History : The secret product plans
Product planning documents are a unique snapshot of the forward plans for any company with its eye on the future.
Back in the 1970s, the political and economic climate within BL changed almost on a weekly basis, depending on the current government’s attitude to funding the giant car company. KEITH ADAMS reveals some of the more sensitive plans from the Seventies and Eighties, which showed that even within the darkest of times with the tightest of resources, there was still optimism for the future…
In part one of a series, we concentrate on Rover-Triumph, and what lay up its sleeve.
A Planned future…
WE receive lots of historical titbits and recollections here at austin-rover.co.uk, and just about all of them are invaluable aids to building up a true sense of historical perspective. However, nothing beats documentary evidence of forthcoming model plans, be that styling sketches or internal documents. If you’re not familiar with product planning documents, then you’re in for a treat if you ever come across one – because the lay-out in black and white just what engines, gearboxes and body styling future models are going to use…
Product Planning must have been a nightmare within BL, though – what with the ever-changing management structure, and the shifting sands of government funding…
Rewind to 1978, and following the appointment of Sir Michael Edwardes to the post of Chairman and Chief Executive of British Leyland, the company’s car divisions were split into two. Hastily welded into one unwieldy organisation (called Leyland Cars) after the Ryder reorganisation of 1975, BL’s manufacturing divisions were once again given a measure of autonomy. Austin and Morris were separated from the ‘premium’ brands, leaving Austin-Morris (AM) and Jaguar-Rover-Triumph (JRT). It wasn’t perfect (for a start, MG nestled with Austin-Morris, when most of its adherents felt its future lay within JRT), but it was a whole lot better than the catch-all Leyland Cars.
These reorganisations were a regular part of life within BL after the Ryder years, and as a result, future model planning and strategy was a wholly unstable affair, which meant that many of the agreeable economies of scale, associated with large multi-marque carmakers today – such as platform and engine sharing – were simply not on the agenda.
Rewind further, and the story is similarly confused following the formation of BL in 1968. The post-Edwardes break-up of ‘premium’ and ‘bread-and-butter’ marques closely mirrored what Lord Stokes had already done. The knock-on effect of this was product planners for Austin-Morris or Specialist Division (as JRT was known as in the Stokes era) tended to stick to their own platforms/engines/factories, even when further rationalisation could be made – with no policy within the company to push forwards with serious rationalisation. Harry Webster saw the potential, dipping into the Triumph parts bin when devising the Marina – but that was an act of desperation, borne out of the urgent need to get a new product on the market as quickly as possible.
Other cars conceived within that fertile era were either Austin-Morris products (Allegro, Princess) or Specialist Division (SD1), with cross-fertilisation.
With the Stokes-era management running BL effectively like two separate car companies, product planners from one division tended not to look ‘over the wall’ at what the other was doing… Decisions such as pursuing the slant-four Dolomite engine in the TR7 (instead of going with the O-Series), and the OHC Triumph/Rover straight-six (Instead of the E6-series engine) in the SD1, came as the direct result of running BL as two distinct ‘car’ divisions – harking back to a bygone age.
When the company hit the rocks in 1974, and Ryder made his recommendations the following year, the divisions were broken down, and all marques (apart from Jaguar) were forced to work together. In hindsight, it was probably the correct policy to follow but, ironically, turned out to be the one that caused the most antagonism within the company. However, this period between 1975 and 1978 did result in the best talent BL had to offer combining and working together. An early result of this thinking was the merging of the rival Rover/Triumph SD2 and Austin/Morris ADO77 projects to create the TM1 project – a good idea in theory, but one which time overtook…
Beyond that, both the LC8 and LC10 were conceived in these troubled times – and saw Rover-Triumph designers working closer to their counterparts at Austin-Morris in Longbridge…
However, in 1978, Edwardes decided to splinter the company again, and that meant a whole host of new Product Plans needed devising.
