David Brown Ltd.
David Brown Engineering Limited is an English engineering company, principally engaged in the manufacture of gears and gearboxes. Their major gear manufacturing plant is in Swan Lane, Lockwood, Huddersfield, adjacent to Lockwood railway station. It is named after the company's founder, David Brown, though it is more closely associated with his grandson, Sir David Brown.
Founded in 1860 as a pattern manufacturing company, by 1873 David Brown had begun to concentrate on gear systems, and by 1898 was specialising in machine-cut gears. The company moved in 1902 to Park Works at Huddersfield, where the firm is based today. When David Brown died in 1903, his sons Percy and Frank took over and began the manufacture of complete gear units, bearings and shafts and worm drive gears. Gearing manufactured by David Brown Ltd. and powered by electric motors manufactured by Brook Crompton (Electric) Motors, whose factory was in Brockholes are used to rotate the top of the BT Tower in London.
In 1913 they established a joint venture in America with Timken for worm drive units. By the end of World War I the workforce had increased from 200 to 1000 as they started building propulsion units for warships, and drive mechanisms for armaments. By 1921 the company was the largest worm gear manufacturer in the world.
In 1930 the company took over P.R. Jackson Ltd, another local firm of gear manufacturers and steel founders. Percy's eldest son (Sir David Brown) became managing director in 1931 following Percy's death, with Frank becoming chairman. The firm formed another overseas joint venture with Richardson Gears (Pty) Ltd of Footscray, Victoria, Australia in 1934. In 1934 the company also built a new factory on a site at Meltham, on the south side of Huddersfield. Brown started building tractors with Harry Ferguson there in 1936.
The company obtained a patent for a tank transmission using controlled differential steering system, known as the Merritt-Brown system in 1935. The first vehicle to use this system was the Churchill tank, and it was subsequently used on the Centurion tank and the Conqueror tank, as well as the Tortoise heavy tank.
The company first ventured into tractor production in a joint project with Harry Ferguson in 1936 building the Ferguson-Brown tractor. David Brown became one of the biggest British tractor manufactures in the post war period, with a major manufacturing plant at Meltham, West Yorkshire England. The company broke new ground which others were only to follow later, but being a pioneering company ultimately lead to their downfall. The Ferguson-Brown had a lot of innovative features, including the use of cast alloy for many the components, which was light but prone to damage. The Ferguson-Brown used a Coventry Climax engine for the first 350 tractors. Browns developed their own engine which was fitted to subsequent production. Total production was 1350 + 1 built from parts in 1940 after production finished.
Brown and Ferguson disagreed over tractor design details in the late 30s, which led David Brown to design his own version, the VAK1, in secret. This was launched at the 1939 Royal Show. Ferguson split away from Brown and joined up with Henry Ford in 1938, after a 'handshake' agreement, to allow his 'Ferguson System' three-point linkage to be used on the Fordson N tractors. That agreement was eventually terminated by Ford's grandson in 1947 and Ferguson again split away to form Ferguson Tractors in 1948.
During the Second World War Brown's new heavier tractor, the VAK1, was produced, with over 7,700 units eventually sold, making Brown a wealthy man. Brown also built aircraft tugs (VIG) for the Royal Air Force and for pulling the bomb trolleys used to re-arm aircraft. These tugs are distinctive, with truck like tyres, wrap round body work and HD bumpers front and rear, some being fitted with winches. In 1942 Brown started building a tracklayer version, the DB4. The DB4 was built for the army engineers and solved some of the problems found with the VTK, and got round an embargo on imported machines for military use. It was powered by a 38 h.p. Dorman diesel and a five speed gearbox. The DB4 was replaced in 1950 by the Trackmaster 30.
The tractors division took over the Lancashire firm of Harrison, McGregor & Guest Ltd who produced the Albion brand of agricultural machinery to complement the tractor product line. After the takeover the company's badge was modified to incorporate the white rose of Yorkshire and the red rose of Lancashire. The Tractors division had ten subsidiaries around the world. At one stage 80% of production was exported. Sales were handled by 2,508 agents in 100 countries.
