News : AROnline launches BL50 – celebrating the half-century

BL50: British Leyland Motor Corporation (1968-1975)

2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the creation of BL. Considering that’s now ancient history in the fast-paced automotive world, it’s amazing to see just how much love – some of it ironic – that there is out there for the products which the company produced between 1968 and 1986 (when the initials BL disappeared, and were replaced by the Rover Group).

Here we are, though, half a century later. On the morning of 17 January 1968, after much discussion, many false starts, and with considerable cajoling from the Government, the creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation became a reality. Donald Stokes and George Harriman made their way to the offices of Cooper Brothers in London, and it has here that the BMH and Leyland men signed a document called ‘Heads of Agreement and Principles of Management Structure’.

At 1.45pm the Stock Exchange is informed of the merger and at 1.55pm the media was let in on the secret. The following day, the newspapers were full of the ramifications of how the world’s fourth-largest car-making combine was going to compete with the opposition, as well as internally. This was going to be an amazing opportunity for Britain to re-join the Premier League for car manufacturers. We all know how it ended.

BL50: Celebrating British Leyland, 50 years on

Clearly, AROnline has detailed much of what BL did, the cars it built and the crises it endured during its all-too-brief existence. So, BL50 will run during 2018, focusing on the legacy of the company, offering a fresh perspective, as well as new interviews and features. Throughout 2018, we’ll also be running regular updates of the stories that were making the news 50 years ago…

The first new story will detail the run-up to the merger of Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings, and the immediate press reaction to news of the announcement of the creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation in January 1968. Stay tuned for that one.

You can follow the official BL50 account on Twitter for daily updates, and half century-old news stories.

For now, here are a few links to get you going:

Keith Adams


  1. British Leyland, when it was created, employed 200,000 staff, had 40 per cent of the new car market, and was the biggest vehicle producer in Europe, and was seen as the British answer to General Motors. It’s just a shame in ten short years the company was brought to its knees by strikes, incompetent management and some awful products, and was split up in the eighties. However, that which survived the carnage like Jaguar Land Rover and Mini are now world beating companies producing vehicles people want to buy again.

    • The difference is that these remaining companies are smaller, leaner and fitter. Yes, they may no longer be British owned, but now the present owners seem to want to nurture them and let them fulfill their full potential. I really hope though, that PSA and Vauxhall/ Opel won’t end up as the new BL. Again there looks to be a mish mash of overlapping product lines and companies. Vauxhall/Opel/Peugeot for instance, this time with the potential complication of differing nationality’s management styles. It would be good to think that lessons had been learn’t from 40-50 years ago but….?

      • Yes we got something out the disaster, but that is peanuts compared to what we could have got. I don’t believe that German designers and engineers are fundamentally better than British ones. If British automotive engineers and designers were that bad, we wouldn’t have such a large number of race teams and motor sport companies based here.

        German not only has VW, but two world class high margin manufacturers in BMW and Mercedes. Imagine Birmingham and the midlands with the wealth of Munich? Alas it wasn’t to be.

        BL was a disaster, but what we should have done is fix the mess, instead we threw in the towel and the people who will pay are the generations that grew up after the 70’s and 80’s. They have inherited hollowed out economy, becausethe British choose toys today, over investment for tomorrow.

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