Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Prototypes : BMC, BL and Rover’s most tragic missed opportunities

The site’s USP is, without doubt, its fine collection of stories, galleries and recollections by those who were there of the unborn heroes – the cars that never saw the light of day, but should have. And the history pages on this site are absolutely crammed with such cars.

And, with that in mind, Keith Adams chooses 10 of the best – 10 cars that should have, would have, transformed the fortunes of their makers. Sit back and try not to cry too many bitter tears of regret.


The boulevard of broken dreams

Choosing a Top 10 from such a huge selection of inglorious non-starters is actually quite difficult. That’s because, although there’s a lot to choose from, when you consider the impact of the various cars not being produced, the story becomes a lot less clear. With that in mind, we’ve not gone with the most intriguing or innovative non-starters (although you’ll see that many are), but the ones we reckon that would have enjoyed the greatest commercial success had they been built.

As you go through the list, you’ll soon see an emerging pattern. Small cars were something of a specialty for the BMC, BL and Rover, but thanks to the immortality of the Mini, and Metro, so many great designs remained as concepts within the Elephant House at Longbridge. We also know we’ve missed a few – so make sure you have your say at the end of the article.

Enjoy our trip down history’s parallel memory lane.


10: Rover 55

Rover 55

Developed in the mid-to-late 1990s, anticipated launch date c.2003

At first glance, the Rover 55, which was originally designed to appear on the market, looks like a quirky and mis-proportioned thing. A bit of a Marmite car, in fact. The long nose, rearward-biased cabin and huge wheels hint at a RWD platform. But BMW-owned Rover Group was thinking differently – and this FWD challenger had a longitudinally-mounted K-Series under the bonnet (or it would have done had it been built) and great weight distribution. Sadly, the design came to nothing, a victim of BMW’s reduced ambitions for Rover.

Would it have sold? Against the 3-Series and A4, it looks to have been another sector-spanning car that would have struggled to find a ready market. Instead, the Rover 45 soldiered on in its place.

9: The Pininfarina Aerodynamica 1100/1800

Styled in 1967, never considered for production by BLMC

Of all the car’s we’ve included, what makes the Pininfarina Aerodynamica so interesting is that it was a series of designs (yes, there was an 1800 and 1100 – and even a little-known Mini version) that weren’t commissioned by the British company, but which caused huge interest at the time they were revealed in 1967 and ’68. The five-door hatchbacks pre-dated the stampede towards two-box designs these designs in the 1970s and, had BL been brave enough to put them into production, it would have had those cutting edge cars that Donald Stokes and George Turnbull often referred to (but never really delivered).

Of course, they would have been mightily expensive to develop, and production versions would have looked a whole lot simpler but in light of the Allegro and Princess, it doesn’t stop one wondering today. Chances are they’d have sold no better – one only needs to see the Citroen CX and GS’s sales in the UK to see that.

8: Triumph Broadside

Triumph Broadside

Developed in 1978-’80, slated for production in 1982-’83

The Triumph TR7 is another of those BL cars, which had considerable development potential, but missed reaching its full potential because of circumstances way beyond its control. So many cars could have been spun from its simple, yet clever platform, but other than the addition of the drophead version and the V8 engine, it was pretty much left untouched. And that’s a tragedy because the Designers and Engineers came up with some appealing concepts – and, although it could be argued that the Lynx and Broadside coupes are as visually challenging as the original TR7, the open-topped O-Series-powered car (above) looks absolutely spot-on thanks to its longer wheelbase.

Moreover, considering that selling sports cars was something BL did very well, it’s a real tragedy that this car wasn’t built, received the engines it deserved and sold well into the 1980s. The economics of selling these cars to the Americans was stretched to breaking point in the early-1980s thanks to the strong sterling, but to abandon the market completely (and eventually the marque that delivered the TR7) was short-termist.

7: Austin-Morris ADO22

Austin-Morris ADO22

Developed in the late-1960s, planned for introduction in 1970

The ADO22 could have saved its maker a whole lot of grief. As a replacement for the best-selling ADO16 range, it was perfect, because, unlike the Allegro, it built on the strengths of its predecessor and did so without losing sight of what it was that made that car so appealing. So, it was effectively a Roy Haynes styled re-body of the 1100/1300 with the added value of a hatchback, and improved underbonnet access, and interior packaging. In short, it was the E-Series powered development of the 1100 (alongside the Austin Apache/Authi Victoria and Morris Nomad) which buyers so readily wanted.

Of course, it’s conjecture as to how well the ADO22 would have sold, especially in comparison with what the Allegro finally achieved, but had it gone some way to matching that car – combined with the much lower development costs – then BL might have just had that little bit more left in the pot with which to build its other mid-sized fighter, the ADO77.

6: Austin AR6

Austin AR6

Developed from 1983, anticipated launch date 1986-’87

Only number six for the Austin AR6? The trouble was that it was too clever for its own good. The car was originally designed to run with a three-cylinder K-Series engine and use aluminium in its construction – an ECV3 for the road, effectively. However, for a company wrestling with a Government that controlled it and which was not too keen on investing in such an ambitious supermini (estimates between £250-500m have been touted for AR6’s development costs), this was the wrong product at the wrong time, despite how appealing it must have looked to the engineers and designers.

AR6 had other issues too, not least the Metro’s enduring success in its home market, and the arrival of the Fiat Uno and Peugeot 205 – both of which were brilliant, conventional, and – important this – profitable for their makers. AR6, alas, would have probably not sold in far greater numbers than the Metro in the face of such an onslaught. A great car, but the company wouldn’t have done much better with it in the showrooms.

