Automotive Products, commonly abbreviated to AP, was an automotive industry components company set up in 1920 by Edward Boughton, Willie Emmott and Denis Brock, to import and sell American-made components to service the fleet of ex-military trucks left behind in Europe after World War I.
In 1928, they obtained a licence for the manufacture and sale of the Lockheed Hydraulic Braking System for the British Isles and Continental Europe, and in the following year they acquired a controlling interest in which had premises in Clemens Street, Leamington Spa. A subsidiary company named the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company Ltd was formed and brake component manufacture began.
In 1931, the Borg & Beck Company Limited was set up to manufacture clutches under American patents from Borg & Beck in the USA. This allowed the company to sell British made Borg & Beck clutches in Great Britain, overseas British possessions and the British Empire (except Canada). The same year, the first block of a new purpose-built factory in Tachbrook Road was opened, extending by 1970 to some 70 acres.
The company became the UK's leading manufacturer and supplier of clutches and braking, and was dominant in the market until the end of the 1970s.
AP also developed a close technical partnership with the British Motor Corporation (BMC), in the development of automatic transmissions. One of the most notable products of this collaboration was the unique AP automatic transmission used in the Mini and later BMC/BL compact models. The two companies jointly owned a plant in Kings Norton to produce the transmissions, and the matching variants of the A-series engines to go with them.
The business was bought by BBA (British Belting and Asbestos) in 1986, and sold on to a management consortium in 1995.
With the decline of the British Motor Industry, and increased competition from manufacturers in Europe, AP saw its sales shrink. The Leamington Spa site was gradually reduced, until the business was broken up, and its mainstream automotive division was sold in 2000 to Delphi Automotive Systems. The braking division, , was sold to an Indian multi-national, who supplies brake systems under the name . The brake division was bought by Raicam Industrie of Italy and moved to Redditch.
The Caparo company is unconnected with AP Racing, a competitor who specialised is high performance brake and clutch systems for motorsports applications. This company has since been purchased by Brembo S.p.A., but is still run as a separate entity.
Manumatic and Newtowndrive automated clutch systems
The Manumatic and Newtondrive systems are also known as "two-pedal transmissions". They relieve the driver of the need for skill in operating clutch and engine speed in conjunction with the gear change. At one time, Manumatic solely referred to an older type of semi-automatic transmission with an automatic clutch system, but today, the term "manumatic" generally just refers to standard torque converter automatic transmissions, with the ability to override the transmission computer, and select gears "manually," via the electronics.
A clutch servo powered by the vacuum at the induction manifold operated the automatic clutch - a conventional clutch incorporating centrifugal operation. A switch in the gear lever operated a solenoid valve so that when the gear lever moved, the clutch was disengaged. A control unit made throttle adjustments to keep the engine speed matched to the driven clutch plate and also varied the speed of clutch operation appropriate to road speed.
The Newtondrive system differed in making a provision for choke control and a cable linkage from the clutch operating mechanism to the throttle.
The systems could be fitted to smaller cars such as the Ford Anglia.
- Competition Commission report on Automotive Products Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- T.H. Wisdom & N.E. Riddihough, "50 Years of Progress", pub. 1970, p.6.
- "About Caparo AP Braking". AP Racing. Archived from the original on 2009-07-10.
- AP Racing About AP Racing Archived September 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Staton Abbey (ed) Practical Automobile Engineering Clutch Systems p 193-194