Dorman Date Line 1980 to 1987


Engines from SM Baudouin were now available for Dorman to sell into its industrial engine market. The 6 and V12 models of the SMB ‘P’ range were used as alternatives to the Q range.


Following the Iranian revolution, there was a new opportunity to sell kits of 6L engine components to the factory in Tabriz. Production had declined during the 70’s eventually being replaced with complete engines from other manufacturers.


The end of the road was reached with Flexstel. With the retirement of Miss Matthews in 1980, the production was transferred to GEC Special Products at Accrington. Miss Matthews had been running the Flexstel operation since the retirement of Mr Hubball in 1965.


In 1981, the MD recruited Peter Jackson from Allens of Bedford. Peter was to head a team looking at the proposed ’GEC Small Engine‘. With the Q range approaching retirement, it was felt necessary to create a new range of engines covering a power range from 500 to 2000 HP. Starting at the lower end, there were various attempts to modify existing engines for a straight 6 version. One initial idea was to use a 6Q case, combined with cylinder heads from the SMB P range. Eventually, it was decided to create a brand-new design.


Using common componentry as far as possible, the ’Small Engine’ (shortened to SE) was to be produced in 6, 8, V12, and V16 cylinder versions. The two V engines were to be designed and built at the GEC Paxman factory in Colchester.


Peter Jackson was joined by Rod Dawes, and also used the talents of existing engineering staff, including Dr Steve Charlton. The design was to be as compact as possible, with a minimum of external ‘plumbing’ which had become a feature of the uprated Q and S engines.


One last effort to enter the Traction market was made at this time. A horizontal version of the 6L was built , designed to power the new generation BR rail bus. Designated 6HLET, this variant  remained a ‘one-off’ prototype and never tested in the field.


David Roberts left in 1982, moving to Ruston at Vulcan. He was replaced as MD by Stan Keyworth, who joined the Company from Jaguar‘ initially as Manufacturing Director. Bill Beswick was appointed Technical Director, replacing Mike Ward-Best. Another appointment was Vince Wheeler who took charge of Personnel.


One ‘rush order’ was received early in 1982, for the MOD. This was for additional power generators to be installed in the Atlantic fleet, destined for the Falkland Islands.


The market for Dorman engines was still proving difficult, leading to more GEC pressure to cut costs. Thus in 1982 was a second major manpower reduction, covering production, support staff and administration.


This reduction also saw the closure of Boultham Works at Lincoln with further reorganisation. DA engines returned to Stafford, and the CSD was relocated into the old R&H Research building. Beevor Foundry was upgraded with 3 new electric furnaces. This was named the ‘Rawding Melt‘ after the manager Mr. Reg Rawding. A new Machining Centre, adjacent to the Foundry was also set up.


Parallel to the SE development, work was undertaken to uprate the 12S, again moving the power range forward. Also the 12S was to be built in ’Gas’ version, as with other Dorman gas engines, using magnetos and spark plugs for ignition.  Boosting of the gas supply to the Tixall Road site, meant that more of the larger gas engines could be built and tested.


There was also development work to run  engines on low-methane content gas, such as digester - and landfill -  gases.  The SMB P engines were also added to the growing list of Dorman gas engines.


In April 1983, the first Dorman ’Product Launch’ was undertaken at Tillington Hall in Stafford. On display were the 12SR3 uprate and the 12S Gas variants. Most of the UK gen-set builders were invited, in addition to Service agents, and Overseas Distributors.


Developments in CHP saw a 6QG installed at South Caernarvon Creameries. This was followed by the installation of 3 12STCWG Gas engines at Davyhulme Sewage Works


By now, customers’ engineers were able to visit Stafford following the relocation of the Training School. Headed by Paul James, the School was a useful method of improving support for Dorman engines. Drawings for the new models were quickly translated into Manuals by Phil Spencer of  Illustrating Services


February 1984 saw the second, far more ambitious, engine launch. Held at the NEC site, customers and agents were again invited, this time to see for the first time, the new 6SE engine. The launch was accompanied by an AV presentation with the title ’Towards the Year 2000’ There was considerable Press coverage, with a mention on the local TV News.   


At the bottom end of the Dorman range, the smaller DA’s were becoming uncompetitive. A major outsourcing project was undertaken, with a small group from both sites visiting China. Eventually an order for several hundred 3 & 4DA short-blocks was placed with a large Chinese Foundry.


Also in the Far East, a depot was set up in Singapore. Being part of the RGT-FE facility, the depot was to become a base for the South-East Asia market. Manager was  Roger Davies, formerly Home and Marine Sales manager at Stafford.


By the mid-eighties, orders for 8Q and J engines had virtually ‘dried up’. The last of the 8Q’s were built into trailer-mounted gen-sets and shipped to Cuba. Six 8JTCWM engines were supplied to James and Stone at Brightlingsea. These were used in pairs as propulsion for a trio of smaller Landing craft for RCT  


The smallest order was actually a Dorman donation. A 3DA plus generator was supplied to GEC Transportation Projects, to be installed as off-line power for a Trolley Bus. The project was being undertaken at Doncaster using a Dennis vehicle. The Trolley Bus revival failed to materialise, with the vehicle being retired to Sandtoft.


On the departure of Stan Keyworth to Lister, Bill Beswick became MD, with David Bacon appointed as Technical Director.


The Financial Year to end of March 1985 showed an improvement in the Dorman Accounts. A surplus of £1.6m was made , on a turnover of £23.7m. Of this £9.9m was for UK sales. Total employees was 737, and Capital Employed was shown at £12.0m


Investment in new Test Cells for Development and Production engines complemented the plans for future SE engines.


The launch dates for the 6SE models were as follows :-

6SETCR                    February 1984

6SETCA                   September 1984

6SET & TCW          May 1985

6SETCW Marine    Sept/Oct 1985


In the spring of 1986, the 12SE engine was unveiled at the Electrex exhibition held at the NEC. The Dorman paint-shop had created an eye-catching colour scheme. One side was Dorman red, the other in Paxman marine blue. Down the middle it was finished in Paxman off-white.


Paxmans of Colchester produced the 12SE as the ‘Vega’ model, and made available for their Traction and Marine markets.


The design of SE components meant that CNC machines could drastically increase production with fewer operatives. A ‘Niigata’ Crankcase machining centre was installed, combining many operations at one location. Problems with Beevor cast-iron resulted in many parts transferring to the Balfour-Beatty foundry in Derbyshire.


Another range of engines was approaching retirement. The L series, by now just the 6L variants, was becoming unpopular, so an engine from the DAF range was introduced to fill the gap. The DAF was introduced into the industrial market as the Dorman 6LS  range.


One important order for gas engines was received from Shanks & McEwan. Their  Landfill site at Stewartby was filling with LCC refuse, and the resulting Gas was used to generate electricity. By the beginning of 1987, three 12STCWG engines were installed, working at 1000 RPM. The electricity powered the site and the adjacent brickworks, with the surplus exported to the local grid. The success of the project led to reduced pay-back time. Later on, a 4th unit was also added.


The start of 1987 saw the Dorman business still struggling in the market place. Another redundancy was announced, amid rumours of sale or, at worst, total closure.

GEC required losses to be addressed, and with the budget for 1987/8 not accepted, the worst was being anticipated.


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