The Leyland P82 would have supplemented the P76 and Force 7, and would have provided an up-to-date replacement for the Leyland Marina.
Industry expert Jack Yan fills in the blanks to reveal the cruel end to a promising Antipodean project…
Leyland P82: Compact future lost
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 Holden EH/HD/HR, while Chrysler had made its foray with the 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 Leyland Marina, while Model B became the Leyland 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 for P82
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 1980s.
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 significantly 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 …
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.
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 64km/h crash. Productionisation would have allowed for a car ‘insensitive to build inaccuracies’.
Refining the Leyland P82 range
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, 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 1970s 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.
To be built in large numbers
The coupé (above) was influenced by the Fiat 124 Coupé: both were 1670 mm wide and 1340 mm high. The P82 would have been shorter: 4086 mm compared with 4172mm. 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 nowadays, 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, which could not understand why Australia could not accept the British models.
A sad end to a promising concept
When Leyland Australia collapsed and local manufacturing 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.
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:
2-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.)
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.
Leyland P82 and other plans
Back in 1973/74 Leyland Australia were on the cusp of some exciting new developments. Wheels magazine managed to get wind of them (from an insider?) and printed its summary of upcoming events.
Article reproduced from Wheels, November 1973
INFORMATION on Leyland’s Model A is marked Top Secret. Its very existence is barely acknowledged and it is mentioned only in quiet whispers as the great hope for the compact six market. But Wheels has penetrated the security barriers surrounding Model A to bring you a comprehensive and accurate report on this totally new model, which is due for release in 1975. Model A began as a twin project with P76 back in 1968. When Leyland Australia discovered the parent company planned to build a conventional car of the approximate size and specification it wanted, this car – the Marina – was substituted as a relatively short-term model to enable work to progress on the bigger, and at that time, more important P76. But work never really stopped on the Australian Model A. And now that advanced engineering on the P76 has concluded the design team is working on Model A.
In size and concept Model A is closely related to the Cortina TC. And it will come with a wide range of engines to make it fully competitive with both the Cortina and the all-new LH Torana. Already the styling mock-ups have been approved and engineering prototype testing is about to begin. Projected size of Model A – and these figures come from sources within the heart of Leyland – is for an overall length of 13ft 10in. with a wheelbase of 100in. Front track is going to be 54.5in. and rear track 56.5in. Overall height is only 49in. on the Coupé – it will probably be about 52in. on the four-door sedans – and ground clearance has been set at 7in. Shoulder room is 52in. with a minimum of 35in. headroom. We weren’t able to obtain a figure for width but, taking shoulder room and the tracks into account, it should be around 68in. The overall weight target on Model A has been set at 2,700lb. These are the dimensions which have been approved by British Leyland for Australia’s Model A but, if the current trend to slightly bigger compact sixes continues, Leyland has conceived the car so that the wheelbase can be extended as far as 106in. if necessary. In this regard the actual wheelbase, length and width of the LH Torana are vitally important because it is this car, which is going to set the size pattern for the entire compact six market.
If the new Torana has a wheelbase of more than 102in. it seems likely Leyland will lengthen Model A to maintain a competitive size. As a comparative guide the present Torana Six has a 100in. wheelbase and the Cortina 101.5in, while the current Marina – a slightly smaller car overall – has a wheelbase of 96in. Base engine on the Model A project is the 1750 OHC four from the present Marina, then comes a 3.0-litre V6 and, if necessary – in other words, if the 253 V8 version of the new LH Torana really goes on the marketplace – the 4.4-litre alloy V8 from P76 will be slotted in.