5: Rover 400 (AR16/17)

Rover 400 (AR16/17)

Developed in 1984-’85, anticipated introduction 1987-’88

We all know that there was little wrong with the Austin Montego that a new body wouldn’t sort out. Here was a car that handled and rode well, performed admirably and could handle long journeys with ease. But what self-respecting sales rep or middle-manager would want to drive a car so ugly, and so rooted in the 1970s? Of course, they knew this within Austin Rover, and during the mid-1980s, several Montego improvement programmes were undertaken – but this one, AR16/17, seems to have been the most promising. It combined Rover 200-800 series styling with the Montego’s brilliant platform and threw in the 16V M16-Series engine for good measure.

What’s not to like? However, as the funding taps were closed off, the AR16 was canned to make way for the AR9, a lightly-facelifted Montego, with the option of the M16 engine, before being watered down even further to become the 88.5MY models.

4: Issigonis 9X

Issigonis 9X

Developed between 1967 and 1980-something, anticipated launch of first 9X, 1972

Much has been written about the hatchback Issigonis 9X (not least here, so do read this page if you haven’t already). It clearly proves the genius of its creator, because as a Mini replacement, it ticked all the boxes – it was lighter, roomier, more p,owerful and efficient, smaller outside, cheaper to manufacture (allegedly) and could well have changed the future direction of supermini design, sitting as it would have done, right at the vanguard. Of course, it would have cost BLMC an arm and a leg to get into production, and would equally have made far less profit than the all-important new mid-range cars, the Allegro and Marina.

And that’s why, despite its brilliance, it does not take the top spot. For one, the Mini was selling more strongly during the early 1970s than at any other time in its life, so it’s hard to conceive the 9X actually bringing many more sales to BL. Also, despite its packaging mastery, the arrival and subsequent success of the Renault 5, Fiat 127 and Volkswagen Polo, proved that buyers wanted something approaching 12ft in length, not smaller than 10. So perhaps, it wasn’t quite what the market needed after all.

3: Rover P6BS/P9

Rover P9

Developed in the late-1960s, anticipated introduction, 1973

The three-seat, mid-engined ‘super-Rover’ was the brainchild of Spen King, and, as a road-going prototype, the P6BS proved itself to be a very capable tool. The engineering that underpinned the car was typically delightful, with lightness and balance being prioritised. Its Rover V8 sat mid-ship, as a ‘proper’ supercar engine should, but unlike most, there was room for three. At the time of this car’s development, export markets could not get enough of British sports cars, and it’s a near-certainty that the P9 would have possessed considerable appeal at a time when the Jaguar E-type had lost its shine.

But we know what happened. It was a victim of rationalisation, and  BL’s belief that its flagship marque – Jaguar – should have no internal rivalries. Would it have sold? Yes. But then it would have been launched at the time of the First Energy Crisis. So maybe the P9’s fate on BL’s cutting-room floor saved it from ignominy of commercial failure.

2: ADO77 Morris Marina successor

Morris Marina II - ADO77

Developed in 1973-’75, anticipated launch date 1977-’78

The Morris Marina wasn’t a bad car. Considering it was a stop-gap thrown together by some very clever Engineers, using far too many off-the-shelf components, it did very well indeed. And had the Morris ADO77 been launched when it was supposed to have been, then history would have probably been a lot kinder to it. But it wasn’t, and that’s that. So, why does the ever so conventional ADO77 appear so high on this list? Simply because it was to replace BL’s best-selling and most profitable volume car in the UK, and there’s every reason to believe that it would have been very competitive against the Ford Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier.

And instead of fading out of the company car market, with the launch of the desperate Ital, leaving the Montego to try and make up for lost ground in the mid-1980s, the ADO77 should – and would – have been a very competitive force, hopefully helping keep the Morris name alive for many more years to come.

1: Rover R6X Metro replacement

Rover R6X

Developed in 1988, anticipated launch date 1990-’91

The Rover R6X Metro was one of those make-do-and-mend ideas that British Leyland and Rover were so superb at. Consider that the company had been seriously developing its replacement for the Metro since 1983 (see AR6), and ended up cancelling this hugely expensive programme when it became clear that the Metro’s platform had years ahead of it with some very minor suspension modifications. But when it became clear that the R6 was going to look use much of the Metro’s body-in-white, Design Director Roy Axe was shocked and appalled.

After all, how could a car that would have been in production a decade still look competitive? And why make the R6 look so similar to its predecessor, when it was so radically improved under the skin? His design team were tasked with producing a new body that took in all of the Metro/R6’s hard points and platform, lessening the financial impact of its development to production. David Saddington penned the above model, which was then build as a full-sized running prototype by Coggiola in Italy for appraisal by Rover’s management.

The idea was turned down, and the 1990 Metro, which looked oh-so familiar,  was introduced instead. As missed opportunities go, this has to be Rover’s greatest – because not only was it reasonably cost-effective to develop, but it looked good enough to be considered a brand new car – probably lengthening the  life (and sales potential) of the R6 for years to come. As it was, the car (despite its engineering excellence and pleasurable dynamics) was allowed to wither and die of the back of that aged-looking body.

Posted in: Concepts

89 Comments on "Prototypes : BMC, BL and Rover’s most tragic missed opportunities"

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  1. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    Anyone else think that project Rover 400 could have been a hands down winner?

    My god it looks superb, almost good enough to eat!

  2. Tigger says:

    Very interesting summary. As a Montego driver during the 1980’s, the AR16/17 looks especially appealing – the style of the Rover 800 but, hopefully, with the interior space of the Montego. The estate looks especially good.

