By 27 December 2013 11 Comments Read More →

History : BMC/BL/Rover timeline 1952-2005

The original Mini has a huge following and with very good reason. They're cheap to run and insure and great fun to steer. Sadly, they're also rust-prone and costly.

Year Events New models
1952 British Motor Corporation is created as a result of talks between Leonard Lord and Lord Nuffield. The actuality is an effective takeover of Morris by Austin – Lord and his second in command, George Harriman, take control of the new conglomerate.

Surprisingly, they do not crush Morris because Lord insisted on maintaining the Nuffield marques – MG, Morris, Riley and Wolseley – allowing them to flourish in order to optimise BMC’s market share. Lord revelled in the situation that allowed him to control the largest car producer in the UK – and he once famously said of the situation, “You know what BMC stands for, don’t yer? Bugger My Competitors!”

Morris Minor Series II
Riley RME
Riley RMF
Wolseley 4/44
Daimler Regency
Daimler Empress II
Triumph Renown MkII
1953 MG TF
MG Magnette ZA
Riley Pathfinder
Austin-Healey 100
Alvis TC21/Grey Lady
Daimler Conquest
Jaguar XK120 DHC
Triumph TR2
Standard Eight
1954 Austin A40 Cambridge
Austin A50 Cambridge
Austin A90 Westminster
Austin FX3D/FL1D
Morris Oxford Series II
Morris Cowley
Wolseley 6/90
Metropolitan
Daimler Sportsman
Daimler Regina
Lanchester Sprite
Jaguar XK140
Standard Ten
1955 Leonard Lord persuades Alec Issigonis to return to BMC after moving to Alvis to work on a new sports car. Morris Isis
MG MGA
Daimler One-O-Four
Jaguar 2.4-litre MkI
Triumph TR3
Standard Vanguard III
1956 George Harriman becomes BMC’s Managing Director, following the resignation of Joe Edwards. Issigonis begins work on his XC (Experimental Car) projects. Austin A95 Westminster
Austin A105
Austin A135 Princess IV
Austin-Healey 100-Six
Morris Minor 1000
MG Magnette ZB
Wolseley 15/50
Alvis TC108G
Jaguar MkVIII
1957 Austin A55 Cambridge MkI
Riley One-Point-Five
Riley Two-Point-Six
Wolseley 1500
Princess 4-litre limousine
Jaguar XK150
Jaguar XK-SS
Standard Pennant
Standard Ensign
1958 Austin A105 Vanden Plas
Austin FX4/FL2
Wolseley 15/60 (Farina)
Austin-Healey Sprite
Austin A40 Farina
Alvis TD21
Daimler Majestic
Jaguar MkIX
Rover P5
Standard Vanguard Vignale
Land Rover Series 2
1959 BMC now become committed to a front-wheel-drive future, following the successful development of the Mini – Leonard Lord sees BMC as a world-leading producer of advanced motor cars. Mini
Austin A55 Cambridge MkII
Morris Oxford Series V
MG Magnette MkIII
Riley 4/Sixty Eight
Austin A99 Westminster
Wolseley 6/99
Princess 3-Litre
Austin-Healey 3000
Daimler SP250 (Dart)
Jaguar MkII
Triumph Herald
1960 Leonard Lord retires as company Chairman and is replaced by George Harriman. Lord takes on a new title as BMC Vice-Chairman. Alec Issigonisis promoted to the role of Technical Director of BMC.

Jaguar purchases Daimler. Vanden Plas launched as a marque in its own right, with the renaming of the previous year’s Princess 3-litre.

1961 Leyland Motors purchases Standard-Triumph. Mini-Cooper
Riley Elf
Wolseley Hornet
Austin A60 Cambridge
Austin A110 Westminster
Austin-Healey Sprite MkII
Morris Oxford Series VI
MG Magnette MkIV
MG Midget
Wolseley 16/60
Riley 4/Seventy Two
Wolseley 6/110
Daimler DR450
Jaguar Mk X
Jaguar E-Type
Triumph TR4
Rover P5 Coupe
1962 Leonard Lord becomes Lord Lambury. Morris 1100
MG 1100
MG MGB
Morris Minor (1098cc)
Daimler 250
Triumph Spitfire
Triumph Vitesse
1963 Austin 1100
Vanden Plas Princess 1100
Jaguar S-Type
Rover 2000
Triumph 2000
1964 Austin 1800
Vanden Plas 4-litre R
Alvis TE21
1965 BMC purchases Pressed Steel. Rover purchases Alvis. Riley Kestrel
Wolseley 1100
MGB GT
Triumph 1300 (FWD)
1966 Joe Edwards returns to BMC and becomes Managing Director. George Harriman becomes executive Chairman.

