Sunday, July 26, 2015


Because I worked for Jaguar for nearly 20 years, and Bentley for almost 10, I was fascinated to learn that both companies enjoyed the prodigious skill and energies of a remarkable engineer, Walter (Wally) Hassan. I well remembered Hassan's importance to Jaguar from studying Jaguar's history - but Bentley?

Walter was born in London in 1908 to parents of Irish descent. Wally’s dad owned a clothing shop in Holloway, but Wally was always more interested in things mechanical, and he joined Bentley Motors as an apprentice in 1920. He later went to work for Bentley’s racing department, and eventually became its top mechanic, working exclusively on Chairman Woolf Barnato’s racing cars.
Woolf Barnato's Speed Six, Le Mans 1929

In 1929 and 1930 he prepared Barnato’s Speed Six with which the Chairman won the 24 Hours of Le Mans both years. In 1931 he built the Hassan Bentley for Barnato, which raced in the Brooklands 500.
The Hassan Bentley 1931
In 1936 he joined ERA (English Racing Automobiles) where he developed both engines and chassis. Then in 1938 he moved to Coventry, to join William Lyons at SS Cars Ltd (later to become Jaguar Cars).

When WW2 broke out he went to work for Bristol, developing aero engines, and after the war, he returned to Jaguar to work on engines.
Jaguar XK 4 cylinder engine
Together with Bill Heynes, Hassan developed both a 4 cylinder, and a 6 cylinder engine.

The 4 cylinder was loaned to Major Goldie Gardner for an MG Special which he used to set a speed record in Belgium.

Walter Hassan (L) with Major Goldie Gardner (in flying cap) with MG Special. in Belgium
Unfortunately the engine showed signs of imbalance, and Lyons felt it was more important to focus on the larger 3.4 litre six, so Jaguar could successfully attack the American market.
Jaguar XK120 (Chassis Number 1) testing the XK six cylinder engine at Silverstone
The XK engine won at Le Mans in 1951, 1953, 1955 and 1957. However, in 1950 Hassan had moved on to Coventry Climax to work on lightweight engines for fire tenders, and later racing cars. Together with Harry Mundy and Claude Bailey he developed the FWMV V8 engine which twice powered Lotus and Jim Clark to world champion.

Harry Mundy (L) and Walter Hassan with the FWMV Coventry Climax F1 engine
 Coventry Climax was acquired by Jaguar in 1963, and Hassan, Heynes and the Coventry Climax team developed Jaguar’s famous V12 engine. In addition to its commercial success in Jaguar road cars, a 7-litre version of the V12 carried Jaguar to victory at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990.

Jaguar V12 winning Le Mans 1988

Margaret and (son) Richard Hassan with Walter in 1995
Looking back on British motor racing history it’s hard to find a single individual who's had more influence on race-winning engines, between 1929 and 1990 than Walter Thomas Frederick Hassan, OBE.
He died in 1996.

(Hassan-Jaguar photos courtesy of JAGUAR MAGAZINE)


Opel Kadett B
In 1972 GM Europe began planning a replacement for the stodgy, ugly Opel Kadett B. The project was called ‘Project 909’, and the concept was based on GM’s T-car platform.

Opel Kadett C coupe

The design was styled in Opel’s HQ at Russelsheim as a 4-door and 2-door sedan, a 3-door hatch, coupe and wagon.

Opel Kadett Kombi

GM Detroit overlords decided the car would be sold internationally as a timely response to the rapidly-growing demand for light, fuel-efficient cars. 

Mind you, they never expected the car to sell well in the USA, but product planners included America in the global lineup for what was shaping up as a ‘world car’.

Chevette - GM do Brasil
The car was to be launched first in Brazil, in August 1974, as the Chevette – a badge the car would wear as a Chevrolet (in the USA) and a Vauxhall (in the UK).

The Brazilian car was a two-door sedan, and the Vauxhall version was a three-door hatchback.

Vauxhall Chevette 'City'

GM’s Japanese partner, Isuzu wanted a replacement for its ageing Bellett, and GM’s Asia-Pacific chief suggested Isuzu join the program.

In Australia General Motors-Holden said it would take a version. Each international division of GM was thinking along the same lines – it was virtually a world car, sold in identical versions in every market, so cost of production could be constrained.

GM in Detroit decided Isuzu would build the Japanese-Australian prototypes, which would be a four-door sedan, powered by Isuzu’s excellent 1.6 litre  G161Z engine, which it used originally in the Bellett.

By May 1974 Isuzu’s prototypes were on the road in both Fujisawa and Victoria, Australia.

A good friend of mine, David ......, used to often make his way into the Holden proving ground at Lang Lang, about two hours south east of Melbourne in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.

David would photograph any and all cars he saw on the road test circuits, and the high speed banking, and send the photos along to me to identify. This time David called me to say he'd shot a 'little red jigger'!

As Editor of Australia’s leading monthly automotive news magazine I was always on the lookout for scoops! This one was fantastic! A car which we previously knew nothing about, and right here on our doorstep.

Our research revealed the Opel Kadett version was being tested in Europe, and MODERN MOTOR’S European editor spotted a Vauxhall version at GM’s Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK.

Next, my Japanese editor snapped some Isuzu prototypes on the road near the factory in Fujisawa, and a major global story was developing.

I kept a lid on the story until we could publish as much detail as possible on this new ‘Baby Holden’ (which we erroneously named as a Torana), but in the June 1974 issue of MODERN MOTOR we were able to publish the full story.

The Holden Gemini was launched in January 1975, and was an immediate hit Down Under.

