Essay : Counterfactual Rover Triumph

This is counterfactual history. Bill McWilliam discusses what could have happened if Leyland had walked away from the merger with British Motor Holdings.

The following counterfactual story, in the form of a fictitious article from the August 1971 issue of CAR magazine, describes model plans of an independent Leyland for the early-to-mid 1970s.

CAR magazine | August 1971 | Scoop! 

Car magazine August 1971

LEYLANDand the ALL-NEW Rover-Triumph cars that will make Britain Great.

The Germans may have their sights set on invading Europe, but with his dynamic range of new machinery, Sir Donald Stokes will fight them on the highways.

It has now been four years since Sir Donald Stokes infamously, at the eleventh hour, walked out of negotiations with British Motor Holdings (BMH), a merger that that would have created the fourth largest vehicle manufacturer in the world and would also likely have made him one of the world’s greatest industrial leaders.

Lambasted by the press for sabotaging the opportunity to create a British Automotive Superpower, he later defended his decision by stating that, in the fifteen previous years, since the merging of Austin and Morris and the creation of BMC, the company was still a shambles, consisting of overlapping and muddled model ranges, a chaotic dealer network where garages sitting side by side were selling similar ranges of cars under different badges and vastly differing dealership terms.

Added to that he pointed out that BMH had still not managed to rationalise the company’s scattered network of inefficient factories which complicate or, in many cases, duplicate production. His belief was that, if BMC had been unable to merge its operations effectively within a decade and a half, it would be highly unlikely that – particularly with Rover and Triumph added to the mix – an efficient, profitable and successful vehicle manufacture could be created out of the merged companies within the next ten years. One must bear in mind that then – as now – Leyland on its own was a highly profitable company.

The state of Rover Triumph today

Rather than dwelling upon what might have been, and the powerful position he may have held, Stokes has instead doubled his efforts to prove that his Leyland company can produce a range of world-beating quality cars. Since the merger talks broke down Rover has brought us the much sought after P6 in V8 form along with the outstanding Range Rover off-roader. Meanwhile, Triumph has revamped its entire range – the 2000 and 2.5 receiving a comprehensive and highly successful makeover two years ago around the same time as the Karman-designed TR6 replaced the TR5. All 2.5-litre engines in both models now have fuel injection.

At last year’s Motor Show the Toledo and 1500 replaced the Herald and 1300, and the Dolomite (below) killed off the aging Vitesse. The other significant newcomer to the range has been the Stag convertible-grand tourer, which overnight rendered the old Mercedes SL280 obsolete. Only the Spitfire and its GT6 sibling remain from the era before merger talks- but both have recently received significant facelifts.

As the performance marque, expect to see Triumph’s increased involvement in motor sport – in rallying, saloon car racing and the European Touring Car Championship.

But that is only the start!

Within weeks, and in time for the Earls Court Motor Show, Leyland will reveal two of the most significant new cars of this year. With Britain poised to join the Common Market in less than 18 months these are the cars that will spearhead Leyland’s attack on car markets of Europe as well as improve sales in The Commonwealth and across the Atlantic.

Scoop: 1971

Triumph Dolomite Sprint 135

Yes, this is a 2.0-litre 16-valve version of the Dolomite saloon that was introduced late last year. This road rocket with, as its name implies, 135bhp has a top speed of 120mph and 0-60 time of only 8.0 seconds. However, this is not some homologation special like the Escort RS1600. This is going to be a refined four-door executive saloon. Insiders tell us that achieving the planned 135bhp from production versions of these technologically advanced engines has not been an easy task and have also revealed to us that fuel-injected versions are currently undergoing testing – developing 150bhp with a potential 125 mph top speed! Expect these in showrooms within a couple of years.

P8 Rover 3-Litre/4-Litre

How the Rover P8 looked just before production was cancelled in 1971.

