In February 1969, Roy Haynes went public about his decision to leave BLMC. It followed the decision to downscale design operations based at Pressed Steel Fisher in Oxford, and centralise Austin-Morris operations in Longbridge.
We report on the story, and ponder what might have been…
Opinion: Was Roy Haynes the visionary to save BMLC?
Although he’s most likely to be remembered as the man who led the design team that penned the Morris Marina, Roy Haynes’ work at BMC and BLMC went much deeper than that. From the Pressed Steel Fisher studios in Cowley, Haynes masterminded a design strategy based on platform sharing, which could have vastly improved the firm’s profitability in the post-merger years.
Signs of this are littered around BMC and BLMC’s product plans between 1967 and 1969, when he made the biggest impact. He feverishly led the ill-fated restyling of the 1100/1300 range under the auspices of Project ADO22, tried to develop the BMC 1800, worked to make a hatchback Mini and also develop more sporting versions of existing cars.
Take Project Condor (below), for instance, which from the perspective of 50 years’ hindsight, looks like a random collection of coupes based on the Allegro, Maxi and Marina, but which clearly demonstrated the way in which his team was thinking – it was the same with the MGB, which he’d seen worked into the stylish ADO76.
The company needed to reduce the number of platforms it offered. In building a range of cars that shared them, but looked different inside and out, a large range could be maintained, but with decent economies of scale. So, there were Triumphs, Jaguars and MGs, based on common underpinnings – all using different engines and featuring unique styling.
Platform sharing before platform sharing was a thing…
Back in the late-1960s, BMC’s idea of differentiating between its wide portfolio of marques was to badge-engineer variants. The BMC 1100/1300 range, for instance, could be bought in Austin, Morris, MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas forms – all basically the same, aside from trim and engine differences.
That was fine in the short term but, to keep the spirit of these fine names alive, a better policy should have been implemented. As it was, Riley and Wolseley were possibly toast by that time, given that BLMC had ingested Triumph and Rover, but certainly others were viable going into the new era of Leyland.
So, had Haynes and is team stumbled across platform sharing as a strategy years before the Volkswagen Group had turned the policy into an art form? Would it have worked for British Leyland? Well, clearly, using the best of the existing platforms wasn’t an ideal starting point, but it would have still created a wider range of makes and models with lower start-up costs than the ground-up thinking that took BL on the journey it did throughout the 1970s…
It would have meant tough management and savage rationalisation but, given where we ended up, this fascinating unfulfilled branch in the firm’s history could have been a much more successful plan of attack…
Why I quit BMC, by the man who designed the Cortina
Daily Express, 24 February 1969
Car chief Mr Roy Haynes, the man who designed the best-selling Ford Cortina, spoke last night of his decision to quit BMC just 16 months after being wooed there from Ford.
He said: ‘There has been a difference of opinion between myself and other directors.’
And he strongly denied a claim by British Leyland that he has left because of a decision to shift the firm’s design centre from Cowley, near Oxford, to Longbridge, Birmingham.
He added: ‘The move to Longbridge is not a happy one, but most people are prepared to work in most places. It goes deeper than that. I am leaving for personal reasons and I don’t want to elaborate.’
A British Leyland spokesman said: ‘We are very sorry to lose Haynes, but his resignation was because of his domestic commitments in Essex and he did not wish to move to Birmingham.’
I understand that Mr Haynes’s wife runs a successful business in Essex, and refuses to move. Until now Mr Haynes has commuted between Cowley and Danbury, Essex, but the extra distance to Longbridge may have made this impossible.