Dorman Date Line - (1970-79)
By 1970, the English Electric Diesels Group was arguably the largest producer of non-automotive diesel engines in the country. The merger with GEC had brought no further Engine companies into the Group.
The Centenary of Dorman was marked with a summer exhibition, held at the Tixall Road grounds. This was a showcase for Dorman-powered equipment over the previous 50 years. Included were Motorail locos, Priestman excavator, and various generator and pump sets.
The highlight however was the pair of cars powered by Dorman petrol engines.
These had been restored by apprentices at both sites. One of the few surviving R&H cars, the 5 seater had been built at Boultham works in 1920. Registration no XC7762,
the car was fitted with a Dorman 4MRA engine. Apprentices at Stafford had restored a 1923 built Autocrat, built at the Balsall Heath factory. The light blue paint finish of the Autocrat contrasted with the dark Ruston green.
The Dorman Engine Division was still involved with the reorganisation of both sites. At Lincoln, the Spares depot (CSD) was transferred from Waterside North to Firth Road, adjacent to Boultham Works. Following the end of R&H loco construction, the Boultham works was utilised for more engine build. The air-cooled DA range was transferred, complementing the YDA and YWA (also air-cooled) R&H models.
The Beevor Foundry was considerably larger than the Stafford facility. Also at Lincoln were facilities for training of customers which included the larger Stafford engines.
At Stafford, more space was needed for the assembly of larger engines and gen-sets. The Tixall Road site was restricted by Harrowby Street to the rear. The foundry was already built on ground much higher than the Sow flood plain; thus it was not possible to build new factory extensions.
In 1972, the decision was made to close the Stafford foundry and transfer the work-load to Beevor at Lincoln. The space was converted to a dedicated engine assembly area, known as ‘No 2 Factory’.
Aluminium components (including sumps and rocker covers) were being sourced from the GEC Foundry located along the Lichfield Road. In addition to the heavy engine blocks and heads, Beevor also cast the small ‘Flexstel’ joints which were still being produced. The demand for 6L components increased with the kits being assembled for despatch to the SSDDI Factory in Tabriz.
Being part of GEC had major benefits for the Dorman business. In 1974, GEC Overseas Services placed an order for gen-sets destined for Nigeria. The project was for the rural electrical of Kwara State. Hundreds of sets, mainly 6Q powered, were built and shipped out. The larger villages had 2 sets, and for the locals, it was the first introduction to electric power.
At this time, the ‘energy crisis’ had led to an increase in demand for diesel-powered gen-sets. The main set-builders in the UK were ordering as many engines that the Tixall Road site could produce.
Another country to benefit from Dorman-generated electricity was Greenland. The Ministry of Greenland had ordered generators through Dorman Diesels Denmark, to power settlements along the west coast. The Danish agency had been established by John Pitman, formerly with AB Transfer. These communities around the Arctic Circle were reliant on the Dorman gen-sets, often working in conditions of extreme cold and snow.
GEC Traction at Vulcan Works were still building industrial locos to a design which began at Castle Works in 1961. However a batch of 12 ‘Stephenson’ diesel-hydraulic shunters was built in Spain, under license from GEC. The end user was Uninsa Steel Works, and the locos were fitted with 8Q & 12Q engines. Later versions of Vulcan built locos, hydraulic and electric with Q engines fitted, were supplied to BSC and NCB.
At the smaller end of the locomotive industry, there had been problems with the supply of smaller engines to Simplex/Motorail at Bedford. All except the DA and LE ranges were discontinued.
Another engine model dropped was the 6KUD. This was replaced by the J range, V8 and V12, for marine and industrial applications. This bridged the power gap between the L and Q ranges. The dimensions of the DA range were used in a V8, watercooled version, named the 8F. This was designed to re-enter the automotive market.
The Development dept fitted one to a Chrysler/Dodge chassis. On tests, it was sped up to 60mph. Eventually an order was received from ERF for 10 8FT engines. This represented the last order for automotive engines made at Tixall Road.
The long-term aim of the GEC Diesels group was still to extend the power range of Dorman engines to 2000hp. As a first step, the 12Q was uprated with an extra inch on the stroke dimension. This model was designated 12S, and with turbo-charging and charge air cooling, took the power range past the half-way mark. The 12ST was introduced in the summer of 1976
In 1977, a new gen-set Company ’Broadcrown’ was established at Stone, founded by 2 ex-Dorman Employees. Managing Director at Stafford was by now Frank Brookes, replacing Les Johnson.
The GEC Diesel Group was considerably expanded with the acquisition of Alco, of Auburn USA. Their range of engines was comparable to Ruston products built at Vulcan works. Also acquired was the French builder SM Baudouin. Based at Marseilles, SMB specialised in Marine Diesels, similar in power and size to the
In the autumn of 1978, there were two important exhibitions, at which most of the Dorman engines then produced were on display. The Commercial Motor Show featured an 8FT, as supplied to ERF, and a 12JT to automotive specification.
Also at the NEC was the Public Works Exhibition. This had on display the following
Engines :- 12ST, 8JT, 6LETCA, 8F, 6DAN, 8QT, and 6QT. The stand also featured Spares from CSD, 4LD from service exchange, and a 6LE short-block.
The smaller DA Gas engines found a market in the USA, thanks to supplier JW Operating Inc of Longview Texas. These were utilised in the oil industry, powering ‘nodding donkeys’, well-head gas compression, and power generators. More than 500 DA’s were supplied.
Lou Allsopp, Chief Engineer, retired at the beginning of 1979. MD was by now David Roberts, replacing Frank Brookes. Mike Ward-Best was also appointed as Technical Director.
At this time, the Dorman company was struggling with sales. The spiralling cost of fuel oil through the seventies had led to a depression in the market. This also coincided with economic difficulties overseas. The Iran economy had declined, with little work from other countries to compensate.
Thus the first major manpower reduction was undertaken, with jobs lost on both sites.
Many of these employees had been involved in the specialist applications, which were no longer being quoted. Orders for Rail Traction, Marine Propulsion, and Automotive Engines had virtually ’dried up’.
The main challenge for the 80’s was to remain competitive in both home and overseas markets, and plan for new ‘cleaner’ models, replacing those that would be reaching the end of their useful life