Rover-Triumph 1979-1987 Product Planning
In 1978, Rover-Triumph still produced far too many product lines, but all that was about to change. The Dolomite, Spitfire and MG Midget were going to be left unreplaced (the BL-Honda deal had yet to be finalised when the JRT was formed), and the MGB would disappear, to be replaced by the TR7 offshoot, Broadside.
Before the collaborative deal with Honda had been crystallised, the long term future of the Rover SD1 posed many problems. Without much in the way of resources, its replacement would end up being heavily SD1-based, and as that car’s roots lay in the early Seventies, its performance in the late-Eighties would probably end up being called into question.
The good news was that Rover-Triumph would end up with a slimmed-down two model line – Bravo and Broadside, and that much needed rationalisation would result in agreeable economies of scale.
Of course, events unfolded in a much different way – Honda came to the rescue, allowing BL to produce the Rover 800, the Acclaim came in to replace the Dolomite (before becoming a Rover), and the TR7 line (Broadside) died with the closure of the Solihull car plant in 1982 – taking with it, all of BL’s sports car sales for more than a decade.
What becomes patently clear from reading these plans, is that Rover-Triumph were clutching at straws, and did not appear to have much in the way of new hardware for the upcoming decade, apart from the O-Series turbo engine. Plans to fit the 16V Dolomite Sprint engine were finally laid to rest in 1978, just after the publication of JRT’s first product strategy document.
|PRODUCT PLAN: Model line SD1|
|1980||Spring||Project RT 003 – V8 North America
Introduction of this model into the USA, following the launch in Canada, Autumn 1979. Unique specification to comply with emission and safety legislation including four round headlamps, impact absorbing bumpers, strengthened doors. Level of specification essentially as V8S, but sunroof as option.
|1980||Autumn||Project RT 004 – Japan Phase I Type B
RHS model with SU Butec air conditioning succeeding LHS models with Alpinair air conditioning introduced into the market Autumn 1979. Emission levels as Swedish model.Project RT 005 – Minor facelift 81 model year
Increased exterior differential, improved interior refinement and changes to eliminate consumer identified criticisms. Main feature changes as identified in PPL SD1 74.
o New seats
o New interior Trim
o Revised bumpers with rubber insert
o Headlamp pressure wash system
o Electrically operated sunroof (V8S)
o Electrically operated mirrors
o Body side rubbing strip.
|1981||Spring||Project RT026 – Australian Phase III
The NSW authorities have proposed all vehicles sold in this territory manufactured after January 1981 must comply with more stringent emissions legislation.
To continue marketing in this territory, engineering propose modifying the V8 engine with an open-loop fuel injection system. It is proposed this specification will be adopted for all territories on the Australian continent.
|1981||Autumn||Project RT 008 – Diesel derivative
Installation of a bought out diesel engine (VM or Citroen) with minimal changes to suit. To be marketed in the UK and Europe alongside existing version.Project RT 014 – 2-litre version
Introduction of O-Series engine with minimal changes to suit. To be marketed in the UK and Europe alongside existing model range.Project RT 010 – Major facelift 82 Model Year
A major facelift to all models in the range including:-
o Minimal BIW changes to front end, to provide facelift identity.
o Headlamps aligned with side/indicator lamps.
o Front spoiler.
o New rear lamp cluster.
o Rear wash/wipe, new parcel shelf, new instrument binnacle, braking improvements.[Previous product planning documents suggested the Estate version of the SD1 would be launched at the same time as this facelift – Ed.]
|1985||Autumn||Project RT 012 – Model year change
Autumn 1984, Run-out of O-Series engine, vehicle to continue with 6-cylinder OHC engines and V8 versions only.
Autumn 1985, Model range run-out
|1982||Autumn||Project RT 022 – Possible opportunities on base plan.