BMC purchases Jaguar forming the conglomeration known as British Motor Holdings (BMH); William Lyons retains role as Managing Director of Jaguar.

Morris 1800
Jaguar 420
Daimler Sovereign
Rover P6B
Alvis TF21
Triumph GT6
1967 Leonard Lord dies.

Leyland Motors purchases Rover. Alvis passenger car production ceases.

Austin 3-Litre
MG MGC
Wolseley 18/85
Jaguar 240/340
First 1275cc ADO16s
Rover P5B
Triumph TR5
1968 Leyland Motors and BMH merge to become The British Leyland Motor Company. Donald Stokes becomes company Chairman, Harriman becomes honorary President of BLMC (a non-executive role). William Lyons retains a seat on the board, becoming the BLMC Deputy Chairman. Joe Edwards resigns, resulting in a Board of Directors which is dominated by Leyland executives.

Stokes protégés John Barber (Director of Finance) and George Turnbull (head of Austin-Morris) take up the role as Stokes’ right-hand men. Stokes approaches the IRC (Industrial Reorganisation Committee – a Government-sponsored organisation to help finance mergers and acquisitions) for a £25m loan.

Harry Webster replaces Alec Issigonis as Technical Director. Riley Kestrel was renamed Riley 1300 for its final year in production.

Austin America
Jaguar XJ6
Daimler Sovereign
Daimler 420DS
Triumph TR6
1969 Post-Leyland rationalisation begins on the range: Riley marque is killed, as is the 998cc Mini-Cooper and Wolseley Hornet – the result is the Mini name now becomes a marque in its own right. Austin Maxi
Mini Clubman
Triumph 2000/2.5PI MkII
1970 Following in the footsteps of the Mini, all Austin badges are dropped from the Maxi, so that it is presented in all BLMC literature, simply as the ‘Maxi by British Leyland’. Austin Maxi 1750
Triumph 1500 (FWD)
Range Rover
Triumph Stag
1971 The Morris range is reduced to two models: the new Marina and the 1800. This event marks the death of the much-loved Morris Minor – a car mourned by many.

Austin-Healey Sprite is renamed the Austin Sprite for its final year, following the termination of the royalty agreement with Donald Healey.

In a similar move, the sole remaining Mini-Cooper model (the 1275S) is discontinued, due to the termination of the agreement with John Cooper.

Morris Marina
1972 Austin 2200
Morris 2200
Wolseley Six
Triumph Dolomite 1850
Jaguar XJ12
Daimler Double Six
1973 John Barber promoted to the role of Deputy Chairman, Leyland House opened at Marylebone, London, Stokes announces a huge BLMC expansion programme.

George Turnbull resigns.
George Harriman dies.

Austin Allegro
MGB GT V8
Rover 2200
Triumph Dolomite Sprint
1974 The finances of BLMC are in a perilous position – the result is that the company’s creditors approach the Government for help. Tony Benn instructs Sir Don Ryder to prepare a report on the company’s finances and their future under government ownership.

Spen King replaces Harry Webster as Technical Director.

Vanden Plas 1500
1975 Ryder Report published, recommending the company be enlarged under Government ownership. Alex Park replaces Donald Stokes, who becomes British Leyland President (a non-executive role).

The majority of British Leyland’s shares are purchased by the Government – and, as the major shareholder, the Government appoints Ryder, as Chairman of the National Enterprise Board (NEB) to vet all decisions regarding the running of the company made by Alex Park.

Derek Whittaker is placed in charge of running the entire car division, now known simply as Leyland Cars. John Barber resigns.

Company renamed British Leyland Limited. Wolseley marque is killed with the introduction of the Princess.

Austin Morris 18-22 Series
(later renamed Princess)
Jaguar XJ-S
Triumph TR7 (US launch)
1976 New factory at Solihull starts to produce production versions of the Rover 3500.

Triumph Toledo and Dolomite ranges rationalised and consolidated under the Dolomite name.

Triumph TR7 (UK launch)
Rover SD1 3500
1977 Sir Don Ryder resigns, and is replaced by Leslie Murphy, who persuades Michael Edwardes to take over the Chairmanship of British Leyland.

Alex Park and Derek Whittaker resign.

Rover SD1 2300/2600
1978 Speke manufacturing plant is closed by Michael Edwardes after a long and bitter battle with the Unions. Edwardes obtains Government backing for an emergency product recovery plan that centres on the LC8 and LC10.

Re-shuffle of the car division results in it being split into two: Austin-Morris (which also included MG) headed up by Ray Horrocks and JRT (Jaguar Rover Triumph) headed up by William Pratt-Thompson.