More than 250,000 Geminis were built and sold in Australia, between 1975 and 1986. It was facelifted quite a few times, but always retained the excellent Isuzu 1.6 litre SOHC engine.

Now, the sting in the tail.

Various global GM engineering divisions for the T-car program changed a variety of internal components, as well as the firewall and windscreen. This meant that all the original tooling for the Brazilian/German project was different to the Isuzu/Holden model, leading to the result that each version of the T-car was slightly different – and not one of them were identical!

Efficiencies? None! Cost savings? None! So what?

This was General Motors from a different era, no wonder the giant corporation needed a US government bailout!

However, despite its fragmented build complications, the T-car was a worldwide success and one of GM’s most popular designs.

Isuzu Gemini

What defeated its world car tag was the fact that each group of ‘local’ engineers wanted to ensure they still had a job, by making ‘their version’ unique to 'their' market. A great world car? Not this time!

Saturday, July 25, 2015


The man who saved Jaguar Land Rover from Ford, Ratan Tata, has been inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit, alongside two other industry giants - Luca de Montezemolo and Roger Penske.

The Indian industrialist and entrepreneur's leadership has led to Jaguar Land Rover doubling sales, and employment, tripling its turnover, and been responsible for generating more than ten million pounds in investment in new product development and capital expenditure, since Tata acquired the business in 2008.

L-R: Luca de Montezemolo, Ratan Tata, Roger Penske
Both Roger Penske and Sr. Montezemolo paid tribute to Mr Tata's achievements, taking on risk, and showing bold and resolute leadership.

Under Tata Group ownership Jaguar Land Rover has not only been able to fund all its own future product development, but is now also contributing dividends to its parent.

The Chairman of the Automotive Hall of Fame, Michael Martini said:
"The Automotive Hall of Fame also recognizes Mr. Tata's quest to give mobility to India by producing the country's first indigenous car, the Indica, in 1998, following it with the ground-breaking Nano in 2008."

"Tata's investments in Jaguar Land Rover saved or created over 33,000 jobs in England, while preserving the rich tradition of performance and style that are the signature of these great marques. Clearly his vision is the reality."

Pravin Kadle, head of Tata Finance has revealed a hitherto unknown fact behind Tata's acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover. 

Tata Motors' first car, the Indica, was not successful in its first year and many business people in India recommended that Ratan Tata should offload the car division, and in 1999 Mr. Tata and a small group of his key executives (including Pravin Kadle) attended a meeting with Ford Motor Company in Deaborn.

During the meeting the Tata group felt insulted by the comments from the Ford directors, topped off when Bill Ford said to Mr. Tata: "Why did you start the car business, when you know nothing about it? We would be doing you a favour in buying it." 

The Tata group promptly ended the meeting and returned to India.

In 2008 Ratan Tata invited Bill Ford to his headquarters, 'Bombay House' in Mumbai, and offered to buy Jaguar Land Rover, which had incurred heavy losses under Ford's inept management.

Bill Ford said: "You are doing us a favour by buying the business."

Friday, July 24, 2015


Hydrogen gas will become one of the ‘wonder fuels’ driving Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) of the future, however the production of hydrogen demands a lot of electricity to create the hydrolysis process which produces the gas. Exactly ‘how’ this electricity is generated concerns all fuel cell developers, because it needs to be produced by renewable and sustainable means in order to be cost-efficient and, more importantly carbon neutral.

Although scientists recognize the importance of hydrogen in powering vehicles driven by fuel cells; and the technology to produce hydrogen is a well-known and mature process, it is the ‘clean’ production of electricity for hydrolysis which is the holy grail for developers of automotive fuel cells.

Consequently there are many companies around the world engaged on a diverse range of both large and small experimental processes aimed at creating and capturing hydrogen gas from renewable sources.

One such company, which the UK daily media has sadly avoided publicising, is ITM POWER founded and based in the UK. ITM Power has partnered a great deal of research, and production trials linked with automotive fuel cells and has powered a number of vehicles running on ‘clean’ hydrogen.

The major limitation is ‘how much’ hydrogen can be produced from clean energy? And so far producing large volumes of 'clean' hydrogen gas to power millions of cars is commercially unsustainable.

Whilst ITM Power has developed extensive technology for automotive applications, its major success has been in the design and manufacture of stand-alone POLYMER ELECTROLYTE MEMBRANE (PEM) electrolysers. The PEM is part of a total system aimed at capturing energy and producing hydrogen by an integrated compression method and storage.

Recently ITM Power won a tender to provide such a system to the European Marine Energy Centre site on the island of Eday in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The EMEC has a test site on Eday capturing and storing power from wave energy.

The 0.5MW electrolyser will be used to absorb excess power generated by the tidal turbines testing at EMEC.

Tidal Turbine Generator
The hydrogen gas created from the energy from the turbines will be compressed and stored, with some of the gas being used in (an optional) hydrogen fuel cell to provide backup power to critical EMEC systems. The remainder of the hydrogen gas will be used off-site by a further project being developed separately which plans to absorb output of a local community wind turbine operated by Eday Renewable Energy Ltd.

The PEM system is housed in a standard 20ft x 10ft ISO shipping container!

ITM Power says this is a major deployment of ITM Power technology in an innovative way, to address the shortcomings of the conventional local power grid, by pioneering the production of hydrogen fuel from wave energy, and capturing surplus energy to be used on Eday, without having to rely on an inadequate grid.

This news may not be as sexy as announcing a new Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle to solve personal mobility issues, but it certainly may help power a range of innovative solutions using stationary PEMs to create and capture hydrogen gas for industrial and residential electricity needs – and every ‘clean and sustainable’ way to create ‘clean’ electricity has to get my vote!