Leyland P82

The Leyland P82 would have supplemented the P76 and Force 7, and would have provided an up-to-date replacement for the Leyland Marina.

Writing exclusively for www.austin-rover.co.uk, Industry expert JACK YAN fills in the blanks to reveal the cruel end to a promising Antipodean project…

Compact future lost

Study for the Coupe model. (Picture: Darren Lamb)
Study for the Coupe model. (Picture: Darren Lamb)

IN the mid-1960s, BMC Australia, keen to get a bigger slice of the six-cylinder market in Australia, had decided that the advanced Issigonis front-wheel-drive methods would not wash Down Under. Buyers were flocking to the Ford Falcon and the Holden, and Chrysler had made its foray with its Valiant. Sophistication was out in this rugged market: mechanical simplicity was in.

BMC proposed its Model A–Model B plan, which would see two complementary models. Model A would eventually become the Marina, while Model B the P76.

Designer Mark Cassarchis, who had tidied up the P76 after Michelotti in 1970, was one of the parties charged with styling the smaller car as the successor to the Marina in 1972. Bertone, Michelotti, Giugiaro, David Bache and Roman Rodhberg, Cassarchis’ predecessor, were the other candidates.

Choosing a stylist

Eventually, Giugiaro’s proposal was chosen by a Leyland Australia committee, but the decision was apparently overruled by David Beech — referred by some as ‘the father of the P76’ — who deemed Giugiaro too expensive and awarded the job to Michelotti (compact scheme pictured right). Wheels reported that Cassarchis did not formally know of his rejection until the Eighties.

The car was designed around engineers’ parameters, particularly of accommodation, which had been the P76 story. It would have similar interior room to the larger car, but with a sizeably smaller exterior. Project engineer Merve Sheather recalled to Wheels: “The P82 would have made maximum use of parts already made in Australia and would have paid for itself out of its sales in this country alone. There were to have been four models including a fastback (range detailed below). The design was commissioned by Leyland shortly before it stopped manufacturing.” The project did benefit from the company’s investigations into what rival manufacturers were up to. John Mackesy recalled in the same title, “… the P82 existed as a Marina shell on a different platform. My recollection is that the rear suspension was similar to Cortina, the front I don’t recall. I do recall that Leyland had an NSU Ro80 to study, and the P82 used the same ‘single-ended’ rack as the Ro80.”

With the Holden Torana bridging four-, six- and eight-cylinder markets, the P82’s attempt to begin with the E-series 1748cc engine rising to a new 3310cc V6 based on the P76’s V8 did not seem particularly extreme in the Australian context. By 1973, Ford had released its Cortina Six with the 3.3-litre engine from the Falcon. The 2622cc six-cylinder would have bridged the two engines.

Status report …

Michelotti styling treatments for short- and long-nose versions of the P82...
Michelotti styling treatments for short- and long-nose versions of the P82 …

While the P82 Status Report only outlined these engine options, there was talk of the P76’s 4·4-litre alloy V8 being put into a range-topping two-door, two-seat ‘commuter coupé’ built on a shortened platform. Wheels reported that the under-bonnet space would be cramped and a new electric cooling fan would have been needed. The ‘Special Coupé’ would have required wider 6½ inch rims.

Other engines mooted were a fuel-injected version of the A-series (1.3 litres) and the E-series (1.5 litres).

The range would have seemed quite advanced for the anticipated 1977 launch, with rack and pinion steering, four-speed gearbox and a three-link rear suspension. Safety, too, would have been class-leading, the engineers dictating that the car could survive a 64 km/h crash. Productionisation would have allowed for a car ‘insensitive to build inaccuracies’.

Long nose saloon shoot-out: Australian stylist, Mark Cassarchis' scheme on the left, and Michelotti's rival design on the right...
Long nose saloon shoot-out: Australian stylist, Mark Cassarchis’ scheme on the left, and Michelotti’s rival design on the right…

The range would have begun with a two-door “compact” with a short wheelbase and a short nose, rivalling the Ford Escort and Toyota Corolla. While this hatchback, in the mould of the later BMW 3-series Compact, would never have been a true Honda Civic rival, being 400mm longer and over 200kg heavier, but it had greater headroom and was utilitarian — one of the tenets of the original rear-wheel-drive programme. Australian model choices were more limited in the ’seventies and the compact hatchback would not have been unwelcome, particularly as Chrysler, Ford and Holden had no direct equivalent in 1977 (Chrysler did have the Chrysler Valiant Lancer Celeste, née Mitsubishi).