    The 88.5 MY facelift was a penny pinching disaster (complete with really cheap and nasty seats and radio) and it meant that, after having owned two Montegos in a row, I moved over to Citroen and a series of 3 XM’s instead.

  3. Gareth says:

    What on earth is that car behind the Triumph Broadside? It looks like an SD1 Coupe with a Range Rover hatch bolted to it? Awful!

  4. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    That’s the Broadside coupe!

  5. Alistair says:

    There was an Aerodynamica version of the Mini? That’s a new one on me – are there any pictures or more info?

  6. dontbuybluemotion Dontbuybluemotion says:

    It is difficult to believe the amount of mistakes, near misses and what could of been’s over the years, Quite Sad really but this is what makes it all the more intriguing…

    The Rover 55 (to me anyway) gets better every time I look at it. Not sure The Pininfarina Aerodynamica 1100/1800 would of sold anymore than the donor car’s they were based on, the 1100 was well loved the way it was, But better than the Allegro. The 1800 was misunderstood by the Cortina Driver and in any case we were a very conservative bunch, Alas we will never know.

  7. Julian Nowill says:

    I have to say that the Rover 55 is uterly lovely. In fact it looks as if Chrysler stole the general idea of high waistline & big wheels for their 300C!

  8. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    Julian: Chrysler Chronos, from around 1998…

  9. OneCarefulOwner says:

    The Broadside looks like a Maestro/Montego sports variant, with those big channels down the side!

  10. James Riley James says:

    Rover R6X, Rover 400 and ADO77 are the saddest for me, these would have completely altered the perception of the company in the decades following. I agree wholeheartedly about the R6X, whilst everyone knew the Rover Metro was much better, it sold half as many and couldn’t keep up with the more modern looking Fiesta and Corsa. This car, whilst still on the small side, I’m sure would have attracted new buyers, it looks chic and just losing the external seams transforms it into something entirely new. As much as I love this site, it never ceases to depress me for what could and should have been.

  11. Will M says:

    Heartbreaking to see all of these nearlys.

    The 400 looks a generation away from the Montego, and really ties it in with the 800, a smart mid size saloon.

    Would the 600 have been an iteration of it? Would we have had an R8 saloon, and would all variants (hatch, saloon) have been called 200?

    The 55 could have been Rover’s XF moment, when it gets a trendy image and lowered its new buyer demographic age. I can see how the bavarian overlords wouldn’t have liked that, stealing sales from 316is.

  12. Magnus says:

    All interesting stuff – thanks, Keith.

    My personal favourite is the Rover 55 although I suspect it would not have been a major seller.

    It would be nice to put a “where is it now?” section on each profile; I appreciate most of them went to the big crusher in the sky but, as we know, some still exist.

  13. Mikey C says:

    The Rover 55 looks great, but would have cost a fortune to develop with its unique layout and lack of commonality with either the existing FWD Rovers or RWD Rovers, so to me was a blind alley. AR6 similarly is far too radical and expensive to develop, in a cost sensitive sector of the market.

    Not proceeding with ADO77 was a ridiculous decision, you can understand not going ahead with some of the niche models, but ADO77 was the Cortina rival, the rival to the best selling car in the country, with the potential to make decent profits.

    It was really sad that the TR7 couldn’t have been kept in production, or developed into something else, as again (even with the currency issues) this was the sort of car that could give lustre to what would become a rather dull product range.

  14. David 3500 says:

    The proposed Rover 400 from the front looks too much like the XX Rover 800 Series and so might have impacted on sales of the bigger and more profitable Executive class contender. The Rover 55 was an inspiring car that with some tweaking to its styling, such as to the lighting treatment and radiator grille, would have further played on the brand building strengths seen with the Rover 75. However, it is interesting to note that its headlight and tail-lamp design seem to have influenced those of the later Toyota Auris!

    Project R6X was without doubt a vast improvement over the R6 Rover Metro we saw in May 1990 and would have been more successful in convincing the population that it was worthy enough to carry a Rover badge. It may well have given Rover Cars’ supermini offering a further eight years of continued sales success (and consistently higher annual sales). However, unless the body’s overall rigidity had also been improved in the process, R6X would have fallen victim to the same crash safety tests that had a key role in killing off the Rover 100 Series in December 1997.

    But it is the P9/P6BS that I really mourn the loss of. Back in the 1960s Rover had an enviable reputation for engineering innovation and producing quality cars with a distinctly driver’s appeal, such as the P6. The P9/P6BS would have echoed these sentiments in a worthy flagship model for the Solihull-based manufacturer and ultimately delivered a more innovative alternative to the front-engined, rear-wheel drive Jaguar E Type. The chances are if you didn’t buy a Rover P9 because of its innovation you would have more likely bought a Jaguar E Type, meaning British Leyland Motor Corporation would have still got your business. A real shame there was no recognition of this fact from British Leyland’s directors. The P9 in its final production form (sadly only built as a scaled model) really did look both stylish and dramatic. Definitely a lost opportunity for the Rover Company Ltd which would have also helped prepare Rover’s customers for the equally dramatic-looking SD1 launched in June 1976.

  15. Tim Burgess says:

    For me the two huge missed opportunities are the R6X Metro replacement and AR16/17 Rover 400. The 400 ties in so well with the family look of the 800 and IMO would have been a real contender in the Sierra / Cavalier class.

    R6X is such a clever update; you’d never know it was a Metro underneath. Rover dealers would have been beating off buyers with a muddy stick.

    All very, very sad how short sighted government and management were, and where it’s led us to today.

