Blog : British Motor Holdings, 50 years on

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Ian Nicholls takes us back 50 years to the press conference at which the public announcement that BMC and Jaguar had joined forces to become British Motor Holdings was made.

Sir William Lyons (left) and George Harriman (right) announce the creation of British Motor Holdings.

Fifty years ago, on 11 July 1966, Sir William Lyons, the Founder and Chairman of Jaguar Cars, agreed to sell his company to the larger British Motor Corporation to form British Motor Holdings.

The full details are described in this site’s British Motor Holdings story, but July 1966 was perhaps the zenith of the British-owned motor industry, and no one could possibly imagine that, a decade later, it would be a basket case, strike ridden and dependent on taxpayers’ money even to pay the wages bill

In the financial year ending July 1966, BMC achieved a profit before tax of £34 million and produced around 890,000 vehicles, including 703,576 cars. Jaguar in 1966 produced 25,936 cars, and that does not include the firm’s commercial vehicles such as Coventry Climax and Guy.

At first glance, of the two new partners, it was Jaguar that appeared to be in trouble. The much-vaunted E-type was not very profitable, its most advanced saloon, the big Mark 10, was selling in paltry numbers, and the Rover and Triumph executive saloons had eaten into sales of the compact Mk2 saloon and its spin offs, the S-Type and 420.

Although the purchase of Daimler in 1960 had enabled Jaguar to transfer its engine production to the former’s factory at Radford, the extra space created at Browns Lane only seemed to raise annual production by 5000 cars a year by 1966. Jaguar seemed to have flat lined by 1966, a growing reputation for quality issues counteracting its flair for engineering excellence.

Hope for the future lay with the XJ4 saloon project, which became the XJ6, but Jaguar needed BMC’s money to get it into production. This was a time when other luxury British car brands were disappearing – Alvis and Armstrong Siddeley come to mind – and Daimler only survived thanks to Sir Wiliam Lyons astute purchase of the company in 1960. The escalating cost of developing new models proved too much for some British concerns, and Jaguar had no intention of joining them.

xj4story_01

In July 1966, the British Motor Corporation was at its peak. The return of Joe Edwards in the role of Managing Director was the start of a process of rejuvenation for the company, to rid it of the malaise that afflicted its ranks and introduce new management processes. BMC was arguably producing the best family cars in the world in the form of the Alec Issigonis-designed front-wheel-drive range. The Mini and ADO16 were all conquering, and even the flawed 1800 had been knocked into shape by the summer of 1966.

However, despite this apparently rosy outlook, BMC’s fate was probably already sealed. All these exciting models had been developed at great expense with the prospect of selling copious quantities to the expanding European market. Unfortunately, in January 1963, President Charles De Gaulle of France decided to veto Britain’s application to join the Common Market, then comprising around 200 million people. BMC then found itself unable to sell to the major European countries at a competitive price, and the required volumes needed to remain self sufficient were simply unobtainable.

If asked who was to blame for the demise of the British-owned motor industry, I would not hesitate to nominate Charles De Gaulle. The exclusion from the Common Market also exposed BMC to domestic credit squeezes, which crucified UK car sales and led to brutal lay offs of workers, which in turn poisoned industrial relations. Credit squeezes were not unique to Britain, but the beauty of the Common Market was that the large single market offset somewhat slumps in member countries’ respective economies.

BMC was also finding itself under pressure from Ford of Britain, which had no choice but to focus on the UK market. The Ford Cortina was aimed at the burgeoning fleet market, at purchasers who had no interest in buying high technology cars that were space efficient and went around corners like they were on rails. They wanted cheap and reliable cars, not an exhilarating driving experience.

Ford effectively grabbed this sector of the UK car market for themselves and held onto it for at least two decades. In July 1966, BMC had saturated the UK car market and its only realistic prospects for further expansion lay with Britain gaining a tariff free access to the Common Market – like Jaguar it had plateaued.

The BMC-Jaguar merger was announced on 11 July 1966 but the optimism was soon dashed when the Labour Government under Harold Wilson was forced to announce a credit squeeze in response to a damaging national seaman’s strike.

How this played out is described in this site’s British Motor Holdings story. Suffice to say, BMC’s nightmare scenario played into the hands of the Government and the Leyland Motor Corporation which were all to ready to listen to financial analysts, many of whom had no industry experience. Had BMC had the moral strength to hold out until the summer of 1968, when their production was booming, they could have held the upper hand in merger negotiations.

