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Drawing board pic
Drawing board with drafting machine

The Design (or Drawing) Office was located on the first floor of the front office section, having access at one end via the Plumstead Road entrance by both stairs and a small lift, as well as being linked to the factory at the other end by another staircase.

Drawing Office looking West pic
Design office, looking to West side (c.1965)
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Ned Hooker Terry Wetherfield Dave Smith (apprentice)

The design staff worked in a large, well-lit room having almost continuous windows on two sides (although not exactly giving picturesque views).

On each side of a central gangway that ran the length of the office were arranged the 'pitches' of around seven draughtsmen (comprising drawing board on stand fitted with articulated drafting machine and several plan chests/working surfaces).

At one end, occupying a separate enclosed area, was the print room where copies of the draughtsman's tracings would be reproduced on a large ammonia printing and developing machine, for use throughout the factory.

Across the room sat the tracer at her (it was always a girl!) large light table, her job being to produce ink copies onto special linen sheets of any of the tracing paper drawings that were becoming damaged or deemed extra important.

The office manager had a partitioned-off office at the far end from the tracer, which he occupied along with his secretary.

DO manager Tony Denniss on P11-A pic
Tony Denniss on P11-A at Brands Hatch (1967)
Apprentice with Tony Denniss pic
Tony Denniss (L) in discussion with an apprentice

Tony Denniss took over this role from Horace Watson in the early '60s and one of his main functions was to allocate work to the draughtsmen and see that it was carried out satisfactorily and to the required time-scale.

A usual part of office procedure was that, before any of a draughtsman's new drawings were issued to the factory for manufacture, the whole project would be completely checked over by one of his colleagues (whether more or less experienced than himself). This was to ensure that any mistakes were picked up and corrected before parts were made in production quantities.

Slide rule and log tables pic
Slide rule and log tables

It is to be remembered that this was a time before computers, or even electronic calculators, so all 'number crunching' was carried out on slide rules or, if more accuracy were needed, by the laborious use of 6-figure logarithm tables.

All these calculations would be recorded in note books so that they could be referred back to at a later date if required. Because of the three-dimensional, ergonomic forms of motor cycles, some of the number work would be quite demanding and would tax the brain of modern day design staff brought-up on CAD programs that do the majority of the mathematics for them automatically.

The draughtsmen all had their own specialities and expertise; work involving gears would have been handled by one whilst anything to do with frames might be given to another. Usually, any drawing work needed by the race shop would also have been handled by one particular person assigned to the role.

Drawing Office (Trevor Denman) pic
Drawing office, looking along East side (c.1968)
Trevor Denman in foreground
Drawing Office (Terry Weatherfield) pic
Drawing office, looking to West side (c.1968)
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
Les Apps Terry Wetherfield

Another key member of the staff was the drawing office clerk, who was responsible for the maintenance of the parts schedules. These were large books where every part used on a particular model of bike was recorded for the use of all other departments, and had to be kept up-dated after every change made by the draughtsmen and then re-issued.

He was also officially in charge of the print room function, as regards day-to-day maintenance of the print machine and keeping stock of the special light-sensitive paper up to the required level, and was also the guardian of the office's sets of special drawing tools that the draughtsmen needed from time to time, for drawing extra large radii curves, etc.

The Drawing Office was not a particularly quiet place as there was always a lot of interaction going on between its own staff and with people from various other factory departments, as its output of drawings was the common currency used throughout the firm.
However, Bob Cakebread recalls an especially eerie day's work as a young draughtsman when you could have heard a (drawing) pin drop! You can read about it Here

Click the link below for more information on AMC's drawing office procedure.

Commando Bike of the Year award pic
Commando design award team at Greenwich Maritime Museum - May 1969
(hover cursor over faces to identify)
You can read 'Birth of the Norton Commando' article on the Links page.
Nick Hyde Bill Brooker Charlie Matthews John McLaren Bert Lambert Trevor Denman Eric Goodfellow Les Apps Peter Attwood Bob Cakebread Roger Jordan John Favill Terry Wetherfield Margaret Farley Mike Anderson Tony Denniss Bernard Hooper Eddie Bruce Bob Trigg Wally Wyatt

Click link below for other pictures taken at Commando Design Award event.

The Chief Designer and Chief Engineer occupied a separate room on the ground floor, tucked away under the stairs that led up to the Design Office.

This office was where the new concepts were devised and developed, leaving the main Drawing Office to translate the proposals into detailed drawings and specifications for eventual production.
A draughtsman would occasionally be seconded from the main office to work with these senior personnel if the work was considered to be of a confidential nature in the early stages of a development.

Charles Udall on prototype Velocette LE pic
Charles Udall on prototype Velocette LE
(Courtesy LE Velocette Club)

Occupants of the purposely discrete Design Office, in the latter days of AMC, have included:

Phil Walker - ex AJS designer of the 7R racer.

Horace Watson - ex Triumph and former manager of the AMC Drawing Office.

Charles Udall - ex Velocette and designer of the innovative sheet-metal framed Velocette-LE (aka Police 'Noddy Bike').

This cross-fertilisation of senior designers was something accepted as quite normal throughout the British motor cycle industry at the time in question.

Design and Drawing Office Personnel
Mike Anderson
Doug Anderson
Les (Hermie) Apps1967-69Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
Peter Attwood1966-69Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
W Baker
P Bourne
Jacqueline BreedloveSecretary
Bill Brown(1961)Draughtsman
Eddie Bruce
Bill Cakebread1963-66Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
Bob Cakebread1967-69Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
Geoff Carlton
Vi Carson? - 1969Print room clerk
John Clark1952 - ?7R3 racer d.1958 ex Douglas
Bert (H V) Colver(Jr)1928-36(son of Bert Culver Sn)
Eric CrouchDraughtsman
Alan (Snake Hips) Deakin
Trevor Denman1964-69Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
Tony Denniss1956-69Manager / Later at Norton Shenstone
Mrs DonovanTracer
Martin DonovanChief draughtsman / Clerk
Mike DuffRacer
Margaret FarleySecretary (to Tony Denniss)
John Favill
Marjorie Gillman1960 - ?Tracer
Chris GraceEx-apprentice / Draughtsman
Bill GreenDraughtsman
Gerry HartnellClerk (ex repair shop
Mary HeffernanTracer
P M HillsSecretary
Edward (Ned) HookerEx-apprentice / Draughtsman
Bernard HooperChief designer-Commando
Roger Jordan1967-68Commando sec. from NV
Geoff Josey1963-65Draughtsman ex.Rolls Royce
Robert Kay
Linda Ludgrove? - 1969Tracer
John Martin1965-69Draughtsman (ex police)
Charlie Matthews? - 1969Clerk (ex. race shop)
Cliff Packer1955-56Draughtsman
Frank PerrisRacer
John Rowlan/Rowlands(ex. assembly tester)
Howard SeatonDraughtsman
Alan SheathDraughtsman (racing)
Charlie Smith
Bob TriggDevelopment Engineer-Commando
Charles UdallChief Designer / Engineering Director (ex.Velocette)
Phil Walkerex. AJS (designer of 7R)
Ray WarrenDraughtsman (gearboxes)
Horace WatsonDev. Design Manager (ex.Triumph)
Terry Wetherfield? - 1969Ex-apprentice / Draughtsman
Vic Webb1941 - ?Racing
Peter WilliamsDraughtsman (son of Jack Williams)