From the first Land Rover to modern off-road van and trailer suspensions, three generations of Goddards have created an impressive engineering legacy.
The Goddard family’s long legacy in engineering began with Arthur Goddard in the UK, who was development engineer for the prototype Land Rover, utilising a collection of Rover car engineers and parts bin components to build the first of the British four-wheel drives in 1948.
Today, Arthur’s grandson Andrew Goddard is general manager of Australian outfit Cruisemaster, which designs and builds components for caravan and camper-trailer suspensions and has become known as a trailblazer in all-terrain towing technology.
The family business grew from Arthur’s interest in the small Brisbane firm Vehicle Components (now Cruisemaster), which he purchased in the late 1980s and developed alongside son Chris and later grandson Andrew.
Today, more than eight decades of Goddard legacy lives on through Andrew in his capacity as Cruisemaster managing director. His grandfather Arthur died in 2022 and his father Chris has since retired.
“In engineering, Cruisemaster has been a business run by engineers and not accountants,” Andrew says.
“Therefore, the focus has been on the best product and quality as opposed to the best bottom line.”
Arthur spent his early working career fettling World War II aero engines, before joining Rover toward the end of the war.
At Rover’s Solihull base he was tasked with developing the Land Rover, drawing inspiration from America’s Jeep, with a multi-purpose brief of deployment with the British defence forces, use by British farmers and overseas export.
“So, it had to meet all the army requirements and had to be a useful vehicle on the farm where you could go off down the road to do a bit of shopping, or you could take a bale of hay across a snow-bound field or whatever. And a much more useful combination than your tractor,” Arthur said in a 2016 interview.
While he could pilfer drivetrains and such from the Rover vehicle production line, the Land Rover’s chassis had to be all-new.
“That was the engineering problem. What does the frame look like? It looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” he recalled.
Colleagues Gordon Bashford and Olaf Poppe were credited with designing the eventual unique box-section, galvanised chassis with upright pieces below the A-pillars.
Arthur left Rover in 1955 and took on other automotive appointments before finding himself in Australia in 1972. Before long, he was elected Australian president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. He purchased Vehicle Components as ‘a hobby’ before leaving his job to concentrate on the fledgling engineering business.
Arthur lured his son Chris out from England in 1998. Chris had studied mechanical engineering at Loughborough’s University of Technology before becoming a Master of Science at Warwick University, specialising in manufacturing systems engineering – skills that would prove a perfect fit for his father’s new firm.
As managing director of Vehicle Components, Chris focussed on strategic planning, lifting the company’s profile, and introducing new techniques into design and manufacturing, while also ensuring the best engineering and manufacturing standards were maintained.
He recalls that period of working with his father as a special time in his professional career.
“As far as the engineering was concerned it was (about) imagining new projects and bringing them all the way to production. That was exciting and that’s the thing you can’t always do in a bigger company,” he says.
“Because it was a family company you could make decisions very quickly; you’d have an idea and then get on with it. When you’ve got three people who are linked genetically and have a similar passion together, that’s a pretty good recipe.”
Andrew, the third spoke in the well-engineered Goddard family wheel, joined the firm in 2008 after completing a Bachelor of Engineering at Queensland University of Technology. He later spent time at Brisbane-based TJM, a pioneer in the development of specialist equipment for Australian four-wheel drive enthusiasts, before moving back to Vehicle Components in 2015.
During this period Chris and Andrew pioneered the use of Remote Area Testing programs after identifying that the company was making off-road products but not using them as its customers were. These gruelling backcountry shakedowns provided real-world testing of the company’s suspension systems, to ensure the products worked under all conditions.
“You can test something in a lab, test something on a test track, but it doesn’t give you the same experiences as when you’re actually out there,” says Andrew.
“Over the years that’s morphed and changed and also become an irreplaceable marketing tool as well. People want to see the products where they’re going to use them. When stuff breaks, we show them warts and all. We’re honest about that and honest about how we fix it.”
The Goddards’ patented Cruisemaster range of independent arm suspensions for caravans and camper trailers were among the beneficiaries of this real-world testing program, ultimately developing a strong reputation.
The Remote Area Testing program also led to the Goddards identifying that existing trailer couplings weren’t keeping up with the capabilities of their enhanced suspension systems in rough country. As a result, they also expanded into trailer couplings.
Today Cruisemaster also engineers leaf spring suspensions, services caravan and trailer suspensions, and offers a range of accessories.
More than 20,000 suspension arms and 40,000 couplings leave Cruisemaster’s Brisbane factory each year, bound for national and international markets for rough-road travellers from the Territory, to Tanzania and possibly even Timbuktu.