Company renamed BL Limited.

Princess 2
Morris Marina (O-series)
1979 BL sign collaborative deal with Honda to produce Japanese cars under licence in the UK. JRT is disbanded, Pratt-Thompson resigns and Ray Horrocks is promoted to Managing Director of BL. Harold Musgrove becomes Austin Morris Managing Director.

Vanden Plas factory at Kingsbury closed, 1500 production is transferred to Abingdon.

Austin Allegro 3
Land Rover V8
Triumph TR7 convertible
Triumph TR8
Jaguar XJ6 Series III
1980 Edwardes closes more BL plants: Abingdon and Canley. The MG marque is put on ice and Triumph sports car production is transferred to the Solihull plant.

Longbridge is renovated to accommodate production of the Metro – the plant is now considered one of the most automated in Europe.

John Egan becomes Jaguar Managing Director.

Austin miniMetro
Morris Ital
1981 Rover SD1 production is transferred to Cowley

Triumph TR7 is taken out of production and the Solihull plant is closed.

MG marque is resurrected.

Triumph Acclaim
Jaguar XJ12 HE
Jaguar XJ-S HE
Range Rover 5-door
1982 Sir Michael Edwardes‘ contract is not renewed by the Conservative Government – his replacement as Chairman is Sir Austin Bide. Edwardes manages to persuade the Government to part with £990 million in order to fund further model development.

Ray Horrocks remains in charge of car production, and a further reshuffle of divisions results in the formation of Austin Rover (the volume arm) and Jaguar. Harold Musgrove becomes the Chairman and Chief Executive of Austin Rover Group.

BL sign a collaborative deal with Honda to jointly develop their first car, the XX/HX.

Roy Axe replaces David Bache as BL Director of Design.

Austin Ambassador
Rover SD1 MkII
Austin Metro Vanden Plas
MG Metro
1983 Government pushes Austin Rover to negotiate terms with Honda for the production of all further engines. Harold Musgrove and Ray Horrocks firmly oppose the idea and eventually persuade Norman Tebbitt to drop the idea. Austin Maestro
MG Maestro
1984 Jaguar floated on the Stock Exchange; Ray Horrocks loses his battle with the Government for BL to retain a minority shareholding.

The last Morris passenger car is produced at Longbridge – marque now effectively dead.

Triumph marque killed as the Acclaim model is replaced by a Rover.

Austin Montego
MG Montego
Rover 213
1985 BL negotiate a further £1.5 billion cash injection to secure the company’s future. Government unimpressed by the request and push Austin Rover again to drop their new engine plans. The result is that the Government start looking for other companies to buy their shares in BL. Rover 216
MG Montego Turbo
1986 Failed attempt to sell Austin Rover to Ford and Freight Rover to General Motors results in the resignation of Ray Horrocks. The Government persuade Graham Day into the Chairman/Managing Directorship of BL, with a view to getting the company back in to private ownership as swiftly as possible.

Company renamed Rover Group plc. Harold Musgrove resigns shortly after the launch of the Rover 800.

Rover 800
Jaguar XJ (XJ40)
1987 The company now refocused on effective marketing of their cars. The future of the Mini is assured and Austin badges are removed from all Metros, Maestros and Montegos.

Unipart division and Leyland Trucks both sold off.

1988 Rover Group plc is sold to British Aerospace for £150 million. All former debts amassed in the public sector are written off and the aircraft manufacturer is given £800 million of working capital.

In the period of Government ownership, BL consumed £2.6 billion of public money.

Rover 827
Rover 800 fastback
MG Maestro Turbo
1989 Graham Day promotes George Simpson into the role of Managing Director of Rover Group Limited. Rovers are increasingly marketed as premium products in order to maximise profits.

For the first time in a generation, a new car (the R8) is launched by the company without being touted as being the ‘one to save the company.’

Rover signs a further agreement with Honda to produce a replacement for the Montego, only this time, it is not a collaborative venture.

Rover 214/216
Land Rover Discovery
1990 The European Union works with Ford to ascertain the value of Rover in 1988, when it was sold to BAe. The EU Commission finds that, as Ford estimated the company’s true worth at £800m and the sale was closed to other parties, the Government was guilty of operating an unfair competition.

Mini Cooper is re-launched following public demand.

Honda buys a 20 per cent stake in Rover, and Rover buy 20 per cent of Honda’s UK installation in Swindon.

Rover Metro
Rover 400
Rover 200 three-door
1991 John Towers promoted to the role of Group Managing Director. New cars plans for 1995 are drawn up and known collectively as the Rover Portfolio models – among these is an entirely new MG roadster.