Dependent on AM engine strategy, opportunity exists to increase model range with a 2.0-litre O-Series turbocharged engine.
|1983||Autumn||Project RT 012 – V8 diesel
Opportunity exists to further increase the model range by the addition of a diesel engine based on the V8 petrol unit [Project Iceberg – Ed]
|PRODUCT PLAN: Model line Rover Bravo|
|1984||Autumn||Project RT 020 – 4-door saloon
Introduction of the first, in a new model range to replace SD1 in established markets, with the exception of North America.Proposed specification
o Front end and suspension as TR7/8
o New mid-section similar to SD1
o Rear end and axle – combination of SD1 and LynxEngines:
o 2.0-litre O-Series
o 2.6-litre 6-cylinder OHC
o 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel – bought outTransmission:
o 77mm gearbox
o Mid-range axle
[This project was also known as LC30 in earlier product strategy documents – Ed.]
|1985||Autumn||Project RT 023 – 5-door saloon
introduction of 5-door hatchback based on 4-door underbody with extended front and rear ends to provide styling differential. Additional to model range in established Bravo markets and replaces SD1 in North America.Engines:
o 2.0-litre O-Series
o 2.6-litre 6-cylinder OHC
o V8 petrol engine
o 4-cylinder turbodieselDimensions and other mechanicals as 4-door.Weight:
o 2379-2400lb (target)
|1986||Model year change
Changes to meet mandatory legal requirements.
|1987||Autumn||Project RT 025 – Bravo facelift
A proposed facelift intended to maintain sales of the Bravo model range.Possible opportunities on base plan
Autumn 1984: Dependent on AM engine strategy, oppportunity exists to increase the 4-door model range with a 2.0-litre O-Series turbocharged engine in Autumn 1984 and 5-door derivative in Autumn 1985.Autumn 1985: Opportunity exists to further increase the 5-door model range by the addition of a diesel engine based on the V8 petrol unit.
|PRODUCT PLAN: Model line Sports car|
|1980||Autumn||Project RT 057 – TR7/8 model year
Cosmetic changes and mandatory requirements effective September 1980.
|1980||Autumn||Spitfire model run out|
|1980||End||MGB and GT model run out.|
|1981||Spring||Project RT 066 – TR7/8 hardtop
JRT incoroporated have indicated that they with to continue with a hardtop development programme. It is proposed that design/production costs be assessed with a view to local fitment for NAS vehicles. Hardtops could then be imported from the USA for fitment to vehicles from other markets.
Heated backlights are considered an essential feature of this product action.
|1981||Spring||Project RT 078 – Boxer
Introduction of a new model based on the TR7 convertible with the objective of replacing the MGB, initially in the North American market.
|1981||Autumn||Project RT 058 – TR7 O-Series
Introduction of a twin carburettored 2.0-litre O-Series engine into the TR7 and Boxer derivatives.
|1983||Spring||Run out of TR7/8 and Boxer derivatives
Model range replaced by Broadside.
|1983||Spring||Project RT 061 – Broadside, Triumph convertible and hardtop
MG 2+2 GT
A direct replacement for the TR7/8 model range and Boxer derivative.The vehicle will be based upon the TR7/8 underbody (with longer wheelbase) and mechanicals utilising some new panels previously developed for the discontinued Lynx programme.Engines:
o 2.0-litre O-Series
o V8[In previous product strategy documents, this was referred to as project SC1, and would have come in two body sizes to replace the Spitfire/Midget as well as the MGB/TR7. Also, earlier documents suggested using the O-Series engine in 1.7-lite form as well – Ed]
|1984||Autumn||Broadside electronic facelift
It is proposed to develop an electronic instrument pack vehicle. The main product feature being an electronic display.
|1987||Autumn||Run out Broadside models
Dependent on the future possible opportunity of developing a new sports car in collaboration with Honda, together with a successful launch.Possible opportunities on base plan:
Dependent on Austin Morris engine strategy, an opportunity exists to install a turbocharged version of the O-Series from the introduction of the Broadside models.
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.