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Coventry Climax
Former type Limited company
Fate Purchased by Jaguar Cars, businesses merged by British Leyland or divested
Predecessor Coventry-Simplex
Successor Kalmar Climax (forklift business)
Founded 1903
Defunct 1986 (Coventry Climax Holdings Ltd)
Headquarters Coventry
Key people Lee Stroyer, Henry Pelham Lee
Industry Speciality machinery and engine manufacture

Coventry Climax was a British forklift truck, fire pump, and speciality engine manufacturer.



Coventry Climax ET 199 (1949 model)

The company was started in 1903 as Lee Stroyer, but two years later following the departure of Stroyer, was relocated to Paynes Lane, Coventry, and renamed to Coventry-Simplex by H. Pelham Lee[1], a former Daimler employee, who saw a need for competition in the nascent piston engine market.

Coventry Climax first became well known for supplying motors for the tractor used by Sir Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition in 1914. .

An early user was GWK, who produced over 1000 light cars with Coventry-Simplex two-cylinder engines between 1911 and 1915. Just before World War I a Coventry-Simplex engine was used by Lionel Martin to power the first Aston Martin car[2]. Ernest Shackleton selected Coventry-Simplex to power the tractors that were to be used in his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914.

Hundreds of Coventry-Simplex engines were manufactured during World War I to be used in generating sets for searchlights. In 1917 the company was renamed to Coventry Climax and moved to East Street, Coventry.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s they supplied engines to many companies manufacturing light-cars such as Abbey, AJS, Albatross, Ashton-Evans, Bayliss-Thomas, Clyno, Crossley, Crouch, GWK, Marendaz, Morgan, Triumph, Swift, and Standard. In the 1920s the company moved to Friars Road, Coventry and in the late 1930s they also acquired the ex-Riley premises in Widdrington Road, Coventry. In the early 1930s the company also supplied engines for buses.

1930s expanded to include Triumph, Morgan and Standard. With the closure of Swift in 1931 they were left with a stock of engines that were converted to drive electric generators giving the company an entry into a new field. The economic problems of the 1930s hit the business hard and Leonard Pelham Lee, who had taken over from his father, diversified into the production of water-pumping equipment and the "Godiva" was born. This Fire Engine which saw widespread use during the Second World War was better known to the public as the "Green Goddess". Post-war Coventry Climax users included Clan, Hillman, Kieft, Lotus, Cooper, and TVR.

In the late 1940s, the company shifted away from automobile engines and into other markets, including diesels for marine and fire pumps and fork lift trucks. In 1946 the ET199 was announced, which the company claimed was the first British produced forklift truck. The ET 199 was designed to carry a 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) load with a 24-inch (610 mm) load centre, and with a 9 ft (2.7 m) lift height[3].

In 1950 Walter Hassan, ex Jaguar and Bentley joined them, and a new lightweight overhead camshaft engine was developed called the FW (Feather Weight).The engine was displayed at the Motor Show in London and attracted attention from the motor racing fraternity. Lee concluded that success in competition would lead to more customers for the company and so Hassan designed the FWA, a feather weight engine for automobiles. The first Coventry Climax racing engine appeared at the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours in the back of a Kieft chassis but this failed to finish the event. The engine became popular in sportscar racing and was followed by a Mark II and then by an FWB which had a capacity of nearly 1.5-liters. The new Formula 2 regulations suited the 1.5-liter engine and it quickly became the engine to have in F2. The following year the first Climax engines began to appear in Formula 1 in the back of Cooper chassis. Initially these were FWBs but the FPF engine followed. Stirling Moss scored the company's first Formula 1 victory in Argentina in 1958, using a 1.9-liter version of the engine. In general terms, however, the engines were not powerful enough to compete with the 2.5-liter machinery and it was not until the 2.5-liter version of the FPF arrived in 1959 that Jack Brabham was able to win the World Championship in a Cooper-Climax. At the same time the company produced the FWE engine for the Lotus Elite and this enjoyed considerable success in sportscar racing, with a series of class wins at Le Mans in the early 1960s. In 1961 there was a new 1.5-liter formula and the FPF engine was given a new lease of life, although the company began work on a V8 engine, designated the FWMW, and this began winning races in 1962 with Jim Clark. There would be a total of 22 Grand Prix victories before 1966 when the new 3-liter formula was introduced.

