There is a special place in motoring history for one man who's work is rather little known and not fully appreciated. His name is Tom E. Killeen. We have however decided to entitle this book The Killeen Cars because it has proven impossible to find many details of Killeen's life. Some written notes on his cars and his publications do however exist, some having miraculously survived many years.

Killeen partially patented a stressed skin monocoque construction principle in 1952, number 735110 entitled Improvements in, or relating to, Motor Road and like Vehicles. It was based on the tubular airframe familiar from the aircraft industry. This idea was taken up by the motor industry in Britain and then throughout the world. Not all monocoque cars are however built to quite the same principle of the ``monocoque tub''. One of the first monocoque or ``unitary'' large scale production cars was the 1959 BMC Mini, although the fibreglass monocoque Lotus Elite had been produced in smaller numbers in 1957. A slightly later one, and perhaps closer to what was intended, was the 1963 Hillman Imp. Many racing cars following the Grand Prix winning Lotus 25 of 1962 were however true monocoques. In fact even the early D-type Jaguar of 1954 had been built from a monocoque tub with additional torsion boxes and bolt on frames to hold the suspension and other components, very like Killeen's cars of 1952 onwards. From the 1960s, most new cars have been built using some aspects of monocoque design as their underpinning principle.

According to what he told Colin Cooper around 1983, Tom wrote to all manufacturers at the time explaining his ideas and offering to sell the patent, but none took up the offer. His series of articles in Motor magazine also make it clear that his ideas were novel at the time and that he had some very strong opinions. Extracts of some of his letters were in fact published in Motor, September 1983 [44], and we have since seen the complete set of remaining papers.

Killeen held important positions with the Jensen Motor Company both before and after the second World War. [What was his job?, check company records?] During the war he was involved in the repair of Spitfires in Malta. These were not the early wooden type of plane with many bulkheads and stretched fabric, but made of steel and light alloy sheet. They were very strong wartime fighters and post WWII civilion planes were built in a similar way. The basic principle was a metal tube, which has great torsional and bending rigidity, prevented from being squashed by suitable interior structure esuch as bulkheads and struts. The tube is closed at the ends in a more or less cigar shaped fashion. The egg is one of the strongest structures in nature so, in engineering terms, the monocoque literally follows that example.

Monocoque planes and cars could be round in profile or a flattened elipse, since both offer almost equally good torsional strength. The designer however had to be careful not to cut too many holes in the shell, as this would weaken the structure and cause local areas of raised stress which would deteriorate, corrode and crack with age. All stressed components had to be mounted as far away from the torsion (twist) axis as possible for this reason. Imagine a lever with its fulcrum on the twist axis - more stress is raised near that axis because of the strong levering effect. Further away greater loads can be withheld safely.

Production cars have doors and windows cut into the stress bearing body, and because of that must be something of a compromise. The cars designed and actually built by Tom Killeen were certainly not a very great compromise. His views on car design were fundamentally unchanged from his first model in 1953 (the MG powered Formula K1), and a series of articles in Motor magazine from 7th July 1954 onwards put forward his assertions. The one of 20th March 1965 particularly discusses some trends in car production in very pragmatic terms.

Tom Killeen would certainly not compromise the handling ability and weight of a car simply to give refinements to the driver and passengers. His comments on production cars do however acknowledge that sales figures may be in the forefront of the manufacturers' minds when creating a new model. Nevertheless the extraordinary saving in weight, improvements in handling and reduced expense in time and materials compared to making a separate chassis in the traditional style meant that the monocoque eventually caught on in the industry. However this took some time as we shall see in the next chapter with objections being raised by the more traditional manufacturers. The 1960s was a period when cost saving and mass production were important - using the latest ideas usually dictated if a car company would survive or not. The ones that did (Ford, Vauxhall, BMC, Triumph, Rootes) all embarked on unitary or monocoque designs. The ones that didn't were mostly late in the field and were subsumed or were too specialised to care.


Post-war historian David Culshaw has been extremely helpful in providing material on the Killeen designs and Arthur Langman took the time to explain his personal involvement with testing the Mirage K18 prototype car, as did Tim Gresty to explain his personal connection with K19 and the Innes Lee Motor Company at the time the Scorpion was introduced.

Colin Cooper, former owner of K1 and K11, has provided valuable information as has Robin Human, previous owner of K9. The letters and other paperwork relating to the monocoque patent and history of K1 were found and kept by Jimmy Enevoldsen until I could meet him. Without his thoughtfulness they may well have been lost for ever.

Richard Calver, Jensen historian is hot on the trail of the connection with this company, but information is in short supply.

Peter Hardy, Tom's nephew, contacted me on 1/8/2006. He confirmed the historical information regarding Tom's life and added a few more personal details. He noted I would say that there has always been a feeling in the family that Tom's un-doubted talents did not receive the recognition and reward which they deserved, and it is very gratifying to see that someone is keeping his memory alive.

Many of the other people listed below have helped with our research.

Peter Hardy, North Harrow (Nephew of Tom Killeen)

Colin Jackson, Cannock

[??? 12/3/2013]

K1, K9 and K11: Colin Cooper, Chipping Norton, Oxon. Work: PowerStop Brake Products, Chipping Norton OX7 5XA

K1: John McCartney, Bolton, Lancs. (Former owner of K1, now deceased)

K1: Ken and Mary Ann Stewart-Richardson, Perth, W. Australia (Former owners of K1)

K1: Jimmy Enevoldsen, Lambourn, W. Berks.

K1: Peter Croft and Kate Bovett, New Zealand E-mail:

K1: Jack Knapkin, Lowton, Warrington Web: (Former owner of K1)

K1: Graham R. Heath, Motor Sport History, Photographs, Books, etc. Sale, Cheshire M33 3GS E-mail: grahamheath at

K1: Bill Graham, jdweldingwirral@aol.coma

K9, Asp and CUB: Robin Human

K9: Daren Wortley, Kent. (John Wortley worked on the Fraser Imps)

Jensen's Archive at Warwick University ???

Richard Calver, Australia (Jensen historian)

Tim Gresty, CAS, Didsbury, Manchester (Responsible for publicity of Scorpion)

Mike Innes

Bill Lee

Andy Wotherspoon

N.S. Slade

I.L. Spencer-Hicks

K11: Ian Parsons, Northampton

K16: Cooper and Mini Owners' Club ?

David L. Culshaw, Wigan (Automotive Historian Research Consultation)

K18: Arthur John Langman, Walsall

Asp and CUB: V. Christian Manz, Madrid

K19: Anthony Reeve

Motoring Archive Research Service, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire SO42 7ZN. Tel: 01590 614652; Fax: 01590 612655; e-Mail: motoring.library at; Web:

Lizzie Hazelhurst and Damien Kimberley, Coventry Transport Museum, Cook Street, off Millenium Place, Coventry CV1 1NN

Rob Allan