It was an unfortunate chain of events that led to a misdiagnosis of the problems confronting the British-owned motor industry and the wrong medicine being administered. To mark this anniversary, here is a description of what happened on 11 July 1966, as AROnline takes you back five decades.

A Jaguar board meeting discussed the BMC takeover, the location unknown. The formation of British Motor Holdings was officially announced later in the day at the Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street, London, EC2. The assembled media was told:

‘The Chairman will be Sir George Harriman with Sir William Lyons as a Director. Jaguar Cars Limited will continue to operate as a separate entity and with the greatest practical degree of autonomy under the chairmanship of Sir William Lyons.’

Below are extracts from the press conference

Sir George Harriman: ‘I would like to say that whatever I say now should be considered as a joint statement between Sir William Lyons and Sir George Harriman. Obviously, we can’t both talk at the same time. Sir William has asked me to say a few words and no doubt he will be saying a few words subsequently… We feel the products of Jaguar Cars Limited are complimentary to those of BMC. One thinks of their range as what I call ‘selective motoring’ and that fits into the BMC range…

‘What Sir William and I would like you to emphasise is that this is a joining of forces. We think that it could be a new word instead of ‘takeover’ or ‘merger’. If you could use the words ‘joining of forces’, gentlemen, I think both Sir William and myself would be very grateful. Finally, I would say at this point, gentlemen, how thoroughly gentlemanly and how, dare I say, British has been the co-operation and the frankness of the discussions which Sir William and I have had over the past weeks to enable this merger, shall I call it, or joining of forces, to have the success it has today.’

Sir William Lyons: ‘I would like to add that this is something that Sir George and I have talked about for a very long time. I, as having…’

Frederick Ellis (Daily Express): ‘Could you speak up, sir!’

Sir William Lyons: ‘I, as having control of an individual company, of course, naturally have had some reluctance to any question of a merger but, frankly, I have quite convinced myself that this is not only in the best interests of Jaguar but in the best interests of shareholders and the interests of the country to join forces with BMC. I believe it is going to prove to be a most valuable partnership and I am quite delighted it has come about.

‘I would also like to say that I have nothing but admiration for the way Sir George has conducted the discussions with me. We have both been able to see eye to eye on all matters, and I am sure that it is going to be a very, very happy joining of forces, as Sir George has said.’

William David (Guardian): ‘Sir William, I remember on a number of occasions when we have interviewed you, you have said, ‘You will not see a bid in my lifetime’. You say that lately you have become convinced that it would be in the best interests. Can you tell what kind of reasons inspired you?”

Sir William Lyons: ‘I do not consider this a bid…’

Frederick Ellis (Daily Express): ‘Could you really speak up, sir’

Sir William Lyons: ‘I don’t consider this a bid. This has been a negotiated transaction to establish a larger and more powerful organisation from which the joining forces will benefit. I don’t regard it as a bid at all; I think Sir George would agree with this.’

Sir George Harriman: ‘This is why I stressed, Sir William, the joining of forces.’

Frederick Ellis (Daily Express): ‘Can we anticipate that there might be a Mini-Jaguar?’ (laughter)

Sir George Harriman: ‘I don’t know. Did you anticipate the mini-skirt at any time?’ (laughter)

Sir William Lyons: ‘…because I believe it is the right thing to do. There are no potential implications of any kind. This is just what is wanted to put the British motor industry in a position to compete abroad.’

Sir William Lyons was also quoted as saying: ‘I feel this is in Jaguar’s best interests. I think it is going to be a very valuable partnership.’

And

‘I have been keeping over half the voting shares to avoid being taken over by an American company.’

BMC Finance Director Ronald Lucas told the media the total value of the offer was £18.2 million. At the time of the merger BMC, as Great Britain’s biggest vehicle manufacturer, held 42 per cent of the UK market, represented by an annual production of about 890,000, then running at 19,500 units a week.

BMC was also planning a big expansion, intending to spend £42million on new plant and equipment over the next four years, as well as £10 million a year on modernising their existing plant. By 1970 they planned to be turning out more than 1,300,000 vehicles a year.

On the export side, Jaguar Cars shipped $20 million of vehicles to the United States in 1965, and BMC put its earnings at $55 million to $60 million a year. Highly significant in the European sales war was the then current rate of investment by BMC’s main adversaries, American-owned Ford, who had invested more than £200 million, since 1962, and General Motors Vauxhall (14 per cent of the market), which planned to spend £50 million on new equipment by 1970.

