved itself eminently satisfactory in every way, and has scored quite a number of successes in various competitions. Its performance in the Irish reliability trials will be remembered by our readers, and a representative of this type of vehicle made a remarkably good performance in the Tourist Trophy Race.

So successful and popular has this car become that the Humber Company has had the greatest difficulty in meeting the demand for it, and on visiting their factory at Coventry some days ago, we had ample evidence of the rapidity with which the firm is turning out these cars. In order to cope with the demand the company has had to take larger premises, and is, at the moment, contemplating the building of another big factory to accommodate the plant and machinery necessary to turn these cars out in even greater numbers.

During our visit we had an opportunity of seeing the quality of workmanship and material which the firm puts into these vehicles. Such important parts as the gears, both of the change speed gear and the live axle differential, are most carefully manufactured. A very expensive installation of Brown and Sharpe's gear-cutting machine is in constant operation on the various gear wheels used in the transmission, and it is indicative of the care which is taken in every part of the manufacture that not only are the gear wheels accurately machined at first, but after being very carefully hardened, arc ground perfectly true on an elaborate plant of automatic grinding machinery. Even the inside of the gear wheels, where they fit upon their shafts, are ground absolutely true after hardening.

Another most important operation is the boring of the engine cylinders; a special machine of the company's own design has been erected, which bores several cylinders at the same time, ensuring absolute accuracy and alignment. Similarly such parts as the valve pockets and settings are bored simultaneously in one machine, thus ensuring absolute accuracy and truth. We had an illustration of the remarkable accuracy of the cylinders bored, when we were allowed to test, by the standard gauges, two or three cylinders. They were so nearly alike that no difference could be felt in the gauge as it entered the different cylinders.

In the change-speed gear the very highest quality of material and work is used, and it is in this mechanism, of course, that the greatest accuracy is necessary as considerable damage may be done to the gear by a careless manipulation of the change-speed lever. Only by making the gears very substantial, and of the very best material can the firm ensure itself against careless usage by inexperienced drivers.

The lubrication of the various parts of the Humber transmission has been very carefully attended to. Ring lubricators are fitted to all the shafts of the gear, and the lubricant is pressure-fed to all bearings. In the differential gear, the firm has adopted the policy of fitting the straight-line pinions in preference to bevel pinions, which greatly increases the strength and reliability of this important part of the mechanism.

It may be remarked that the Humber Company still keep to the tubular steel frame, and in one of the shops we had an opportunity of inspecting these frames, during the process of building up and brazing. Extreme care is taken during this process that the metal shall be carefully guarded against extreme heat, and very elaborate jigs are used for lining up the frame so that everything shall be quite square and parallel.

In one of the shops we had an illustration of the enormous amount of work there is in the construction of the radiators used on these cars. In one department a large number of men were employed solely in the manufacture of these radiators, and the average motorist would be surprised were he to see what an enormous number of operations arc necessary before the complete radiator is turned out.

Every radiator is thoroughly tested with hot water to see if there is any indication of leakage. One department of the works is set aside for body making; the Humber Company make every part of the bodies on the premises, and a large staff of skilled coach-builders and upholsterers is constantly at work. The upholstering of these bodies is carried out in the very best quality of leather, and we had an opportunity of examining some of the skins which are used for this purpose. Only the very best are used, and no thin skins are allowed to be made up in the upholstering.

The paint and varnish shops present a very busy appearance. Each body has a very large number of coats of paint which get thoroughly well rubbed down and polished before the final varnishing operation. Although this is a very expensive part of the manufacturing process, no time or pains are spared to get the very best possible finish, and those who have examined the finished machines will agree with us that the appearance could hardly be surpassed, while we who have had an opportunity of seeing the work under its different stages, are able to state that its durability is as satisfactory as its appearance.

In the machine shops where the various parts of the transmission mechanism are made, we were interested to notice the amount of care and attention given to the minutest details. That most important part of the machine, the engine crank shaft, requires very considerable skill in machining, and very elaborate precautions are taken to ensure that all the bearings and crank pins are in absolute alignment.

It may he interesting to our readers to know what the firm is doing for the coming season, and the models which it exhibited at the Olympia Show. It is turning out a car most identical with its present car, but which will have instead of the tubular frame a pressed steel frame, the engine and transmission being exactly the same, kind the engine and gear being mounted as in the present car, on an under frame of weldless tube. In this model the length of the springs and their width will be increased, and two inverted anti-shock springs will be bolted down on each main spring. While this is a construction which is not noticeable in the appearance of the car, it greatly adds to the ease of riding. The firm is also altering the shape of the body somewhat, and giving it a rather more handsome appearance, the body being somewhat tulip-shaped, instead of having the straight back which has been one of the distinctive features of the Coventry Humber cars. This vehicle will be sold at a slightly higher price than the cars which are being turned out at present, and although it will be on exhibition at the Show, it will not be placed on the market for some months.

At the present time the Humber Company is turning out, from its Coventry works, 50 cars per week, and is making arrangements for a much larger output. It is employing 1,500 men, the majority of whom are working over-time, and, as soon as the extension of its works is complete, it will be employing a considerably larger number.

We cannot well leave any consideration of the works or product of the celebrated Humber factory, without paying a tribute of appreciation to Mr. Walter Phillips, the energetic works' manager, to whose business ability, and close attention to every department of a huge manufacturing concern, the wonderful success of the Coventry Humber car, and the company itself, is undoubtedly clue. Mr. Phillips believes in being in touch with every detail of the management himself, and is amongst the hardest workers in the city of three spires. He is to he congratulated on the success of his company's trading during the last season, and the remarkably healthy position in which they find themselves.

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