By Rod Ward
In the early years of the 20th century many young engineers and inventors were getting started in the nascent motor industry, but few had the advantage of R W Maudslay, whose wealthy backer financed a factory and the employment of an experienced designer. This gave Maudslay’s new ‘Standard’ cars a head start, soon helped by the dynamism of Charles Friswell in publicising the marque. Maudslay was one of the first to participate in the light car boom just before the Great War, during which Standard landed many profitable aircraft building contracts, with the legacy of a new government funded factory at Canley. Thus in 1919 Standard was in a better position than most of its competitors, with improved versions of its light car design, built in a modern factory. Like everyone else, however, Standard suffered as markets collapsed in the late 1920s, but unlike many British car firms which were bankrupted, Standard found a white knight. John Black revived the firm’s fortunes with new models in the 1930s, lifting Standard to sixth in the industry. During the Second World War Black was a leading participant in the Shadow Factory scheme, for which he was knighted, and he also bought the defunct Triumph marque. New cars from both Standard and Triumph sold well in the postwar years, but it was the tractors built for Harry Ferguson which paid the bills. When that contract came to an end the firm had no future and it was acquired by Leyland, who killed off the Standard marque, as not having a suitable image for a modern car maker.