Lucas Electric Ltd was the primary manufacturer of electric products for most British Cars for most of the 20th century. Joseph Lucas was himself a pioneer in the field of automotive electrical systems, particularly lighting, and his products have been used by Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, MG, Triumph, Austin Healey and Rover, among others. Unfortunately, Lucas enjoys a particularly dark reputation among automotive enthusiasts. In fact, among gearheads Joseph Lucas is known as "The Prince of Darkness".

Lucas electric got its start early in the 20th century as a supplier of automotive lighting. The earliest automobiles used magneto ignition, which produced enough power to fire the spark plugs, but nothing else. Early headlights used chemical fuels, sometimes oil, sometimes acetyline generated by the introduction of water to calcium carbide. These lamps were simple and reliable, and still used by spelunkers because the lamps can burn for a long time on very little fuel. However, as cars grew faster and more powerful more light was needed. Plus, developments in lighting and generators more than kept pace with automotive advances, making the change to electric lighting inevitable. As battery technologies improved, more and more electrical systems were loaded onto cars, including electric starters.

Lucas was a pioneer in the field, and in the early days the gear his company made was of good quality for the day, and selected by high quality manufacturers like Rolls Royce. However, Lucas, like many British firms, rested on its laurels. By the 1950's Lucas gear was considered unreliable in an era where cars remained very high-maintenance machines. Britsh manufacturers stuck with Lucas, because it was the traditional British supplier. As Jags required lots of maintenance, and Rolls-Royce owners employed chauffeurs such little difficulties were seen as adding 'character' to the car. But by the 1960's automotive electrics had been refined to a high art, with most systems proving reliable under all conditions. Lucas products were noted for high corrosion and poor attention to to contacts, particularly in wet weather.

This unwillingness to modernize greatly contributed to the failure of many British car makers, including MG. As British manufacturers were taken over by foreign companies like Ford and BMW, Lucas products were shelved. The result was reliability. Joseph Lucas himself was part of the problem. He was quoted as saying "A gentleman does not motor around after dark" in response to complaints about his products.

Today Lucas Electric is celebrated primarily in jokes, mostly promoted by owners of vintage cars who have to find Lucas parts in order to preserve their cars originality.

A Collection of Lucas Jokes

* The Lucas motto: "Get home before dark."

* Lucas denies having invented darkness. But they still claim the "sudden, unexpected darkness"

* Lucas is the patent holder for the short circuit.

* Lucas - Inventor of the first intermittent wiper.

* Lucas - Inventor of the self-dimming headlamp.

* The three position Lucas switch - Dim, Flicker and Off. The other three switch settings - Smoke, Smolder and Burn.

* The Original Anti-Theft Device - Lucas Electrics.

* "I have had a Lucas pacemaker for years and have never had any trou...

* If Lucas made guns, wars would not start either.

* Did you hear about the Lucas powered torpedo - It sank!

* It's not true that Lucas, in 1947, tried to get Parliament to repeal Ohm's Law. They withdrew their efforts when they meet too much resistance.

* Did you hear the one about the guy that peeked into a Land Rover and asked the owner "How can you tell one switch from another at night, as they all look the same ?" "He replied, it does not matter which one you use, nothing happens !"

*Lucas systems actually use AC current; it just has a random frequency.

* Back in the 70's, Lucas decided to diversify its product line and began manufacturing vacuum cleaners. It was the only product they offered which did not suck.

* QA called and told the Engineering they had trouble with his design shorting out so he made the wires longer.

* Alexander Graham Bell invented the Telephone. Thomas Edison invented the Light Bulb. Joseph Lucas invented the Short Circuit.

* Recommended procedure before taking on a repair of Lucas equipment: Check the position of the stars, kill a chicken and walk three times sunwise around your car chanting: " Oh mighty Prince of Darkness protect your unworthy servant.."

* Why do the English drink their beer WARM? Because their refrigerators are made by Lucas

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