Early Rover & Pre-War Cars
In 1889 the company became J. K. Starley & Co. Ltd and in the late 1890s, the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. Three years after Starley’s death in 1901, the Rover company began producing automobiles with the two-seater Rover Eight to the designs of Edmund Lewis who came from Daimler. During the First World War they made motorcycles, lorries to Maudslay designs and not having a suitable one of their own, cars to a Sunbeam design. Bicycle and motorcycle production continued until the Great Depression forced the end of production in 1925.
The business was not very successful during the 1920s and did not pay a dividend from 1923 until the mid 1930s. In 1929 when there was a change of management with Spencer Wilks coming in from Hillman as general manager. He set about reorganising the company and moving it up market to cater for people who wanted something “superior” to Fords and Austins. He was joined by his brother Maurice, who had also been at Hillman, as chief engineer in 1930. Spencer Wilks stayed with the company until 1962 and his brother until 1963.