Whilst researching people, places and events surrounding the XJ13 I came across references to the West Yorkshire Foundry.
Who are they ... do I hear you ask? For the best part of 100 years the Foundry was responsible for the casting of cylinder heads and blocks for the British automotive industry. Have a look on practically any cylinder head or block made in the UK in the last 60 years and the chances are you will see the initials "WYF" cast into the block and/or head. For example, the following initials are proudly displayed on my prototype quad-cam engine block:
Prototype V12 casting marks.
The West Yorkshire Foundry emblem can be seen as an intertwined "W" and "Y". The other characters refer to the material of construction (LM8), Jaguar's experimental identification (XW 5014) and Part Number (C2020). If you look at more recent Jaguar blocks, the West Yorkshire Foundry initials are even more prominently displayed as shown on this SOHC V12 block from the 1980s:
SOHC V12 casting marks.
The West Yorkshire Foundry has had an association with Jaguar from the days of the SS Jaguars right up to the first years of the 21st Century - not only supplying castings for Jaguar's production cars but also one-offs and small runs for things such as the initial run of 10 castings for Jaguar's "XJ6" quad-cam V12 engine project (not to be confused with their later saloon of the same name). The supplied bare castings for the racing engine project were delivered to Coventry Climax in 1964 for final fettling before being delivered to Jaguar's Experimental and Competition Departments for assembly and installation.
Watch almost any programme or film on TV and you will see something that was made by the West Yorkshire Foundry - Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Rover and many more.
Having found almost nothing in print about the West Yorkshire Foundry I set about trying to learn a little more about them and their association with Jaguar. I had visions of perhaps stumbling across casting patterns and records of correspondence between the Foundry and Jaguar - perhaps even from the times of Jaguar's Le Mans successes in the 1950s through to the XJ13 project itself? These initial hopes were soon dashed when I discovered the Foundry had quietly closed in 2004 with almost no trace of its former existence to be found.
This is what is found if you visit parts of the site of the foundry today:
The West Yorkshire Foundry today.
Even more poignant if you superimpose a picture of a group of workers on a picture of some of the remaining original buildings:
What had happened to all those moulds, patterns, drawings and historic correspondence? It seemed that nothing had survived. I continued my search and , at the start of 2010, came across a website - www.fettling.com. The website reads,
An exhibition – which is touring the Leeds area.
A DVD of the short documentary film about the foundry - Cast Well and True."
The book, "Meltdown" and DVD referred to above are available from:
Heads Together Productions, The Media Centre, 7 Northumberland Street, Huddersfield HD1 1RL E: email@example.com
Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills, Canal Road, Leeds, LS12 2UF T: 0113 263 7861 E: www.leeds.gov.uk
Waterstones, Albion Street, Leeds, LS1 6HX T: 0113 242 0839
The Round Foundry Media Centre, Foundry Street, Leeds, LS11 5QP T: 0870 420 2300 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.roundfoundry.net
"Meltdown - Words and Images from a Yorkshire Foundry"
The book and DVD do provide a fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day life and individuals who worked at the Foundry. Thankfully, someone had the foresight to preserve at least some images. The website also provides a forum connecting past employees and my research continues with surviving foundry-workers (bearing in mind the prototype engines were made almost 50 years ago!).
For now, here are some glimpses into the last days of the Foundry as shown in the DVD. I don't know how many copies of the book are left of whether there is enough interest to justify a reprint but I do recommend you add a copy to your personal library while you still can. It is currently on sale for a very reasonable £10.
Here are some excerpts from the book that accompanies the DVD:
"The Clarence Road Foundry was part of Leeds' manufacturing heritage for many years. Its closure brought to an end another chapter in our industrial history.
Engineering is concerned with the transformation of energy and the manufacture of industrial engines and power driven appliances. Defined in this way, Leeds was a pioneering city in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Millwrights were the earliest mechanical engineers, concerned with such 'prime movers' as water mills and waterwheels. By 1820, the steam power revolution was well underway in Leeds, thanks to its textile mill owners harnessing their operations to the ideas of inventors like Thomas Savery (1650-1715), Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) and, more importantly, James Watt (1736-1819)...
