Monday, December 7, 2009

David Brown


Sir David Brown (10 May 1904 - 3 September 1993) was an English entrepreneur, managing director of his family firm David Brown Limited and one time owner of shipbuilders Vosper Thornycroft.
Brown was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. After attending Rossall School he started work as an apprentice in the family business, David Brown Gear Company Ltd. He became managing director in 1931, on his uncle Percy's death. In 1934 the company built a new factory on a site at Meltham, on the south side of Huddersfield. Brown, who also owned a farm, started building tractors with Harry Ferguson there in 1939, but they disagreed over design details, which led David Brown to design his own version.

During the Second World War his new heavier tractor, called the David Brown VAK1, was produced, with over 7,700 units eventually sold, making Brown into a wealthy man. Harry Ferguson went to America and did a deal with Henry Ford to incorporate his system in the Fordson N series, before setting up Ferguson tractors. In 1972, the David Brown tractor interests were sold to Tenneco International (Inc.), and were rebadged as Case.

In 1947, Brown saw a classified advertisement in The Times, offering for sale a High Class Motor Business. Brown acquired Aston Martin for £20,500 and, in the following year, Lagonda for £52,500, followed by the coachbuilder Tickford in 1955. He subsequently concentrated all the Aston Martin manufacturing at the Tickford premises in Newport Pagnell.

The legendary 'DB' series of Aston Martin cars, including the Atom, the DB2, the DB3, the DB4, the DB5 (famously driven by fictional character James Bond), the DB6, and the DB7 - Aston's most successful model yet - were named after Brown using his initials. Ironically, while at the helm of Aston Martin, he actually used a rival product, a Jaguar XJ Series I, as personal transport. Aston Martin was sold off in the 1970s when the company was in financial difficulties.

He was a natural adventurer who owned race horses, played polo, raced cars and motorcycles, and was a qualified pilot. He was knighted in 1968.

He married three times, to Daisy Muriel Firth in 1926, Marjorie Deans (his secretary) in 1955 and to Paula Benton Stone in 1980. He had two children, David and Angela, both of whom entered the family business. Angela married George Abecassis the racing driver. Sir David Brown died in September 1993 in Monte Carlo, 8 years before David Brown Ltd was acquired by Textron Inc.


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