  16. Mikey C says:

    As for other what might have beens

    SD2 would make my Top 10, even if the styling was a bit wonky, as BMW made their fortune on sales of the 3 series, and these days everyone drives 3 series, C class, A4 instead of Mondeos. Abdicating the small premium market to the Germans was a bad strategic move, especially as there must have been useful commonality with the soon to be launched SD1 and TR7. And there was the possibility of adding the Marina replacement to the programme too (TM1)

  17. jay18tc says:

    For me, the facelift proposal for ADO17 as illustrated in ‘The Truth Behind The Cars’ could have been a real winner.

    I also agree with the comments above, ADO77 looks good, even half finished in clay!

  18. Nate says:

    Personally for me, the MG EX-E, MG EX234, SD2, One-Box Mini and the Maxi-based Aquila (along with many others not mentioned in this article) rank up there as a few of the other missed opportunities.

    Anyway, regarding the top 10 here:

    10 – With improved styling the Rover 55 may have become a relative success though in hindsight the 4-cylinder N52 version of the BMW NG was not that impressive compared to the K-Series (or even the T-Series).
    09 – The Pininfarina Aerodynamica 1800 could have remedied the original ADO17 1800’s unpopularity though both the 1100 and Mini versions did not really translate well enough to be production worthy (though elements could have been carried over for their facelifts / replacements).
    08 – The Triumph Broadside (and TR7-based Lynx) looked the business in the final version where it had body-coloured bumpers and conceivably could have been sold well into the early 90s.
    07 – Never knew that ADO22 was a hatchback. Rationally this car would have been a much better alternative than the Allegro since the E-Series engine ended up badly compromising the Allegro’s styling (that would have retained its original svelte styling had it used the OHC B-Series as a stopgap until replaced by an alternate O-Series instead of the E-Series).
    06 – It would have been a winner had it received styling along the lines of the R6X. It may have possibly been too far ahead of its time yet had it been produced it would have set the benchmark / precedent in the Supermini sector while its costs could have potentially been minimised in the long run had it been built with the AR6’s elements being used in other models.
    05 – Thought AR16/17 was based on a shortened Honda Legend platform? If that is the case than it makes you wonder if they could have also rebodied the Maestro in a similar manner to AR16/17 instead of the R8 (which would have been an interesting comparison).
    04 – The 9X could have been more profitable as 2-models with the 3-door model occupying the lower-end Supermini / City or K-Car sector with the larger 5-door model occupying the mid/high-end Supermini sector (albeit only if it were shorter than ADO16/22).
    03 – The P9 could have been truly seminal and perhaps even long running too, had it been produced.
    02 – While I agree that the original Morris Marina was a decent stopgap that outlived its usefulness (it really just need some extra cash to improve the suspension with theADO68 Coupe adding some Capri-rivalling pizazz plus OHC B-Series engines adding some much needed performance). Why didn’t they simply use a stretched version of the Dolomite platform instead as a stopgap? To be honest I prefer the look of the half-finished ADO77 prototype from the article instead of the dull-looking TM1 prototype body.
    01 – With this car they could have easily justified naming it the Rover 100 due to its Metro origins being well hidden and a turbocharged SP version would have made for an interesting Hot Hatch.

    Would love to see a Top 10 Missed Opportunities for BMC/BL/Rover Engines in the future (be it stillborn engines or developments / improvements to existing engines), since there were as many missed opportunities on the Engine front as there were with the Cars.

  19. Mikey C says:

    One other decent ‘might have been’, and an alternative to AR16 was R9, the larger lwb derivative of R8, which would have been a useful mid sized saloon, and possibly a better seller than the R8 400 saloon.

  20. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Might have to do a ‘Top 10, part two’ 🙂

  21. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    How about a top 40 (hosted by Bruno Brookes)? 🙂

  22. Ian Nicholls says:

    Keith
    Wot about Roy Haynes ADO20 Mini Clubman hatchback from May 30th 1968. I bracket that with the ADO22, they were improvements over the existing models and could have been developed cheaply compared with all new cars.
    In the early 1970’s BLMC talked of getting a 45 per cent UK market share and then the Allegro came out, do me a favour !

  23. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    Seriously, anyhow, that R400, it would have been far better than the dull looking Montego, and to be honest, would have sold. And they could have easily done a hatch & estate from this.

  24. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    Seriously, anyhow, that R400, it would have been far better than the dull looking Montego, and to be honest, would have sold. And they could have easily done a hatch & estate from this.

  25. Yorkiebusdriver says:

    Seriously, anyhow, that R400, it would have been far better than the dull looking Montego, and to be honest, would have sold. And they could have easily done a hatch & estate from this.

  26. Mikey C says:

    You wait for ages then 3 Yorkiebusdriver comments come along at once 🙂

  27. Simon_H says:

    Brilliant article – the ‘might have beens’ element of this website is what makes it so intriguing. I largely agree with the top ten, but with the following changes:-

    7) Should really be the Aquila concept based on the Maxi – it took a packaging masterpiece lumbered with a frumpy body, and made it a very attractive proposition – by the time ADO22 would have been ready for launch it would have already been out of date.

    8) I think would have been better as the Pininfarina Aerodynamica 1100/1300 – a mid 70s range of cars made up of X9, Pinin 1100/1300, Aquila, TR7/8, SD2, Pinin 1800, SD1, XJ6/12 & XJ-S would have been formidable! The Broadside however is frumpy, bland, and not distinct enough from the TR7 to be useful sales-wise….I can only hope that the 2 cars photographed were lash-ups, to demonstrate what could be done, and that the real styling was to follow on.