It is well known that the replacement for the well respected, but ageing Rover P5 will be with us within a few weeks and will finally put an end to Rover’s ‘Auntie’ image. Pre-production models shown in this magazine (Scoop January) show this to be an imposing, transatlantic styled four-door saloon sitting on a 112-inch wheelbase and of around 190-inches in length. This is Rover’s response to the highly-acclaimed Jaguar XJ6, as well as to next year’s all-new, range-topping Mercedes W116.

Considerably lighter and more aerodynamic than the 12-year-old car it replaces, power will come from the 3.0-litre and 4.0-litre versions of the Triumph V8 introduced in the Stag last year. Word from the factory is that the well-documented reliability issues which plagued early engines have now been rectified and this unit has been chosen over the Buick-designed Rover V8 due to its more modern design and potential for further development. Expect high levels of equipment to be standard, including centralised door locking, electric windows and air conditioning.

At launch the 2997cc version will produce the same 145bhp as the Stag, giving a 120mph top speed, the fuel-injected 3996cc engine giving out around 210bhp and 135mph. Prices have yet to be announced, but expect the new Rover 3-Litre to be price at similar levels to the outgoing 3.5 Litre. Later on, in 1974 if our sources are correct, 32-valve fuel injected versions of the 4.0-litre will produce around 260bhp, giving a maximum speed in excess of 145mph! Along with next year’s Jaguar XJ12 saloon, this will be one of the world’s fastest four-door saloons who will be King of the Autobahn fast lanes then?

To help keep all this power in check, Rover has been working closely with Dunlop to develop an affordable anti-lock braking system for this new car to give it the required stopping power. They will also ditch the unreliable Lucas mechanical fuel injection replacing it with a Bosch-based electronic system. A long-wheelbase version Rover 4-Litre is also planned, with a four-inch stretch of both wheelbase and length.

Rover P8 was abandoned in 1971, and made way for the Rover P10

Scoop: 1972

Triumph GT4/GT8

Triumph Lynx scale model

This Stag based fastback coupe (see Scoop January) will replace the GT6, taking the Triumph range more upmarket, with a three-pronged attack on the sports coupe market. Likely to be available as a two-seater or two plus two, this is a further reworking of the Lynx prototype we revealed early last year. The GT4 will use the 135bhp 16-valve engine from the Dolomite Sprint 135 – creating a sporty, entry-level car. The two GT8 models will use the Stag 3.0-litre V8 in standard 145bhp – a relaxed tourer or a high performance range topping fuel-injected 32-valve with 190bhp. These top-level cars will have 130+mph potential and reach 60mph in less than seven seconds, more than enough to fight off the Japanese Datsun 240Z which is currently sweeping up in the United States. Expect to see these cars along with a new 32-valve V8 version of the Stag at next year’s British Motor Show.

Scoop: 1973

P10/RT1 – Rover 2000/3000/3500

Rover P10 proposal

If there was one area where the Rover/Triumph merger became complicated it was due to their duplication of 2.0-litre executive saloons. This was made more difficult because both were relatively new when the merger took place, and both were also extremely successful. Due to their success Leyland chose to ignore this conflict, but when it came time for planning their replacements logic dictated that one car would have to be sufficient to replace both. It was also decided early on that, apart from sports cars, all models over 2.0-litres would be badged as Rovers.

Originally codenamed Rover P10, this car has recently been renamed RT1. This will probably be Leyland’s most important new car and, at around 185 inches in length, it will be slightly larger than the two cars it replaces. With its streamlined fastback body style and opening tailgate it will be every bit as revolutionary as the P6 model was ten years before. Serious consideration was given to the new car being fitted with gullwing doors, but it was felt that the market might not be ready for this innovation just yet!

However, the new body style will address the space issues of the older car and, again, it will feature independent rear suspension and discs brakes all round, but the spaceframe design and (having given up on gas-turbine powerplants) the round-the-corner front suspension will be gone. Gearboxes will be either automatic or an all-new five-speed manual – highly geared to give exceptional economy.

