An attractive little town roughly 16 miles west of Glasgow city centre is home to one of the big players in the global car industry.
Bridge of Weir Leather, one of four companies in the Renfrewshire-based Scottish Leather Group, has recently been named a 2018 Queen’s Award winner for International Trade, in recognition of its “outstanding short-term growth [a reported 74%] in overseas sales during the last three years”.
It’s a major honour, but also one that Bridge of Weir Leather is quite familiar with. This is its fifth such award, the others having been made in 1985, 1996, 2000 and 2012.
The company can trace its roots back to 1758, but in its current form it started trading in 1905. Shortly after that, it became an automotive supplier, the type of business for which it is possibly best known today.
Here we take a look at some of the many cars whose interiors have been enhanced by Bridge of Weir Leather over more than a century.
Ford Model T
Model T production began in Detroit in September 1908, and the car was so popular in Britain that Ford decided to open a manufacturing plant at Trafford Park near Manchester.
Trafford Park Model Ts were assembled from imported parts starting in 1911, but the proportion of local components gradually increased. Bridge of Weir Leather supplied the upholstery, beginning its long association with the motor business.
Few people nowadays are aware that right-hand drive Citroens were once built at a factory in Slough. These included the 2CV and its fibreglass-bodied derivative, the Bijou, neither of which was exactly the type of car you would expect to have leather seats.
But Slough also produced the much more luxurious and in many ways radical DS, along with a simpler and cheaper version called the ID. Unlike the ones built in France, these had leather upholstery supplied by Bridge of Weir.
In its short and troubled history, the DeLorean Motor Company produced only one model, the DMC-12, built in Northern Ireland and financed to a large extent by the UK Government.
The project had already collapsed horribly by the time the DMC-12 became famous as the time machine in the Back to the Future film trilogy.
Bridge of Weir Leather provided the upholstery, and was eventually paid for doing so. “I think we were among the lucky suppliers in this regard,” says company chairman Jonathan Muirhead.
The now defunct Swedish manufacturer Saab chose Bridge of Weir as its leather supplier in the 1980s.
The relationship lasted until Saab failed in 2012.
Despite its obviously Grand Prix-inspired name, the F1 was the first McLaren ever designed specifically as a road car.
Famously, it had three seats, one in the middle for the driver and two mounted slightly further back on each side for passengers. All of them were upholstered in Bridge of Weir leather.
A cross between two completely different kinds of car – an MPV and a coupe – the Avantime was perhaps the strangest car Renault has produced in the 21st century.
It was manufactured for a brief period by Matra in France, but the leather was supplied by Bridge of Weir.
Bridge of Weir’s semi-aniline leather, lightly coated so that is more durable but still looks natural, is used for the most expensive versions of the Jaguar XJ.
Land Rover has arrangements with several leather suppliers, but uses Bridge of Weir for top-end versions of its ultimate model, the Range Rover.
No other current Land Rover product features Bridge of Weir leather, though it was used for a show example of the Evoque.
Built by Cambridgeshire company Lister, which has had an association with Jaguar for well over half a century, the Thunder is essentially a modified F-Type R whose engine has been uprated to produce a maximum of 666bhp.
The standard upholstery is Bridge of Weir nappa hide, available in 36 colours.
The fastest car in McLaren’s Super Series is the 720S, based on a carbonfibre tub and fitted with an engine producing over 700bhp.
Customers have a choice of interior trim. The more sports-minded ones may pick alcantara, but for those wanting a little more luxury Bridge of Weir leather is also available.
The relationship between Aston Martin and Bridge of Weir dates back to the 1960s, when the English company used the Scottish one’s leather for the interior of the DB5.
All current Astons feature Bridge of Weir leather. Speaking specifically of the DB11, Aston Martin Director of Design Marek Reichman said in 2016, “A car like this is not just about how it looks on the outside. Most of the lifetime of ownership is spent inside the car, and the interior’s sense of occasion is created by beautiful smell, touch and feel.
“Our leather from Bridge of Weir is a timeless product, and there is a long history of the company working closely with us – we believe it is the best leather in the world.”
Bridge of Weir was commissioned to provide upholstery for the Volvo 740 in 1983 and has remained a supplier ever since.
Its nappa leather is available as standard on Inscription versions of every current model except the V40, and as an option for the R-Design trim level.
More than a century after the introduction of the Model T, there are currently no Ford-badged models fitted with Bridge of Weir leather.
There is still a connection, though. Lincoln, which sells cars in North America and the Asia-Pacific region and has been a Ford subsidiary since 1922, has had a relationship with Bridge of Weir for over 60 years, and uses its leather in the top two of three trim levels available for today’s Continental.
The Continental is very highly regarded in the Middle East. In January 2018, it was named Luxury Car of the Year by Oman-based lifestyle magazine Signature.