The designer


Gerald Palmer, who died in June '99 at the age of 88, was a designer par excellence. Known to M.G. enthusiasts as the creator of the ZA Magnette and an important influence in the Y-type, his achievements also included a number of BMC‘s cars of the 1950s as well as, and perhaps most importantly, the Jowett Javelin, which he created from the ground up, and which demonstrated that function and utility need not be at the expense of style and performance.
 He was born in 1911 and spent his childhood in Southern Rhodesia, where his father was a railway engineer. By the age of 16 he had made a rakish two seat boat-tailed body tor the family‘s old Model-T Ford before being despatched to England to start an engineering apprenticeship with the conmnercial vehicle manufacturer, Scammell.
 While at Scammell, Palmer was privately commissioned to create a unique sports car for the racing driver, Joan Richmond, and thus was born the Deroy. With independent suspension front and rear, the Deroy was in many respects well ahead of its time, and it served as an important influence on Palmers life. Seeking to get into the mainstream of the motor industry, he went for an interview with Cecil Kimber at MG. He drove to Abingdon in the Deroy, which clearly impressed the great man. This resulted in the offer of a job in charge of M.G. work at the Morris drawing office in Cowley, where the Y-Type was under development.
 With the onset of war, car production ceased and Palmer became involved with the manufacture of Tiger Moth trainers and the repair of Spitfires. Then in 1942 he moved to become chief designer with the Jowett Car Co. in Bradford, where he was responsible for one of the first new post-war cars, the brilliant Javelin, launched in 1946.Gerald Palmer at his drawing board
 The Javelin's‘s innovative features were received with much acclaim by the industry, which resulted in Palmer being offered the job of designer for the new range of MG., Riley and Wolseley saloons back at Cowley in 1949. His work reflected the strong influence of italian designers in the industry at the time, and his interpretation of this theme, seen first in the Wolseley 4/44 and shortly afterwards in the M.G. ZA Magnette (which was dasigned first), produced some of the most elegant cars of the decade.
 Palmer was made chief engineer of BMC and a director of the company in 1952, but in 1955, having seen the introduction of the new Riley Pathfinder and Wolseley 6/90 models, he became a victim of the internal politics of the BMC group at the time and was dismissed by its mercinal chairman, Leonard Lord. He subsequently joined Vauxhall Motors, and the team responsible for the Viva and Victor ranges, before retiring in 1972.
 But Palmer was much more than a car designer. During the war, his talents were tumed to the production of the Oxford Vaporiser, a portable anaesthetic apparatus for use in the field of battle, versions of which rernain in use today. Then after his retirement from the motor industry, he contributed to the design for the Oxford Hoist, an apparatus for assisting disabled people that is still widely used both in the UK and around the world. And in addition to his designer talents, Palmer was true motoring enthusiast. He restored and competed in the 2-litre Mercedes-Benz that won the 1924 Targa Florio, as well as a T44 Bugatti.
 In recent years Palmer attended a number of gatherings organised by the M.G.C.C Z- Magnette Register, and more than
 once expressed surprise at the amount of interest and enthusiasm still shown for his cars. Particularly memorable was the 1996 event, when the five Palmer-designed cars -an M.G. Magnette ZA, a Wolseley 4/44 and 6/90, a Riley Pathfinder and a Jowett Javelin - were brought together in a display for the first time.
 Gerald Palmer at Wotton RiversGerald Palmer will be remembered for his courtesy and thoughtfulness. He was an extremely modest man and appeared unconcerned that his talents were eclipsed in the public eye by those of Alec Issigonis, who succeeded him at BMC. lt was only when Christopher Balfour began to assist him in writing his autobiography that many of his past achievements were revealed for a wider audience to appreciate. The book was published in 1998 and its title, Auto—Architect, is a true reflection of the life's work of a real professional whose creations continue to bear witness to his talents.
 Written by
 Warren Marsh and Paul Batho (M.G. Z-MAGNETTE REGISTER)