Les Brown




The official launch at Touchstones proved to be a rather wonderful event for those attending, and it was good to see that the Observer article brought out so many with connections to the firm. The owners of the firm throughout its later heyday were Frank Butterworth and Harry Smith, also  Denys Wolstenholme for much of the early days. Especially pleasing was the presence of all three of the owners' families, seen below in the form of Phil Butterworth, Alan Smith and Mike Wolstenholme - all sons of those owners, together for the first time in - who knows? In particular, the Smith family were there in abundance and were clearly very pleased to see the story in print after so many years.

Ron Batley, the first apprentice from 1948 and seen at the bottom with myself and Alan Farrer's "Kermit" remarkably made the journey all the way from Torquay specially for the event. After leaving the Rochdale firm in the mid 1950s, Ron later went on to manage the Great Britain Skiing team, and in this context, remarkably, had had previous dealings with Mike Wolstenholme  without either realising their connection to the firm!

Others with interesting connections included John Ratcliffe and John Taylor - the "T" of the Littleborough-based BRT team that won several British championships through the 1960s. Apparently there were many connections between the two firms, which sadly ground to a halt after a dramatic crash in a lightweight Olympic on Blackstone Edge. "We were the ones who swept up the bits!" I was told.


The firm was started in 1948 and continued to make cars right up to 1972, when they moved on into other areas. Working initially on body repairs, they quickly became involved in the construction of aluminium bodies, chiefly for racing purposes, and by 1954 were one of the very first British firms to offer glass fibre body work.

In addition to the one-off aluminium specials, Rochdale went on to list no fewer than EIGHT different types of sports car, with several, eg the Olympic, available in various different formats. All Rochdale's cars were attractively built, showing many features  considered ground-breaking at the time. The fact that virtually all Rochdales were designed to be assembled by the amateur enthusiast was both the making and the breaking of the cars. Given a modicum of skill in assembly, all Rochdale's designs were capable of being made into a car at least the equal of the best available elsewhere. Virtually every test report ended with a plea that some "big manufacturer" take over their designs and make them in the quantities they deserved "some of them would be a lot better doing that than mucking about with the rubbish they're turning out now" said Small Car after being amazed by just how much the Olympic out-performed the equivalent TVR.

But it never happened. The cars were only ever produced in small numbers and the marque has sadly slipped into relative obscurity in recent years in spite of being highly respected by knowledgeable enthusiasts in their day. The book aims to set the record straight on just how good the rugged cars from the tiny Lancashire firm could be, It aims to paint a picture of the colourful events taking place behind factory doors and also some idea of the social conditions which enabled designs such as these thrive; what was lacking in finances was made up, in many cases, by sheer enthusiasm and skill in the developing post-war era.

The story of the cars is linked intrinsically with that of the town and also of the times. Born out of the austerity of the early post war years, the firm offered stylish yet practical transport to the impecunious enthusiast of the time, yet was able to offer stunningly advanced cars as the 'swinging sixties' dawned.

  • Full colour throughout
  • 240 10" x 8" top quality pages
  • 365 photographs many of which have never been previously published
  • All factory projects covered, including juke boxes, speedboats and caravans
  • Foreword by Steve Berry





A third, paperback edition of Pioneers has now been published. This includes all the original information and also an extra 18 pages of updates. Details are available on the back page and can be reached by clicking HERE 

Brisk sales of the book have gone worldwide. Especially gratifying has been the response from the Continent, with German enthusiasts in particular showing a keen interest in the Rochdale cars.I am including a recent clip from the Rochdale Observer which Phil Butterworth sent to me. Apart from the picture of John Walkington's sumptuous Type C, taken to be me and my GT, the report is very good.  Other reviews of the book have appeared in Classic and Sportscar, Octane, Practical Classics, Classic Car Weekly, Classic Car Buyer,  Classic Car, The Automobile, and Total Kit Car (TKC) as well as overseas publications, which are shown here. Although all the cars were remarkably good in their day, I tried to make this as much a book about Rochdale, and the working people of Rochdale in the 1950s and 1960s. I was strongly advised by various publishers that this would not work, but the history of the cars is intrinsically linked to the town it is named after, and it is pleasing to see that this aspect has been very much appreciated by all I have spoken to.

For further information (as well as a number of long-lost cars) go toour facebook pages - just click the logo below to see them.

The Olympic is currently much the best known of the various Rochdale models, and is shown here in its original Phase I form, in production from 1960 onwards.

The blue and white car shows the PHASE II version of the Olympic, which appeared in 1963. The example shown here has been prepared for racing, using an "A" series engine.

The GT shown here is one of a number which has made its way to ITALY, where it is a very highly sought after car. The GT was an enormous success for Rochdale, and  sold in bigger numbers than all the other models combined. 1957-61

The Mark VI was available 1954-1960 and was one of the first glass fibre bodies available in Britain.

The Mark II was available from about 1950 onwards and was hand made in aluminium

The ST was available 1957-59 and broke new ground in a number of ways


Great book - thank you for sending your Rochdale masterwork for review. We love it. Time we did a full feature of these great sports cars.” Mick Walsh, Editor-in-Chief, Classic & Sports Car

Read what more people have had to say about the Rochdale book on page 2