My Car Quest

August 8, 2022

Remembering John Blatchley of Rolls Royce

A man who shaped Rolls Royce.

by Wallace Wyss –

It’s funny how it all works out. Many decades ago, a 12 year old lad in England named John Blatchley was beset by rheumatic fever and confined to bed for three years.

He began sketching. That student became a car designer when he grew up and is responsible for some of the most significant Rolls-Royce’s as well as some pre-war custom classics.

John Blatchley

John Blatchley

He started out his education by learning the mechanics of automobiles at the the Chelsea School of Engineering, followed by Regent Street Polytechnic, and then landed a job in 1935 with the leading London coach builder Gurney Nutting. You might say Gurney-Nutting did more eccentric designs, not so polished as James Young, but still a popular coach builder. Before the war, with luxury cars, you often ordered a chassis and then went shopping for a coach builder.

Rolls Royce

Luxury was John Blatchley’s speciality

Originally he was hired to make the initial drawings of customers’ bespoke car bodies, But he was so good at it that within 3 years he was head designer. The designs were so individualistic, rarely were there two cars made alike. Many bespoke designs were completed in just six weeks. But by 1940, the market disappeared with the onset of war and Blatchley went to Rolls-Royce’s Nottinghamshire factory, designing metal aero engine cowlings… all alike… which bored him to death.

However, a post-war Rolls-Royce car was secretly being done and he was in it neck deep, though it meant Rolls was almost giving up on outside coach builders. as this would be their “standard steel saloon.”

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud Sketch

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud Sketch

Blatchley was appointed Rolls-Royce’s first ever stylist. He saw his job as putting a little finesse into it – making each mass produced car look like a craftsman-made car though it would be made by the thousands. And he did the whole lot – interior too. That car became the 1946 Bentley MkVI which had a near twin sister, the Silver Dawn. He also almost “accidentally” came up with the Silver Cloud/S-type Bentley design. He had spent years doing this new generation, but it was shot down for being “too modern” and then, understanding what they wanted, he did a sketch in 10 minutes which was then approved.

Postwar Bentley

Postwar Bentley

But he really didn’t like the regulations forcing him to change a “pure” design so elected early retirement at age 55. He and his wife moved out to the country and enjoyed visiting Rolls and Bentley club events. He was called by BMW in 2002 to advise on a new generation of designs but panned all the designs presented except one… and that was the one they went with.

He died in 2008.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss comments weekly on design as co-host of “Autotalk” presented on KUCR FM Riverside.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Rolls Royce

Looks more like a Jaguar XK120

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Remembering John Blatchley of Rolls Royce
Article Name
Remembering John Blatchley of Rolls Royce
Description
John Blatchley was appointed Rolls-Royce's first ever stylist. He saw his job as putting a little finesse into it – making each mass produced car look like a craftsman-made car.
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Comments

  1. John Shea says

    My father had rheumatic fever when he was in his 20’s. It took a doctors recommendation for him to move from NJ to California for him to recover enough to resume his career as a tool maker. Terrible affliction.

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