Friday, August 2, 2013

Where in the Isle of Wight? (part II)

We have discussed in the past how in the breakup of the Enfield Cycle Co. a portion of the factory that made marine engines was moved to the Isle of Wight. The company was purchased by Greek magnate John Goulandris.

It turns out that designer extraordinaire John Ackroyd, who would later go on to break the land speed record in a jet propelled car and many other feats worked at the factory and documents a bit how things went in his book "Jet Blast".

He says that Goulandris led a spartan, ascetic, life and was interested in yoga, clarinet playing and innovative engineering.

Apparently there was an additional factory to the one we mentioned in Somerton Works, it was located in Fishbourne Creek and was known as Ranelagh Works. You can see a picture here. It apparently has been torn down by now and replaced by some sort of boat launching terminal. At this factory was where the powerboat "Miss Enfield" was constructed and also a car ferry hovercraft EM1 (Enfield Marine One). I have not been able to find anything about it. Miss Enfield was designed by Don Shead and crafted in aluminum by Ernie Sims.

The Somerton works produced a two cylinder marine diesel engine and it is there where Enfield Automotive developed a series of electric cars. Somerton works was built as a hangar in 1916 and planes were built in int by Wight Aircraft. The company had a contract with the Electricity Council to deliver 66 electric cars. The early models did not meet the Council standards so a total redesign was called for, leading to the Enfield 8000. It was powered by eight heavy duty 12v batteries. By 1972 there were a couple of prototypes running very well at the factory. The engine was 8hp, but as all electric engines, was torquey, 0-30mph in 10s and a top speed of 40mph. Batteries would last for 40 miles. Things were looking good, with plans to sell to other public utilities and the general public. Goulandris took up residence in a hotel in Cowes to oversee the project. However, this was Britain in the 70's. The sheet metal workers smelled the prosperity and demanded a raise. Goulandris refused and they went on strike. Goulandris closed down the factory and that was the end of the Enfield 8000 at the Isle of Wight.

But this is Enfield, so the story had to have a twist. John Ackroyd had taken a job at Audi in Ingolstadt in Bavaria. One day he gets a call from Goulandris. He wanted to set up a factory on his Greek Island of Syros to build the Enfield 8000's. The factory was located near the Neorion Shipyards, formerly a British Navy base and repair yard
It was located in an old fabric dying factory on the waterfront. The workers came from the shipyard. The Somerton works was used as a base to handle the two way flow of parts (to Greece) and cars (to the UK). The first car rolled out in October 1973. It sold for a rather steep 2,800 Pounds (about 29,000 Pounds of today). Several models were produced, including an open runabout version called the "Bikini", and two four wheeled drive monsters called the Enfield Safari and Enfield Chicago. Dinorwic Power Station in Wales and Kiruna Iron Mines in Sweden were interested in rugged versions for underground transport in mining operations, where electric vehicles are preferred due to the pollution petrol engines cause. Two Bikinis with reinforced roofs were delivered, which were called "Enfield Miner".

By 1975 they had sold 123 vehicles. But in spite of the high price, the vehicles were selling at a loss. It became clear that it would be impossible so scale up production to the point where the operation could be profitable. Goulandris was happy to have produced the first practical electric car and moved on to other projects. By 1976 the factory closed and the workers went back to the shipyard. The Enfield 8000's remained in service with the Electricity Council till 1988, when they were sold at auction at the astonishing price of 1,100 Pounds, a lot for 13 year old vehicles. In 1983 a seven year old Enfield 8000 won both speed and endurance categories at a Battery Vehicle Society gala in Aldershot, another Enfield placed second.

You can see pictures of the various Enfield models in Ackroyd's website


  1. Simply amazing. Whatever else it lacked, Enfield never seems to have lacked creative people.

  2. Nigel Shuttleworth posted on the Royal Enfield GB Facebook page this:

    The Friday History Slot. This week its all Greek to me - and probably you too when you've finished reading it! In 1967 when E&HP Smith closed the Redditch factory and was happily disposing of the assets of the Enfield Cycle Co, Greek shipping magnate Giannis Goulandris bought Enfield Industrial Engines Ltd. (formed in 1955) whose products included the Enfield range of air cooled diesel engines such as a horizontally opposed twin cylinder boat engine and a diesel powered generator set which had been in production at Redditch since the beginning of WW2, and moved manufacture to the Somerton Industrial Estate, Newport Road, Cowes on the Isle-of-Wight. There the company produced the E8000CC Thunderbolt battery car, and in 1968 Goulandris formed a second company Enfield Marine Ltd to make the Enfield Z drive inboard/outboard powerboat propulsion unit. At a second facility, Ranelagh Boatyard, Fishbourne Quay on Wootton Creek, Cowes, Enfield Marine produced the Don Shead designed Avenger class aluminium hulled powerboats, the best known of which Miss Enfield 2 won the 1970 Cowes-Torquay race in the hands of Tommy Sopwith. Components for the electric E8000CC cars were manufactured at the Neorion factory on the Greek Island of Syros and assembled on the Isle-of-Wight. It boasted a top speed of 50 and a range of 40 miles on lead acid batteries. About 100 Thunderbolts were made in various forms and most were supplied to the Electricity Council, and three were ordered by Ronald Reagan, State Governor or California! In addition, the company also made several prototype petrol engined cars: the Enfield C9 4x4 Safari based on Range Rover running car and the C10 Chicago based on a Jeep chassis. It is known that two C10's survive, one in Salonika Museum and another in private hands and a C9 with Isle-of-Wight plates is still seen at various rallies on the Island. In 1977 Goulandris transferred production of the electric car back to Syros and closed the Somerton factory. The Z drive system was sold to Perkins Diesel and then on to Bob Knowles Plant Services Ltd of Leicester which still continues to manufacture the marine propulsion units to the original design to this day. Enfield Industrial Engines Ltd and Enfield Marine Ltd on the Isle of Wight were finally dissolved on 5th. April 2016.
    Thanks to Jorge Pullin for most of the background information and Chris Shields of Chertsey Marine Ltd for the image of the Enfield Z drive



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