Away from the car engine business Coventry Climax used their marine diesel experience to further develop and build the Armstrong Whitworth supercharged H30 multi fuel engine for military use. This has been fitted as an auxiliary engine in the British Chieftain and Challenger battle tanks and Rapier anti aircraft missile systems.

The company was purchased by Jaguar Cars in 1963, which itself merged with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH), BMH then merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968 to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which was then nationalised in 1975 as British Leyland (BL). Coventry Climax became part of the British Leyland Special Products division - alongside Alvis, Aveling-Barford and others. At the end of 1978 BL brought together Coventry Climax Limited, Leyland Vehicles Limited (trucks, buses and tractors), Alvis Limited (military vehicles) and Self-Changing Gears Limited (heavy-duty transmissions), into a new group called BL Commercial Vehicles (BLCV) under managing director David Abell.

In the early 1970s the fire pump business was sold back into private ownership, and the Godiva Fire Pumps company was formed in Warwick.

In 1977 Coventry Climax acquired the Warrington forklift truck business of Rubery Owen Conveyancer, renaming it to Climax Conveyancer.

1982 saw the sell-off by BL of the Coventry Climax forklift truck business back into private ownership, to Coventry Climax Holdings Limited. Sir Emmanuel Kaye, also chairman and a major shareholder of Lansing Bagnall at the time, formed the company, independent of his other interests for the purpose of acquiring Coventry Climax.

In 1986 Coventry Climax went into receivership and was acquired by Cronin Tubular. In 1990 a further change of ownership came with the engine business being sold to Horstman Defence Systems of Bath, Somerset thus breaking the link with Coventry.

Kalmar Industries acquired the forklift truck interests of Coventry Climax in 1985, the company traded as Kalmar Climax for a few years, but is now trading as Kalmar Industries Ltd.[4]

A new company has been registered #7041991 COVENTRY CLIMAX ENGINEERING LTD. that plan to build new Coventry Climax FPF 2.5 liter F1 engines for the Kieft 'Corsa Veloce'. Based in Chichester owned by Canadian Peter Schömer.

The engines



Type OC engine in a Crossley 10hp

The OC was initially made with a capacity of 1122 cc straight-4 with bore of 63 mm and stroke of 90 mm with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves producing 34 bhp (25 kW). It was introduced in the early 1930s and also built under licence by Triumph.


A six cylinder version of the OC engine, the JM, was made with a capacity of 1476 cc developing 42 bhp (31 kW). The JMC version had a capacity increase to 1640 cc by increasing the bore to 63 mm and produced 48 bhp (36 kW).


A 1.1L FWA straight-4, installed in a Lotus 17 sports car.

The FW 38 hp 1020 cc straight-4 SOHC was designed by Walter Hassan and Harry Mundy as the motive unit for a portable service firepump. In 1953 it was adapted for automotive racing as the 1097 cc FWA, producing 71 hp (53 kW) it was first used at Le Mans in 1954 by Kieft Cars. The larger bore and longer stroke 1460 cc FWB engine followed producing a nominal 108 bhp (81 kW). The most significant of the series was the FWE which used the FWB bore size and the FWA stroke; it was specifically designed for the first generation Lotus Elite but became a firm favorite with a number of sports car racing firms for its racing durability and high power-to-weight ratio. Other FW variants included a short stroke version of the FWA to produce the 750 cc FWC as used by Dan Gurney early in his career in US club racing. the objective of this engine was for the successful Lotus campaign to win the Le Mans Index of performance prize in 1957. The FWMA engine was a follow up to the FWC and was based on the FWM marine engine. In its automotive guise as the FWMA it was less successful than the FWC when used by Lotus cars, but was eventually adapted by Rootes to provide the lightweight engine for the Hillman Imp. FWE powered Lotus Elite cars won their class six times and the 'Index of thermal Efficiency' once during the 24 Hours of Le Mans. FW series engines in modified forms also powered Lotus Eleven cars which took three class wins at Le Mans and one 'Index of Performance' win.


A 2.5L FPF straight-4, installed in a Lotus 18 Formula One car.