The new V6 is simply the alloy V8 with two cylinders lopped off and the stroke shortened slightly to give the 3.0-litre capacity. The idea for the V6 comes from GM, who did an identical engine fiddle in late 1961 when it introduced a V6 for its intermediate-sized Buick Special. The Buick V6 was literally a cast iron version of the Buick alloy V8 with two less cylinders. And remember, it’s this Buick V8 which formed the basis for the Leyland V8. In fact, Leyland Australia has been using the Buick V6 for its development testing for Model A. The company bought an old Buick Special V6 and now has three additional engines undergoing proving in prototypes of Model A. If you keep an eagle eye open around Leyland’s manufacturing plant at Zetland, NSW, you will occasionally see the old Buick running around the factory perimeter on a small test track. The big difference between Leyland’s V6 and the old Buick V6 engine, which was dropped in 1967 (but was also used for a time in American Jeeps), is that the local unit will use an alloy block so the V8 and V6 engines can be built on the same manufacturing line, using the same piston bore. A different crankshaft has to be fitted, of course, so there is no problem in shortening the stroke. Rumours suggesting the new V6 engine will appear in the P76 and in the current Marina have been discounted. The Marina is due to get the present Leyland straight six in late November this year and will use this engine – together with the 1750 four – until the end of its model cycle.
P76, in a heavily face-lifted form, will ultimately get the V6 but not before 1975. It will make do with the straight six and alloy V8 until then. It’s not only the V6 engine that will be new on Model A. Leyland is developing a highly modified version of the P76’s suspension for the new car. No more torsion bars and leaf springs, as on Marina, but MacPherson struts up front and a four-link coil system at the rear. Rack and pinion steering will be retained. Braking is expected to be a disc/drum combination. But it is the styling and body layout which is revolutionary.
Leyland plans to introduce a four-door sedan with a fifth, hatchback door at the rear, rather like the Renault 16. This will be a first among local sedans although the P76 Coupé, which is going to have a similar third door design, will precede it on a Coupé. It’s the Coupé which is really going to set the styling pace. The concept of the Coupé, which has been approved by British Leyland, features a two-door body with a third rear door which lifts out two inches and then up, taking the rear window, part of the B-pillar and the rear side window with it, to reveal a large boot and the rear seat. An integral roll-bar is incorporated in the roofline. The roll bar, as our illustrations show, is used in the styling and begins as a sweeping line at the front of the car and runs to the B-pillar where it rises up over the roof.
Forward of the cabin the general styling treatment is a development of the P76 theme with a wide bonnet sweeping away from four headlights and a small grille. But instead of being virtually flat, as on P76, the Model A bonnet has a lower centre section with a raised area on either side for the headlights. Windscreen wipers are hidden from view under the rear of the bonnet as on P76.
Leyland Australia styling chief, Mark Cassarchis, is pushing for a development of this coupé theme – and it is even more extreme. This car still features the sweeping roll-bar but instead of running up and over on the B-pillar it is part of the C-pillar. A unique side window is the major difference. On Cassarchis’ design the rear window runs from below the waist line of the door and sweeps up and over into the roof. As a styling feature the rear side window is quite separate to the other sections of the upper cabin. The hatchback rear door theme is continued, although it is more conventional and restricted to the tail without taking the C-pillar as part of the door. Inside, the dashboard is a modern-day version of the Holden FJ’s, with a large circular speedometer in front of the driver and small dials set around the speedo and recessed into heavy padding. Leyland is experimenting with a fibre-optics system which works rather like a mini-TV screen in projecting the information from the actual instruments onto the instrument lenses in front. Model A does create one problem for Leyland. It leaves the bottom end of the market to the Japanese cars. Model A is definitely a larger car and out of the small car bracket. So Leyland is considering assembling the new Allegro – which replaces the old 1100/1300 range in England – in Australia.
The Allegro is one size smaller than Model A and slots neatly between the Mini and Model A. But it is a front-wheel-drive design and uses a sophisticated suspension set-up, and we can only wonder at the wisdom of Leyland Australia becoming involved in a technically complicated car again. The long-term answer would appear to be the totally new Mini which is in the British Leyland pipeline. This new car, which isn’t expected to he seen on the roads until at least 1975, will follow the current international trend to the three-door concept as on Honda Civic, Renault 6 and the Fiat 127. It will be about 11ft long with more room, new engines and even greater versatility.
This would give Leyland a three-model line by the end of 1975; the larger Mini replacement, Model A and P76 with variations on each and employing a wide variety of common components which is the secret to a profitable operation in Australia.
Article kindly supplied by Michael Hickey