Around the World : Leyland South Africa/Leykor

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

The factory at Blackheath saw the production of ADO16s, Minis and Marinas among others.
The factory at Blackheath saw the production of ADO16s, Minis and Marinas among others.

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

Leyland SA

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produced Austin Apache in 1971 boosted local content and output, but it seemingly did not meet sales targets, and was withdrawn from the market after about four years.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…


BMC 11/55

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.


Austin Apache

The three-box ADO16, as restyled by Michelotti.


Austin/Leyland Marina

The Marina, but linked with the Australian- and not the UK-produced version.


Triumph Chicane

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.

Rover SDX

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.

Declan Berridge


  1. What was the output for the 2.6 E6 in the Rover SDX?

    Also, is there any information on a stillborn South African built Mini hatchback proposal from 1976/77 that appears on page 269 in Mini: The Definitive History by Jon Pressnell?

  2. Very interesting article… The Wolesley 1000, Triumph Chicane & Rover V8 Sport look and sound particularly interesting to me.

  3. Did apartheid, as well as financial problems, play any part in British Leyland pulling out of South Africa as by the eighties relations between the West and South Africa hit a real low and it was not considered politically correct to trade with South Africa, although it was never banned. ( Also recall the horror from one left wing student activist when she saw a Cape apple in the refectory).

    • Things went south for Leyland during the late 1970’s even in South Africa (SA). It was mainly financial problems that ended Leykor in SA. Imports were hit by strikes in the UK while quality issues also surfaced in SA factories. Apartheid might have had an influence although Land Rover, Leyland Trucks and other British products continued to sell fairly well throughout the 1980’s.

      • Mercedes and General,Motors had factories in South Africa, and pulling out of the country, apart from the loss of income, would lead to big job losses, ironically among black people sanctions were supposed to protect. Interestingly, now apartheid is long gone and South Africa is seen in a different light. large numbers of Mercedes are exported to Europe from South Africa and most C class cars are produced in the country.

        • The German car companies, VW, BMW and Mercedes, stayed put in South Africa, and do indeed export to RHD markets from the UK to Australia, if not LHD ones.

          Mercedes assembled the Honda Civic and Honda Ballade, the latter becoming the Triumph Acclaim in the UK. GM had a management buyout and became Delta, assembling the last Opel Rekord until the 1990s, while Ford sold its stake in Samcor, which also assembled Mazdas, hence the Escort and Sierra being replaced with the Laser and Telstar, based on the 323 and 626, as in Asia Pacific markets. GM has since pulled out from South Africa, as it has from every RHD market.

  4. I would also add, as happened in the USA, and elsewhere, the shift to Toyota and Datsun/Nissan, Japanese brands with much better reliability and more up to date product lines vs. Euro/UK brands, but for M-B and BMW.

    • “……..and a locally produced Daihatsu pickup truck, badged as a Leyland.” as it says in the article.

      People put a lot of effort creating these articles and people should respect that effort be reading the article.

    • Leyland Daihatsu Hi-Line built in South Africa under licence. They also made a double cab in 1974.

  5. The pickup in the poster is a Daihatsu – Leykor built these under licence.

    The Marinas produced in South Africa were more complex than outlined above. The first ones were the “Super” version with the twin-SU carb. MGB engine. (they advertised it as “the heart of an MGB with the steering of an E-type Jaguar”.

    In 1976, Leyland fitted the 1750cc motor instead of the MGB once they had bought the tooling from Australia. This was available in manual and 3-speed auto. The E-series 2.623 OHC motor was also fitted in the top of the range model. This was sold with a 3-speed BW. transmission only. I had a very rare 3-speed manual version that they had as an evaluation model for the police. It was a brilliantly-smooth motor with loads of torque and light on fuel for its size. I used to cruise at about 140kph quite happily. This engine had a single SU carburetor, while the similar engine in the Rover SD1 had twin SU’s.

    Towards the end of its production life, Leyland produced a Marina van and pickup using the 1300 A series only. They then also produced a 1300 Marina saloon.

  6. The Triumph Dolomite Sprint never came to South Africa, so Leykor converted a Marina into a rally car and used the Rover V8 engine. This was rallied for a short while with reasonable success. We had one of the rally team’s vehicles that was a 1750 auto with full-harness seatbelts and other equipment.

  7. I am interested in the Jaguar XJ6 production at Blackheath. Worldwide the XJ6 Series 2 ended in 1979 and the Series 3 began in 1980. However, at Blackheath it appears that the same Series 2 vehicle was retained and, where practical, some of the Series 3 modifications (bumpers, petrol caps)were tacked on and the hybrid was classed as a Series 3. This could have been due to a Leyland decision not to tool up for the Series 3 model due to the political situation here. I have just bought a 1980 (according to the AARTO registration papers) XJ6 built at Blackheath which has features of both the Series 2 and 3. The Leyland plate affixed to the RHS engine compartment does not have a normal VIN as we know it. As a buyer I am no longer sure of what I have bought!

