By Michael Green
The Rover Motor Company of North America Limited.
Thank you for your interest in this chapter, as a young boy Land Rover's were everything to me! Here's my take on events regarding the Rover Motor Company and later British Leyland in North America. I'm Michael Green... Here's our story, with the help of a few family members and dear friends. Photo's are from RFGreen Collection, JamesJoss Collection, BL, WCBR-Collection, all of which carry and protected by US Copyright.
My father, Richard Green, joined the Rover Motor Company of North America Limited (located at 373 Shaw Rd, South San Francisco, CA and the main office in the Chrysler Building in New York City) in February 1960. Prior to that he'd been the Resident Engineer for DAVID BROWN - Aston Martin, based in San Leandro, California. This was where the DAVID BROWN Tractor office/parts depot was located. During this time I arrived... Funny family story; Dad took mum to the hospital in their XK140 Jaguar Coupe` and picked us up in an Aston Martin MkII Notchback, his company car. Thus my first ride in a car was in an Aston! Best part is, I've driven that car, and I maintain it too. It lives not far from Livermore, CA where I'm writing this now (in May 2016). Late '59/early '60 DB had sold this tractor division to CASE, hence they took over the building in Meeker Ave, which left Richard two choices; A) move to King of Prussia, or B) find another job. He chose the latter. After a number of interviews, including DODGE, Richard and George Glover both landed a job with the Rover Motor Company in South San Francisco. The new job would entail much of what he did at Aston's, his new position being in Service. Harold Taylor, then Service Manager, was transferred East, thus Richard became Service Manager for the Western USA. Later, after Bruce McWilliams had taken over as President of the company (1962), Richard was made Product Development Engineer (Roger Taylor then made Service Mgr). Like all the other major auto manufacturers, new safety and emission laws dictated the need for such a position.
Below: The Rover Stand! San Francisco Motor Show aka Imported Car Show, November 1960. Richard would play a long and important role in this event, becoming the Treasurer for it, his duties at Rover and later at British Leyland was to draw out how the show stand would look. I myself spent many wonderful days/nights there rushing about and looking in cars and watching old racing films!
Below: McWilliams at head of table (left) during a NY meeting. Richard seems a bit bored! He's 5th one down on left! 1962
I was just shy of being 2-years old when dad joined Rover's, I was now up to my eyeballs in Rover cars and Land Rover's. As a tot dad would bring home toy Land Rover's and sales brochures that I would proceed to cut up and paste all over my room with sticky tape, to my mother horror! One evening we had special guests for dinner, the Wilks Brothers! Spencer and Maurice Wilks to be exact. These were the men behind the Land Rover! I dragged them to my bedroom where they saw Land Rover's everywhere! It was a funny night for a little boy.
Since day-1 British cars and motorcycles have been part of my life. In 1967, at age-9, we were on vacation in North Shore Lake Tahoe, Nevad. Dad and I went out off roading on Mt Rose in the company 109" Station Wagon, #34300284A. I kept pestering dad that I could drive the Land Rover, to no avale. All of a sudden he stops, gets out and walks around to the passenger side, opens the door and says to me; "Drive the thing then." So I did! And for the next hour and a half I was rushing about in low-range in a 109" Land Rover. (Fyi: Thsi same 109" was later bought from the company as out family car, in something like 1971 they sold it for a new Rover 3500S. In 2002 this same 109" #34300284A arrived at my shop West Coast British in Livermore, CA on a trailer! I bought it and restored it 100% in less than a year... in fact, Im going home in it in a moment).
373 Shaw Road, South San Francisco; The memories of the original Rover Motor Co (below) are still in my head. Rushing through the warehouse looking at and playing in the new Land Rover's, even Dormoblies. Or driving in and out of the building up the huge and heavy wooden ramps... I remember that one of them broke we (dad & I) were moving a red 88", what noise that was! And the time we brought my childhood pal Brian Sawyer. For fun, LUCAS was just up the road from Rover, this is where Robin Biggins worked. Rover's became family, we all knew each other, kids included. The one I loved the most was Edith Downs, a English lady that was out of this world and adored me and my dad! Then there was Herb Goldie, who dad hired to run the Parts Dept (both of these people can be seen in the photo below at left). Others were Ed Milano (Sales; later owned a Honda-BSA-Yam Dlr), Harold Taylor (Service, went back east when Richard joined), Jim Joss (Canada & later Far East territory), Mike Fenner (Canada) and Roger Taylor (Canada & SF Zones).
Above: The Parts Dept at Shaw Rd; Note the Vehicles in the back, including two 109" Dormobile.
Omaha Farm & Tractor Show, 1960; If not the first thing Richard did a Rover's was to drive an 88" Diesel pick-up cab/ragtop from Hayward, CA to Omaha and back! At the same time Brian Green would bring a 109" from eastern Canada. I those days Interstate-80 was only a dream, Highway 40 was for real, two lanes all the way to Chicago, and the road went through ever town and city along the way. Can you only imagine driving a 2.25L Diesel Land Rover across country? It was Richard's first trip east from California. Sadly we have no photos of this and many other trips as Richard didn't have a camera.
