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Note: This is an abridged version of a chapter in British Commerce and Industry 1934
Park Ward as a name in coach-building has become the complement of the Rolls-Royce engine and chassis. Rolls-Royce reserve the right to inspect and approve all bodies built on their chassis. In this way is the prestige of the Rolls-Royce car maintained. Park Ward, it follows, carry off the premier awards of the Royal Automobile Club for coachwork, being invariably winners in the Rallies organized from time to time by that important body for distinctive models and standard models. In the 1934 Bournemouth Rally two first prizes fell to this company.
Strange that in the production of the most perfect body for a motor car the methods employed represent a reversion to individual skill and personal craftsmanship. In one respect only is the precision of the machine relied upon by Park Ward, and this is in respect of the wooden framework of seasoned ash encased by the outer metal of the body. Skill in workmanship varies with each worker, so does personal judgment. And thus no two men working together, however proficient each may he, will construct the curves on the left side of a car to correspond exactly with those on the right. There may be variations, trifling no doubt, and not sufficient to be visible to the eye, but still infinitesimal differences. To overcome this, Park Ward machine the entire woodwork of the body, to ensure dead accuracy of curve and perfect balance between corresponding curves. This is a special characteristic of the Park Ward company, for although it adds to the cost, it ensures a perfect line in the finished body.
A chassis enters the works and its owner explains the type of body he desires to have built, including special features embodying his own ideas. A small scale drawing of the design and features is then submitted for his comments and ultimate approval. The next stage will probably surprise readers whose acquaintance with cars — even those of the highest class — is limited to driving, and perhaps a preference for bonnets. A full-sized drawing of the actual body is then prepared, accurate in every detail and line. This enables the owner to judge his car in advance, its pleasing and graceful lines, and its seductiveness to the eye.
Manufacture then commences. The framework being assembled by skilled craftsmen, and strengthened at certain points with strong but light steel bands, it is passed to the metal workers for panelling. All panels and wings are beaten out from the flat by hand only, an operation which has traditionally earned the respect of craftsmen who are skilled in other arts. Then follow the special furnishings and fittings of the interior of the car, upholstery, and leather-work, veneer-work, cushion springing with special rubber-latex and horsehair also specially treated with rubber, internal fittings and accessories. In all, attention to the minutest detail, even to minor and almost negligible features, is insisted upon. For special companions, a client may order — and frequently does — from Asprey of Bond Street, or may request this standard as a guide.
In building up the body in this way to the individual requirement of the buyer an interesting sidelight is thrown on the evolution of style in coach-work. Professional designers are always at work throughout the motor-manufacturing industry, and the changes in coachwork from the high and bus-like models of fifteen years ago, to the low, graceful and sleek stream-lines of to-day, have been the result. But theirs is not a monopoly profession, for members of the public have ideas too — sometimes good ones — which have exercised their influences on the style of to-day.
Park Ward, through the character of their clientele, are in daily touch with these outside ideas, and are called upon to embody them in their coachwork. The two currents of thought — the professional and amateur enthusiast — are brought together in the latest models of the year. Experience has shown that the outside contribution is usually more valuable in points of detail such as methods of concealing extra seats, luggage, tools, luncheon baskets, or a wireless set in the coachwork, rather than in matters of general design in which engineer-designer should naturally excel. And as Park Ward is the repository of all such ideas, with a wide experience of building to the best ones, they are in a position both to appreciate suggestions made to them or to give practical advice against their adoption.
Proceeding with the making of the coachwork, Park Ward execute every detail of manufacture by means of their own craftsmen. A smithy and brass-finishing works, enamelling and polishing departments, leather-work, upholstering and veneering, call for a heterogeneous corps of many special craftsmen whose work is regulated on economic lines. Over four hundred such craftsmen are in normal employment outside the administrative, specification, and drawing offices.
The Chairman — Mr. A. T. Roberts — joined Mr. W. M. Park and Mr. C. W. Ward in 1926, their work as coachbuilders being of such outstanding merit in the industry.
Mr. Park was President of the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturers for two years and still takes a leading part not only in the activities of that body but also of the National Federation of Vehicle Trades and the Master Coach-builders' Benevolent Institution. He also serves on the Council of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). By keeping in constant and personal touch with the leading traders throughout the country he is able to give them and their customers the benefit of his expert knowledge of special bodywork — an assistance which is greatly appreciated by those whose distance from London prevents them from visiting the Park Ward factory.
Mr. Ward, who is a Member of the Institute of Automobile Engineers, devoted the earlier part of his career to the mechanical side. Thus happy in the possession of the dual experience he is particularly well qualified to deal with the intricate network of detail inseparable from the organization of a factory of this nature, as well as such questions as design, etc., which arise as a matter of course in the daily routine.
The administrative and financial side of the business is entrusted to Mr. Charles Falconer, as director and secretary.
On the board are also Mr. W. C. Thorne and Mr. J. A. Falconer, C.A., both of whom have many important connections with British industry and finance and whose counsel and assistance are of the greatest value to their co-directors.
Reverting to the chairman of the company, his interest in exclusive styles of motor coachwork arose in his early youth. Fortunate in being reared in the atmosphere of the Rolls-Royce car, he is unable to recollect a time without this possession, either himself or within his family. As an admirer of the engine and chassis, and in view of his experience in suggesting special bodies as they were required, he seized an opportunity of identifying himself with the prestige already enjoyed by the Park Ward partnership, and he has accordingly been instrumental in expanding the business to its present scale of operations.