  8. Don’t forget that the Triumph TR7 was manufactured at Blackheath also. There are many of those still on the road – probably more than any other Triumph sports model and there are still a few CFM registered cars around. Then there is that odd vehicle called an Austin Apache that has an 1100 front and centre to the C pillar with a Triumph 1300 boot. Don’t see many of those anymore.

  9. The Daihatsu Hiline is very interesting to me, as it only sold in very small numbers globally – it competed directly with mother company Toyota’s recently introduced Hilux.

  10. Fascinating stuff, thanks. I was aware our (Australian ) Marina tooling went to SA, didn’t realise how many other products they built.

    Ironically it actually looks like the most coherent range of all the Leyland offshoots – Posher Mini / 1100 including the booted version / Marina powered by Eseries including E6 / Triumph 2500 / Rover V8 / XJ6 to top it off. No Allegro / Maxi / 1800 / Princess. Plus a locally built TR7 and a good range of trucks. Did they get the 1.5 Eseries into the ADO16? Maybe sanctions focus the mind :-).

    • It was suggested that the P76 be relocated to South Africa, but big car sales had begun to slump in that country after the petrol crisis. There were no E series ADO16s. I reckon there was no E series Apache because, as you mentioned, Leyland had a cohesive model range with no overlap and a 1750 c.c. Apache may have stepped on the Marina’s toes. I remember even as a kid laughing at the notion of Leyland selling 25,000 Marinas a year in the sunny republic!

  11. Anyone know if the Leyland tractor was full Bathgate sourced CKD or any local content, if so what?

    Got to be an opportunity to bring rust free RHD cars from South Africa (including Mark 1 Golfs) also Mokes exported to California?

  12. I worked for Leykor from 1968 to 1971 in the sales dept in JHB. I remember many people who worked in these offices under the directorship of Peter Ray. Is there anyone out there who remembers those days. I left SA in 1986

  13. I am looking for information on the Leyland Daihatsu Hi-Line “bakkie”. It was available in short and long wheel base and they made a Double Cab (in 1974 already). I think the standard engine was a petrol 1.5lt. I searched the web but it really turned out to be a needle in the haystack. Can anybody help?

    • My memory is fading, but I do remember these variants were sold at some point or another in the 1970-1974 period:

      F110 – short wheelbase, 1470 cc petrol 52 kW SAE
      F118 – long wheelbase, 1470 cc petrol 52 kW SAE
      F118B – long wheelbase, 1871 cc petrol 63 kW SAE or 1871 cc diesel (? kW)
      F118BW – double cab, 1871 cc petrol 63 kW SAE or 1871 cc diesel

      I remember seeing chassis-cab and dropside-box variants, but I’m unsure how they were designated, or if they were factory offerings or after-market. Tailgates invariably had either “Daihatsu” or “Leyland” stamped on them. My apologies for not being able to provide any technical data.

  14. Kingsley & Marais Austin, Austin Healey
    Sydney Clow Rover
    Faris Motors Morris
    Hatfield Garage also sold Austin as a sub dealer. Still in business today now selling Volkswagen
    Steyns Garage Ford
    Many Austin Healeys were assembled at Blackheath in the Western Cape

  15. My late brother-in-law’s Australian building company was financed for a while by Jack Plane, former chief of Leyland South Africa, and another ex-Leyland Australia executive. He told me that Plane had made significant money buying tailings dumpings from gold mining and finding more gold in them through better extraction techniques. That trivia aside, the Marina was horrid in many ways, such as using friction dampers on the front which wore out rapidly, needing absurdly frequent servicing or expensive replacement with telescopics. The two door used the front doors from the four-door, not lengthened for better access to the rear seat, so getting into the back of the fastback was compromised. It understeered apallingly as a four-cylinder, woefully as a six, but Leyland SA pushed the six as a performance upgrade.

  16. I bought a 78 Blackheath Jaguar XJ6 Executive earlier this year as a winter project. It was parked up for over 20 years but in really good condition thanks to the previous owners foresight in having it rust proofed from new, However in attempting to solicit assistance with the many issues I encountered in getting the vehicle roadworthy, the jaguar xj6 owners websites were not in the least complimentary about the Blackheath facility or perhaps Leyland’s decision to create a Frankenstein monster of a part of this and left over parts of that. It’s been an interesting and an education few months.

  17. Leyland produced crap cars – vile styling and bad quality – the Marina, for example … the poms were incapable of producing desirable cars …

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