British car production in South Africa following the end of the Second World War initially amounted to CKD (Completely Knocked Down) production of Austins and Standard Vanguards by local producers.
Morris entered the fray in 1948, with the first imported Minors. This was a small beginning, but because of the growth of the South African economy, this soon burgeoned into something larger.
A potted history
In 1955, Leyland’s Blackheath plant in the Cape area, opened, and saw the beginning of truck and bus production. Whereas in Australia and Europe, BMC did not represent a significant presence in South Africa, because pre-war, customers tended to opt for American cars, thanks to their soft springing and ride height, which favoured the poor quality roads.
During the 1950s, roads were considerably improved, and European cars were increasingly favoured, but Volkswagen, Volvo and Peugeot gained a foothold on the market, giving the British more of a fight than they had on some other markets. By 1959 and with the introduction of the Mini, the products of BMC were still either imported or assembled from CKD kits…
By 1960, however, this changed thanks to a change in government legislation that encouraged companies to create production facilities in South Africa. The Local Contents Programme encouraged BMC to investigate the possibility of opening a facility in South Africa – just at the time that small cars were ousting American cars as the most popular new type of vehicle.
New small cars revolutionise South Africa
This proved a perfect opportunity for BMC, which had the Mini and 1100 – new and exciting small cars. However, it took time to prepare the new operation, and they continued to rely on imports and CKD kits.
Following the formation of BLMC in 1968, a policy of rationalisation followed in South Africa. In 1969, BMC, Jaguar and Aveling-Barford’s operations were merged with Leyland Motor Corporation South Africa (or Leykor as it was known). This meant the expansion of the Blackheath facility, where all the company’s operations would now be centred.
The introduction of the locally produced Austin Apache in 1971 boosted local content and output, but it seemingly did not meet sales targets, and was withdrawn from the market after about four years. The Apache’s replacement was the Austin Marina, but there was a hiatus between them, which was partially filled by the local production of the Jaguar XJ6.
The Austin Marina was launched in 1975, and like its predecessor, was built in the Blackheath plant. Using the E4 and E6 engines, and Australian tooling, the Austin Marina was an interesting car, quite dissimilar to the more humble Cowley-produced Marina. Other oddities unique to the South African market were a Mini, which comprised of an Elf/Hornet rear on standard front end (quite the opposite of the earlier Wolseley 1000) and a locally produced Daihatsu pickup truck, badged as a Leyland.
The Daihatsu/Leyland model was introduced in order to supplement the range, which lacked a utility vehicle (known as a ‘Bakkie‘ in South Africa; where ‘Bak‘ = something with room at the BACK + ‘kie’ = the diminutive form of a big truck).
South African produced models
A selection of the cars produced at Blackheath.
Wolseley 1000 and other Minis
Was the Wolseley 1000 a Mini with a Hornet front end, or a Hornet with a Mini rear end? Well, whichever way you look at it, it was certainly unique to the South African market, but it wasn’t the only Mini-based oddity to emerge from this BMC off-shoot…
In South Africa, the ’11/55′ tag was used for an uprated, twin-carb version which was sold alongside the standard Austin 1100. Appropriately enough, there was also a Wolseley 11/55.
The three-box ADO16, as restyled by Michelotti.
The Marina, but linked with the Australian- and not the UK-produced version.
Dating from 1972, this CKD-built car used the automatic transmission from the Triumph 2000 and the Stromberg carburettors from the 2500, thus giving Leyland SA an automatic saloon that had the power to cope with the local terrain, while avoiding the 2.5PI’s fuel injection system, which was perceived as being unreliable.
Rover V8 Sport
The Rover V8 Sport Automatic was introduced in South Africa in 1971 as an improved version of the Rover P6 3500 V8 which had already been on sale there for some years. Improvements consisted of a change from the low-compression export engine to a new high-compression head of 10.5:1 giving an output of 184bhp, along with twin power bulges in the bonnet and improved dial-type instrumentation.
A three-speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission and disc brakes were fitted as standard. Power steering was available as an option. This model effectively mirrored the running changes implemented in UK models, barring the new-for-South Africa name.
The South African produced SD1 was unique for using the E6 engine in 2622cc form. It was somewhat smoother than the Euro version, too.
Jaguar XJ6 Executive
Long-wheelbase version of the standard Jaguar XJ6 (also sold in South Africa), the Executive benefitted from air conditioning and an uprated alternator.
- More reading: South Africa in the 1970s
- The converters : Crayford Engineering TR7 Tracer - 27 March 2023
- Concepts and prototypes : BL Safety Research Vehicles (1968-1977) - 19 November 2022
- Concepts and prototypes : Rover SD1 Estate (1976-1978) - 5 October 2022