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Britain By Car - A Motoring History

Created Date:

22 July 2020

Last Modified:

18 December 2023

The Mo-Car Syndicate

The Mo-Car Syndicate’s first factory.

Yate Street, Camlachie, Glasgow.

1896(?) – 1901.

A dogcart manufactured in 1901 by the Mo-Car Syndicate, at the Riverside Museum  in Glasgow 2014, © Michel Curi, via Flickr
A dogcart manufactured in 1901 by the Mo-Car Syndicate, at the Riverside Museum in Glasgow 2014, © Michel Curi, via Flickr

George Johnston, a Scottish engineer and inventor, developed his (and Scotland’s) first car in 1895. 

In order to turn this, and other ideas into a commercial operation, he created the Mo-Car Syndicate, probably towards the end of 1895 or early in 1896.  Members of the syndicate initially included George Johnston, his cousin, Norman Filton, and Thomas Blackwood Murray, an electrical engineer of some standing.  It was chaired by Sir William Arrol, of Forth Bridge fame, who provided much of the capital, along with thread manufacturers’, Archibald and Peter Coats.  In 1899, Filton and Murray left the Syndicate to set up their own manufacturing company – Albion Motors.

The Syndicate was engaged in the development a number of different types of motor vehicle – trams, trolley buses, dust carts – as well as cars. The first car produced was of a relatively unconventional design – a wooden-bodied dogcart, with a 3.2-litre, 12 h.p, twin-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine,  Unusually, it remained in production until around 1907.

Yate Street was the Mo-Car Syndicate’s first factory, but on the evening of May 8th 1901, a serious fire broke out in the two storey brick building, which was filled with engineering plant and motor cars in the course of construction.  It was a major blaze, reportedly visible “from miles on every side, attracting spectators from all quarters of the city”.

By the time the fire brigade arrived it was impossible to save the building.  The cost of the damage was estimated to be between ten and twelve thousand pounds, and all the company drawings and records were destroyed.

However, just over a week later, through a remarkable stroke of good fortune, it was announced that production would be resumed at the old Underwood Thread Mills in nearby Paisley, courtesy of Coats, one of the major Mo-Car investors.

Further details   
• The Scottish Motor Industry, Michael Worthington Williams, Shire Publications Ltd, 1989.
• In the Driving Seat – a century of motoring in Scotland, Jack Webster, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 1996. 
• History of the Motor Industry in Scotland, A Craig Macdonald and A S E Browning, Institute of Mechanical Engineers, 1961.

Other locations
, Dumfries & Galloway
Paisley, Strathclyde
Springburn, Strathclyde
West Linton, Borders