  28. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    Rover 55 is still looking good, I really like the boldness of it. Make mine a copperleaf!!!
    Hindsight is great weapon, ADO77 to replace Marina, then Montego followed by R16/17 in ’87 after XX was launched, R8 below these(no R8 saloon)Gosh Rover would have had the best line up in Europe with R6(and mini) at the bottom of the price list.
    1986: mini, Metro, Maestro, 213/216, Montego 1,6/2l, 800.
    1987-89: mini, Metro, Maestro, 213/216, R16/17, 800.
    1990: mini, R6X, Maestro, R8, R16/17, 800.
    Assuming Bae had invested wisely, a new 800 was available for 1992, that’s when the Maestro would have died, R8 8 valves taking over at the bottom. Mild face-lift for R16/17 then the 600 would have taken over, 1996 should have seen the R8 replaced by a slightly larger “200” called 400, leaving breathing space for the 200 we’ve had lower in the range to take over the 100/R6/X, then a new mini to appear.
    Then on and on…
    Ahh HINDSIGHT

  29. Darren says:

    If only Stokes had rejected the opportunity to take over BMC.

    P6BS/P9 would have sat well in the Rover/Triumph line up for the Seventies, it could have replaced the TR6 although folks at Canley might have thought different!

  30. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    So… add the cars you’d like to see in the next top 10 here 😉

  31. Jerry says:

    To start off with how about the big bruiser Rover, P8.

  32. lord sward says:

    My Glass Eye. It can take NO MORE.

  33. Jerry says:

    Just another thought how about the missed opportunities that were ADO68(Project Condor) and ADO70.

  34. Paul says:

    Think I would go along with most of these, except the Rover 55. Another oddly sized car that would have created more overlap and confusion in Rovers range than there already was. Doesnt look much either. Also the ADO22 was only meant as a stopgap facelift of the ADO16 and pre-dated the Allegro by 6 years. By 1973 it would itself have looked very tired. The 1100 Aerodynamica is of course the car that should have replaced ADO16, or a larger version of the Innocentti/Bertone Mini. AR16/17 strikes me as the biggest missed opportunity. A mild reskin that would have transformed the Montego and saved a fortune in royalty payments to Honda.

  35. Phil Simpson says:

    Axing the saloon Maxi at the 11th hour was a dud move. Also if the Pininfarina 1800 was too radical, the X6 could have replaced ADO17 in its original form. 1800 engines could have been kept as well though.

  36. Fmfanuk says:

    My vote for top ten part two is the Rover P8 and Triumph SD2

  37. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    @29, Darren – Chris Cowin’s recent book ‘British Leyland Chronicles’ makes the suggestion that if Rover had joined with BMC in 1967, instead of with Leyland, and Jaguar had joibed Leyland instead of BMC, both model ranhes would have been more coherent. A series of large and sporty Rovers (P6, P8, P9, Range Rover) would have sat above the BMCrange and created an opportunity for a more profitable company. Similarly, Jaguar would have sat well with Triumph, with the XJ6 and E-Type coming in abopve the 2000 and Stag etc. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing…

  38. francis brett francis brett says:

    The 400 proposal still looks really crisp today,and i smile everytime i see a early 800 now.The 55 while i have stated in earlier topics looks a little over egged in some areas and the Issigonis 9X just does not flick my switches whatever era it was destined for.

  39. Nate says:

    Jonathan Carling

    Always felt that BMC (that Rover would join) and Leyland (which Jaguar would end up joining along with Morris and Innocenti in convoluted deal involving BMC) should have remained seperate entities that would collaborate from time to time before going their own way.

    While that would still entail some brands ending up being culled over time (such as Riley), at the same time both companies with streamlined brands (giving them direction) would have not had to deal with potentially overlapping models / brands that would have ended up bankrupting and preventing both from developing / bringing to market vital cars.

  40. KeithB says:

    The Triumph Fury? SD1 (Bravo) Estate? Closing Abingdon?
    All wrong decsions that should never have been made.

    How about a Top Ten Disasters list or would that be too small a number?

  41. KeithB says:

    Oh…. and allowing William Lyons to have so much influence!!!!

  42. JH Gillson says:

    On the subject of the Broadside there was a better-looking variant. It’s on page 182 of David Knowles’ most excellent book, “MG: The Untold Story.”

    He speculates that it was probably one of the last Rover-Triumph projects and called RT061. If obviously TR7-based it’s considerably more handsome. Someone will dig it out and you’ll see what I mean.

    On the ADO22. Strikes me that the Traveller with its short rear overhang was more supermini than estate. And of course we all know that BL developed the Allegro as the 1100/1300 replacement. But the Allegro was being readied at the same time the company restyled the 1100/1300 to create the three-box Apache/Victoria. In which case they might just as well have facelifted the three-door ADO16 and the five door Nomad for much the same development moolah as the Apache /Victoria. ADO16 was six inches shorter than the Allegro, which was six inches shorter than the Maxi. Evenly spaced, then; no earthly reason why ADO22, Allegro, and Maxi couldn’t have been built concurrently.

    Interesting, this, from the Maxi development story:

    “Initially the E-series engine was planned with four different capacities, 1160cc, 1300cc, 1485cc four cylinder units plus a 2227cc six cylinder version of the 1485cc engine. Contrary to previous accounts, the two smaller units were never built leaving the 1485cc and 2227cc engines to be developed by BMC’s engineers.”

    Don’t think I need to say anything about the loss of a small capacity modern OHC engine. I am really not certain why smaller capacity E-series variants weren’t developed later on. Of course, the accepted view is that the engine was just so bloody tall and that’s what ruined the Allegro’s styling. However, as Mr Fivegears has reminded us on another forum that doesn’t really stack up: BMC in Australia managed to fit the E-series into the ADO16 – Morris 1500 OHC/Nomad – and all those cars needed to accomodate the unit was a small bonnet bulge. See:

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/265/ado16morris1500b.jpg/?forumid=250646

  43. KeithB says:

    Bugger!! Forgot to mention Issigonis being allowed too long a leash!

