12 November 1981
Today in Tokyo, BL and Honda announced that they had reached an initial agreement to design and develop a car, code-named Project XX. The media were told that Project XX would be an 1800cc model pitted in the market just below the Rover SD1 range.
Under the terms of the deal, still only at letter-of-intent stage, BL would make both its own and Honda’s versions of the car in Britain then deliver them to the appropriate dealers. BL said the cars would be similar in design but each would have distinctive features. Honda would do the same in Japan, thus providing BL with its own ‘home-produced’ model for the Japanese market.
The cars would also be on sale throughout Europe and North America. Ray Horrocks, Chairman of BL Cars, said in Tokyo that the venture would be one of the most significant influences on the motor industry in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was confident that the British unions would support the project because it would protect as many as 2000 BL jobs and many more in component manufacturers. The car would be based on the design philosophy of BL’s LM10 range of medium-sized saloon cars, the first of which was due to be launched in Britain early in 1983.
Ray Horrocks added: ‘It will combine the very best of British and Japanese automotive skills and will be produced on their respective strengths in different parts of the world.’
We now know that Project XX became the Rover 800 of 1986 to 1998.
However, the resulting car did not have an 1800cc engine, but units of 2 litres and above. Neither did it slot below the Rover SD1, but actually replaced it.
So was Project XX originally meant to be an additional model to the BL Cars range, with the big Rover SD1 continuing in production?