Following unprecedented success of the R6, Rover rethinks future strategy.

Rover 800 MkII
1992 BAe financial pressure ensures that Rover’s future model plans are becoming increasingly cost constrained. Rover 200 Coupé
Rover 200 Cabriolet
Rover 800 Coupe
MG RV8
1993 MG return to convertible manufacture with the MG RV8. Rover 600
1994 BAe sell the Rover Group to BMW for £800m. BMW ensure cash injection into the company’s development centre at Gaydon. BMW management approve the production of the Portfolio models with little modification. John Towers remains in charge of Rover, but his job title changes to Chief Executive. Rover 400 Tourer
Range Rover P38
Jaguar XJ (X300)
1995 Work begins on replacing the Honda-based 600 and 800 models, which are costing BMW a considerable amount in licence payments. These models are considered to be a higher priority than the newly-launched 200 and 400 (which are also to differing degrees, Honda based).

BMW begins to take leadership of the Mini replacement programme.

Rover 100
Rover 200
Rover 400
MGF
1996 John Towers resigns.
1997 Quality problems delay in the development programme of the R40 (Rover 75) and also sour the introduction of the Freelander. BMW take firmer control of Rover, as losses begin to mount at an alarming rate. Land Rover Freelander
1998 BMW gain a Government grant to finance the renovation of Longbridge. Wolfgang Reitzle of BMW takes the post of Chief Executive of Rover and begins to try and address growing losses in the UK division.The Quandt family (the majority shareholders of BMW) report that they are growing impatient with mounting UK losses. Rover 75
Land Rover Discovery Series II
1999 Bernd Pischetsrieder (BMW CEO) and Wolfgang Reitzle are fired from BMW as the losses in the UK lead to BMW making their first overall loss in living memory.

The Alchemy Group (a venture capital company) commences negotiations with BMW regarding the takeover of Rover.

Rover 25
Rover 45
2000 John Towers leads the Phoenix Consortium to buy Rover from BMW. The price paid is a symbolic £10, but this includes financial and pension settlements from BMW.

BMW sells Land Rover to Ford in order to recoup losses amassed by Rover.

BMW retains the rights to the marque names of Riley, Rover and Triumph, while the new British company gains the names of Austin, MG, Morris and Wolseley, along with rights to the Vanden Plas name outside the North American market, where it is used by Ford-owned Jaguar. The company continues to use the Rover name under a licence agreement drawn up with BMW.

Other agreements with BMW include the stipulation that MG Rover do not produce any four-wheel-drive cars, so as not to clash with Ford-owned Land Rover in the marketplace. MINI remains with BMW, as does the Cowley plant where it is manufactured.

Company renamed The MG Rover Group.

2001 MG Rover announces the ‘Zed’ car range- with MG-badged versions of the 25, 45 and 75 making an appearance under the MR ZR, ZS and ZT banners. The launch is also used to explain that the company will be producing a rear-wheel-drive version of the ZT in 260 and 385PS form.

MG-Lola competes in Le Mans and performs well before breaking down…MG Rover acquires the Italian carmaker Qvale for £10m.

The X80 prototype is unveiled – it uses the underpinnings of the defunct Qvale Mangusta supercar, and MG plans to build 10,000 per year.

Work begins on the RDX60 project to replace the Rover 45 and MG ZS.

MG ZR
MG ZS
MG ZT
Rover 75 Tourer
MINI
Range Rover L322
2002 MG Rover shows the TCV at the Geneva Motor Show. MG Rover executives embark on talks with a number of foreign manufacturers with a view to picking up a collaborative partner.

Potential partners spoken to are Fiat (with a view to taking on the Stilo platform), Matra (for the Gen. 2 Espace) and Tata (for the Indica supermini). The Fiat deal is turned down by MGR executives, the Matra deal falls by the wayside as neither party can agree on numbers, but talks with Tata have a positive outcome.

A partnership is announced with China Brilliance, which would see MG Rovers built at a new factory to be set up in China.

Major development on the RDX60 programme is handed over to Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). MG Rover expressed an interest in purchasing the ex-Daewoo factory in Poland, with a view to expanding its own production possibilities. MG XPower SV is launched to the press, although it is clearly some way from production…

MG TF
2003 Negotiations with China Brilliance collapse, leaving MG Rover the task of finding another Chinese partner. Talks begin with Proton.

TWR goes into administration. RDX60 programme is frozen – although a running prototype is produced to show prospective partners as well as dealer principals and suppliers. MG X80 programme changed course to become the XPower SV supercar; a higher-priced and lower-volume model.