Death Valley 1960; That summer Richard departed Hayward, CA (where we lived) in a new Rover 3-Litre, headed for another place he'd never been, Death Valley. He'd heard that this was THE place to go for hot weather testing. Heading south on Highway-99 from Tracy, the ambient temperatures began to soar as he made his way through Modesto and south towards Fresno and onto Bakersfield in car without air conditioning! Soon he'd swing east then north up 395 to Olancha where he'd turn east to Panamint Springs and places like Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, his final stop for the day... so he thought. The poor Rover 3-Litre wasn't liking life in the world of heat, 250+ below sea level and then hard climbs. A few time Richard was forced to stop to let it cool and refill the radiator. That evening when when the sun finally set but the temperatures rarely drop much he pointed the Rover for Las Vegas, another place he'd never been before. The next morning he found a good radiator shop in Vegas, they were worth their weight in gold in those days, helping motorists' with their woes. They took the radiator out and dad got to work making a drawing... You see before the war (he was called up on Sept 1st, 1939) Richard was a draftsman at the Patent Office in London, so making detailed drawing was a piece of cake as they say in America. AS Richard began drawing the guy at the radiator shop for busy getting ti out and taking the tanks off the core. The next day the Rover had a new cooling system, and after some local running and testing Richard would set off for Death valley on the Wednesday morning. The new cooling system passed with flying colors, even at high speed with ambient temps well over 117F the Rover kept it's cool! Time to head for home and get the drawing in the mail to Solihul. From then on all Rover 3-Litres that came to North America had dads radiator in them! Below: here's the car!
Wendover, Nevada 1960;
Can you say Donald Campbell, Bluebird and Worlds Land Speed Record? In
1960 Donald Campbell was to make an attempt ton the Worlds Land Speed
Record at Bonneville Salt Flats, supporting the Blue Bird were a number
of Rover cars and Land Rovers, representing the Rover Motor Company?
Your guessed it, Richard Green.
In September Richard headed for the
Bonneville Salt Flats, where Donald Campbell and his Bluebird would make
an attempt on the Worlds Land Speed Record, Richard is 4th
from the right.The Bluebrid was powered by a Bristol-Siddeley "Proteus"
jet engine, in order to start the record breaker five special Land
Rovers were required. One was an 88" Minimax fire truck, capable of
extinguishing jet fuel fires. Two 109s truck cabs carried special
equipment in the form of extra HD 24-volt batteries, an 8-kilowatt
generator (driven from the pto), and a 100 psi compressor to feed
portable high output fans, in addition to numerous instruments for
Below: Photos taken by RFGreen @ Bonneville & Wendover Airbase. The Black Rover 3-Litre was Richards company car... He was in Wendover for some six weeks. One night Richard, Donald Campbell, Mickie Thompson and (cant remember) took the Rover down the Salt Falts at speed in the dark... until they hit something (see bent license plate). Now and again they'd get fed up with the food in Wendover and head for Stockmans in Elko... and at record speed, as there was no speed limit in Nevada in those days except in town/city limits.
Service Week 1960; Part of Richard's job entailed a lot of traveling to and from Rover dealers across the western United States, most of which was behind the wheel of a Rover car. Richard enjoyed the driving, even more so to places he'd never been before, but for the long hauls it was United Airlines, for which he was a member of the 100,000 Mile Club when I was still a little boy. Needless to say, dad wasn't home a lot at times. When I was a baby and dad was still working for Astons, Mum and I travelled many a mile as a family, me tucked away in the back of the MkII Notchback, and in '59 a MkIII (which we have!), but it wouldn't be until I got a bit older that I would travel with dad on day trips to Rover dealers such as Merle Brennen in Reno, Nevada. By 1961 my sister Kerry arrived, when she got a bit older the whole family would go along in the summer to some of the dealer stops, more like we'd go to the beach in Monterey while dad went to work at the dealer, but over the years I went to many dealers and shops. All these names swimming around in my head such as Denis Riley in Hayward, CA; Dick Wright of Elko, NV; Merle Brennen in Reno, NV; or Glen Cabery Motors of Willits, CA; Jim O'Rourke of Oakhurt Motors; Haron Motors in Fresno, CA; Peter Satori in Pasadena, CA. Dad already know Peter Satori, he was an Aston Martin Dealer too! And the others we met along the way, including Bill Harrah of Reno, NV. Sometimes it was like we were forever in a car going to Los Angeles, and in those days it wasn't an easy run as mum would say, sometimes 10-11+ hours, and that was in the Aston!
Below: Rover Service Week at Peter Satori's in Pasadena, CA 1960; John Hopping & "Helper" (is what is written on photo) with Richard having a look at a Rover.
Below: Below: Rover Service Week at Peter Satori's in Pasadena, CA 1960;
Aston's and Land Rover's; We moved to a new home in Hayward in July 4th, 1958 and though I don't remember such, I was only 2-months old... I do later fondly remember the Rover's and Land Rover's, but most of all the Aston! One day the main water pipe burst under the sidewalk, and though I remember Mum digging it out, covered in mud, I can tell you that sitting there next to it all in the road was a tan 88" Truck cab with a canvas on the back! There was only one things that was better than a Land Rover and that was the 1932 1-1/2 Litre LeMans Aston Martin dad was restoring in the garage. Dad never lost his love for Aston Martins, our family life was full of them, be it AMOC events on the road or at our house in Dublin, or dad involved with a restoration, there was always an Aston at our house and along the way we met some wonderful people.
Below: Richard fitting dash to the Aston in 1963. For more on the Aston... http://www.offroadexperience.com/wcb/yellowpearl.htm
Below: B.A.M.A. Ride & Drive Press Day at Vacaville Raceway, California 1965