    Sounding very negative I know, but I have been passionate about the indigenous British car industry for forty years, and wish things had turned out differently.

  44. Ralph Ralph says:

    What about the Rover 35, the BMW effort to save the company, before they decided not no . . . ? Is the lack of information on this car the reason it is not included in this top 10, or was it too late altogether? I’d have loved to see both the 35 and 55 appearing in the showrooms, followed by the 2010 R75 successor as per Lee Mitchell’s sketches . . .
    I agree with the Montego transformation, it should have happened and it looks stunning.

  45. James Riley James says:

    The Rover 400 concept actually fits beautifully with the then 200 range and probably is more stylish than the R8 400 that later appeared. Also, would this in-house product have brought in more cash for Rover than sharing with Honda? I suspect it would have, not to mention the control they could have had over spinning off other models from the platform.

  46. James Riley James says:

    @ Francis, I agree, an early 800 in good nick still looks classy today and it’s almost a 30 year old design, has aged remarkably well.

  47. DeLorean's Accountant says:

    I think that selling that Austin Apache in the UK as a Triumph 1300 was a missed opportunity as well. It looked more Triumph-y than most Triumphs and had the economy of scale over the then FWD Triumph 1300.

    All it needed was different badges !!

  48. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Couldn’t argue with that!

  49. Will M says:

    The Apache did use some Triumph parts did it not? I guess that was the look Leykor were trying to achieve (one could say that they Triumphed at!)

  50. James Riley James Riley says:

    Blimey, don’t think I’ve ever seen that! Clearly they drew inspiration from the Triumph version! what is is based on?

  51. Hilton D says:

    Agree with Mike Humble… the AR16/17 looked promising, best described as a Rover 800 front ended blended with a Rover 200 back end! Always liked the prospect of an ADO77 too – shades of MK3/4 Cortina’s of the same era. I think it would have been miles better than the economy revamp that the ITAL was.

  52. Derek says:

    Back in summer 77 i remember going with my dad to test drive a Dolomite Sprint at our local BL dealer. The salesman talked then of a car called the Lynx based on a TR7 and to be fitted with a V8 engine, even then i had visions of my mum driving around in a stretched TR7 with too much power finished in Java with red tartan trim, little was i to know i would see this car some 30 years later at Gaydon which brought back my dream…a wasted opurtunity.

  53. Jason1.8TC Jason1.8TC says:

    Great article and comments! One of the biggest missed opportunities in my opinion, was not going into battle with Ford against the new Cortina, using a neatly styled RWD and serviceable saloon.

  54. Jason1.8TC Jason1.8TC says:

    I am also of the opinion that the Maxi and the 1800’s were the wrong cars at the wrong time……but I am looking forward to seeing all of BMC’s BL’s etc lovely products at the NEC tomorrow, sod Christmas, .the Classic Car Show is the most wonderful time of the year!

  55. Ian Nicholls says:

    ADO22
    It appears the the reason the ADO22 bit the dust was that it was an evolution of an existing design, the ADO16.
    In the run up to the creation of BLMC the pundit were claiming BMC did not have any new models and that was why the company seemed to be struggling financially. After the merger, on June 12th 1968, Sir Donald Stokes addressed 500 BMC distributors at Longbridge. He promised them a completely new model policy for the next five years under the direction of Harry Webster, recently promoted from Standard Triumph to become chief engineer of British Leyland’s volume car division. The 2 most important words in the previous sentence are ‘completely new’. In 1968 new meant better and any car designed by Harry Webster would be better, or so Stokes thought.

  56. Chris C says:

    Mini Spiritual – still looks ahead of its time today.

  57. David 3500 says:

    @ Chris C:

    A good eleventh position answer which if it had been shown the production green light, would have been priced much nearer to that of the outgoing Rover 100 Series, as well as also being an interesting alternative to the Smart Fortwo, in two-door form.

    I still have the press release and images for these two Spiritual design concepts somewhere…

    A far more convincing proposition than the Mini ACV design concept based on MGF running gear.

  58. David 3500 says:

    If you study the image of the Rover 400, particularly the rear pillar, you will notice that just before it draws level with the lowest edge of the rear windscreen, there is a rather large and ungainly looking horizontal weld seam. Not only does it spoil some of its form but it would have also been a surefire rust trap. The familiar roof weld seam near the top of the A-pillars has also been retained, unfortunately.

  59. WarrenL says:

    The Rover 55 looks better every time I look at it. It could be launched today! Imagine it with RWD and a V8…

  60. David Dawson1 says:

    What a great car AR16/17 would have been and surely not that expensive seen as how it was a new body on the existing Montego platform. Looks great – the Rover theme of the day and still a (successful) hint of Montego ‘opera’ rear window.
    Talk about a lack of long term vision when it came to deciding ‘to fund or not to fund’!

  61. David Dawson1 says:

    “Talk about a lack of long term vision when it came to deciding ‘to fund or not to fund’!” Of course, this comment of mine can be applied to most, if not all, of the above.

  62. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    I suppose the promising, Axe-era AR17 and R6x would be cancelled under BAe ownership?

  63. Rich says:

    I think the 55 looks stunning. I’d have bought a RWD V8 one.

  64. Nate says:

    42) JH Gillson

    RT061 was what I was referring in my original comment and agree that it looks more handsome since the styling issues have largely been remedied.