In 1947, Brown saw a classified advertisement in The Times, offering for sale a High Class Motor Business. Brown acquired Aston Martin for £20,500 and, in the following year, Lagonda for £52,500, followed by the coachbuilder Tickford in 1955. He subsequently concentrated all the Aston Martin manufacturing at the Tickford premises in Newport Pagnell. The David Brown years led to the legendary DB series of Aston Martins.
Both car companies were sold in 1972 to Company Developments Limited, when Aston Martin was in financial trouble, for a nominal £100.
In 1972 the company sold the tractor operations to Tenneco Inc. of America, who owned the J.I. Case tractor company. The sale was due to a combination of a reduction in the UK tractor market, increased product development costs, the need to meet new regulations on health and safety, and increased competition from imported machinery.
In 1990, the family disposed of its stake to its management who then floated the group as a public company in 1993. David Brown was acquired by Textron Inc. in October 1998.
The company, trading as David Brown Engineering Ltd, headquartered in Huddersfield, is now a supplier of heavy transmission systems for industrial, defence, railway and marine applications. These include transmissions for the British Challenger 2 tanks and American Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Railway transmissions are produced for their Chinese branch 'David Brown China', in a joint partnership called 'Jiangsu Shinri David Brown Gear Systems' at a factory in Changzhou near Shanghai.
Sale by Textron
In September 2008 it was announced that David Brown Gear systems and associated companies, David Brown Hydraulics based in Poole in Dorset, Maag Pumps of Switzerland, and Union Pumps of the USA were to be sold to Clyde Blowers of Scotland – owned by entrepreneur Jim McColl – in a £368 million deal.
David Brown tractor model range
- VAK1 – 1939–45
- VTK1 & VIG1 – 1941–49
- VAK1A – 1945–47
- VAK1C Cropmaster – 1947–54
- DB4 – 1942–49 (110 built)
- Taskmaster – 1948–65
- 50TD Trackmaster – 1950–63
- 30TD Trackmaster – 1953– ?
- DB25 & DB30 – 1953–58
- VAD 50D – 1953–59
- 900 series 1955–57
- VAD 12 2D – 1956–64 lightweight tool carrier
- 950 implematic series – 1958–61
- 850 implematic series – 1961–65
- 750 farmatic series – 19??-??
- 880 implematic series – 1961–65
- 990 implematic series – 1961–65
- 770 selectamatic series – 1965–70
- 880 selectamatic series – 1965–71
- 990 selectamatic series – 1965–71
- 1200 selectamatic series – 1967–71
- 780 selectamatic series – 1965–71
- 1210 Manual Gearbox 1971–1979
- 1212 Hydra-Shift 1971–1979
- 885 Synchromesh 1971–1979
- 990,995,996 Synchromesh 1971–1979
- 1410 Manual Gearbox first turbo charged david brown 1974–1979
- 1412 Hydra-Shift first turbo charged david brown 1974–1979
- 1190 series – 1979–83
- 1290 series – 1979–83
- 1390 series – 1979–83
- 1490 series – 1979–83
- 1690 series – 1979–83
- 1690 Turbo series – 1979–83
- 1194 series – 1983–88
- 1294 series – 1983–88
- 1394 series – 1983–88
- 1494 series – 1983–88
- 1594 series – 1983–88
- 1694 series – 1983–88
- 775 selectamatic German market
- 3800 (780 petrol) American market
- 4600 (880 petrol) American market
- Oliver 500–600 rebadged 850 and 950 American market
- David Brown Tractors 1936 to 1964, Alan Earnshaw, Nostalgia Road, ISBN 1-903016-02-9
- David Brown Tractors 1965–1988, by Anthony L Heath, ISBN 1-903016-03-7
- livinghistoryfarm.org – Ford-Ferguson Tractors
- David Brown Tractors 1936–1964, by Alan Earnshaw, p5, ISBN 1-903016-02-9
- David Brown Website – History
- David Brown Gear Systems on track in China (30 April 2010)
- Classic Tractors, issue no. 92, December 2008
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