As with the P8, power will come from Triumph-based units: the two-litre Slant-Four, but in eight-valve 110bhp form, the 145bhp 3.0-litre V8 and the fuel -injected 3.5-litre V8 giving out more than 180bhp. Both are Stag based units. Top models will have 130+mph performance. A smaller V8 of around 2.5-litres or possibly a new OHC six based on the Slant-Four may be introduced to replace the Triumph 2.5 and assist sales in countries where tax hinders the sale of larger-engined cars.

Later on, a five-door estate car is planned to replace the popular Triumph estates and regain market share from Volvo, the current leader in the big estate car market.

Scoop: 1974

Triumph TR7

Triumph TR (Counterfactual)

This all-new, mid-engined Coventry built sports car will set the long-running Triumph TR range in an entirely new direction. Styled by Bertone and powered by 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre engines, this two-seater draws heavily on the P6BS prototype and subsequent P9 sports car project.

As the first fixed head TR model, the larger fuel-injected 32-valve versions will have 140+mph performance and reach 60mph in around 6.5 seconds with a specification that will likely include anti-lock braking! That’s right ladies and gentlemen – in three years time you will be able to walk into your local Triumph dealership and purchase a new car that is every bit a match for either a Ferrari Dino or a Porsche 911. This aggressively-styled sports car could even see Triumph returning to Le Mans. With no convertible version of the TR7 planned, the existing TR6 may remain in production until US legislation finally kills off open-topped cars for good.

Scoop: 1975

Range Rover four-door

It is likely that 1975 will see the introduction of a number of new Range Rover models – including a four door, both in standard form and also luxury versions designed for the US market with electric windows, air conditioning, automatic transmission and leather upholstery. However, one does question whether there will be a market for this sort of opulence on what is essentially an off-road vehicle. At the same time, it is likely that Triumph engines will replace the Buick-designed V8 – probably in both 3.0-litre and 4.0-litre form.

RT2 – Triumph Toledo replacement

Rover-Triumph RT2

Late in the year or possibly early 1976 Triumph will replace the existing Toledo and 1500 models with a new two- and four-door front-wheel-drive model. Insiders tell us this will be based on the existing 1500 floorplan, keeping the same wheelbase and length – but engines will now be transverse mounted allowing the car to be considerably more space efficient.

We have been told that one of the main reasons for switching the Toledo to front-wheel drive is to allow the possibility of smaller economy front-wheel-drive models that may be required to broaden the range towards the end of the decade. Power for the new Toledo will come from new 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre units (60-85bhp), closely related to the Slant-Four, mated to all-new, end-on five-speed gearboxes. The aerodynamic fastback bodywork we believe will be Italian-designed (probably by Michelotti) and closely resembles the recently-launched Alfa Romeo Alfasud or Citroën GS.

We will likely see a 1500 version of the Dolomite with the new engine introduced around the same time – this will be aimed at more conservative (older) buyers.

After that…

It is likely that an all-new Triumph Dolomite (RT3) will appear some time in 1977 or possibly early 1978. This will almost certainly retain rear-wheel drive, but with the Triumph 2000 gone, it is likely to grow in size to become a posh Cortina – competing not just with the more expensive Fords and Wolseleys, but also with European prestige brands such as Alfa Romeo, BMW and Lancia. With the larger body size and retaining rear-wheel drive we are also likely to see larger engines. Further development of the Slant-Four in collaboration with Saab is possible including, we believe, a turbocharged version. Also don’t be surprised if top models gain the 2.5-litre, six-cylinder engines which will also see service in mid-range P10s.

The only model where the future is less certain is the nine-year-old Spitfire. As pressure grows, particularly in the USA, to outlaw open-topped cars its replacement seems unlikely, but our sources tell us a two-seat hardtop, with pop-up headlights and possibly removable roof panels, nicknamed Bullet due to its pronounced wedge-shaped design is being investigated. However, if that does get approved for production, it will likely be based on a shortened Dolomite platform and powered by 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre Slant-Four engines – in that case, expect a launch date early in 1975.