Pressed Steel Fisher appointed the following: Mr. J. R. Stanfield, already a main board Director, became General Manager of the Midlands division and would be responsible for the Castle Bromwich and Ward End factories; Mr W. H. Bicknell was appointed a main board Director and, as General Manager of the Swindon division, would be responsible for the Swindon and Llanelli factories; Mr S. A. J. Frampton also joined the main board as a Director and became General Manager of the Cowley division.

He would be responsible for the Cowley and Coventry factories; Mr F. McMullen was made a local board Director and, holding the appointment of Financial Director, would be responsible to Mr John L. Lutyens, Deputy Managing Director.

The following divisional directors appointments were also announced:- Mr B. J. Breakwell, Director and Factory Manager, Coventry Mr S. A. Honey, Director and Factory Manager, Llanelli; Mr P. G. Manton, Director and Factory Manager, Castle Bromwich; and Mr H. Roberts, Director and Factory Manager, Ward End.

33 Comments

  1. Rather than to rant over De Gaulle, maybe it would be better if Britain had joined to found the EEC from the very start? Yet BMC-BL had over the years plants at Italy, Spain, Belgium and assembly in Portugal. De Gaulle or even Red Robbo are to blame about these lost oportunities?

    BMC ran a lorry operation in Turkey. Why on Earth they don’t tried to assembly or build Minis or Land Rovers there? Or in Iran? What about to insist in Argentina or trying to enter in México, Brazil or the richer -back then -Venezuela? Why they don’t insisted in India rather than in Australia or the very small NZ? Or even in the 80s trying in China when it was still a virgin market?

    What really failed in BMC/Leyland/ Rover was a true WORLD dimension rather than being limited to the sole UK or white commonwealth countries, then just limited to the EU. Please forgive me for the disgression, but maybe Brexit could be a new oportunity for Britain to go for a world trade, rather to be limited a european fortress.

    • To be fair there was an abortive plan to set up an Austin plant in India (not sure where exactly), an idea which dated from before WW2 and was revived after the war in 1947 with the intention to be operational by 1948 and based on a £2.5 million investment at Austin under Leonard Lord.

      However, instability in British India around that period from the Royal Indian Navy mutiny and fears that left-leaning Nehru would nationalize British interests upon becoming President of India meant that such a plan did not proceed.

      Agree that BMC should have built cars at its Turkish plant as well as established car-making plants in places like Mexico, Brazil and India with the long term intention of integrating its plant in Europe and eventually the rest of the world.

      • Mexico, Brazil, and India were economically volatile. Automobile companies were wiped out multiple times in the 70s and 80s. BL’s investment would have gone to zero value at least once.

        • You could be right, but until a point: the volatile environment was always compensated – even way over compensated- by delirant prices for -Fiat excepted-really outdated vehicles. That’s why you never heard Fiat, VW, Ford or GM complaining about it!

          • Other companies complained about it, and quit/sold/merged their operations in emerging markets at various times. If BL generally had been a more successful company, it could have afforded these speculative ventures. But history says they wouldn’t have made money doing it, as suggested up-thread.

        • Then why was Volkswagen able to succeed in places like Brazil, Mexico and much of South America, let alone Hindustan Motors in the case of India?

          • Right. That was why, even as recently as 1980, when Volkswagen took over Chrysler Argentina, they kept the local Hillman Avenger in production until 1990 as a VW 1500.

            I’m from Chile, where BMC-BL wrongly tried instead of Mexico or Brazil, and besides the volatility prior to Pinochet there was a small market closed to imports, yet overcrowded by local asemblers:

            Citroen 2CV: A chilean one costed as much as 4 times the french one, or the real price of a DS21!

            Fiat 600: In Italy you could afford an Alfa Romeo Giulia TI for it’s chilean price.

            Austin Mini: Rover P6 money in Britain.

            Don’t even ask about a Peugeot 404, Fiat 125 or Dodge Dart, our finest metal back then…

          • In short: VW kept their business around the Beetle, Kleinbus and 1500/1600 for a very long time. Being almost a monopoly of compact cars in Brazil and México,they asked for very high prices when compared to Europe or the USA. That party could last forever, but GM with the Chevette, and specially Fiat with the 147 ( brazilian 127) suddenly they had competitors for real; in México it was Nissan who played that role.

