History Burlen

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Burlen the history

In 1971 John Burnett and Mike Cullen founded Burlen Services, located in Salisbury. The business undertakes general car servicing and repairs.

British sportscar makers Morgan appoints Burlen as a sales agency in 1972 and Burlen appoints Miles Harvell as a partner in the business.

The fuel crisis of 1974 saw Burlen establish a name for themselves as experts in tuning carburetters for economy. In the same year they become agents for Zenith carburetters supplying and fitting aftermarket kits to replace inefficient OEM units.

In 1975 the British Leyland Motor Corporation is nationalised and becomes British Leyland Limited. That same year, Burlen takes over the SU franchise for Salisbury and also establishes a carburetter restoration and rebuild service.

1984 sees the start of a long and close working relationship between Burlen Services and the SU production facility. Burlen became aware, through rumour, that production of the SU HS carburetters may soon cease thanks to reduced demand. These parts were regularly used in the aftermarket world for cars such as the MGB and Mini Cooper and Burlen managed to persuade them to keep manufacturing on the promise they would order several hundred pairs each year.

Austin Rover Fuel Systems was now solely a manufacturing plant; it no longer retained any marketing or packaging capability other than for its own OEM products. As a result, Burlen are able to take on the role of packing, marketing and supply of SU branded carburetters on behalf of Austin Rover Fuel Systems.

In 1985 Burlen takes on the branding, packing and supply for Solex-Zenith and Stromberg carburetters manufactured by Austin Rover Fuel Systems.

One year later Burlen Services moves to its current location at Spitfire House in Salisbury, an ex-dispersal factory where Spitfire aircraft were assembled during the Second World War. The company is renamed and incorporated as Burlen Fuel Systems Ltd and all partners become Directors, with John Burnett as Managing Director, Miles Harvell as Commercial Director and Nick Curtin joining from Austin Rover Fuel Systems as Sales and Marketing Director. 

The ailing SU brand is re-established by Burlen in 1988 as they relaunch the brand and logo after years of neglect.

Owing to the decline in popularity of carburetters SU Automotive Limited diversifies into the manufacture of throttle-body injection units and pioneers the use of plastic throttle-bodies for the multi-point injection systems used by Austin Rover.

In 1991 Burlen Fuel Systems Limited becomes the sole distributor for SU products – with the exception of SU Automotive Ltd products destined for OEM use.

By 1996 Burlen purchased the dormant company name of The SU Carburetter Company which is registered as a wholly owned subsidiary of Burlen Fuel Systems Limited. Burlen also reaches agreement to manufacture the SU range of electric fuel pumps and the HS range of SU carburettors, namely the HS2, HS4, HS6 and HS8.

1999 saw the closure of the Wood Lane SU manufacturing plant by new owners Dana Holdings Corporation, allowing Burlen Fuel Systems Limited to take on the manufacturing and marketing of all SU carburetter units, fuel pumps spares and some throttle bodies. Burlen also purchased all remaining tooling, dies, jigs and stock.

A new Millennium sees a new era for Burlen as John Burnett welcomes his sons Mark, Andy and Jamie to the company full time. Previously each had worked at Burlen throughout their school holidays and at weekends and, as such, were no strangers to the business.

In 2002 Burlen Fuel Systems Limited acquires the Intellectual Property Rights along with the trademarks for SU and Zenith.

Burlen acquired the Amal brand in 2004 and started a rescue that would see it return to profitability from the brink of disaster. Bought from UK Company, Grosvenor Works, Burlen took on all stock, machinery, customers and the brand name itself and started the long process of reviving the Amal brand.

In 2007, Burlen Fuel Systems Limited developed two new trading arms in 2007. The S.U Carburetter Company Limited to manufacture and supply SU carburetters, electric fuel pumps and spares to the vintage and classic car markets. The Amal Carburetter Company Ltd supplies vintage, classic and historic motorcycle markets.

Another business expansion took place in 2008 and saw machining come in-house, Until this time, all machining had been outsourced, but now Burlen were able to manage manufacturing and quality control better than ever before.

2008 saw a senior management change which gave the Burnett sons an opportunity to take control as directors of the business. Jamie Burnett becomes Production Director; Mark Burnett takes the role of Managing Director and Andy Burnett assumes the role of Logistics Director.

In 2009, five years after acquiring the brand, Burlen launches new Amal products manufactured at their Salisbury Headquarters. New lines re-introduced since then include the 375 Monobloc, 276 & 289 Pre-Monobloc carburetters. There is a night and day difference in improved product quality, distribution and the management of the Amal business by this time.

To raise the profile of Burlen and their associated brands, the company books their first trade stand at the 2010 Goodwood Revival. A show they would frequent annually from this date forwards.

The Red Skinner Special returns to Burlen in 2011 (see The Red Skinner Special section for more). Almost immediately the car is refurbished and raced at Hillclimbs around the country by John and Mark Burnett.

In 2012 the Burnett Directors introduced a new management team, promoting existing employees into production, warehouse and customer services management roles. At the same time, a senior buyer with experience at Honda and Dyson was introduced to control purchasing.

2014 saw the start of SU Racing, an in-house team that campaigned a variety of classic Mini racing cars using SU Carburetters and factory livery.