... by 1938, the derelict foundries in Sayner Lane were occupied by the Airdale Light Alloy Company ... one source suggests that the Airdale Light Alloy Company had been given a small contract to manufacture aircraft parts, but could not meet the Ministry's tight deaadlines; as a result MAP asked Leyland Motors to step in and manage the foundry ... there was a distinct shortage of carburettors for the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, which powered both the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aircraft, during the Battle of Britain ... Leyland sent a small team of foundry specialists to Leeds ... in March of 1942,... the total weight of carburettors produced was less than that of other castings. He (Mr West of Leyland) was beginning to feel his task was completed ... by the end of the war it is probably true to say that many, if not all the carburettor bodies flying for the RAF had been made in Sayner Lane ...
The last tank produced at Sayner Lane by Leyland Motors - © British Commercial Vehicle Museum
... the resurrection of the wartime foundry in Sayner Lane, Leeds, as West Yorkshire Foundries in 1846 is closely linked with the development of the British Motor Industry in the second half of the twentieth century ... between 1948 and 1951, domestic sales accounted for less than 30% of the output of private cars and only 45% of commercial vehicles. The British Automotive Industry had become one of the world's key exporters of motor cars. It was into this favourable economic climate that the foundry at Sayer Lane emerged as a manufacturer of high quality iron and aluminium castings for cars and commercial vehicles ... rumour has it that, after the war, MAP sold the Sayner Lane Foundry to Leyland Motors for one pre-decimal penny as a gesture of gratitude for the Company's efforts during the war ... by 1961, production at West Yorkshire Foundries had reacged 120 tons of aluminium per week and 600 tons of grey iron ... the physical expansion of the plant was enormous, growing from 7,300 square yards in 1946 to 48,000 square yards in 1961 ... The Company, by 1961, employed 2,000 people to make 14,000 different parts for the domestic motor industry ... West Yorkshire Foundries supplied most of the motor manufactureres in Great Britain with cylinder blocks and heads ... Jaguar bought over thirty separate parts for their specialist car market and headed a list of customers which reads like a Hall of Fame for British car manufacturers ... in 1966 ... the West Yorkshire Foundries built a new state-of-the-art gravity die-casting foundry ... the main Aluminium Sand Foundry was producing the six cylinder heads for Jaguar and Rover ... Walter West retired from the company in 1969, and left behind a prosperous and expanding business ...
... however, sooner than West or anyone else could have anticipated, the cold blasts of merger, rationalisation and recession would be whistling at the foundry doors in Sayner Lane ... in Britain, output of vehicles per employee per year became an embarrassing statistic. The British needed 67% more labour to make a Ford Escort than the Germans, and 132% more than the Belgians to make a Mini ... as a result of a series of mergers and acquisitions, in 1962, Leyland Motors Limited became the British Leyland Motor Corporation; operating on sixty different UK sites - West Yorkshire Foundries being one of them ... British Leyland faced a serious cash-flow crisis and were forced to turn to the Government of the day ... Leyland were in a fight for their very survival ... under pressure from Margaret Thatcher's 'belt-tightening' Government, Michael Edwardes announced a long-overdue restructuring of British Leyland ... following an internal review of management and staff, the future of thirty Leyland sites was still in the balance; West Yorkshire Foundries was one of them ... in 1982, British Leyland was renamed the Austin-Rover Group and the foundry at Leeds continued to act in a limited way as a supplier of high-cored cylinder blocks and heads to the automotive industry ... (in) 1985/86, West Yorkshire Foundries was sold to a private German company (Eisenwerk Bruhl) ... Yorkshire Foundries changed its name to VAW Motorcast Ltd and flourished after 1997 ... in 2002, West Yorkshire Foundries once more faced the prospect of new owners (later to become Hydro Aluminium Motorcast Limited) ... within eighteen months ... Hydro decided there was too much capacity in the automotive cylinder head and block market and a worrying lack of orders beyond 2004 ..."
Announcement by Hydro Aluminium Motorcast
... by 2005, the foundry buildings in which they (the workforce) and generations before them had laboured, would be silent, empty and unused ..."