Gerald Marley Palmer (1911-1999)

Octagon Newsletter … August 2000

By Al Fraser

I read recently, in Safety Fast, of the death of designer, Gerald Palmer. Although he was not directly concerned with work on the various Midgets, Palmer is best remembered as the designer of the Magnette saloon and was an important influence in the MGY development.

Gerald Palmer was the son of a railway engineer in Rhodesia. He apprenticed in England, with Scammel, where he created a unique sports car for racing driver Joan Richmond. This "Deroy" had independent suspension both fore and aft and was, in many respects, well ahead of its time. He hoped to get into the mainstream of the auto industry, so he drove the Deroy to Abingdon for an interview with Cecil Kimber.

Kimber was so impressed with Palmer’s work that he offered him a position in charge of MG work, at the Morris drawing office in Cowley, where the Y-Type was under development. This was at the time when Leonard Lord had shut down the MG drawing office.

With the onset of war production, Palmer became involved with the manufacture of Tiger Moth trainers and the repair of Spitfires. In 1942, he became the chief designer with Jowett Car Co. in Bradford where he was responsible for one of the first post-war cars, the brilliant Javelin, launched in 1946. The innovative Javelin received such acclaim, in the industry, that Palmer was offered the job of designing a new range of MG, Riley and Wolseley saloons, back in Cowley, in 1949. These became the MG ZA Magnette and Wolseley 4/44 saloons and, later, the Wolseley 6/90 and Riley Pathfinder. However, internal politics caused his dismissal by the mercurial chairman, Leonard Lord. Palmer subsequently joined Vauxhall Motors and the team responsible for the Viva and Victor range, before retiring in 1972.

Palmer was more than a car designer. During the war, he designed the Oxford Vaporiser, a portable anesthetic apparatus, versions of which remain in use today. After his retirement, he designed the Oxford Hoist, still used to assist disabled persons worldwide. He also restored a number of vintage cars, including a T44 Bugatti. His designs reflected the strong influence of Italian designers of the time and it is to his credit that the cars he designed are gaining popularity and value many years after he first created them.

Reference:

Safety Fast, September 1999, by Warren Marsh and Paul Batho

Gerald Palmer

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