The Fall of Fort Dunlop

Fort Dunlop is the common name of the original tire factory for Dunlop Rubber located in Birmingham, England. The Dunlop Rubber Co. Ltd was set up in Birmingham in 1901 to manufacture Dunlop tires, initially for bicycles and later for motor vehicles. The First World War initiated a huge expansion in the demand for solid tires for lorries (trucks). Thus, the Fort Dunlop factory was built in 1916. Post-war, the motor industry grew and Dunlop was well placed to supply the demand for tires.

Founder, John Boyd Dunlop (1840 – 1921)

In the 1970s it was still the largest tire factory outside the United States. However, the increased number of foreign cars imported into Britain led to a decline in demand and the company was sold in the 1980s. Thus, large-scale tire production ceased at Fort Dunlop. However, Dunlop Tires continued to produce specialized vintage, motorcycle and motorsport tires on the site.

The original tires for the MG TC were made by Dunlop and were known as the B5. The B5 (4.5×19”) is easy to recognize by its classic tread pattern and of course the tradename “Dunlop”. It had been in continuous production despite the cutbacks at Ft Dunlop up until 2014. This is when the Birmingham factory (Ft. Dunlop) was closed and Dunlop production moved to Germany and France.

There were rumors (speculation and hope) that the B5 would once again be manufactured in Europe. However, this has not come to fruition and the B5 tire is no more. The mold was sold and a new “like” tire is now being manufactured by the name of “Ensign”. It carries the same tread pattern but, for trademark reasons, the name Dunlop does not appear on the sidewall. So cherish your Dunlop’s as it now appears they too will be collector items. As for Ft. Dunlop, it is a commercial office complex.

Doug Pelton, doug’at’fromtheframeup.com

Ed’s note:

There are tires and tyres, but since this is Doug’s article I have not altered the spelling of ‘tire’ to ‘tyre’.

Moving on to wheels (onto which the tyres fit) – yes, I can use the spelling ‘tyres’ now! David Hughes drew my attention to a supplier which has given him good service. The company is Turrino Wheels http://www.turrinowirewheels.com They are based at Wansford, about 10 miles to the west of Peterborough. The telephone number is 01780 471011 – ask for Will. David sent me a copy of his invoice for two 19” silver centre laced wheels at £420 including VAT. According to the company’s website they will also restore/rebuild or refurbish your wheels and first check them over on their jigs. Having checked them they will then discuss options with you and let you have a quotation.

Another supplier is Motor Wheel Service (MWS) who are based in Langley, near Slough. The company’s website is http://www.mws.co.uk

Phil Hallewell in Ickenham, Uxbridge, Middlesex http://www.pjhallewellengineering.co.uk has done work for me in the past, but last time I checked he was unable to supply new 19” wheels.

James Wheildon in Salisbury – Old Brickwood Farm, West Grimstead, SALISBURY, Wilts. SP5 3RN Tel: 01722 712967 has featured in these columns in the past. He’s in the process of retiring and his business has now been taken over by Nick, working from the same workshop. Nick will carefully assess your wheels and come up with a quote but he will recommend you buy new if he can’t match the price of a new wheel/wheels.

2 thoughts on “The Fall of Fort Dunlop

  1. Roger Bateman says:

    It is not quite correct to say that the B5 is no more. Vintage Tyres of Beaulieu, England have been Dunlop’s sole distributor of obsolete tyre sizes since 1962, selling throughout the trade as well as to private owners. As such they dictated which sizes Dunlop should make, and were the stockholders for them. As Dunlop lost interest in old tyres, so VT took over the moulds and commissioned the tyres to be made by other factories using Dunlop’s actual moulds. VT’s vast knowledge of the business enabled them to place the manufacture with the most appropriate factories.

    As far as the B5 is concerned, yes it is called an Ensign now for the reasons you explain. However, it is not the same as Dunlop’s B5 – it has the identical tread pattern but the tyre is far better; it is made with the most modern materials by the most up-to-date production methods.

    I know this because I have long been a customer of VT and I asked them before fitting Ensign B5s to TC2456.

    The advice to cherish your old Dunlop B5s is, perhaps, a little unwise. Tyre industry advice is to change tyres after 10 years whether they have done 100 miles or 100,000. There are well-documented cases of accidents with classic and vintage cars due to old tyres with apparently good tread disintegrating whilst driving.

    My advice is to change to Ensign B5s – they look right on a T-type and that is what matters (apart from their performance).I doubt many people will notice anything apart from how original they look on the car – just like the factory publicity photos. But for goodness sake, don’t fit the 3-stud tyres from that other firm B…….y – no way do they look correct on these cars.

  2. JERRY BIRKBECK says:

    Your comments on Dunlop B5s is of interest. However, the use of Blockleys 3 Stud Pattern is not acceptable to you because in your words `no way do they look correct on these cars’. Undoubtedly, they are visually different, but they are excellent tyres and well received by their users. On a personal level I think they set off the TC very well!

    You are spot on about the life of tyres and I entirely share the sensible advice to change them at ten years of age.

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