Leyland had planned for a sporty model of the compact, joining a stripped-down model and an intermediate ‘good quality throughout’ hatchback.

There would been two four-door sedans on the long wheelbase platform, with a “basic nose” and a “super nose” with quad headlamps. The coupé would have had the latter, and a two-door van the former.

The sedan would have been 4343mm in length, the same length as the Renault 12, and 47mm shorter than the Holden Torana Six. In 1977, the closest car size-wise was the Fiat 132 (wheelbase 2553mm, compared with P82’s 2540mm; height 1384mm versus 1383). Width-wise, P82 would have been among the leaders: 1670mm compared with the Fiat’s 1645 and the Cortina’s 1702mm. Trim levels would have been the equivalent of the P76’s Deluxe, Super and Executive.

Built in large numbers

The coupé was influenced by the Fiat 124 Coupé: both were 1670 mm wide and 1340 mm high. P82 would have been shorter: 4086 mm compared with 4172. The shorter wheelbase measured 2410mm (the Fiat was at 2419mm). Wheels puts the P82 as considerably heavier, at 1077kg over the Fiat’s 996kg.

The P82 Status Report estimated that an annual volume of 25,000 would be needed for the project to be profitable, which necessitated the “modular” approach to additional models.

Looking at the models in 2005, Michelotti’s are probably the most pleasing. They are well proportioned and have an air of the Triumph Dolomite reskin once planned for 1980. The compact resembles the 1980 Opel Kadett and Vauxhall Astra, while the sedan has some hints of the Fiat 132. Cassarchis’ offerings included a very svelte coupé, but the other variants translated slightly more poorly. The sedan has shades of the Holden Torana and Opel Ascona, while the hatchback appears somewhat like a Chrysler Sunbeam on steroids.

The programme continued apace, though it met some resistance at British Leyland, who could not understand why Australia could not accept the British models.

A sad end…

Mark Cassarchis' compact alternative - derivative with shades of all manner of Euro-hatchbacks, but pleasing nonetheless...
Mark Cassarchis’ compact alternative – derivative with shades of all manner of Euro-hatchbacks, but pleasing nonetheless…

When Leyland Australia collapsed and local manufacture ceased, the quarter-scale models were built, and a prototype running a new V6 engine had been built. It was October 1974 and the project had been canned. According to Merve Sheather, Barry Anderson had this to say about the fate of the P82 in Wheels: “When the Plant closed in October 1974, the V6 engine was put into the boot of the P82 prototype, and both were flown to England. I delivered the V6 to Rover – they thought it might be suitable for the Land Rover – and the P82 was taken to Longbridge. I did have one demonstration drive with Charles Griffin and some others but, in the chaos of time it made no impact.”

Like so many cars during those dark days, the P82 remains a “what could have been”. It probably would have sold reasonably well, giving Leyland Australia a strong, domestically developed range in 1977. The Mini would probably have led the range, followed by P82, and a refreshed, revised P76. The coupé would have been without peers, fighting outgoing versions of the Torana Hatch. Buyers of mid-sized P82s could have graduated to P76s in time; or indeed, the reverse could have happened, with the fuel crisis turning people away from the larger models.

It may have made life easier for the Holden Commodore that débuted in 1978, making the larger Ford Falcon of 1979 seem out of place.

While this is all a moot discussion, developments back in the UK may have seen the end of P82 and P76 anyway. Cost-cutting in the UK could have seen to Leyland Australia’s demise in any case.

Michelotti's quarter-scale model P82 De Luxe saloon (short nose). Picture: "P82 Status report", by Barry Anderson and Reg Fulford, Sep 1974, and supplied by Merve Sheather.
Michelotti’s quarter-scale model P82 De Luxe saloon (short nose). Picture: “P82 Status report”, by Barry Anderson and Reg Fulford, Sep 1974, and supplied by Merve Sheather.

As it happened, the Triumph Dolomite appeared in Australian showrooms in 1975, in a sector where premium P82s would have resided. British management, who felt Australia should not have its own models, got its way in the lean days. By the early ’eighties, Jaguar and Land Rover aside, British Leyland was present in Australia with the Rover SD1 and the Honda-based Rover Quintet.

The model line-up was to comprise:

Giovanni Michelotti with the quarter scale model, pictured at his studio2-door compact – SWB
4-door sedan – basic nose treatment – LWB
4-door sedan – super nose treatment – LWB
2-door coupe – super nose treatment – SWB
2-door Van – basic nose treatment – LWB

The engine line up was to be:

1748cc 4-cylinder E-Series
2622cc 6-cylinder E-Series
3300cc V6-based on P76, V8

(Although he does not mention the slant 2.2-litre four, half a V8 block that was produced and hot-run by Kjel Erikson.)

