Born in 1885, Sydney Slater Guy was apprenticed to the Bellis & Morcom Steam Engineering Company at the age of 17 and by 1909, at the age of 24, was works manager at Sunbeam of Wolverhampton.
When profits rose tenfold in his period in charge, Sydney Guy considered he had earned an increase in his salary and a share of the profits. Not surprisingly, his requests were turned down and as a result he tendered his resignation.
It seems probable that Sydney Guy had already decided to set up his own business, since Guy Motors was registered on the same day he left Sunbeam, 30th May 1914.
By September 1914 he had established a new factory at Fallings Park, Wolverhampton and the first vehicle to be produced was a 30cwt truck.
At the time, the chassis, as was common amongst many manufacturers, could also be used as a bus chassis and the first Guy charabanc was built using the 30cwt chassis.
Running between Achnasheen railway station and Autbea, in the north of Scotland, this 14-seat charabanc was the first Guy to carry passengers in service.
With the advent of World War I, the factory was turned over to military work and it was to be 1919 before production of the 30cwt chassis was resumed in any quantity, with the chassis being fitted with a number of charabanc bodies for various operators.
In 1920 experiments with pneumatic suspension were carried out, but, because of the advances in the pneumatic tyre, they were abandoned.
The Guy J chassis was an early choice of some municipal authorities, such as Bournemouth Corporation, who had three such chassis fitted with 16-seat toastrack bodies by Steane, a local builder, for use between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier.
Portsmouth Corporation also purchased five J-type chassis with Wadham 15-seat bodies for use between Clarence Pier and South Parade Pier.
In 1924 Guy Motors introduced the first chassis specifically designed for bus use. Designated B, BA and BB it was available in three wheelbases, with the longest, the BB accommodating up to 30 passengers.
The following year the BB chassis was made available with the Daimler-Knight 5.76 litre engine and the designation changed to BK (or Premier Six).
In 1926 Guy Motors took over the ailing Star Engineering Company, also of Wolverhampton, whose most famous bus model was the Star Flyer.
The same year Guy introduced a forward control version of the BB, designated FBB, and later in the year produced Britain’s first low frame 6-wheel double-decker, the Guy BX model.
However, some undertakings were considering the trolleybus as a replacement vehicle for tramway systems, and Guy Motors produced the six-wheeled BTX, based on the BX chassis, with four models in the range.
The Company’s range of passenger vehicle chassis was enlarged in 1927 when the ‘C’ range became available, with a new Guy side valve 6-cylinder engine.
By this time the forward control vehicle was becoming more popular with operators, as more passengers per chassis could be accommodated, so the normal control variant in the ‘C’ range was dropped.
By 1930 the Gardner diesel engine was being offered as an option on Guy bus chassis, the start of a long and fruitful relationship between the two companies and Gardner engines continued to be offered by Guy Motors until the end of production.
In the early-1930’s Guy introduced the Wolf and Vixen chassis, both of which became popular with bus operators because of their light weight.
The best known of all Guy bus models the Arab was introduced in 1933. It was advertised as the first bus chassis designed specifically for the diesel engine, although much of the design was inherited from an earlier chassis – the FC.
The Gardner LW engine was offered as standard and the chassis bore the designation FD. The Arab was available as a single-deck model with either the Gardner 4LW or 5LW engine, and as a double-deck with the Gardner 5LW or 6LW engine. There was even a six-wheeled model (the FDX) aimed primarily at the overseas market.
When Guy Motors were invited to take part in Army trials in 1935, the Guy Ant was chosen by the military and production over the next few years, along with variations in the model, caused a slow down in production of other vehicles, including the Guy Arab passenger chassis; few were built between 1936 and 1941.
No doubt the military contract was one of the reasons why Guy Motors was asked to produce a double-deck chassis to wartime specifications after the onset of World War II. The prototype chassis was ready by the end of March 1941.
It was named the Guy Arab, after the 1933 chassis, but aluminium components were replaced by cast iron.
Due to the restriction of bus manufacturing during the war years, the Guy Arab was used by many undertakings new to the marque, and established their reputation for durability, helping to make Guy one of the leading post-war bus manufacturers when hostilities ended.
Wartime production consisted of the Guy Arab Mark I (an unofficial designation until 1950 when it was officially adopted to distinguish between various Arab models), of which about 500 were produced, and the Guy Arab Mark II (which used a longer bonnet and front wing).
Modifications were made to the Mark II in 1945, including the gradual return to aluminium components providing a reduction from wartime weights.
In 1946 Guy introduced the single-deck Arab, which featured a lower bonnet and a return to the polished aluminium radiator.
The following year Guy trolleybuses were once again produced (wartime vehicles had been manufactured under the Sunbeam marque at that Company’s Moorfield Works).
In 1948, Guy Motors purchased the Sunbeam Company and all future trolleybuses were marketed under the Sunbeam name.
With a return to peacetime production, Guy Motors reaped the benefit of its wartime activities, with new customers for the Arab chassis.
To cope with the added demand for bodywork, Guy began to produce its own single-deck bodies, and from 1948 double-deck bodies under an agreement with Park Royal.
In 1950 an order for 100 Arab chassis to a new design was received from Birmingham Corporation; this subsequently became the Arab Mk. IV.
The new design, however, did not meet with everyone’s approval and Guy continued to produce a traditional design as the Mk. III alongside the Mk. IV until the middle of 1953.
During the 1950’s many operators had shown a preference for the underfloor-engined single-deck chassis and Guy produced the Arab UF chassis, with the standard Gardner engine in a horizontally mounted position.
A lightweight version (the LUF) was introduced in 1952 and both models continued in production until 1959.
At the 1958 Commercial Motor Show, Guy Motors introduced the Wulfrunian. The design placed the engine alongside the driver at the front of the vehicle, but with the front axle dropped back so that front entrance bodywork could be accommodated.
Developed mainly in collaboration with the West Riding Automobile Company, who took 126 of the 137 vehicles eventually built, the Wulfrunian was not the success the Company had hoped for and production ceased in 1963.
The Guy Arab IV, which was produced alongside it, remained a popular model. However, continuing losses abroad, particularly in South Africa, and the heavy costs on warranties issued with the Wulfrunian, which had turned out to be poor in service, led to the company becoming insolvent in 1961 and the receivers were called in.
In August 1961, Jaguar Motors, who had already purchased Daimler the preceding year, purchased Guy Motors. By 1965 Jaguar had decided that the best strategy to market the marques under its wing was to become part of a large group.
Unfortunately, the group chosen was the ailing British Motor Corporation, which later merged with Leyland Motor Corporation to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation.
So it was that ultimately this decision led to Guy Motors becoming part of the Leyland Motor Corporation, with the inevitable consequences.
The introduction of the bus grant by the government, designed to encourage operators to modernise their fleet, favoured the rear-engined vehicles over the more traditional bus chassis favoured by many operators, and, as Leyland had three – the Arab V, the Regent V and the Leyland Titan – in its stable, it simply discontinued production of all except the rear-engined Fleetline and Atlantean models.
In 1969 the final Guy Arab chassis for the British market were delivered to Chester Corporation and after just over 50 years, Guy Motors bowed out of passenger vehicle production in Britain, although overseas customers still had the option of purchasing Guy models from British Leyland, the Victory being a popular choice.
In 1982, however, the Guy plant at Fallings Park was closed and production transferred to the Farington plant in Lancashire, although the Victory chassis continued to be built here until 1986, when the Guy marque finally disappeared into history.