Blog : Missed opportunities…

Mark Mastrototaro

Austin Victoria

Having a love affair with ‘The Firm’ gives us, as car enthuiasts of a defunct marque, countless opportunities to discuss a miriad of ‘what if’s’, ‘If only’s’ and ‘Why’s’.

One which has struck me of late is, at the height of the badge-engineering frenzy of the mid-to-late 1960s, why more wasn’t made of the products the connected over-seas companies were churning out. If the tooling wasnt right, why not import the sections/parts required from the over-seas operations at Authi/Leyland Australia etc in knocked-down form? Rocket-science it aint!

Don’t get me wrong, not everything would have been suitable; I can’t personally see a use for the Australian market Morris Nomad with the Maxi so close to production, there definitely were cars that could have worked however.

Morris Nomad

Exhibit A is the Austin Kimberley/Tasman. A really conventional three-box design based on the Landcrab; arguably more modern looking than the landcrab but with an identical centre section, would it have been so difficult to knock out as the Morris badged variant for UK consumption? Closely related enough to be made cheaply, different enough to keep brand loyalists happy? Who knows.

Exhibit B has to be the Austin Apache/Victoria, gorgeous little ‘Triumph-esque‘ ADO16 variant that, again would have surely kept our Riley/Wolesley/MG customers happier than driving an Austin 1100 with a different front panel?

The jury could be out with both of these examples at what badge they should/could have worn, but I just really really feel that, rather than just changing a badge, they could have made more use of the whole organisation.

Neither of these cars would have looked out of place on British roads and would have stood the test of time, as well, if not better, than their stable-mates.

Austin Apache

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

21 Comments on "Blog : Missed opportunities…"

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  1. Will M says:

    BMC would have been the 60s/70s equivalent of VW Group, similar cars but different styles appealing to different buyers, all on the same platform.

  2. Mark S says:

    This website is excellent but…. Why the ‘what if’ storyline again, they didnt do what seems obvious now end of??
    Hindsight is a marvellous thing.

  3. Simon Hodgetts says:

    The Austin Victoria is a superb looking car – would’ve gone down well in blighty I think……

  4. Robert Leitch says:

    The Victoria / Apache arrived at least eight years too late – the UK ADO16s were in their final two years. Had I been Harriman, there would have been a RWD Victoria-like car in 1963 with A and B series engines to face off the Cortina.

    The Nomad is a sorry apology of a thing, a five door Countryman would have done the same job and could have been in production from 1966.

  5. Lord Sward says:

    Paging Martin Williamson, paging Martin Williamson.

  6. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    Maybe the Apache/Victoria could have replaced the 1100/1300 in the early 70s – more practical and more stylish than the Allegro,and in line with trends to larger body styles. Would only have been a stop-gap though. I guess the same could have happened with the Kimberley/Tasman – a decent facelift for the Landcrab.

  7. Paul says:

    Why in earth would BL have wanted the Apache/Victoria in the UK? – Its all but identical to the Triumph. 1500/Dolomite. Thinking laterally however, it could have been badged a Triumph as a Toledo alternative, allowing platform sharing with the ADO16.

  8. Simon says:

    Yes I agree, I think building the Austin Apache instead of the small Triumphs would have allowed platform rationalisation while keeping the Triumph name alive.

    The Tasman could have given BL a conventional looking Cortina competitor for the UK fleet market.

    But maybe the biggest opportunity was engines. South Africa ran SD1s powered by the E series 6. Australia built a Rover v8-derived V6 in the mid 70s and put it in a Marina. A metro 6R4 engine a decade early! With sensible development there would have been no need to buy in motors from Honda in the 80s.

    The 4.4 litre V8 in the Leyland Australia P76 should have gone straight in the Range Rover in the 70s.

  9. Mark Mastro Mark Mastro says:

    @Mark S- What If’s are all we have! The brand’s gone

  10. marinast says:

    Nice to see the side light/indicator and bumper positioning on the top photo took a whole five minutes to finalise.

    BL’s biggest missed oppotunity? Not merging with Toyota.

  11. Ingvar Hallstrom says:

    Mark S: Because we should learn from history.

    In the fifties, BMC exported more cars than any other company in the world, half of all the cars on the globe was made by BMC. It’s a tale of in the line of Shakespearean tragedy how the company went from world domination to irrelevance in just a couple of decades. There are endless tales of management insulation, there are endless tales of bad business decisions. The sheer magnitude of stupidity is simply mindboggling. The “what if’s” are the hopes and dreams of all the people that suffered looking at the mess while it happened, the “what if’s” are all that’s left of almost all of Britains entire car making industry.

