Ronnie’s Motoring Trivia – The Name Behind the Brand


The world of motoring has many well known and trusted brands.

Here is a brief summary of how some of these businesses came about.


1. Lucas Electrical:

Joseph Lucas established the company whose name was found on the electrics of most British cars well into the sixties.

There are numerous jokes about Lucas products, all implying that they are poor quality and unreliable. I am of the view that this is very unfair as the many pre-war cars still using Lucas electrics should testify to.

Lucas was born in Birmingham in 1834. His working life began as an apprentice silversmith but he moved on from that and opened a simple hardware business. The business grew and when his son joined him they began making lamps to satisfy the growing demand for paraffin lighting.

This proved successful and from there it was a simple step to providing lamps and subsequently electrical equipment for the embryonic automobile industry. In truth, although the company had been founded by Joseph it was his son Harry who built it into the huge undertaking it became.

Joseph was a devout Christian who was active in the temperance movement due to his abhorrence of alcohol.

He was on holiday in Naples in 1902 when an outbreak of typhoid arose. His strong beliefs did not allow him to drink wine and he continued to take water. It seems the water was the source of the infection and he developed Typhoid and died.


2. Champion Spark Plugs:

Champion spark plugs have been a trusted product since the very early years of motoring.

Most folk assume the brand name was chosen simply to suggest the best that was available but this is not the case.

The brand was actually named after its founder, Albert Champion

In the early years of the 20th century Champion was a racing cyclist with an impressive list of victories to his credit.

A serious injury sustained in a car accident ended his racing career. He turned his attention to the early car industry subsequently moving to America where he set up a business dealing in car components.

The spark plugs bearing his name came on the market in 1907 and came to the attention of William Durant, founder of the General Motors Corporation who persuaded him to go into partnership.

An acrimonious legal dispute arose between Champion and earlier partners and by 1922 the ownership of the company passed to these partners.

Nothing daunted, Champion continued to market spark plugs using his initials (AC) as the brand name.

When Charles Lindbergh made a solo crossing of the Atlantic using his AC spark plugs he made full use of the resultant publicity to improve sales.

Both brand names survive to the present day.  AC is still part of the GM Empire and Champion Spark Plugs are marketed by Federal-Mogul.


3. KLG Spark Plugs:

Kenelm Lee Guinness was a young man with a skill and passion for motor racing in the early years of the last century.

As a member of the Irish Brewing family he had ample means to indulge his hobby.

However, he was no “Hooray Henry” but a gifted engineer who was closely involved in the design of his racing cars.

As engines developed the limitations of the spark plugs currently available became increasingly obvious.

He developed an improved insulator for spark plugs that radically improved their performance.

Initially, he only wished to make these plugs for his own use but word spread and  a demand from other wealthy enthusiasts led him to start a business producing them commercially.

This business received an enormous boost when the recently formed Royal Flying Corps began using them in all of their aircraft.

Sadly, in 1924 he sustained serious head injuries in a racing accident which appeared to change his personality.

He lost interest in racing and became depressed and  took his own life in 1937..

The company he founded continued as part of Smith’s Industries and played an important role during the Second World War.

KLG plugs are no longer produced but there is still a ready market for “new old stocks” which still turn up quite regularly.

Ronnie Johnston

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