The History of the SU Carburetter

The SU carburetter was the brainchild of the late George Herbert Skinner. He was born at Ealing in April 1872, the son of William Banks Skinner, a director of the well-known Lilly & Skinner footwear distributors. Despite following his father into the footwear business, Herbert's real passion lay with the motorcar.

Herbert was educated at Castlebar School in Ealing, and although as far as is known he had no technical training, by 1900 he had submitted three provisional patents covering his ideas. In 1903 he is reported to have travelled to France to learn how to drive a car. The following year he and his younger brother Thomas Carlisle Skinner decided to put some of his ideas into practice and improve the carburation on a Star motor-car they owned at this time. The vehicle's massive old carburetter was fitted with a glass top through which they could watch the flow of fuel from the jet. It was clear that the suction (depression) on the jet varied in accordance with the demands made by the engine, and it seemed to them that a big improvement would be made if the jet could be located in an air channel of a size varied to suit different engine speeds, so ensuring a constant depression and air velocity.

A crude mechanism was evolved to bring this about, but it was then found that it lacked overall performance because if a jet orifice was chosen that was suitable for full throttle running, then this would result in an over-rich mixture for slow running and vice versa. The answer to this problem was a tapered needle; this varied the size of the jet orifice according to engine demands. A full patent was applied for by Herbert in February 1905 and granted in January 1906. Herbert's application describes his occupation as "Boot and Shoe Manufacturer".

If Herbert was the inventive genius, his brother Carl was the practical 'engineer'. Carl was born at Ealing in June 1882 and educated at the Leys School in Cambridge. Again it is not known where or even if he received any technical training. Carl also joined the family business but by 1906 he had teamed up with R.P.Wailes to manufacture and fit carburetters. There was also a third brother by the name of John, of whose involvement little is known other than that he appears to have been a director of the Company by about 1913.