Michael Philip Hewland left school at 14, shunning a grammar school place to instead begin work in engineering. His explanation being `because I was hungry`.
After years in engineering, including at Sykes and ML Aviation, he set up Hewland Engineering in 1957 originally with a metal plating idea. This was not as successful as hoped and he soon became drawn back to the gear making skills he knew so well. His base was in `a leaky shed near Maidenhead station with 4 staff`.
1959 he did some gearbox alteration work for the UDT Laystall F1 team, claiming it only `moderately successful`. However it provided a direction in which he was pulled, always referring to gearboxes being an unintentional move. With the advent of Formula Junior in the early sixties, a major requirement emerged for improved gearbox internals to be fitted to the `standard` transmissions.
His choice, originally for Lola's market, was to use the VW beetle gearbox as the donor. This was the move that really established Hewland Engineering, with thousands of Mk4 to MK9 gearboxes sold over the coming years. During the seventies Hewland Engineering had well over 100 staff at premises in Boyn Valley Road Maidenhead.
Iconically, totally Hewland transmissions such as HD, LG, FT200, DG300 and FG400 were to be the staple of the vast majority of world circuit racing motorsport for a quarter of a century and beyond. Between the mid sixties and mid eighties, almost all F1 cars except BRM and Ferrari used a standard Hewland transmission, usually allied to a Cosworth DFV engine. Hewland Engineering had become a cornerstone of the motorsport industry. Mike Hewland was awarded the prestigious Ferodo Trophy in 1970.
Mike kept up his passion for engines as an almost constant side line. In a small development department run by engineer John Hogan, Mike's designs each made their mark. Firstly there was a fuel efficient sleeve-valve engine research project, which still attracts attention today. A 100cc kart engine won numerous British championships between 1977 and 1982. Lastly a 750cc two stroke three cylinder aircraft engine was CAA certified and used in the ARV Super 2 aircraft among others.
Mike's last two design projects were the famous LD200 gearbox, still used in Formula Ford until recently and the SGT gearbox, used by the Prodrive BMW BTCC team in 1992 and beyond.
Mike Hewland retired from the business in 1991 and travelled the world for 6 weeks to catch up, after a workaholic life.
Hewland Engineering was taken over by his son, William Hewland, in 1991 who still runs the successful business today.