Thomas Harrington Ltd (1897-1966) was a coach-building firm founded at Brighton, England. Their main business was building coach bodies on to chassis built by other manufacturers such as Commer and Bedford. The company was steadely growing and moved to Old Shoreham Road in Hove close to Brighton. During wartime they substituted by building armored vehicles on pre made chassis as well. After the death of founder Thomas Harrington, Ernest G. Harrington and Thomas R. Harrington, who acted as Joint Managing Director and Chairman until 1960, survived the firm. The company was then passed on to Clifford, Gordon, Peter, and Geoffrey and remained in their hands until the Robins and Day take-over in 1961.

Thomas R, who was 80 when he died in 1963, had passed the company on to a younger generation of Harrington’s who were ready to make some changes and embark in new directions. Harrington Ltd had previously been involved with custom-built bodies on such vehicles as Rolls Royce and Talbot. This experience played a role in the new direction they wanted to go. Although the coaches were selling very well, the coachworks was very small by comparison with their rivals and they lost a lot of business because they were unable to supply bodies quickly enough. Their coaches were high quality and expensive. In the early 1960's, times were tough for everyone, due to terrible financial inflation. They believed that automobiles could be turned around much quicker than coaches, thus generating profits quicker too.



Typical Fibreglass embellishment on a Harrington passenger coach

The one thing that Harrington Ltd., was very good at was fiberglass and they looked for ways to bank on this skill by providing it to other people. It was only to be expected that Rootes would turn to Harrington Ltd for their services with the Alpine coupe project. Since before the war, Harrington had been agents for the sales of Rootes cars and commercial vehicles. Therefore, the Harrington family and the Rootes family knew each other very well. Harrington Ltd actually ran a Rootes car dealership that remained a separate business from the coach-building firm. It was in March of 1961 that the Harrington Alpine was first introduced. Ron Humphries, the same man who designed the Cavalier coach, also designed the Harrington Alpine. This design received a very warm reception in the spring of 1961.

Sales for the new Harrington Alpine were on a special order basis. Therefore, a car could be personalized to the buyer’s own desires. According Chris McGovern in the book Alpine - The Classic Sunbeam, "It (The Harrington Alpine) was intended to be marketed in standard trim form, with the optional extra of trimming to customers requirements. But because of the sudden influx of orders received after the announcement, most of the cars were personalized and very few were actually made in standard form." This would hold true for the entire range of Harrington Alpines with the exception of the Harrington Le Mans cars destined to the US market. After the Harrington Alpine win at Le Mans in 1961, Rootes took special financial interest in Harrington Ltd. Always eager to increase their hold on the American market, they sent close to half of the 250 cars produced to the United States, all of which were built to a standard specification. As a matter of fact, Rootes even ordered the Harrington badges to be removed from all Le Mans cars by the end of production.


 Now, keep in mind that the Rootes Group did not take-over Harrington Ltd, The Robins and Day group purchased Harrington Ltd, and evidence from photographs prove that Robins and Day had involvement as early as 1961. The Rootes family owned Robins and Day, but privately and outside the Rootes Group. This is the part of the story that becomes unclear to most people. I believe it was done this way in order for Rootes to prevent tarnishing the relationship between the two families. But whatever the reason was, it wouldn't be long before Robins and Day Ltd would begin a change in management. In November 1962, Clifford Harrington resigned from the board and left the firm, Gordon H. Harrington took his place as General Manager and Desmond Rootes came on to the board as Director of Motor Trading. George Hartwell came in to take charge of the Harrington Le Mans project (KammTail cars). At this same time, Geoffrey Harrington was appointed to the Board as Sales Manager Manufacturing division and would remain on board until April 1965 continuing to sell coaches. It's known that Clifford Harrington had moved on to open a new business in manufacturing, taking his best employees with him. The day of the Harrington Alpine, however, was almost over by the end of 1962. Very few Series 'C' Harrington Alpines had been made, 20 at the most. Plans were on the table for a new roof design that would accommodate the Series 3 Alpine. Only a small handful of Series 3 and IV Alpines would be converted. At the same time Robins and Day group would finalize their take-over. Late 1962 Harrington approached the Triumph main dealer L.F. Dove of Wimbledon trying to get new influences for H.Ltd in conversions of TR4. Robins and Day employees and not Harrington Ltd craftsmen would produce the remaining Harrington Alpine Series 'D' and Triumph GTR4 Dové which was the name of the new TR4 coupé. Late 1964 Robins and Day, no longer willing to spend the money needed to keep Harrington Ltd afloat, finally decided to cease production. The last Sunbeam to be converted is the only one built Harrington Tiger in January 1965. The remaining GTR4 on TR4A base were assembled somewhere else.

note. Robins and Day Ltd still exists in the old Rootes building in Maidstone, Kent.

 Bob and I visiting the Harrington Factory, Hove in 1996

 The 1st July 1999 the old Harrington Factory building is in its last days as a telephone engineering workshop. Photos Bill Barwell, SAOC




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