The End of Guy Motors. By Peter Edwards

I suppose, looking back at things now, the end for Guy Motors started with the take over by British Leyland in 1968. For although on the surface things seemed to carry on as before there were already signs of things to come when the Big J emblem was replaced by the BL emblem, and BL working practices came into being such as the Union leaders having to travel to Lancashire to conduct negotiations on pay and conditions whereas it had always been done locally before, even under Jaguar.

During the fourteen years that I worked there as a storeman/forklift truck driver I can remember the thousands of different parts I issued for different vehicles, particularly all those to the CKD (complete knock down) department for packing to places like Kowloon and Hong Kong due to the fact that Guy's had built up a reputation in the Far East and could supply any combination of gearboxes and engines that the customer required.

Quite simply Guy Motors was THE big name for trucks and buses in that area, second to none. It was in 1978 with the introduction of the Scammel Crusader that the black clouds started to appear on the horizon. Having been mostly developed by the highly skilled men in the development department at Guy's, it went into production simultaneously at Guys and Leyland, but a portent of things to come, came in an order from British Airways for an initial 50 vehicles with the promise of a much bigger order if the vehicles came up to expectations. Twenty five were built at Guy's and twenty five were built at Leyland, the only difference in them being that the chassis at Guy's were sprayed black and those at Leyland were red.

With the vehicles having been delivered on time, the Leyland management approached BA bosses over their promise of the bigger order. They were told they could have it, but BA insisted that it was on condition that they were built at Guy's. Leyland however would not agree to this and the order was lost. From that day onwards Guy's became a thorn in the side of Leyland and the workers at Park Lane began to see the writing on the wall.

In 1980 the T43 Land Train nicknamed "The Marathon" was launched in a blaze of publicity at Guy Motors with a cold buffet laid on in the evening for those who turned up for the launch, the majority of the development once again having been carried out at Guy's. Earlier in the year a new paint spraying plant was installed in the cab fitting area where the bare metal cabs were sprayed with undercoat before being fitted out, and attached to the chasses being built on a moving track, just below the level of the cab track.
With the installation of this plant we all thought that things had turned the corner but it was not to be because three months later a party of top management from Leyland came down to Guy's, and I can remember the manager of my department coming to me, as it was part of my job to issue cabs to the cab assembly department, and telling me to get hold of the big fork lift truck and take a cab over to a building on the opposite side of the factory that was no longer used. When I got there I found the Leyland management team, the Guy management team, and a cradle of the type that the cabs fitted into when they went through the paint plant for spraying. I was told to lift the cab into the cradle which I did very carefully, and then I was dismissed. At that point I just thought it was to assure them that the design of the cradles was correct.

It wasn't until a few months later that I saw on the news on the television, a film clip showing the same cradles going round a much bigger paint plant at Leyland with T43 cabs on them. I knew then that redundancy was not far off.

At the Commercial Motor Show in the latter half of 1980 a T43 Land Train was put on show by Guys, but it was listed as a Leyland vehicle, and those who turned up from areas abroad such as the afore mentioned China Bus Company from Kowloon were told that from then on they would only be able to buy buses made at Leyland. Needless to say Leyland did not get the orders and the whole of the Far East truck and bus empire that Guy's had built up was lost.

The end finally came when Margaret Thatcher appointed Sir Michael Edwardes to oversee the restructuring of the whole of British Leyland. This was of course a disaster because he was in over his head as they say, and when he had finished, many of the smaller companies such as Guys, which had a full order book for the next two years were closed, and the inefficient Leyland plant was kept open.

Even at the end, Leyland management continued to show their contempt for the Guy Motors workforce when as part of the severance package, a big bonus was promised on condition that certain targets were met. As each month went by with the workers adhering to the agreement, things seemed to be going smoothly and we were told by Leyland management that we were on target to get the bonus, all we had to do was carry-on as we were doing. After about seven months the works convenor had a mysterious phone call from the Guy Motors financial controller, who had recently left the company having found a new position with another company under the terms laid down by the Redundancy Act. He asked to meet with the shop stewards in the nearby pub where he told them that the workforce had already reached their targets a month before, and if they did not lift another spanner until the factory closed, the bonus had already been earned. He told them that he could not inform them before because if he had been found out he could have been dismissed for gross misconduct, and would have lost his redundancy payment.

After that the workforce lost all respect for the management and simply turned up each morning with a couldn't care less attitude. They went in simply to get their wages, and by the time that the majority of the workforce, myself included had left in July of 1982 there were still a lot of unfinished vehicles, and thousands of parts left in the factory. What happened at the very end I do not know, I was just glad to be out of the poisonous atmosphere.

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