a Short History - select photos to view originals
Hounsfield built his first prototype vehicle in 1910 after about 6 years of design work in an attempt to produce a really simple and inexpensive car. This was a two-seater built on a punt-like chassis, with the 4 cylinder 2-stroke engine mounted vertically between the seats. It had long cantilever springs and chain drive. There was no bonnet to speak of and a sort of platform at the rear. A second car of this design was produced but development further was slow due to the Trojan company being involved in general engineering work.
The design was later modified within the original concept with the engine now mounted horizontally beneath the floor. The cantilever springs and chain drive were retained but the outward shape of the body changed to a more conventional style. A normal shape bonnet at the front and the popular chummy 4 seater two door body made the Trojan look similar to many of its contemporaries, but mechanically it remained unique. Five or six pre-production cars were built and extensively tested. Countless hours were consumed over all sorts of surfaces and in all conditions. They were driven through mud, down rough tracks, across scrubland and even over railway sleepers. All this proved the strength and capabilities of the Trojan and as a result, in 1922, Leyland Motors signed a contract to build them under licence. The model was called the ‘Utility’ and sold for £175.00.
The 1924 Trojan designed by Hounsfield and built in Leylands factory at Kingston, was available as a car or light van and only slightly modified from the pre-production cars. The car was a 2 door four seater complete with hood and sidescreens and priced now at £157.10.1 on solid tyres. For an extra £5 you could have pneumatic tyres, and for £32.10.0 you could buy a detachable hard top which transformed your tourer into a cosy saloon for winter travelling.
The normal 5 cwt van body on the same ‘punt’ chassis layout was conventional in style and shape, and the complete vehicle sold at the same price as the car. Sidescreens were provided for all weather protection at the front and twin doors with small windows gave easy access to the roomy goods compartment from the rear. The purchase price and the fact that fuel consumption was a good 40 mpg, made the Trojan van very popular with firms requiring small delivery vehicles. Very soon several companies were running fleets of Trojans and Messrs. Brooke Bond, the tea company, built up the largest. Many small businesses also took a liking to the Trojan van because of its economical running costs.
Special body designs were produced to cater for the needs of individual trades and to provide individuality for the fleet operator. Brooke Bond had the roof line and shape of the rear of their vans built to a different design from the standard body. The body shop proved that they could cope with even the most unusual requirements and as time went on many firms ordered publicity vehicles which had bodies shaped to illustrate their goods. These included one shaped like a tin for the Cow and Gate baby food firm; one like an oil can for the Duckhams Oil Company; and even one built to look like a silver tea pot for the Absolom Tea Company
Eventually there was a whole range of body styles including the Market Gardener’s vehicle, the milk float, the drop side truck, the baker’s van with insulated body and many more. The range had also expanded to include 7, 10 and 12 cwt. versions and one model with a 3 speed gearbox. The Post Office and the RAF were good customers and helped the Trojan to become well and truly established in the commercial vehicle world.
But private cars had not been forgotten. In 1926 a larger, 3 door Tourer was introduced. This had the same design chassis as the Utility but the body was lengthened to give more room for the back seat passengers and access was by the third door which was on the nearside. This vehicle which could also be fitted with a detachable hard top, was to become the principle product in the car range. In 1928 a fabric saloon was introduced called the ‘Achilles’ and was of similar measurements to the 3 door and with a well furnished interior it provided luxury motoring at the modest price of £189. A twin model, called the ‘Apollo’ was fitted with folding centre panel to the roof for those who liked the fresh air when the weather permitted.
In 1929 the Trojan factory in Croydon, where they had been working as precision engineers, was enlarged and production of all vehicles transferred to the new buildings from Kingston. The 3 door tourers, the Achilles and Appollo saloons and all the various bodied commercials continued almost unchanged and popularity of the commercials steadily increased.
A model called the ‘Wayfarer’ was introduced, being very similar to the 3 door tourer but with shaft drive, however, it seems that only a few were actually built. In the early 30s a completely new car was designed. This had the same engine and gearbox principles but mounted at the rear of the car, behind the back axle. The car itself was very up to date in outward appearance, of the sports saloon style. It had a fabric covered body with a shallow windscreen, and two large doors gave access to the 4 scatter body. With the engine etc. taking up all the space at the rear, the conventional looking bonnet became the luggage boot. An open tourer version was also made and although production ran for several years according to the price lists, it is believed that not many were built as the factory was kept busy with commercial orders.
Car production ceased in 1937 and it is interesting to note that even then Trojan Ltd. could, and did, supply a 3 door tourer to order from all the spare parts which were kept in stock. This was some eleven years after the 3 door tourer was first introduced, and 15 years since production started on the earlier 2 door model built to the same mechanical design principles. This same design was used in all the commercial vehicles up to the early post war years.
Throughout the war Trojan ceased vehicle production and focussed on precision engineering components and munitions for the war effort. They did produce complete Trolley Accumulators which were used to start aircraft engines and it is rumoured that they manufactured parachute supply canisters used during "operation market garden". Because of their importance to the ministry of war they established their own home guard unit to defend the works.
By 1948 a completely new design for a medium size van was drawn up with a conventional chassis and shaft drive through a normal gearbox. At first these vans used a modified version of the original engine design which had been given two extra cylinders on the side of the block to act as injector pumps for the fuel. Though this method worked quite well, fuel consumption was rather heavy and a 3 cylinder Perkins diesel engine was substituted. This model was produced in various forms including Personnel Carriers, Trucks and even an articulated version as well as the normal and forward control 1 ton vans.
In 1959 the Trojan factory was purchased by Peter Agg and his father who needed the space and workforce in order to continue their distribution of Lambretta Scooters to the English market. In 1962 the right to manufacture the Heinkel bubblecar was acquired and production then commenced of the renamed Trojan 200. Production continued until 1965 when some 6000 cars had been produced. Also in 1962 Trojan acquired the Elva sports car business and started to make the Mk IV Elva Courier. This in turn led onto the manufacturing of McLaren racing cars until vehicle production finally ceased in the early 1970’s. Trojan Limited still exists as an independent company though the factory was sold in the 70’s.