The record breaking Bean
Bean Cars were made in factories in Dudley, Worcestershire and Coseley, Staffodshire, England, between 1919 and 1929.
The company traced its origins beck to two auto-industry component suppliers, A Harper and Sons and Bean Ltd., both based in England’s Black Country. Having studied the mass production techniques recently pioneered by Henry Ford, the two companies got together to form a company for the mass production of passenger cars. For a few years in the early 1920s Bean outsold Austin and Morris. Their business model seems to have depended on undercutting competitors on price, however, which rendered the business cruelly dependent on maintaining high volumes regardless of the condition of the wider economy which, during these years, was undergoing a period of sustained turbulence.
The first Bean was a resurrection of the pre-World War 1 Perry Car, which had been taken over by A.Harper & Sons & Bean Ltd. Rated at 11.9 RAC horsepower, the 1147-cc 4-cylinder engine was linked to a separate 3-speed gearbox. The car in chassis form initially cost £400, but this was reduced to £245. A four-seat open body was £80. Production was divided between two plants, the one in Dudley producing bodies, and Coseley being responsible for assembly. Production of the model peaked at 80 a week in 1922, with about 10,000 being made in total.
1923 saw the launch of the 14, a much-improved model with a 2.3-litre engine in unit with a four-speed gearbox. About 4000 of all the variants were made up to 1929
In 1926, following financial problems, the company was rescued by steel supplier Hadfields Ltd from Sheffield, and a new model, the 18/50, was introduced with a 2.7-litre six-cylinder Meadows overhead valve engine. However, this car was to only last a year, with 500 being made. In chassis form it cost £365.
From 1927, all cars were known as Hadfield Beans, and the 14 was updated to become the 2300 cc 14/40. This used the Bean engine again.
The last car model was the 14/45 launched in 1928 and a further upgrade of the old 14 by using a Ricardo cylinder head design. It also now had four-wheel brakes and a worm drive rear axle. A sport model, the 14/70, was also available featuring a Dewandre brake servo.
No more cars were made from 1929, but the company continued to produce commercial vehicles for two years, and after that concentrated on making components.
In 1924, partly in recognition of the economic need to maintain production volumes, a small one ton truck was added to the range, and from then until 1931 Bean also manufactured commercial vehicles, concentrating on the lighter end of the market. The original truck was essentially an adapted passenger, car, but in 1927 an unashamedly commercial truck was launched, now with a payload capacity of 30cwt (1500 kg).Unfortunately for Bean, Morris entered the UK light truck sector at the same time: intense competition in the sector largely drove out the only other competitors in the UK market (mostly imports originating in the USA): Bean’s own finances also suffered, despite ongoing funding from Hadfield Steel, and the company’s foray into commercial vehicle production ended in 1931 as Bean reverted to their former role as a components supplier.
Australian expeditionary Francis Birtles made a number of epic and record breaking journeys in Bean Cars, including being the first person to drive from England to Australia in 1927.
The Tipton factory was also responsible for making Captain George Eyston’s world-land-speed-record car Thunderbolt, which took the record in 1937.
As a final flourish they purchased the Reliant car company in the early 1990s.
The Dudley factory is still in existence as part of an unconnected private business. The office building on Sedgley Road, Tipton was bought by Tipton Urban District Conucil in 1934 and was converted for use as the Tipton Municipal Offices. In 1966 it was transferred to Dudley Technical College. It is currently in use as private offices. The Coseley site remained in the automotive business as a parts supplier until being forced to close due to financial problems in 2005, and the bulk of the site remains in existence. However, the newer phase of the factory that was built during Bean’s years as an industry supplier was demolished soon after the firm’s closure, and the land (actually located over the border in Tipton) was occupied by new houses within a few months. One of the streets on this new estate, Thunderbolt Way, takes its name from a former Bean product. A large collection of Bean cars is to be seen at the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway.
The Coseley factory was finally demolished in 2008, and the site remains undeveloped.
The address Bean Road (Dudley DY2) has long existed for a residential street within 200 yards (200 m) of the Dudley factory, while Bean Road (Coseley) provides an access to the former Coseley factory site, and the nearby Bean Drive is a cul-de-sac off Thunderbolt way in Tipton.
Main car models
|11.9||1919-1927||10,000||1796 cc four cylinder||Also known as the 12|
|14||1924-1928||4000 (all 14s)||2300 cc four cylinder||Became 14/40 in 1928|
|18/50||1926-1928||500||2692 cc Meadows four cylinder|
|14/45||1928-1929||see 14||2300 cc four cylinder||Updated 14. Usually advertised as a Hadfield Bean|
|14/70||1928-1929||see 14||2300 cc four cylinder||Sports version of the 14/45|