Cassarchis' coupe mock-up. Picture: "P82 Status report", by Barry Anderson and Reg Fulford, Sep 1974, and supplied by Merve Sheather.
Cassarchis’ coupe mock-up. Picture: “P82 Status report”, by Barry Anderson and Reg Fulford, Sep 1974, and supplied by Merve Sheather.

Jack Yan, LL B, BCA (Hons.), MCA, jackyan.com, CEO, Jack Yan & Associates, jya.net, and Lucire LLC, www.lucire.net.
His sites: Beyond-branding, his book, Typography and Branding, www.natcoll.co.nz/tab.html

Uncredited pictures taken from WHEELS magazine, March 1983.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams


  1. Hi – I actually have and are starting to restore a 1/5 scale clay model of the one of the Leyland Australia P82 variants that you seem to not have any information on. The model was initially rescued from a dumpmaster by a young apprentice in the cleanup of Leyland Australia in 1975 and then sat under his mothers house for 35 years before I purchased it from him. The model I have is clearly from the studio of Mark Cassarchis and it clearly displays its links to the other models from his studio as shown on your website. The model is a short front / short rear – 4 door sedan. The model is based on a form cut center wooden spine that has “sedan” written on the internals of it. From the center – wooden ribs move out to create the basic structure and shape of the car and then the finer details are filled and molded with sulfur based clay which was typical of 1975 clay models.
    I am yet to contact Mark Cassarchis in an attempt to gain more information about this apparently unknown model (it is not shown in any books either)

    Below is a link to my Facebook photo album of the model, its structure and its current state. You have my permission to use all photos of the My P82 model if you wish to do so.


    • Some of the pictures that you are showing are simply Micholttis early designs first the P76. I really don’t believe that your information is valid

  2. Interestingly enough – the structure of my model clearly shows a distinct and clear difference to any of the rear or frontal treatments shown on any other model from the Cassarchis studio. The scalloped front panels give more of an aggressive feel to the front yet the short cropped rear is more in the vain of the Marina type approach. The presence of this model in 1975 suggests that the Cassarchis studio may not have given up on the P82 project and may have been restyling it. The apprentice that finally rescued it from total destruction – had been actively working on it before the plant closure and was quite miffed that it was simply thrown out at the end – hence he “stole” it from the bin and took it home (with a box of clay , the oven Leyland used and his clay working tools). The same apprentice also took the hand drawn constructions diagrams of the Force 7 coupe doors which he sold to someone else (no idea who).

  3. Rick,

    Amazing. Brilliant. Wonderful. Thank you…

    I’ve sent you a friend request, and will gladly use your images. Would you be up to running your model restoration on this website as a blog? I think the readers would love this.


    • Dear Keith,

      It has been some while since our last contact.Having since retired from the NSW Paliament,having held the positions of Committee Manager (both Select & Joint) & Serjeant-at-Arms.
      I left Leyland Motor Corpn.in late February 1976. Recently I have been going through my now very few old Leyland files,when I held positions and also as Senior Buyer- Body Section; where I was responsible for the purchasing of all paint,tyres,interior trim, seat belts,body sealants, and other Aust.Design Rule components,e.g.all Safety equipment etc. I found a note from Kjel Ericksen, Senior Engineering, to myself & Peter Fairburn, Senior Tech.- Paint Lab.,in brief, the first production run P76 Force 7V, to be in paint colour ‘Rave Red’ with White interior trim. This car was displayed briefly to a select group of senior people,near to the main administration block, which was then locate adjacent to the South Dowling St.,Main Admin.Block entrance.

      Amazing is the only word, for these scant memos surviving all this time.
      Additionally, ‘The Group’sent from Leyland UK,to rationalize and dispose,of the Zetland/ Waterloo site were Messrs. Abel,Andrews,Ransom,Showen, maybe better acknowledged as ‘A ARS’. They negotiated with the then Whitlam Federal Labor Government,and reached agreement for a package for the workers (Zetland/Waterloo approx. 4,509 in Nov. 1974),in addition to buy the Zetland/Waterloo site for $10 million,later to be handed over to the Australian Defence Force.

      I was later advised that the P.76,& Marina were both produced in South Africa from Aust. components. The Mini,Land Rover,etc production continued at Cosgrove Road, Enfield,into the 80’s.,a smaller facility that had previously produced CKD Triumph 2500, and other small run production of well known French branded vehicles.

