Sidney Guy, who had been the works manager of Sunbeam, founded Guy Motors Ltd.. He
left them in 1913 and immediately set up Guy Motors having a new factory built at
Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. It seems, from the fact that two prototype lorries
from 1913 are said still to be in existence and that new companies and new factories
have to be financed, that this was no sudden move but one which Sidney Guy had planned.
However it does seem that there was no love lost between him and Sunbeam and he is
said to have declared, on leaving them, that he would buy them out one day.
A good deal of new industrial development was taking place in the Fallings Park area
at the time. Previously industry in Wolverhampton had kept closer to the town centre
and to the canal and railway network. But by this time there was less reliance on
these modes of transport, particularly in the motor industry, and, in any event,
no space would have been available nearer the centre, especially for the new factories,
which required greater floor space. Guy’s new factory opened in 1914.
Their first product was a lorry but they had hardly started production when the First
World War broke out and production was taken over by the Ministry of Munitions. Guy’s
produced large numbers of military vehicles. They also became the largest UK manufacturer
of depth charge firing mechanisms and also produced large numbers of aero engines.
The war was certainly advantageous to Guy’s commercially. It cannot be said how the
company would have fared had the war not come along but, by the time it ended, the
company had a large, well equipped plant, up and running, and an established name.
Immediately after the war there was very little production, partly on account of
a worldwide recession and partly on account of the vehicle market being flooded with
army surplus. But the war had demonstrated the reliability and usefulness of motorised
transport, and had produced a large number of people who knew how to drive. This
produced a rising market, which Guy’s were able to get into.
When civilian vehicle production re-started in 1919 Guy started to produce lorries
and his first charabanc. Those two lines were to be the basis of the company’s future
but they also embarked on a number of experiments, which were less successful. They
produced a road/rail vehicle, an electric vehicle chassis and a gas lorry running
on charcoal. In 1919 they produced the Guy car, of which about 200 were produced,
production ending in 1922.
In the inter-war years Guy’s developed and produced a range of lorries, buses and,
from 1926, trolley buses, all of which incorporated innovative features.
Sometime in the 1920 Guy’s adopted the "Feathers in our Cap" slogan, with the Red
Indian head following somewhat later.
In 1928 Guy’s took over the almost bankrupt Star vehicle company in an exchange of
shares, and production of their cars continued for some time thereafter, finally
ceasing, for lack of sales, in 1932.
It seems that Guy’s were not sufficiently profitable to be able to make the investment
needed to keep Star going and were, indeed, themselves in financial difficulties.
But another world war was came along.
During the 30s Guy’s had established a useful connection with the War Department
in the development and supply of military vehicles. At the outbreak of the war the
Government’s immediate reaction was to halt the production of all buses. By the time
they reversed that decision Guy Motors were the only company available with the spare
capacity to produce buses. So this they did, in great numbers, during the war.
On the basis of a successful war, from 1946 onwards Guy continued to develop and
produce new buses, trolley buses and lorries, at one point becoming one of the largest
such manufacturers in the country. They also had very large export sales.
In 1948 they acquired Sunbeam-Karrier, thus enabling Sydney Guy to buy out at least
what was left of Sunbeam. Production of Sunbeam trolley buses and Karrier buses continued
for a while at the Moorfields site but by 1953 the Karrier name had been dropped
and all production moved to Fallings Park. By now the works at Fallings Park covered
14 acres and up to 1,500 people were employed.
During the later 50s the company became financially unsound. It is certainly arguable
that their bus and lorry designs (trolley buses having by then been abandoned nationwide)
were not on the leading edge and sales seem to have been falling off. Profits were
The company then ventured onto the development and production of the Wulfruna bus.
It turned out that this vehicle was ahead of its time and beyond Guy’s capacity to
get right. Further the company had lost a great deal of money in an ill judged attempt
to replace their agents in southern Africa with their own distribution network. In
October 1961 the company, with losses of around £600,00, but with stock and assets
of about £2.5 million, went into receivership.
It was bought by Jaguar Cars and renamed Guy Motors (Europe) Ltd.. Jaguar already
had an interest in buses, Daimler being within their organisation. Production of
Guy-badged lorries continued until 1964 when they were replaced by the Big Jaguar
In 1966 Jaguars became part of the ill-starred and ill-remembered British Motor Corporation
(later British Leyland), who had plenty of other bus and lorry makers within their
group. Production continued at Fallings Park but increasing competition, both nationally
and internationally, lead to falling sales. Guy’s started to assemble Scammell tractor
units, as a way of using spare capacity, but all production ceased in 1978.
The decline and fall of Guy’s had contributed greatly to the general economic decline
of Wolverhampton in the 1970s and to rising unemployment.