By the end of the decade we may even see a small front-wheel-drive Triumph based on a shortened RT2 platform or possibly a smaller version of the Range Rover with a 2.0-litre engine using a four-wheel-drive version of the RT3 platform.

With all of these new cars it is clear that by the mid-to-late 1970s Rover and Triumph will have become one of the most significant European car manufacturers with an unrivalled range of advanced, executive, high-performance saloon cars, sports cars and off-road vehicles featuring OHC four-cylinder or V8 engines, many with fuel injection, four valves per cylinder, five-speed gearboxes and front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, 4WD or mid-engined layouts.

With this new range of world-beating saloons, off-roaders and sports cars Donald Stokes’ Leyland will be able to take on anything the Europeans can offer… AND WIN.


  1. Thanks very much for another wonderful What if/Counterfactual; really do love those! And although I agree a combined Rover-Triumph might have stood a better chance of survival than the BLMC, I’m afraid there are still a few risks in such a scenario. So just for argument’s sake, let me name three.

    1) Pushing on with P8
    The Rover P8 was a very complex, big and costly car. In reality, it was cancelled on several grounds, not least because of desastrous crash test results; it was not just because of Sir William Lyons’ Jaguar.
    Imagine it would never the less have been introduced in 1971, as stated. Testing of the actual P8 only started in 1970, so with the imagined transfer of engines towards Triumph V8’s, it would almost certainly not have been ready for launch as planned. Any delay would have brought it perilously close to the 1973 Oil Crisis that made V8-enigned cars very hard to sell, at least in Europe.
    The crash results would probably have killed it anyway, if not, the V8 and the well established British (not just BMC!) tradition of letting insufficiently tested cars loose on the public would, on which more under 2) and 3).

    2) Pushing on with the Triumph V8/Slant 4
    As is by now well known, both the V8 and Slant 4 suffered form waterpump troubles, head gasket failure and overheating. It is stated these were remedied, but in reality they were not during the Stag’s actual life time. In fact, even the K-series, developed by partially former Triumph people, suffered from comparable problems. So I’m afraid planning for the complete model program to be propelled by both these engines would have handed Rover-Triumph, both the cars and the company, a blow form which it would seem very hard to recover, especially in competition with quality offerings form MErcedes-Benz and BMW.

    3) Insufficient development and testing
    It wasn’t just the engines though that would have tarnished Rover-Triumph’s image and standing. As said, the P8 was a very complex car. Chances are it would not have been sufficiently developed before it was released onto the market. Also, as can be read in the SD1 story, it was the Leyland people who pushed for quantity rather than quality. As Leyland took over Rover, there is little reason to beleive thingas would have gone very different form reality. That would have harmed not only P8’s chances, but also the following Triumph GT’s, P10/RT1 and TR7.

    One can seriously wonder in what state such a scenario would have left Rover-Triumph; not much better than BLMC’s, I’m afraid. It wasn’t just BMC that was in disarray; Leyland were in equally deep trouble, though around 1970 it was just a little deeper hidden.

    • I disagree, the fundamental advantage that Rover/Triumph had over BMC is they weren’t chasing volume and trying to go head to head with mass market manufacturers like Ford. They didn’t need a Marina or an Allegro in their product range.

      As a combined group they made much more sense than BL. The only real overlap between Triumph and Rover was the Triumph2000/P6 and that would have been an easy fix.

      I know that those who are fans of BMC’s cars won’t like to hear this but shorn of the distraction and drain on resources that was BMC. There is every chance that Rover/Triumph could have succeeded and maybe even still be with us.

      You’re are right that the slant 4s and the complex Rover P8 could have sunk the company. However it is equally possible that with enough development time and money, the problems could have been solved.

