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Ron Gardner

Ron Gardner

The funeral of carburettor designer and manufacturer Ron Gardner took place at Burgess Hill, West Sussex, on 8 November. Gardner died on 21 October aged 91.

His uncles and father Alfred, who ran one of the first East End London garages, paid particular attention to carburation. Ron inherited this interest, especially relevant  post-war when petrol was severely rationed.

Ron studied engineering at Kingston Technical College. Aged 16 in 1946 he devised a water injection system for his Rudge single to improve performance and economy.

While at college he started working on motorcycles in his own time. This provided the opportunity to experiment on a variety of machines.

When out with his girlfriend one evening his bike fell off its side stand and the float bowl was knocked off. Desperate to get her home on time to her formidable father, he connected the fuel line to the water needle valve he had devised and was amazed to find it worked.

It spurred further development, ultimately resulting in the Gardner carburettor design that placed the needle at the top in a fixed position, but with convenient exterior rotation adjustment of a flat face needle for mixture. The slide and jet tube moved together at the bottom of the body. There was no main jet.

He made and sold his first carburettor in 1950 and responded to demand while tackling a variety of jobs until his fame spread and he could devote himself full-time to carburettors.

Demand reached a peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Top competitors such as works Yamaha rider Chas Mortimer chose Gardners.  Dennis Poore at Norton-Villiers-Triumph wanted to switch to Gardners as OE equipment, but Gardner was now too busy as a carburettor consultant to other industries including Rolls-Royce light aircraft engines and Vauxhall and Ford cars.

In 1976 Ron’s wife Daphne fell seriously ill, so he gave up full-time business to nurse her and Don Godden at Godden Engineering was granted a licence to make Gardners in the late 1970s.

Thankfully Daphne regained her health, and the Gardner story took on a second lease of life when Ron and son Ian went to a Brands Hatch classic meeting in 1994 with the Gardner sign on their van, and found themselves beseiged with enquiries.

In 1995 Ron, Daphne and Ian set up the Gardner Carburettor Co, with Dave Varney working on assembly at a home workshop.

Sadly Daphne died in 2005 and five years ago Ron’s health began to fail, so since 2018 Gardner retail has been handled by Dick Linton at FCL Racing.

Since Gardner production resumed 25 years ago 800 carburettors and 300 float chambers have been made.

Intelligent, and with an inventive mind, Ron Gardner was full of ideas and inventions that this short tribute can only hint at. Thanks to continued supply of the Gardner carburettor, the genius of Ron Gardner lives on.

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