Harry Varley: A Man Who Made Motoring History

Author(s): Ian Coomber 

ISBN: 9781781559048
£21.00 £30.00
A remarkable eighty-year adventure spanning the golden age of twentieth-century mechanical and motor-vehicle engineering.
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  • Written by a motor-industry veteran, it is an engineering adventure story following the prolific, near eighty-year, career of Harry Varley

  • New research and the discovery of Varley’s personal papers adds fresh insights into the founding of the Bentley marque

  • When W. O. Bentley wanted a piston ‘that wouldn’t slap’, Varley designed the precursor of the modern automotive piston

  • He died aged ninety-three, the day after hearing that the prototype Varley engine has met its design objectives

A remarkable eighty-year adventure spanning the golden age of twentieth-century mechanical and motor-vehicle engineering. Born into an ecclesiastical family, Harry Varley had a burning ambition to be the best engineer he could.

He was one of the three-man team that designed the iconic three-litre Bentley and fifty-seven years later, he created a new engine for the same car.

A skilled draughtsman and designer, Varley worked at multiple companies on cars, aircraft and agricultural machinery. He designed the badge that appears on every Vauxhall, a revolutionary internal-combustion-engine piston and was employed on projects at Cubitt, Crossley and Streamline Cars.

On secondment in the Second World War, he helped develop the largest diesel engine made by Perkins Engines, balloon winches and gun mountings, finishing at Rolls-Royce where he retired as chief planning engineer.

The design and manufacture of his Varley engine took nine years of grit and determination. Having received reports that it had achieved its design objectives, he died aged ninety-three, his life’s work complete.

BOOK ISBN 9781781559048
FORMAT 234 x 156 mm
BINDING Hardback
PAGES 192 pages
ILLUSTRATIONS 21 diagrams and 81 photographs



Ian Coomber joined Vauxhall in 1963. Sponsored at university, he gained a first in mechanical engineering and was seconded to General Motors in Detroit. His first Vauxhall assignment was handling customer complaints, followed by working with dealers as ‘the man from the factory’. He returned to Luton head office in 1987 as Fleet Sales Director and retired in 2001 as Executive Director Sales, Marketing and Customer Care. Confirmed ‘petrol head’ and owner of classic Vauxhalls, he is well-known in the Vauxhall car club scene.