We don’t know much about the BMC 10X, only that Sir Alec was sketching it out around the time of the formation of BLMC. It could have been very interesting indeed.
So, could this have been a credible rival to the Volkswagen Golf?
BMC 10X: hatching out a better Allegro?
Although we know lots about the brilliant BMC 9X, and how it could have revolutionised the small car market in Europe in the early 1970s, we’ve not looked too much into Sir Alec Issigonis‘s plans to expand the concept. Clearly, this 9ft 8in city car with a hatch was the perfect Mini replacement, but the project would have involved a huge investment at a time when BLMC’s management was ‘turning off the spending taps’ left, right and centre.
However, while it’s highly likely that this wasn’t at the front of Sir Alec’s mind, stretching the 9X platform and expanding the DX engine range would have made perfect financial sense. It would have spread the investment and development costs and significantly increased production volumes for this family of cars – as it would have replaced the BMC 1100/1300 range, which at the time was Britain’s best-selling car by quite some margin.
It’s interesting that the BMC 10X would have crossed timelines with the ADO22 project, which was taking shape at Longbridge and Cowley, and it’s interesting to think that Sir Alec’s 10X programme would have been independent of this more cost-effective programme. As it transpired, both would end up on the cutting floor, being ousted by the Austin Allegro – a middle way between the radicalism of the 10X and the conservatism of the ADO22.
What would the BMC 10X have looked like?
We only have the two drawings on this page to go from, but what we can see is that the longer wheelbase (around 96 inches judging from the rendering) and overhang give this car excellent interior room. Scaled up, it would have been shorter and narrower than the Volkswagen Golf Mk1, but with similar room inside, and more rear legroom. The driving position looks less upright than the traditional Mini/1100 arrangement.
In terms of power, there might have been a little expansion left in the four-cylinder DX engine, which was nominally designed to be between 750cc and 1000cc in the 9X, although it would have been tough, given its Siamesed bored and tight tolerances. However, given Issigonis’s penchant for six-cylinder engines, it’s most likely he had the 1.2- to 1.5-litre six-pot in mind for the 10X.
The six-cylinder DX would, in fact, eventually find its way into an MG Metro-based prototype towards the end of the 9X programme in the mid-1980s – by which time, this was very much a back water project operated by Issigonis very much ‘off the clock.’ Ray Battersby, an engine designer for BLMC between 1970 and ’76 summed up one very good reason why this engine would never have made it into production: ‘I was at Longbridge when the 9X was being shot down by Harry Webster. Issigonis’ arrogance cannot have helped his cause at all, though all those who worked for him that I knew held him in very high regard.’
Like the 9X, the 10X was given McPherson struts at the front and a beam axle suspension set up at the rear. Issigonis chose something utterly conventional (by 1970s standards), shunning the Dr Alex Moulton-designed fluid set-ups which worked so effectively in the 1100 and 1800 models. And this would have been spot on in terms of the upcoming Volkswagen Golf and its clones that would emerge throughout the 1970s.
Conclusion: would the 10X have been a success?
Like the 9X, this car is probably an opinion divider. Although it looked highly promising in terms of packaging and suspension set-up, it’s likely that the exotic six-cylinder engine would have been a show-stopper, leaving this car potentially E-Series powered instead. That being the case, there’s no reason why this car wouldn’t have gone on to do very well indeed, especially compared with the disappointing Austin Allegro, even if it was a tough engine to package.
Of course, there’s a caveat. There always is… Would it have sold in sufficient numbers to have covered its development costs? Now thereby hangs a question. Intriguingly, it’s easy to speculate as to how much more this car would have cost to develop than the Allegro – but one platform shared across supermini and small hatchback market sectors could have made this a more appealing proposition than it might have been.
However, the reality is that the newly-formed BLMC, led by cost-conscious Leyland managers, was never going to sign this one off – especially given that Issigonis’s cars and their lack of profitability would have been seen as the principal reason for why BMC had become so weak by the late 1960s. Yes, this would have been a Volkswagen Golf before its time but, rather like the way the GS helped sink Citroën in the early 1970s, the 10X might have well done the same for British Leyland.