The Moultons were originally of Devon sea-faring stock, but by the 18th Century a branch of the family had moved to London, where Alex Moulton’s great-great-great grandfather was a broker. His son was a printer whose son, Stephen, emigrated to the USA. He became a friend of Charles Goodyear, who discovered the rubber vulcanisation process. Stephen returned to England and tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the Goodyear process, so he decided to go into rubber production himself. Having established his rubber mill, Stephen Moulton never looked back. He died in 1880, aged 86, with the family seat and fortune soundly established.
His great-grandson Alex was born forty years later, and was educated at Marlborough and King’s College Cambridge, where he graduated in engineering. During the Second World War he was employed in the Engine Research Department of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, where for two years he was personal assistant to Sir Roy Fedden, the Chief Engineer. After the War he returned to the family rubber firm, George Spencer, Moulton and Co. Lt., where he established a research department specialising in rubber suspension systems for vehicles.
In 1956 the family business was sold to the Avon Rubber Company and Alex Moulton founded Moulton Developments Limited to concentrate on creative design and development of suspensions systems. The old stable block of the family home, ‘The Hall’, was converted into an engineering workshop, a drawing office was erected nearby, and the administration office was established in part of the mansion.
The British Motor Corporation (as it was then – now Rover Group) took a financial interest in the new company and for two decades enjoyed exclusive manufacturing rights for Moulton automobile suspension systems. This partnership resulted in the development of the rubber suspension system used in the Mini, and the Hydrolastic system used in the 1100/1300 and other models. Later the Hydragas system was introduced on the Austin Allegro, and is still in use on the Rover 100 series and the new MGF.
Dr Moulton’s work in the field of suspension design has been accomplished simultaneously with his development of the Moulton bicycle, which began in 1958. He holds the view that one is capable of pursuing two main avenues of research simultaneously, but no more.
Alex Moulton’s leisure pursuits include cycling canoeing and shooting. He is also fascinated by steam power and operates his own steam launch. Entitled to use at least nine sets of letters after his name, he is a Commander of the British Empire, a Royal Designer of Industry, an Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Arts, an Honorary Doctor of Science at Bath University and has been admitted to the Fellowship of Engineering. He has also published numerous articles and papers on engineering and education.
Now in his mid-seventies, Alex Moulton is still as vigorous physically and mentally as ever, riding his bicycles regularly, and new and even more advanced designs are on the drawing board.