Bean can be traced back to 1826 when A Harper & Sons, a forge business, produced castings and stampings. Bean Ltd was an auto industry parts supplier They joined forces in 1907 becoming A Harper, Sons and Bena Ltd. Having watched the success of their famous American counterpart, Henry Ford and his mass production techniques, the company merged with Perry Motors and redirected its focus to producing an automobile that was affordable for the British market. Initially the venture was very successful with Bean cars outselling both Morris and Austin throughout the early1920s. However, sales still fell well short of the anticipated 50,000 per annum output and by 1929 commercial vehicle production had completely replaced cars. Bean concentrated on the lighter end of the market initially producing a one ton commercial that was really little more than an adapted car.
Birtles Bean 4 at the National Museum AustraliaEarly Beans had an 11.9hp engine used in the Perry car before World War One and this was in production to 1923. Its 1795cc four cylinder engine was linked to a separate 3 speed gearbox. Other models were introduced such as the Empire Model Range in 1930 and the New Era range, however sales were slow due to the Depression and production ceased altogether in 1931. Following financial problems Hadfield Limited, a steel supplier, bailed them out and took over in 1926. From that point all cars were known as Hadfield Beans.
From 1929 the company would only produce commercial vehicles, but it would barely last two years. As fate would have it Morris entered the UK light truck market aggrerssively at the same time driving out most of its competitors.Bean returned to being a components supplier. Beans Industries Ltd as it had then become, continued in the general engineering field until it was taken over by British Leyland in 1958.
Merv Brunt's restored 1925 Bean Truck in ColacA few Bean cars and trucks found their way around the world. Probably the most famous in Australia is the Sundowner; a 1925 14hp four cylinder Bean 14 car used by Frances Birtles on his epic journeys including the record breaking Melbourne to Darwin run in 1926 and the Australia to England run in 1927. The Bean is housed in the National Museum Australia in Canberra and preserved very much in the condition it was found.The side covers of the engine cowling are missing and there is a large diameter exhaust pipe without muffler running along the left side of the vehicle. It has a full steel channel chassis, which has been drilled for lightness, leaf sprung suspension, and four wheel drum brakes. It does not have mudguards or running boards so its wheels are exposed. The headlights have also been removed. With the exception of the lefthand rear wheel which has cast metal spokes, the wheels are wire spoked.
Another restored Bean belongs to the Merv Brunt collection in Colac. It is a 1925 tray back model in immaculate condition.