Archive : End of the road for a top marque

DAILY EXPRESS, By David Benson

Austin cars were once the proud symbol of British British built quality and reliability. But the image began to decline in the wake of the post war merger of Austin and Morris. With all the upheavals in the British motor industry in the Sixties and Seventies, Austin became, like Morris, a music hall joke. Morris has long since disappeared as a car name and just over a year ago the Austin badge was removed from all cars built by the Rover Group. But it has remained on dealer signs and at the factories in Cowley and Longbrldge.

Now chairman Sir Graham Day has decided that the time has come for the car group, which is owned by British Aerospace, to sever all with the turbulent past. At Geneva this week he revealed that starting in June and July the Austin Rover factories will be renamed simply Rover. Dealers will be given two years to fit new signs to their premises and the ugly chevron will also disappear to bo replaced by the Rover Viking ship badge. Sir Graham said:

“‘There has been too much confusion in the past and I have been working towards the one-name goal for some time. Rover provides the dealers with a new Image and goes some way to shaking off the past.”

Sir Graham has already signalled his intention of building higher specification cars and giving the company a more BMW-style of imnge. He has no regrets but for many it will signal the end of a great era. I learned to drive in my aunt’s pre-war Austin 7 and have since had on abiding affection for the marque. Austin once raced at Brooklands and broke world records in the Fifties.

Such was the loyalty to the brand that when the old BMC introduced the Mini they produced two versions — a Morris Minor and on Austin Seven. The only difference was the badge on the bonnet and boot. Yet loyal Austin owners would refuse to buy the Morris Mini and often waited months for the delivery of the “Austin version”. But lack of investment and labour strife finally gave the marque a bad name — I am not sorry to see it go. I prefer to remember it as a great name for its time — as such, it will never die.

Keith Adams
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