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Around the world : South Africa

British car production in South Africa following the end of the Second World War initially amounted to CKD (Completely Knocked Down) production of Austins and Standard Vanguards by local producers.

Morris entered the fray in 1948, with the first imported Minors. This was a small beginning, but because of the growth of the South African economy, this soon burgeoned into something larger.


A potted history

The factory at Blackheath saw the production of ADO16s, Minis and Marinas among others.

The factory at Blackheath saw the production of ADO16s, Minis and Marinas among others.

In 1955, Leyland’s Blackheath plant in the Cape area, opened, and saw the beginning of truck and bus production. Whereas in Australia and Europe, BMC did not represent a significant presence in South Africa, because pre-war, customers tended to opt for American cars, thanks to their soft springing and ride height, which favoured the poor quality roads.

During the 1950s, roads were considerably improved, and European cars were increasingly favoured, but Volkswagen, Volvo and Peugeot gained a foothold on the market, giving the British more of a fight than they had on some other markets. By 1959 and with the introduction of the Mini, the products of BMC were still either imported or assembled from CKD kits…

By 1960, however, this changed thanks to a change in government legislation that encouraged companies to create production facilities in South Africa. The Local Contents Programme encouraged BMC to investigate the possibility of openening a facility in South Africa – just at the time that small cars were ousting American cars as the most popular new type of vehicle.

Leyland SA

This proved a perfect opportunity for BMC, which had the Mini and 1100 – new and exciting small cars. However, it took time to prepare the new operation, and they continued to rely on imports and CKD kits.

Following the formation of BLMC in 1968, a policy of rationalization followed in South Africa. In 1969, BMC, Jaguar and Aveling-Barford’s operations were merged with Leyland Motor Corporation South Africa (or Leykor as it was known). This meant the expansion of the Blackheath facility, where all the company’s operations would now be centred.

The introduction of the locally produced Austin Apache in 1971 boosted local content and output, but it seemingly did not meet sales targets, and was withdrawn from the market after about four years. The Apache’s replacement was the Austin Marina, but there was a hiatus between them, which was partially filled by the local production of the Jaguar XJ6.

The Austin Marina was launched in 1975, and like its predecessor, was built in the Blackheath plant. Using the E4 and E6 engines, and Australian tooling, the Austin Marina was an interesting car, quite dissimilar to the more humble Cowley-produced Marina. Other oddities unique to the South African market were a Mini, which comprised of an Elf/Hornet rear on standard front end (quite the opposite of the earlier Wolseley 1000) and a locally produced Daihatsu pickup truck, badged as a Leyland.

The Daihatsu/Leyland model was introduced in order to supplement the range, which lacked a utility vehicle (known as a ‘Bakkie’ in South Africa; where ‘Bak’ = something with room at the BACK + ‘kie’ = the diminutive form of a big truck).


South African produced models

A selection of the cars produced at Blackheath.

Wolseley 1000 and other Minis 

Was the Wolseley 1000 a Mini with a Hornet front end, or a Hornet with a Mini rear end? Well, whichever way you look at it, it was certainly unique to the South African market, but it wasn’t the only Mini-based oddity to emerge from this BMC off-shoot…More…

BMC 11/55

In South Africa, the “11/55″ tag was used for an uprated, twin-carb version which was sold alongside the standard Austin 1100. Appropriately enough, there was also a Wolseley 11/55.More…

Austin Apache

The three-box ADO16, as restyled by Michelotti.

More…

Austin Marina

The Marina, but linked with the Australian- and not the UK-produced version.

Triumph Chicane

Dating from 1972, this CKD-built car used the automatic transmission from the Triumph 2000 and the Stromberg carburettors from the 2500, thus giving Leyland SA an automatic saloon that had the power to cope with the local terrain, while avoiding the 2.5PI’s fuel injection system, which was perceived as being unreliable.

Rover V8 Sport

The Rover V8 Sport Automatic was introduced in South Africa in 1971 as an improved version of the 3500 V8 which had already been on sale there for some years. Improvements consisted of a change from the low-compression export engine to a new high-compression head of 10.5:1 giving an output of 184bhp, along with twin power bulges in the bonnet and improved dial-type instrumentation.A 3-speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission and disc brakes were fitted as standard.

