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History of the Duncan Company

Duncan Industries (Engineers) Ltd of North Walsham, Norfolk might only have featured for a brief moment in the general flow of automotive history but in the space of less than two years, largely during 1947 and 1948, they can be credited with two very substantial achievements.

Ian Duncan came back home from the War to the family canning business in North Walsham with the prime aim of developing a revolutionary 2-3 seat small car.  Former colleagues, many from the aircraft industry, joined him in late 1946.  During the next 18 months, the "Dragonfly" prototype was brought together with features that included: 12" wheels, a BSA 500cc twin, type A7 engine; a gearbox which was integral with the crankcase; front wheel drive and a rubber based suspension system by Alex Moulton.  In October 1948, Leonard Lord, at Austin, paid £10,000 for the vehicle(s) and the rights - a considerable sum in those days.

Almost as an afterthought, and purely as a means of generating much needed cash, it was decided that the company should create a body that could be fitted to a suitable chassis.  Early trials were conducted with the Healey "A" chassis, however the first body to be commissioned, CVG119, was destined for the Alvis TA14.  Frank Hamblin, Dragonfly designer, had to take time out to 'run up a quick shape', one which we now know as the Duncan 'Aerodynamic' saloon.  Sadly, in the end, the company was defeated by Hugh Dalton's 'double Purchase Tax' legislation.  But still, in only a few months of trading, around 90 vehicles were bodied, a remarkable achievement as many of these cars still remain*, and are such a delight to drive and to own.


Article written by John Hay.

* some 19 vehicles on the Alvis chassis are believed to exist, representing a survival rate of over 50% from an original total of 36 that have been identified to date.

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