  12. KC says:

    There are indeed a lot of “what ifs”, but as many have commented, that is really all that is left.

    I think one big reason why people visit this site is to see just how many opportunities were squandered over the years, and what could have been things had gone in a different direction. It’s almost a case of “I must have my ritual daily burst of tearing my hair out”

  13. KenS Ken Strachan says:

    Why not used in UK?

    Not Invented Here.

  14. Milly says:

    Surely the biggest missed opportunity was not importing the 1974 Innocenti Mini, maybe replacing the Mini Clubman. It would have given them a Metro 6 years before the Metro, allowing the Maestro to hit the market much earlier than it did

  15. mark says:

    The biggest missed BL opportunity must surely be stokes ignoring the 9X!

  16. daveh says:

    BMC were working on the same principle as the americans. It failed here, and it has failed in america, as consumers get to realise that they are the same car

  17. Marius says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Mark Mastrototaro. Have been thinking exactly this for years!

  18. yereverluvinunclebert says:

    @ Mark S – The Hindsight would have been built by Humber surely?

  19. Jeff Morris says:

    It does seem hard to comprehend why they would have wasted money on the Allegro when they were sitting on the stylish Michelotti prototype that became the Apache/Victoria. Particularly as it would have cost virtually nothing to put into production, most of the structure being common to the 1100/1300.

    The Australian 1500/Nomad show that the E series could have been installed in this booted derivative. These cars were a disaster in Australia because of the early gearbox woes that also affected the Maxi 1500 for the first 18 months. However once the improved rod change became available a 1.5 [or preferably 1.6] E Series could have complemented the 1.3 A Series.

    Because of their common structure, such a car could have complemented the 1100/1300 rather than replaced it outright. I suspect the basic 1300 version would probably have continued to sell quite well.

    In fact in about 1970 there was an opportunity for the old BMC to have had a range of relatively stylish saloon cars at minimal cost:

    Mini Clubman nose/ Elf-Hornet Boot, 12″ wheels, 1.1 A Series

    Apache with 13″ wheels, 1.3 A Series, 1.6 E Series

    Morris Maxi 4 Door, 1.6 E Series

    Tasman/Kimberley 2.0 B Series, 2.4 E Series

    Wolseley 3.5 Litre [Rover]

    The first 4 could have been Morris badged and complemented the original Mini, 1300 and 5 Door Maxi badged as Austins.
    The 1800 and Austin 3 litre would have been replaced outright.

    The 2.0 B Series had been developed but not put into production. A 1.6 E Series would have been a straightforward proposition and would have aligned the cars better internally as a range and within the market, for example against Ford. The 2.4 E Series Six was certainly feasible, the only question being the torque capacity of the 1800’s gearbox. If this was inadequate the 2.2 version certainly worked and a 2.6 could have been slotted into the RWD Wolseley.

    At far less cost than the Allegro, Marina and Princess this would have given a vastly more coherent and effective range through the 70s. The 1.6 Apache and Maxi 4 Door would have probably taken more fleet sales from the Cortina than the Marina 1.8 ever did. The 1.3/1.6 Apache could well have taken over from the 1100/1300 as Britain’s best selling car.

    A block obsolesence problem with this range would have occurred around 1978 but it would have given sufficient breathing space to develop much better second generation FWD cars with end on gearboxes.

    The return to RWD in Marina to woo fleet buyers, which seems at first glance to be the obvious strategy, may not have been necessary or desireable in terms of maximising the company’s return on its’ existing capital investments and presenting a coherent product offering.

    The point about not working with overseas subsidiaries to share development costs is well made. The SD1/P76 conspiracy theory is remarkable only for the fact that these cars were NOT developed from the same platform. They should in fact have been the same car! Only when the completed P76 was released in the UK did it seem to dawn on anybody that P76 was too big to sell in Europe!

    Likewise the SD2/TM1 should have been the same car as the Australian P82 – this programme should have started years earlier ie as a proper car in lieu of Marina if a return to RWD was to be made. Note that exceptionally good product planning for P82 also provided a SWB version that would have competed in the Allegro segment.

  20. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    I guess the idea was the the Allegro would take the company to a different level, post ADO16 – more stylish, more technically advanced (bigger engines, 5-speed, hydragas). A rival for the Alfasud or Citroen GS, maybe also the Golf. Didn’t work out that way though!

  21. Wingroad says:

    Surely the worst decision Leyland made was to chuck out Roy Haynes planned rationalisation of the platforms and bodies.When they got round to it it was too little too late.

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