  4. Australian Alfa Romeo!

    That said, such a pity that these handsome designs were not built b BL, if not in Britain, in Landaben, Lambrate or Seneffe. Probably would be much more easy to sold that Marina asnd Allegro were back then.

  5. Does anyone know where I can find out more about the Kjel Erikson produced 2.2 Slant-Four that was developed from the Rover V8?

  6. In regards to the slant 4 . someone told me or was it in one of David Hardcastle’s books that the slant 4 was sent to England and was “running around in a Land rover over there somewhere” as they were interested in it as a replacement for the 4cl petrol LR motor in the 88 series.
    Regards Nick

    • Whilst I can’t confirm the slant four was fitted in a Land Rover, as a Solihull apprentice from 1990-94, I do know there were a couple of slant four engines on pallets in the block 9 prototype engine build workshop. They had been dug out of storage, along with some other old prototype engines including Iceberg. It was said at the time that the V8 designers & development engineers were having a look at them with regards their work on the V8 for P38 and Tempest. I was fascinated by the slant four due to how crude it was, with one ‘half’ of the donor V8 lopped off and a big slab of aluminum welded in place! Would be interesting to know if these were engines from Australia or something else entirely? I was told at the time they were eventually destined for the Heritage museum at Gaydon, so maybe they still exist?

  7. Dear Keith, Further Reflections;

    I have located a fragmented memo,of very limited circulation, advising that Graham Pierce,Production Planning Section, will be arranging for the gathering and shipment, of all remaining components for P76 & Marina.
    P76 & Marina production was intended to continued in South Africa. I remember Graham Peirce, Production Planning, gathering up all components for Marina & P76.These were put into metal stillages, for easy shipment to SA.

    Reflections on a P76 slant 3.3 litre 6 cyl.
    There was an experimental slant 6 alloy block cast, for Kjel Ericksen, Senior Engine Engineer,(as Kjel has passed),only Duncan Todd, Engine Engineer, & maybe Chris Rodgers, Body Engineer,as both would have been closely involved.

    These were halcyon days. The dying days the then The Rt. Hon. E. Gough Whitlam,MHR,then the Prime Minister (passed away last week) Labor Government,and the Petroleum Crisis which forced both GM & Ford Australia to radically rethink their large cars.
    Funny when we think that the Mini was born as a result of the then fuel crisis, that gave in 1958 BMC, a massive relaunch, by a very forward thinking Alec.

    A South African car magazine had mention of the P76 test, this was a 6 cyl. fitted with a 2 inch, SU. This was verified years ago by a former SA work colleague.
    Continue your great work.


  8. Dear Keith,

    Just a short addition to my previous, the P76 V8 engine machining transfer line was supplied ex-U.S.A. by Cincinati Miling Machine Co.

    Absolutely magnificent to watch,in operation machining raw to finished engine block. Cost although not openly quoted in 1972, was said to have been C. $1M U.S.A.

    Maybe this transfer line, ended up in Rover/Land Rover U.K.?.


    Dear Keith,

    Can I please draw your attention to the current 2014″Australian Muscele Car” magazine issue 76., (no pun) http://www.musclecarmag.com.au.Phone Sydney Metro. (02)9901 6111 – Article 1974 Leyland Force 7V, at Pages 74 to 84.
    This car is in colour ‘Bold as Brass’with Chestnut trim interior.
    Mention is made here of the then original in-house stylist, Romand Rodbergh and Giovanni Michelotti.Later Markus Cassarchis (ex Ford Australia).

    Very much worth a read !

  10. The Michelotti styling looks rather similar to the recently found styling for the Triumph SD2 he proposed (the Alfa looking one)

    It’s not really the first time that something Britain didn’t want ended up in Australia,see the P76 which was rather inspired from the Rover P8

  11. A good looking car that could have become a Marina replacement in both Australia and Europe, but the arrogant BL management of the time were annoyed that Down Under could develop better looking cars than Britain and had the P82 canned. Also the closure of the Australian Leyland factory meant no new models from Australia after 1974.
    Again a lost opportunity for Leyland as the P82 was ideal for the fuel crisis and 1974-75 recession, when Aussies were flocking to Japanese imports over V8s and big sixes, and Ford and Holden had been caught out.

    • Ideally, all post-Marina BL RWD cars (P78/SD1, TR7/8/Lynx, P82/SD2/ADO77) would have been spun off a single platform or RWD component set: common floorpans, suspensions, engines, gearboxes, brakes, steering and so on…

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