Contemporaries and Peers 3: Williams and Pritchard


INSTALMENT 3: Williams and Pritchard


Quoted by Frank Costin in Thoroughbred and Classic Car, May 1992
“I have always admired Len and Charlie’s sheer technical ability having seen them carry out almost unbelievable feats .I think I am more qualified than most to appreciate their work ;for altogether they made the bodywork for no fewer than 15 of my designs.
I don’t think they themselves recognised how great they were”

Praise indeed. Much of the success of Lotus both competitive and aesthetic [sales / appreciation etc] may be attributed to their workmanship. See our website article devoted to Aesthetic appreciation.

Williams and Pritchard poses the skill of the ultimate craftsmen in their intimacy of knowledge and empathy with materials equipped to make them designers too with a rare gift of elevating craft skill to a highly developed aesthetic based on refined sense of proportion, massing and fitness for purpose.

History and Business Interests

Posterity has not recorded if the partners completed formal apprenticeships. The quality of their work might suggest this. It has been suggested that these craftsmen acquired experience working for bespoke London coachbuilders; possibly Hooper, Park Ward or Mulliner.

During the Second World War both men turned their skills to making panels for Spitfires. This was an interesting and appropriate connection. They would have been conversant with the high level of technology used and would have easily conversed with the engineers from De Havilland that became involved in Lotus. No doubt they probably understood the reason for the exacting standards associated with aerodynamics and would execute these accurately and not merely stylistically.

Immediately post war Britain was in acute austerity but Williams and Pritchard set up together c 1948 possibly in Enfield, North London. A suggestion has been made that they undertook repair work but possibly also some work on A.C. saloons.

Within a small area of North London there was a network of skilled craftsmen some of whom had attended school together. It is both natural and convenient that they should link up especially around shared interests in Motor sport etc.

Thus one of the most significant partnerships in Motor Sport was forged. I do not think it can be under estimated that Colin Chapman the innovative designer from so early on in his career should be able to access the services of such competent craftsmen who could so thoroughly integrate ad execute the designs.

John Teychenne [Progress Chassis] possibly assisted by Len Terry [see our series on contemporaries] designed and constructed what might have been a dual sports and trails car. This was registered as YHX 344.

This car was bodied by Williams and Pritchard. John Teychenne was impressed. John was based at 19 Ribblesdale Road which was opposite the Railway Hotel and the stable block where Colin was to establish Lotus. [See photographs. The actual site is under current redevelopment] It is very possible that Progress constructed the chassis for the early Lotus trial cars but their most significant involvement came with the Lotus Mk.VI. It is believed that approximately 100 cars were built from 1952.

The semi stressed aluminium bodies for the space frame chassis were contracted to W&P. The advertisements for the period quote prices for both chassis construction and separate body work.

The production of 100 cars during this period is extremely significant. Not many present day specialist firms achieve this for one model. The prices for the period were expensive [a future article on social history will convey the relativities]. The Mk.VI enjoyed considerable success on the track within the “1172” Formula. The regular work would have employed several men.

It is believed that at a stage in the early 1950’d during the Mk.VI production life that W&P were based as part of the stable block in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey.

It has been quipped that W&P were “an arm’s length in house body work team” for Lotus at this stage.

During the 1960’s it is believed that W&P may have had additional premises in Hammersmith , West London. However by the mid 1960’s it seems that they had located at 25 First Avenue, Edmonton, London, N18.

With the development of fibre glass it was natural that W&P would be interested. Their ability to first create aluminium moulds gave them a start in the process and thereafter the commercial possibility of higher volumes.

It is believed that W&P produced a rage of fibre glass items that included bonnets for Sprites, fastbacks for Spitfires,Taga tops for M.G.’s , Broadspeed Mini panels and tops for the Élan coupe.

It is believed that sadly both craftsmen have now passed away. Although there are other skilled craftsmen the concentrations of complementary and empathetic skills were a major significance in Lotus success. The skill, dedication and goodwill of the craftsman must not be overlooked.

Typical Constructional Detail

The quality of the workmanship is difficult to fully appreciate on a completed and painted car. The best way the editor feels that he can explain is with reference to the cowl piece for the Lotus Mk.VI. The design and construction of this item involves 5 pieces. On completion and seen externally this is barely evident. [Please see photographs and diagrams.]Some of the primary factors are:

  • The cowl piece be detachable for access to primary instruments and wiring
  • That it meet with the body and dove tail with passenger side
  • That it be recessed to meet and provide flush fitting to bonnet line
  • That it allow some protection for the driver and fitting of a simple screen
  • That it follows the chassis hoop; sits with the dashboard and provides clearance to instruments.

The component parts have to be welded without distortion and be secured with Dzus fasteners.

The Essential Equipment

Wheel often known as English Wheel
Welding Equipment
Hand tools, riveter etc
Cutters and hacksaw

Quality /time and Cost

Len Pritchard is believed to have said to the effect that a Lotus Eleven body would take one man approximately 10-12 weeks to complete .However in period with a multiple workforce and semi mass production this might be reduced to three weeks.

Although there can be no disagreement regarding quality there was a down side.

There is some evidence to suggest that Colin Chapman found these costs expensive and that a production car would be prohibitive on this basis. It would seem that there was some attempt to simplify the Lotus Seven and that the more accident damageable and expensive items [nose cone and rear wings] were made in fibre glass due to costs involved.

Lotus: Coachwork / Bodies

Elite ?,
Formula 2 bodies.

Non Lotus :

Motor cycle fairings
Lister “Knobbly”
Elva Courier
Gordon –Keeble
Costin –Amigo
Speedwell and Sebring Sprites
Tornado Talisman
Replicas “D” Type under contract to Lynx and Wingfield
Mini Scorpion Broadspeed
Deep Sanderson

Williams and Pritchard by Mike Lawrence, Classic and Sports Car, March 1989

Author John Scott-Davies