    From the look of the Morris 1500/Nomad and ADO16, it would appear that the front end was pretty much tall enough for the E-Series to begin with (albeit with a few mods) while the Allegro was intended to have a low-ish front end and an overall svelte body (that would have been more suited to using the OHC B-Series / O-Series engines).

    Apparently, stillborn 1114cc and 1311cc 3-cylinder versions of the E-Series were also looked into which had the development potential for smaller capacity versions to be built. I also seem to recall reading that the 3-cylinder E-Series were even tested in the Mini at one point prior to the project being cancelled.

  65. thegravestoneman thegravestoneman says:

    The Broadside, with its scalloped sides still looks like an Alfa Spider face lift to me

  66. Simon_H says:

    @65 – An extremely ill-proportioned and crudely detailed one……

  67. rovereab says:

    The 55 had a slightly Riley RM “laid back” feel to its styling – an interesting direction for Rover to have taken IMO.

  68. thegravestoneman thegravestoneman says:

    @66- not denying that at all.

  69. Graham says:

    I think a major missed opportunity was not using the Innocenti Mini reskin as a Mini Clubman replacement (5 years old in 74)

    It was cheaper to assemble than a mini and with some Hydragas subframes would have given 9/10 of a Metro in the market before the Fiesta and bang on time for the fuel crisis which Renault, Fiat, VW were able to use to gain traction in the UK markets with their Super Mini’s.

  70. Steve says:

    The 400 project was just a crudely chopped 800 as far as I can tell, not very interesting and not different enough..

  71. David Rae says:

    Most lost opportunities were in developing the existing cars. Could the Maxi not have been given a decent gearchange and the 2.2 strait six, could it not have come in salon and estate form. Could the Princes not have a hatchback and the 2.6 E engine or even the rover V8. Could the dolomite not have come in estate, convertible, coupe and hatchback form could it have taken the rover v8. Could the SD1 not come in estate form, and possibly a salon. Could the Allegro not have a hatchback. Could the marina coupe not have a hatchback. Could the Marina not have revised suspension that actually worked. Could the Marina not get the E6 engine in the UK. Could the MGB not have got the E6 engine.

    Doubt that any of these suggestions would have broken the bank and might made a difference in sales

  72. David Rae says:

    Also why no estate convertible or estate 45

  73. Will M says:

    @72

    I believe that Rover’s hands were tied in terms of an estate due to Honda.
    Though there are a couple of fan-made 45 tourers, based on the Civic estate.
    I believe a vicar made one?

    http://en.rover-club.net/graphics/gallery/full/222_r45tourer.jpg

    I guess that a cabrio would’ve needed a 3 door or coupe base, and added rigidity around the chassis. The 45 was never designed as a 3 door.

    Found the following excellent photoshop of a 25 cabrio and coupe:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v314/abesseling/437rover25shopII.jpg

    The coupe in particular looks great, and less like a Daewoo Lanos.

  74. davidr says:

    The 800 & 200 were not designed as 3 doors but certainly made good conversions. I don’t doubt that these options were posible for the 400/45 although I accept that Honda might not have been very co-operatve. A 75 coupe was also mooted as was a hard top 3 door MG F. the 200/25 coupe looks very nice.

  75. Will M says:

    The contemporary Civic 3 door was a different beast, more on a par with the 200.

    The 2 door Civic coupe version would’ve filled the gap, perhaps as a 300? Would probably be less prone to boy racerism than the Honda equivalent.

  76. Graham says:

    In terms of developing product some seemed just daft such as building the 800 Fast Back instead of going for a full on estate. An Estate would have given a useful tool to take on Volvo, BMW and Merc in this market.

  77. Nate says:

    Another possible “What-If” car is the Minki I/II prototypes, in spite of the fact that many of the improvements could have been done much earlier.

    http://www.austinmemories.com/page46/page46.html

  78. JH Gillson says:

    How wonderful it was that Rover was prepared to consider the Minki twins: the development of a very old, but very important car.

    And wonderful, too, that the company proposed the svelte little R6X. But why bother with a small Rover? The company was blessed with a globally-recognised brand that was pretty much the shorthand for “ingenious small British car.”

    How sad that Rover didn’t simply consider remodelling the very excellent R6 Metro underpinnings in a new bodyshell, one that looked a modern Mini.

    There is one thing that the MINI teaches us, and it’s that, for all Rover’s emphasis on charming niche models, the company was sitting on a niche that was bigger than anyone’s MGF, or Freelander, or 800 coupe, or Tomcat: the bloody Mini.

    I lose sleep at night wondering what might have been if the R6 had been reclothed in the idiom of the Mini. The K-series engined Metro with its interconnected suspension was described by Dr Moulton as the “great-great grandson of the Mini.” It was philosophically more of a Mini than the blasted MINI.

    What if instead of R6X, Tomcat, Tex, Tracer, MGF, RV8, Rover 800 Coupe, they’d poured those cars’ development budgets into a Mini-esque restyle of the R6? If the success of the MINI is anything to go buy they’d only need have bothered to develop a two-door variant. A longer wheelbase variant with rear doors could have followed many years later.

    I envisage a cute 1.1 to 1.8 VVC engined, Hydragas suspended, three-door hatch of fewer than 140 inches in length. A funky, desirable small car built in considerable volume.

  79. Nate says:

    JH Gillson

    You do have a point on an R6 with a Mini-esque restyle being sold in place of the R6X though given how the Fiesta mk3/4 underpinnings also spawned the Ford Ka and Puma, it could be possible to sell both at the same time though catering to different buyers.

    For example:
    – The R6-based Mini would receive a split-tailgate like in the Minki and feature 2/4-door bodystyles, while the R6X would be a 3/5-door hatchback. Estate and Cabriolet bodystyles would be a possibility for either car.