            Since then, Brazil have their big 4 ( Fiat, VW, GM and being very kind Ford) with a lot of contenders trying to challenge them (PSA, Renault-Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota) with variable success, since they still pay the price of don’t came earlier. The newer of the big ones, Fiat, opened their factory in Betim in 1976. Who knows, with a shorter and more rational range, BMC could join that train and still being with us.

          • Without even mentioning the potential of locally-built versions of cars such as the Mini, ADO16 and ADO17 in Brazil, Mexico, etc.

            It is said that the Morris Minor itself had the potential to beat the Volkswagen Beetle in terms of sales had Nuffield or BMC been willing and am inclined to agree, it does not help that the Morris Minor was held back from being a true rival to the Beetle with Lord Nuffield even referring to the Minor as a Poached Egg who preferred instead to continue producing the pre-war Morris Eight.

            Instead the Morris Minor was powered by a side-valve 918cc engine from the pre-war Morris Eight, when it should have been powered by a overhead-valve 918cc and 1140-1466cc XP engines followed by post-BMC 948-1275cc A-Series and 1.2-1.6 B-Series engines.

            Compare a Minor with a 1275cc A-Series or 1600cc B-Series to an air-cooled Flat-4 Volkswagen Beetle 1600, even the Hindustan Ambassador used the B-Series engine until the early-1990s.

            The Morris Minor could have even formed the basis of other variants such as an MG saloon resembling a downsized Gerald Palmer-styled MG Magnette ZA/ZB with independent-rear suspension and reliable 100 hp 1.6 Twin-Cam B-Series, an MG-badged Cisitalia inspired Coupe and even a better-conceived Morris-badged version of the Riley 1.5 or earlier Morris Marina to take on the the Volkswagen Type 3/4.

            Not sure how a BMC / Minor-based rival to the Volkswagen Type 2 would be possible though.

  2. Ian at least is honest about Jaguar in 1966, which some Jaguarists seem to see as a golden era that was wrecked by BMC. Truth is, the E Type was a fantastic technological achievement, being the fastest car in the world when launched in 1961, but the nature of the car meant it sold in small numbers, the Mark X was a ponderous barge that was a very slow seller, and the Mark 2 and S Type were facing serious competition from cheaper rivals from Rover and Triumph. Also while Jaguarists rightly complain about the fall off in quality and the controversially styled XJS from the Leyland era, the pre BMC era cars were notorious for heavy oil consumption and overheating. It’s probable without joining BMC, they could have run out of money to complete the XJ6, which proved to be their salvation in the early seventies.
    However, thanks to BMC/ British Leyland this excellent car made it to production. At the time, nothing, barring a Rolls Royce, rode as well, could reach 100 mph in almost total silence, looked as good inside and out, or could cut it with top of the range Mercedes and BMWs on the autobahn. The Series 1 XJ6 was a masterpiece whose basic design lasted until 1991.

    • Absolutely right! However as Ford discovered the plant at Browns Lane was knackered having 2nd hand equipment installed during the 50s which probably didn’t help with the quality either.

      Jag also wasted money. Yes the V12 was a tour de force but why invent the wheel when they had a very new V8 that Daimler had designed, which was superior to the XK engine.

      • Maybe Jaguar should have devoted the resources they showered on the V12 to curing overheating!
        The V12 may have been a great engine but it was only used in a minority of cars, was strangled by post 1968 US emissions law (which Jaguar should have seen coming), and a full fat quad cam variant would not fit in the XJ engine bay. On top of this most were mated to a 3 speed auto box, when you could get the XJ6 in manual, first with overdrive and later with LT77 5 speeder. All this combined to minimise the performance differential of the V12 over the XK, and most buyers opted for the latter.

        • Perhaps Jaguar would have also been better sticking with the Daimler V8 in place of the Jaguar V12 (and other failed attempts developing a V8 from the V12), especially since the V8 in 5-litre prototype form was capable of putting out similar power compared to the V12 (with likely more development potential).

          A V8-powered Jaguar E-Type would likely prove to be a better regarded car compared to the V12 Series 3 Jaguar E-Type.

          • It’s ironic that virtually all Jaguar’s rivals have V12 engines now, whereas Jaguar don’t, and use a supercharged 5-litre V8 instead!

            Mercedes
            BMW & RR
            Audi (plus VW and Bentley)
            Aston Martin

          • maestrowoff

            The lack of a V12 in recent Jaguar models does not appear to have negatively impacted them or even Range Rover for that matter, even Jaguar’s recent Supercar concept was a hybrid.