Tata Indica rebadged and launched in the UK as the CityRover – it is priced at least £2000 above what the dealers were initially told it would sell for.

Longbridge is sold to the property developers, St Modwen, and then leased back in a 50 year deal. Parts and distribution XPart, is sold to Caterpillar Logistics. Phoenix Four pension fund story breaks cover, and sales go into freefall…

MG XPower SV
MG ZT 260 V8
CityRover
Rover Streetwise
2004 Facelifted versions of the 25, 45 and 75 are announced, and manage to underwhelm…

A ‘letter of intent’ is signed with Proton, and a deal is hammered out involving production of the company’s newly-launched Gen2 supermini. In the end, the deal flounders quickly over money – MGR is now concentrating its efforts on China.

A deal is announced with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) – a Joint Venture Company is planned, with the Chinese controlling 70 per cent of the venture. Car production would take place in China and Longbridge, and new models would be jointly developed. MG Rover sells the rights to the 25 and 75, as well as the K-Series engine, to SAIC for £67m, in anticipation of the Joint Venture Company being formed.

Rover 75 Coupe and MG TF GT concepts unveiled at Autocar awards dinner…

Rover 75 V8
2005 MG Rover falls into administration due to the continuing sales collapse and SAIC’s decision to pull out of the Joint Venture Company deal at the last minute. Production is halted at Longbridge as supplier bills cannot be met and the administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers, are brought in to find a buyer for the remaining assets of MG Rover.

SAIC announces it is to build the Rover 75 in China using the rights it bought from MG Rover in 2004. Nanjing Automotive Corporation is announced as the new owners of MG Rover, and immediately pledges to re-start production at Longbridge as soon as it is possible to do so. In the meantime, it removes the production facilities housed in Longbridge and ships them back to China.

Phoenix Venture Holdings and its four directors remain solvent, as Powertrain, MG Rover, and Sport and Racing shut up shop… The final Rover 75 rolls off the line in July…

Posted in: History
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

11 Comments on "History : BMC/BL/Rover timeline 1952-2005"

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  1. rovereab says:

    Great resume, but a shame that the timeline didn’t start in 1949 so that the Rover P4 could have been included. The P4 having been an influence on exterior design the final car of the timeline, the 75. (pinched in rear, bright trim at the bottom of the doors…..)

  2. Name, required says:

    Does the number plate on that mini say what i think it does?

  3. David 3500 says:

    Under ‘New Models’ there are plenty more Austin Rover and Rover Cars entries missing. 1958: Land Rover Series 2. 1961: Rover P5 Coupe. 1982: MG Metro (launched in May of this year not 1981)and Rover SD1 Vitesse. 1984: Austin Montego saloon and estate. 1985: MG Montego Turbo. 1988: MG Maestro Turbo. 1990: Rover 200 3-door. 1992: Rover 200 Cabriolet, 800 Coupe and MGR V8. 1994: Rover 400 Tourer and P38A Range Rover; 1998 Land Rover Discovery Series II; 2003 – Rover Streetwise.

    Hope this helps.

  4. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    It does – I’ll get adding in the New Year

  5. Kev says:

    Re 2: Yes, it says exactly what you think it does. Being and English car, it bares a reference to a well known garden tool.

  6. maestrowoff says:

    An interesting article, but it seems odd to me to include the likes of Jaguar and Land Rover before they became part of British Leyland, but to then effectively leave them out after they were sold, as if only MGR and Longbridge are the real successor to BL…

  7. David 3500 says:

    @ Keith Adams:

    Here are two more for you: L319, the Land Rover Discovery 3, launched in 2004, and L320, the Range Rover Sport, launched in 2005.

    I have made an error with the Rover P5 Coupe – it was launched in 1962 not 1961. My apologies on this…

  8. Chris C says:

    A very useful summary.

    1981 Solihull plant closed?

    Having recently read the MGR government report, the interest in Daewoo wasn’t so much to expand production facilities as to lift and shift most of Longbridge to Poland – politically I can’t understand how they reasonably expected to get away with that one! It’s also interesting to see the full list of potential partner car manufacturers they spoke to – shame it was all done 3 years too late….

  9. David 3500 says:

    @ Chris C:

    What is the title of the document you are referring to and where can I download a copy?

  10. James A Tanner says:

    Hi,

    As an ex Dealer who lived through this period I believe that when BMC was created the Company had a UK market share of 39%. Do you have the annual market share figures up to closure?

    These numbers, I believe, reveal the gradual decline of the business which underlines the fact that “despite enormous loyalty by Dealers & The Public” market forces ultimately rule!

    If your product is uncompetitive you cannot prevent people voting with their feet.

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