Power steering was available as an option. This model effectively mirrored the running changes implemented in UK models, barring the new-for-South Africa name.

Rover SDX

The South African produced SD1 was unique for using the E6 engine in 2622cc form. It was somewhat smoother than the Euro version, too.

Jaguar XJ6 Executive

Long-wheelbase version of the standard XJ6 (also sold in South Africa), the Executive benefitted from air conditioning and an uprated alternator.

 

Posted in: Around the world
Keith Adams

About the Author:

AROnlineholic between 2001 and 2014 - editor of Classic Car Weekly, and all round car nut...

9 Comments on "Around the world : South Africa"

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  1. Nate says:

    What was the output for the 2.6 E6 in the Rover SDX?

    Also, is there any information on a stillborn South African built Mini hatchback proposal from 1976/77 that appears on page 269 in Mini: The Definitive History by Jon Pressnell?

  2. Hilton D says:

    Very interesting article… The Wolesley 1000, Triumph Chicane & Rover V8 Sport look and sound particularly interesting to me.

  3. Glenn Aylett says:

    Did apartheid, as well as financial problems, play any part in British Leyland pulling out of South Africa as by the eighties relations between the West and South Africa hit a real low and it was not considered politically correct to trade with South Africa, although it was never banned. ( Also recall the horror from one left wing student activist when she saw a Cape apple in the refectory).

  4. LeonUSA says:

    I would also add, as happened in the USA, and elsewhere, the shift to Toyota and Datsun/Nissan, Japanese brands with much better reliability and more up to date product lines vs. Euro/UK brands, but for M-B and BMW.

  5. dib says:

    In the poster the pickup (No 11) looks like a Dacia / Renault. What is it?

  6. Glenn Gilbert says:

    The pickup in the poster is a Daihatsu – Leykor built these under licence.

    The Marinas produced in South Africa were more complex than outlined above. The first ones were the “Super” version with the twin-SU carb. MGB engine. (they advertised it as “the heart of an MGB with the steering of an E-type Jaguar”.

    In 1976, Leyland fitted the 1750cc motor instead of the MGB once they had bought the tooling from Australia. This was available in manual and 3-speed auto. The E-series 2.623 OHC motor was also fitted in the top of the range model. This was sold with a 3-speed BW. transmission only. I had a very rare 3-speed manual version that they had as an evaluation model for the police. It was a brilliantly-smooth motor with loads of torque and light on fuel for its size. I used to cruise at about 140kph quite happily. This engine had a single SU carburetor, while the similar engine in the Rover SD1 had twin SU’s.

    Towards the end of its production life, Leyland produced a Marina van and pickup using the 1300 A series only. They then also produced a 1300 Marina saloon.

  7. Glenn Gilbert says:

    The Triumph Dolomite Sprint never came to South Africa, so Leykor converted a Marina into a rally car and used the Rover V8 engine. This was rallied for a short while with reasonable success. We had one of the rally team’s vehicles that was a 1750 auto with full-harness seatbelts and other equipment.

  8. Chas King says:

    I am interested in the Jaguar XJ6 production at Blackheath. Worldwide the XJ6 Series 2 ended in 1979 and the Series 3 began in 1980. However, at Blackheath it appears that the same Series 2 vehicle was retained and, where practical, some of the Series 3 modifications (bumpers, petrol caps)were tacked on and the hybrid was classed as a Series 3. This could have been due to a Leyland decision not to tool up for the Series 3 model due to the political situation here. I have just bought a 1980 (according to the AARTO registration papers) XJ6 built at Blackheath which has features of both the Series 2 and 3. The Leyland plate affixed to the RHS engine compartment does not have a normal VIN as we know it. As a buyer I am no longer sure of what I have bought!

  9. Philip Knagg says:

    Don’t forget that the Triumph TR7 was manufactured at Blackheath also. There are many of those still on the road – probably more than any other Triumph sports model and there are still a few CFM registered cars around. Then there is that odd vehicle called an Austin Apache that has an 1100 front and centre to the C pillar with a Triumph 1300 boot. Don’t see many of those anymore.

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