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December 2015

My name is Alison Roper and I look after the Lucas Collection.

At this time of year it’s always interesting to peruse the archive to discover examples of the corporate ‘Christmas Past’. The Lucas house magazine ‘Reflections’ describes traditional departmental dinners and pensioners’ lunches, not to mention the numerous photographs showing (mostly!) delighted children at Christmas parties held by Lucas factories all over the country. We can also see the effort which the Company put into decorating their headquarters at Great King Street, often erecting an enormous tree on the bridge which connected the two buildings on either side of the site.

My document of the month, however, is a rather unusual Christmas card from 1975

Why This Document?

The corporate Christmas card is a well known phenomenon, in the case of Lucas it usually featured a wintery motoring scene, or perhaps a festive version of the ‘Lucas lion’ which had served as the company’s trademark for decades. This card, however, is rather different and records a change of identity. Rebranding is always a big decision and this card throws light on an interesting moment in Lucas history, at a time when the Heritage Motor Centre itself is about to become the British Motor Museum in order to better express the national importance of the Collections which it showcases.

The card is a beautiful example of the flair with which Lucas always approached its publicity, including a refreshing ability to not always take itself too seriously. This light-hearted ‘What in the name of Lucas is that?’ Christmas card was drawn by Albert Edward (Tom) Newton who worked in the advertising department and was also famous for designing greetings cards for Gordon Fraser in the 1970s. His cartoon captures perfectly a tone of uncertainty about something new. Santa looks down quizzically, while his reindeer sniffs at the new Lucas diagonal trademark which in October had replaced the famous Lucas lion. An article, written in 1975 for Lucas members worldwide and introduced by the chairman, Bernard Scott, announced : ‘For the whole world – a new corporate identity for Lucas’. It was just over a hundred years since Joseph Lucas had patented the Tom Bowling ship’s lamp, in which time the company had grown into a major international trading group. There were more than 200 different companies within Lucas Industries, many of them using brand names in which the word Lucas did not appear. Subsidiaries such as CAV, Girling, Simms, Bryce, Hartridge and Crosland Filters were known the world over but they traded under their own names and all had their own individual trademarks and symbols. This had been a deliberate policy, to avoid accusations of creating a monopoly.

Now, the pattern of international trade had changed and a commercial decision was made to bring all the companies together under a Lucas banner that would be recognised world-wide. The Lucas lion had been synonymous with the company since the early 1900s and was widely used by the advertising department, particularly in relation to the world of motor racing – in 1968 the lion appeared holding a chequered flag (‘The Lucas lion roars again at Monaco’) and in 1972, named Lennie, it was pictured dressed in racing driver’s garb, including helmet, holding a steering wheel (‘We’ve just brought out a brand new lion’). But by 1975, the company began to feel that the very British ‘lion’ symbol was inappropriate for what had become a truly international company. So the decision was made that, while the individual companies would continue to trade under their own names, they would in future be linked together under the name Lucas (as Lucas-CAV, Lucas-Girling and so on). At the same time, the old logos would also give way to a new symbol, a green diagonal band with an ‘L’-shaped cut.

As is often the case with major changes, there was some hesitancy at first, not just from Lucas employees, but also their agents and trading partners who feared that the traditions of the company might be lost. The new logo was a complete contrast to the old one, being an abstract design, and some people even suggested that the ‘L’ in the diagonal appeared to be sliding downhill. Nevertheless the green Lucas logo would become as familiar as the old lion had been. In fact it has, ironically, outlived the company itself. Lucas Industries had become part of the Canadian TRW group by 2000, but its name had such wide recognition that it was decided in 2003 to licence the brand, with its logo, to specialist firms who continue to make and sell electrical products – ‘in the name of Lucas’ as our Christmas card says.

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