Rochdale Motor Panels
& Engineering Ltd.
Rochdale Motor Panels are perhaps the best known of the specials companies, mainly because of the brilliant Olympic that came out in 1960. But as can be seen, there is a lot more to the Rochdale marque than the Rochdale Olympic.
Harry Smith and Frank Butterworth had founded Rochdale Motor Panels shortly after the war, but wasn't until 1948 that they made their first production body. Below is an advert for the Austin Seven chassid Mk2, presumably the M.G. type body was the Mk1.
A 1952 advert for the Mk2
Then in late1953 Harry and Frank began getting orders for one-off glass fibre bodies, they soon realized that GRP was the way forward and so the fibre glass MkVI was born. What happened to Mk's 3,4 and 5 I'm not sure, but the MkVI could be made to accommodate chassis of any width or length but the customer was left to cut out the bonnet and boot.
A March 54 advert for the MkVI minus grill
Also during 1954 Rochdale announced the "C" and "F" Types. The F type was bought as a one piece molding with the builder having to cut out the cockpit, boot, bonnet, doors and even the wheel arches and sill depth depending on which chassis he used. The C type was Rochdales first body shell designed for the 7`6" chassis although it could be supplied cut in half with panels supplied "to use as doors" so other chassis lengths could be accommodated.
Rochdale F Type
Rochdale C Type
Realizing that the main chassis that was being used by the special builders was the Ford Eight and Ten, in 1956 Rochdale announced the "ST" or Sports Tourer. This body shell was designed for just this chassis in mind and was also to be the first shell to be offered with a detachable hard top.
ST or Sports Tourer
Sole surviving ST hardtop
In 1957 Harry Smith realised that he now had need for a family car. So with Richard Parker now on board, they took the F type and made it into a fixed head and re jigged it around a few proprietary items from the Austin Morris parts bin, including the Oxford rear screen, Minor door frames and rear lights. They also incorporated VW front lights which were to be used on all new Rochdale shells from this point. The new model was a 2+2 called the GT and was to be Rochdales best seller.
Rochdale GT & Riviera
Rochdales next offering was the Riviera of 1959 originally offered as a two seater convertible and a four seater with detachable hardtop. To contradict this my own Riviera is a four seat convertible. Whether this is a four seater without the hardtop or a two seater that has been extended I'm not sure. The Riviera was basically the same as the GT from the bulkhead forward, it even used the same doors, but it did have a slightly different mouth and those go faster eye brows over the wheel arches.
Richard Parker, Frank Butterworth and Harry Smith with the GT at the Rochdale 50th anniversary.
Rochdale GT from the Netherlands.
Winner of the Burford Historic Sports Cars Trophy in 1990.
The car has been sold to the USA and is in Japan now.
Riviera four seat convertible
In 1960 Rochdale announced the Olympic. This was originally offered with the Ford sidevalve engine with the BMC A and B series the other options. Only a few were made with the sidevalve engine and all of the survivors today have later Ford or BMC engines.
Olympic no 1 and the sole survivor of the six that were built with Ford sidevalve power. Although this car now has a Triumph engine under the bonnet, It will be restored as original.
During 1961 there was a terrible fire at the factory and only the Olympic was built afterwards. Very few cars were sold after 1968-69 and the Olympic moulds were sold to a group of enthusiasts in the 1980s.