Around the World : The Netherlands

The Netherlands saw CKD production of BMC cars, alongside the usual versions imported from the UK and Belgium…

Roderik Tonen tells the story.

BMC: The Dutch connection

In 1949 the Dutch Morris importer, J.J. Molenaar, started local assembly the Morris Minor, Morris Isis and Morris Oxford. The operation proved to be something of a success and, by 1959, assembly operations were expanded to include the Austin A40 and the brand new Morris Mini-Minor (known as the Morris 850 in The Netherlands).

The cars were produced from Completely Knocked Down Kits (CKD). Not all of these were badged as Morris – some were delivered as Austin Sevens to the Dutch Austin importer, Stokvis.

The situation remained the same in The Netherlands until 1969/1970 when, following the formation of BLMC in the UK, the company became locally known as British Leyland Nederland (Gouda). The imported cars were split up by in the following way:

  • J.J. Molenaar: importer of Morris, MG.
  • Stokvis: importer of Austin, Austin Healey.
  • Dirk van der Mark (a Morris dealer): importer of Riley, Wolseley.

In 1973 production of the Innocenti Mini Cooper 1300 started in The Netherlands (these were considered not to be as well built as their Italian counterparts) and this soon ended in 1975. You can recognise these cars because they had a rather strange ‘export’ badge on the front wing.

The same year saw the commencement of Allegro production. The colours and specification were sometimes different from the cars that were made in Longbridge and Cowley.

A very ‘special’ Mini, made in Belgium and sold in The Netherlands, was the Mini 1100 Special (wooden dash, leather rim three spoke steering wheel, tinted windows, vinyl roof, luxury upholstery, special wheel covers) and, unlike in the UK, this model became the mainstay of the range.

Production was of around 73,000 units in total between 1977-1982.

Assembly in The Netherlands (Amersfoort):

  • 1959 30 Minis
  • 1960 472 Minis
  • 1961 520 Minis
  • 1962 836 Minis
  • 1963 861 Minis
  • 1964 1031 Minis
  • 1965 445 Minis
  • 1966 180 Minis (production stopped)

In 1965, assembly (CKD) commenced in Seneffe (Belgium)
In 1966, BMC started British Motor Corporation Belgium S.A (6 August).

Production in Belgium (Seneffe)

  • 1965-1974 (Mini, Austin 1100/1300/GT, Morris 1100/1300/GT, MG 1300) no records/production not known
  • 1975 25,518 Minis
  • 1976 42,959 Minis
  • 1977 53,988 Minis
  • 1978 50,156 Minis
  • 1979 34,523 Minis
  • 1980 27,478 Minis
  • 1981 778 Minis (production stopped)

Article written by Roderik Tonen, photos supplied by Marcel Snijders, originally taken at Amersfoort by Cas Oorthuys. His work features in the Dutch Museum of Photography and more pictures can be found at its website.

Roderik Tonen
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  1. Fascinating stuff as ever, the lunacy of BMC can be summarised by the fact that up until 1969/70 Morris and Austin cars had separate importers into the Netherlands!

  2. True, Innocenti was assemblied in Belgium from 1973-1975. Since Molenaar closed in 1966, reason : 19 guilders profit on a Mini. Better than Longbridge in retrospect. From 2014 Mini’s will be made in Born The Netherlands.

  3. Ford had a successful factory in Amsterdam that assembled Cortinas from kits sent over from Dagenham( similar to the set up in Ireland in the seventies). Apparently the Dutch Cortinas were quite well made and popular in the Netherlands, I do recall seeing a 1977 series of Van der Valk driving a Mark 4, which most likely was made in Amsterdam. However, the early eighties recession and rationalisation in Ford saw the factories in Amsterdam and Cork closed down as it was cheaper to import fully built cars from other European factories.
    Interestingly, though, apart from the funny Variomatic Dafs that people remember from the seventies, the Dutch did become a fair sized player, the Daf factory being turned over to producing Mitsubishis and Volvos and exporting cars across Europe.

  4. In the seventies I worked at Ford Amsterdam. As far as I know Mk I and possibly Mk II Cortina’s were build in Amsterdam in de sixties. In the seventies Ford Escort Wagons were build till september 1976, and then replaced by the 1976 Ford Taunus 2-door in base- or L-trim and with 1.3 and 1.6 engines. In september 1978 production of the Taunus was followed by the production of the new Mk II Transit Van SWB. Main product of Ford Amsterdam in the seventies was the H-truck (Transcontinental). As it did not sell in big enough numbers, in 1980 Dearborn decided to close the Amsterdam plant. The last cars were build in 1981/82. As far as I remember, no Cortina’s were build in Amsterdam. Although the 1976 Taunus (LHD) was of course almost identical to the (RHD) Mk IV Cortina 1976.

    • My school friend had a Red Cortina Mark 3(Facelift). HMKxxxN back in the mid 70’s. Chassis plate said “assembled in the Netherlands from UK parts)

  5. Probably the biggest success for the Dutch car industry was the Volvo 340, an Escort sized car using Renault engines and while not a thing of beauty or great to drive, had a loyal following as it had all the Volvo safety features and was good value for money. The 340 was in production for 14 years and was a regular in the British top ten in the early eighties. Later on sporting models like the GLT added dome much needed driver enjoyment.

    • I’d forgotten about the 340 GLT. I remember now I thought it very appealing and quite fancied one. Didn’t it have a 2 litre motor from the 240? An example of how higher spec/performance versions of otherwise unappealing cars can take on a quite different character. See Peugeot 309 as case in point.

      • That was the 360, same car, just different model designation. Started off as a DAF, before Volvo bought their car operations. Michelotti had a hand in the design. They now have a big following as they are a great drifting car, with youngsters lowering the suspension and adding deep dish wheels. The Renault engine versions were not as reliable as the Volvo 4 cylinder versions.

      • The GLT used the Volvo engine, which was a lot nicer and more reliable than the Renault engines. Also it gave the car some much needed grunt as the Renault engines weren’t very powerful.

        • Looking back now and recalling how I admired the GLT, I can’t think why I never investigated actually acquiring one. Too expensive? I don’t mean a new one. Maybe a couple of years old. Surely I could have managed that. Must have been a reason!

  6. What about the Volvo 440 & 460 range? (the 440 was a hatch and the 460 a saloon?) I always thought they looked chunky cars and obviously smaller than the Swedish built 240 / 740 / 760 and 940 series.

    • @ Hilton D, they were more modern looking than the 300 series, but were prone to faults and didn’t sell as well. The Dutch part of Volvo finally got it right in 1996 when the S40 was launched, which looked like a bigger Volvo and was a good car.

      • My brother once had a company S60 saloon and when it was in dock he usually was given a S40 loan car which was also nice. There seemed to be quite a few of them on Brit roads.

    • A colleague at work ran a 440. It was seriously rusty and never sounded in the best of health. Mind you, it probably got worked on when it failed to proceed. That was the one that shared a base with the Mitsubishi Carisma, wasn’t it?

      • I’ll correct myself before somebody else does.I’ve remembered that it was the 440’s successor that shared tech with the Carisma.

  7. I’ve heard a lot of Volvo 440s were scrapped around 15-20 years ago because to change the clutch the engine needed lifting out, & this often cost more than they were worth at the time.

    Did any other cars with the same engine & driveline have similar issues?

  8. Sort of turning full circle, in recent years the BMW Mini has been contract assembled by VDL Nedcar in the Netherlands, in the old Volvo/Daf factory.

    This work is coming to an end though, resulting in large job losses as replacement work hasn’t been found.

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