            The AJ-V8 was said to have originally been intended to also spawn to 3.0 V6 and 6.0 V12 variants prior to Jaguar being acquired by Ford, with the original modular engine design concept additionally including 2.0 4-cylinder and 5.0 V10 units.

            https://ralphhosier.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the-genesis-of-the-jaguar-v8/

    • Thanks Glenn for your comments.
      Motor historians overlook the shattering effect the July 1966 credit squeeze had on the British Motor Industry, with BMC and Ford being particularly hard hit as they were by and large dependent on the UK car market.
      The likes of Triumph, Jaguar, Rover (Land Rover), and Leyland were able to ride out the storm because they were able to export to non-Common Market countries successfully, even with local trade tariffs added on.
      Because Jaguar exported great chunks of its production to the USA, they looked superficially in far better shape than BMC by 1967.
      Historians tend to look at the balance sheets and not the circumstances behind it. This has led to the cliché about BMC losing money because it was devoid of exciting new models and modern management.Yet when the crisis passed by the summer of 1968, BMC was producing cars at even greater volume, with obsolete models being dropped.But by then the merger had taken place and the men from Leyland were busy undoing the reforms that Joe Edwards had been making.
      The major European countries were in the Common Market, and although they wanted to buy the Issigonis front wheel drive range, they were simply not prepared to pay the exorbitant prices asked for, once the trade tariffs were added on. And there was the tragedy.

  3. @ Ian Nicholls, executive car buyers were flocking to more modern and reliable cars from Rover and Triumph by 1966. The 2.4 litre Jaguar offered nothing over the smooth six fitted to the Triumph 2000, or the similarly powered Rover 2000. Also had Jaguar not gone in with BMC to finish the XJ6, V8 engined Rovers would have really taken on their 3.8 litre models and probably bankrupted the company.
    It was clear by 1966 that as well engineered and good looking Jaguars were, in terms of reliability and performance they were being bettered by Rover and Triumph and a small but growing band of very well off motorists were moving over to Mercedes. The XJ6 probably saved Jaguar as it did everything a V8 Rover or a bigger engined Mercedes could, but better.

  4. You’ve blamed the demise of the British owned motor industry on Charles deGaulle but I have to disagree. It was brought on by the industry itself through inadequate quality. Some cars (Rover 2000, BMC 1100) may have had a good basic design but the reliability was poor, particularly when their limitations were exposed by a harsher climate (e.g. USA). The BMC 1800 was saddled with a design that the market didn’t want as well as having inadequate quality.

  5. If Britain had gained access to the single market in say 1965, the extra sales and profit would have solved all these issues.
    And I don’t believe that at this stage continental cars were better engineered or more reliable than British cars. This is a myth that we have been brainwashed into accepting by the media who were all to ready to print negative stories about British engineering.

  6. Did the EEC have a single tariff free market back in 1966? The Seneffe facility could surely have mitigated Britain not being in the EEC?

    What I find interesting about Jaguar production levels is how little they’ve grown over the year, modern XJ6 sales are probably no higher than those in the 70s. Even in recent years with the XF as well, their levels are a fraction of those of Land Rover

    • I already commented on this on another post. BMC were unfortunately very insular and did expanded their UK business instead of investing on Seneffe which would have seen them get round the issues of tariffs. Instead it was used as a part production unit with parts coming from the UK, which were still tariffed (engines mainly.

      • Dave
        BMC expanded their UK facilities because they believed Britain would be joining the Common Market.When Britain was rejected in 1963, BMC circumvented this by setting up Seneffe in 1965.

        • Ian

          I know that they invested in the UK, but they still continued to expand production after 63 with the aim to produce 1m vehicles a year.

          In Spain the tariffs meant they had to set up full local production, so after 63 why didnt they do the same to circumnavigate EEC tariffs instead of just producing part of the car there?

          It was because they believed they would eventually get EEC entry and could produce the cars here, instead of looking at the global position. If they had set up full production facilities in Seneffe then they would have been able to sell tariff free within the EEC, making the cars competitve and with the extra volume generated the fund which the high tech low profit cars needed. Instead the Mini, 1100 and 1800 were too expensive and cost sales.

    • Yes it did!
      My contention is that had BMC been able to shift 300,000 each per year of the Mini and ADO16, with no trade barriers to hinder them, then they could have conquered Europe. And I believe they could have.
      By the time we joined the EEC in 1973 the Europeans did not need British cars and so increasingly did many Britons.