    -The R6-based Mini could feature engines ranging from a 660 3-cylinder to 1.4 4-cylinder Turbo maybe 1.6 NA K-Series along with possibly a PSA 1.4/1.5 Diesel or 1.6 Dieselized S-Series.

    While the R6X would receive 1.1-1.8 4-cylinder K-Series engines along with a 1.6 Dieselized S-Series or even a 1.8 PSA diesel.

    – The R6-based Mini would not be badged as a Rover unlike the R6X and overlap would be minimised further. With the former catering to the students, people into retro icons and Kei Cars buyers, while the latter would cater to trendy and mainstream people after something more modern and upmarket.

    Another scenario could be to simply have AR6 enter production with the styling of R6X as the Rover 100, while having the R6-based Mini sit beneath it in the City Car / Kei-Car class, preceding the Ford Ka, Fiat Cinquecento and Renault Twingo as the Rover Mini as well as taking the fight to Japan’s Kei-Cars.

  80. markosity1973 says:

    Fast forward to today and SAIC are still missing golden opportunities and killing off the last vestiges of the once glorious Leyland empire.

    Longbridge could and should be sourcing cars to assemble from both MG and Ssangyong. The latter marque is having a true renaissance now that they have thrown off the shackles of Chinese ownership. One could even say that their cars are starting to become desirable.
    I own two of them myself and the cars really are very good, but need a better name in English. Engineering quality has never been a problem with Ssangyong, So a few interior improvements and slapping a Morris badge on the Ssangyong range and entry level MG passenger cars would leave MG to be the sports versions they always were meant to be.
    A bit of engine swapping here and there, using engines like the excellent Ssangyong 129kw e-xdi diesel in the MG6 and calling it a Morris Oxford or something similar would make the cars a lot more desirable.

    • Will M says:

      Indeed the Ssangyong Tivoli seems to be reasonably popular as a low cost entry to the crossover SUV gang.

      Guy in work got one as a future family car, he thinks it is great, while I am astounded that it didn’t cost far off what I paid for a second hand Skoda.

      If they can sell Ssangyong Musso SUVs as Mercedes-Benzs – even in Australia where an SUV will REALLY get tested! – they can sell them as MG/Morris…

      The Mercedes-alike Chairman is sold as a Roewe, so the working relationship with SAIC is already there…

  81. maestrowoff says:

    Revisiting this thread, the Michelotti Bullet and Lynx were great looking sports cars, and would have fitted in perfectly in the Triumph range in the early to mid 70s

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/concepts/concepts-and-prototypes/sports-car-projects-triumph/

    To me they’re much better looking than the TR7 which followed them

    Indeed not keeping on Michelotti or Pinifarina in general was a massive mistake, when you look at the styling efforts produced by BL in the 1970s and 80s…

  82. bartelbe says:

    Really Rover/BLs problem’s can be summed up by the Metro. Yes the K-series version was clever, though in reality all it did was fix cost cutting in the suspension design which should have never have happened.

    However it was still a design which had its roots in the late 70’s. Producing such an old design was always going come back to bite Rover. If it hadn’t been Euro Ncaps, it would have been something else.

    You can’t run a car company with penny pinching investment forever. It is that simple.

  83. Glenn Aylett says:

    Now just imagine if the Pininfarina 1100 design was used instead of that of the Allegro. I could imagine this Citroenesque hatchback being a big hit in Europe, where this design was becoming very popular, and offering a truly radical alternative to the Escort and Viva and continuing the Austin tradition of making innovative cars. Also the 1800 version could have formed the basis of the Princess and become a major success, and possibly if it was a hatchback, replacing the slow selling Maxi as well.

  84. Glenn Aylett says:

    I still think the 9X looks as dull as ditchwater and resembles a Simca 1100 from the front. Had this replaced the Mini, I’d doubt it would have done well as it looks so boring. However, a Pininfarina based range of cars to replace the Mini, ADO 16 and ADO 17 would really have done well in exports and would have made British Leyland look innovative and exciting.
    However, the cars that bore the Austin badge in the seventies were ugly and ungainly. No wonder export sales of the Allegro, ADO 17 and Maxi failed to do much in style conscious markete like France and Italy, they looked awful.

  85. Nate says:

    Wonder how the E-Series would have affected the styling of the Pininfarina 1100 if it ended up badly affecting the Allegro’s styling, obviously they would need larger engines above the A-Series to both move on from ADO16 as well as challenge other rivals.

    While styling of the 9X prototype could have more closely resembled the Pininfarina concept (might still be the case had it been signed off for production and tidied up) or used the Bertone styling of the Innocenti Mini, the main concern would be the 9X’s gearbox layout.

    Agree with the idea of Pininfarina 1100 / 1800 styled range of cars replacing ADO16 and ADO17, though the Pininfarina 1100 / 1800 styling theme did not work on a Mini platform resulting in a Mini-based car that was effectively only 2-inches shorter than ADO16 without the benefit of being a 5-door.

    In lieu of the 9X, my choice of Mini replacement would be a fully de-seamed 3/5-door hatchback version of the Barrel Car with 12-inch tyres and an end-on gearbox amongst many improvements / updates (with styling that almost looks it could have come from Pininfarina). Other bodies could include the Clubman Hatchback prototype as well as the Innocenti Mini.

    One car not mentioned here that I view as a missed opportunity was the Innocenti Mini-Mini prototype for the Italian market that formed the basis for what became the 9X, believe there was some value in this project essentially being to the Mini what the Fiat 500 was to the Fiat 600 and with s new compact engine to boot (that became the 9X unit).

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