The FPF was a pure-racing development twin cam version from the basic FWB layout. It started life as a 1.5 L Formula Two engine, and was gradually enlarged for use in Formula One. A 2.0 L version took Stirling Moss and Maurice Trintignant to Cooper's first two Grand Prix victories against 2.5 L opposition in 1958. The engine was subsequently developed into a full-sized 2.5 L Formula One unit and Jack Brabham won the World Championship of Drivers in both 1959 and 1960 driving FPF powered Coopers. The FPF was then adapted to the new 1.5 litre Formula One of 1961 and won three World Championship Grand Prix races in that year. In addition, capacity was increased to 2.7 L for Indy and Formula Libre racing and this larger variant also served as a stopgap in the new 3.0 L Formula One which was introduced in 1966. The seemingly obsolete 2.5 litre FPF gained a new lease of life in 1964 with the introduction of the Tasman Formula and the Australian National Formula, both of which had a maximum capacity of 2.5 litres.


A 1.5L FWMV V8, installed in a Lotus 24 Formula One car.

Another successful engine from the company was the 1.5litre FWMV V8, developed from the marine unit. It produced 174 hp (130 kW) and made its debut in 1961. From the following year through to 1965 it powered Cooper, Lotus and Brabham Formula One cars to victory in a total of 22 World Championship Grand Prix races. Scotland’s Jim Clark won the World Championship of Drivers in both 1963 and 1965 with FWMV powered Lotus 25 and 33 models.


Coventry Climax built two notable engines un-raced in their original form — first the V8 FPE ("Godiva"), which was intended for the start of the 2.5 L Formula One in 1954. It was withdrawn due to fears about the rumoured power of Mercedes and other engines, but in fact it would have been competitive.[citation needed] Paul Emery acquired a Godiva and fitted it to an old F3 chassis to make the Shannon F1 car in 1966, and the engine later ran in something close to its original form in the Kieft Grand Prix car when that was finally finished in 2003.


The other un-raced engine was the flat-16 FWMW; work on this continued through the later years of the 1.5 L formula with Lotus and Brabham the likely recipients, but there were a number of design issues still to solve before the formula ran out. At this time the engine had not only shown little power advantage over the V8 it had a number of design complexities that would either have taken a major rework to solve or at least resulted in the need for complete engine rebuilds after 3 hours running. The fact that the conjoined 3 part crank tended to move radially resulting in the engine becoming two aphasic V8s, also the central spur gear drive to parallel quill shaft driving the flywheel caused several problems.

F1 engines

The F1 engines were as follows:

  • 1954 2.5 litre V-8 2.94 x 2.80" 264 bhp (197 kW) @ 7,900 rpm Godiva
  • 1959 2.5 litre 4 cyl 3.70 x 3.50" 220 bhp (160 kW) @6,500 rpm
  • 1960 2.5 litre 4 cyl 3.70 x 3.54" 240 bhp (180 kW) @ 6,750 rpm
  • 1960 1.5 litre 4 cyl 3.20 x 2.80" Formula 2
  • 1961 2.75 litre 4 cyl 3.78 x 3.74" Indianapolis and Formula Libre
  • 1961 1.5 litre 4 cyl 3.22 x 2.80" 150 bhp (110 kW) @ 7,500 rpm
  • 1962 1.5 litre V-8 2.48 x 2.36" 180 bhp (130 kW) @ 8,500 rpm
  • 1963 1.5 litre V-8 2.675 x 2.03" 195 bhp (145 kW) @ 9,500 rpm fuel injection
  • 1964 1.5 litre V-8 2.85 x 1.79" 200 bhp (150 kW) @ 9,750 rpm
  • 1965 1.5 litre V-8 2.85 x 1.79" 210 bhp (160 kW) @ 10,500 rpm 4 valve/cyl
  • 1966 2.0 litre V-8 2.85 x 2.36" 244 bhp (182 kW) @ 8,900 rpm 4 valve/cyl
  • 1965 1.5 litre F-16 2.13 x 1.60" 220/225 bhp @ 12,000 rpm 2 valve/cyl (209 bhp measured)

Climax-powered vehicles

Some notable Coventry Climax-powered cars:

See also


  • 'Coventry Climax Racing Engines: The Definitive Development History' Author — Des Hammill (ISBN 1-903706-83-1)
  • Coventry Climax Engines Ltd


  1. ^ Simister, John. Legendary Car Engines: Inner Secrets of the World's 20 Best. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing. pp. 76. ISBN 0-7603-1941-3. 
  2. ^ "Aston Martin: Car Manufacturer: Great British Design Quest". Design Museum. 
  3. ^ Coventry Transport Museum
  4. ^ Kalmar Industries ltd. : About Us

External links


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