      • Indeed, Ian, after 1973 quite a few Germans bought a BL product based on the now competitive prices…. Most of them did once and never again just as BL dipped into the darkest period of time. Right up to today many still believe English cars to be less reliable and badly made due to this time. In the mid 60s this would have been different, as the cars were generally of an acceptable standard and – in the case of BMC, Rover or Jaguar technically advanced.

  7. @ 406 V6, are you sure the Rover P6 was unreliable? Maybe the last few years of production when British Leyland was in meltdown, but for most of its life, the P6 was a very well made car that lasted very well, unlike the SD1, whose first six years on the market were blighted by industrial unrest, terrible quality and rust issues. If the P6 represented the golden era of British car making, then the first generation of SD1 production was its low point.
    It’s a shame really as BMC, Standard Triumph and Rover produced some really innovative cars in the sixties from the ADO16 to the Jaguar X6( OK introduced just after British Leyland was created, but most of the design work was done by BMC and Jaguar).

  8. Although I was rather young at the time, I clearly remember the announcement on the news.
    “There has been a murder between BMC and Jaguar – I’m sorry, a merger”
    I think the newsreader got it right the first time.

  9. Rover’s ignominous withdrawal of the P6 from the US market is well covered, as is the failure of the Austin America and its MG brother. The design of the cars was inadequate for the US climate and the performance of the ADO16 was a joke for US road conditions. It’s easy for readers sitting in Blighty where summer temperatures hover around 70 deg F to be unaware of just how hot and humid other countries can be. The consequent pressure on cooling systems showed up the inadequate design. It may have been just about OK for the UK but not for elsewhere – which is my point. On a different but related subject, Americans could fill whole books on the woes caused by poor electrical systems on British cars.

    My own personal experience of the P6 includes my fathers 3-year old 2200TC spontaneously trying to set itself on fire while I was sitting inside. It was only my action disconnecting the battery that saved the whole thing from burning out.

    I rest my case.

  10. @ 406 V6, I see what you mean now, the P6 might have been suited to western Europe, but not suited to something like the humidity of somewhere like Florida. Also your dad’s 2200 would have been from the dark era of 1974-77, when British Leyland was in meltdown( the 2200 replaced the 2000 in late 1973). Another thing that might have put Americans off British cars, even in the early seventies, they expected all their cars to be fully loaded with air conditioning a must in the hotter southern states, Rover couldn’t offer this and so stumbled.

  11. @ 406 V6, what you write about the ADO16 in US is not true. The ADO16’s that were exported in US had all a 4 core radiator, in comparison with the standard 3 core items for the UK market. No overheating problems over there. Also, if you think that the performace ADO16 was a joke for the US conditions, what do you think of the hugely successful in the US, VW beetle? I’d better not mention how the VW could not accelerate, brake or turn in comparison with the ADO16. The ADO16s in the US market could also be fitted with A/C. There is a relevant section in the factory workshop manual of the cars.

    Also your own personal experience of the P6 doesn’t really add up in comparison to the total of the cars that were produced since 1963.

    @Glenn Aylett, both the 4 cyl and V8 P6 Rovers that were on sale in the US market were offered with A/C as an option. In fact this option was rather popular.

    What killed both the ADO16 and the P6 in the US market was inadequate support. It was just not enough to start selling cars in the US. If you cannot have an adequate network that can supply the parts and service the cars competently, the whole thing is going to fall on its face, as it actually did.

  12. @ Demetris, hello, I did think back after posting my comments and recall a 1971 P6B that had been re imported to Britain from America that had air conditioning fitted. It’s likely, as you say, the names Austin and Rover probably meant nothing to most Americans, unlike MG and Jaguar, and a poor dealer network would have killed sales.
    Also the P6’s quality held up very well compared with the SD1 and I can remember seeing several from the early seventies still on the road in the mid eigthies in the same way the P4 seemed to have a lifespan about 5 years longer than most cars of its era. Rover, until the SD1, meant durability, quality and reliability, which is why it was always top of the sales charts for executive cars in the sixties and early seventies.

  13. I don’t agree that De Gaulle was to blame for the demise of BMC & the motor industry in UK by saying ‘non’ to our application to join the Common Market in the early 1960’s If that was the case then things should have turned around when we joined the EEC on Jan 1st 1973.

    The real reason was the policies of the socialist Labour Govt and especially Wedgwood-Benn who forced the creation of BLMC.

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