      Oh and the K-series only developed its headgasket problems after it was enlarged to a 1.8 litre capacity. It was fine when it did the job its designers originally intended, which was as a smaller capacity engine. If Rover had been sold to Honda, the expanded K-series would have never have been needed. Another what if.

  2. Sorry for typo’s, editing would be wonderful, especially for us Anglophile foreigners and our auto-correction 🙂

  3. I don’t think Leyland has enough resources to realize this idea
    P8, P10, RT3, RT2, TR7, LR, RR, you need at least 7 basic platforms to compete with Opel,、Mercedes、Porsche and Jeep at the same time
    In the 1970s, BMW had only 3 platforms, Mercedes had 2
    Both of them had a bigger market than Rover triumph

  4. I don’t think Leyland has enough resources to realize this plan.
    P8, P10, RT3, RT2, TR6, LR, RR, you need at least 7 basic platforms to compete with Opel, Mercedes, Porsche and Jeep at the same time.
    In the 1970s, BMW had only 3 platforms, Mercedes had 2,
    Both of them had bigger market than Rover-Triumph

  5. I have to disagree with Zebo about the slant 4. SAAB had solved its problems by the early 70s, and if Leyland had learned what their former customer had done instead of ignoring them the slant 4 and resulting V8 could have formed the engine basis for all corporate cars.

    I do have to agree the P8 was doomed to fail as it was just 1. Pig Ugly 2. Terrible crash worthiness.

    I do think Leyland would have struggled as a corporation unless there was major investment in its body construction. One of the reasons William Lyons chose BMC to merge with, it was because they had Pressed Steel and Fisher under its wings.

    Also I think Triumph and Rover really needed to be aimed at different markets. Rover had little presence in the states, so Triumph would have been a better brand to base its cars on, and then use Rover to be the SUV brand.

  6. Thanks for your comments, am afraid still not convinced though. If we agree P8 and the engines could have dealt a very serious blow, and knowing how the company in reality handled quality control of its engines and the P10/RT1/SD1, I’m afraid I can’t see what small (or rather considerable) wonder would have all the difference needed. Rover as a separate company may not have been chasing volume over quality, Leyland/Triumph certainly were (for instance planning 300.000 SD1s per year). SAAB may have solved their engine’s problems, Rover-Triumph/BLMC emphatically did not. Had they taken enough development time, the outcome may indeed have been different, but they obviously didn’t, hard to see how they would or even could have done so while introducing P8 with Triumph V8s in or soon after 1971. Only in our dreams, but that really is (rather too much for me) “counterfactual”…

  7. The TR7 has the attractive style of a Lancia Stratos, and the P8 is so 1970s Japanese the car could have been a Nissan or Toyota in disguise. The TR7 would have sold by the boatload here and abroad

  8. A fascinating article with some interesting points I hadn’t previously known about. I’d like to have seen many of the proposals on the road…with one exception.

    I still think the P8 was one of the ugliest, worst looking designs ever created. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to own such a thing – even in the 1970s. Did they really think it would sell ?

  9. It can be argued that P8 was in fact built, be it in the guise of the Australian P76 and Force 7. There are many similarities between these cars not least of which was the 4.4L V8 which produces 192 Bhp in two barrel form, considerably more when tuned. The plastic nose is also shared (with the Force 7) as is the side elevation. If nothing else the Rover V8 was much cheaper to produce and machine and already had electronic fuel injection courtesy of AP. That said I agree the 1971 launch date was optimistic; P76 was launched in 1973 and Force 7 (with the plastic nose) was pushed out even further partly due to problems with melting noses due to the deficiencies of the then available plastics. The P76 is a big car, bigger than the SD1 yet its weight is less than a Rover 2000 and it has the same 50/50 split between front and rear wheels and all coil suspension (which goes along way to explaining its success in classic rallies)

    Having grown up during the period and read extensively on BL I have serious doubts Donald Stokes ever had the ability to manage anything more than a medium size company at best. Trying to run what was in effect a British GM requires a very particular skill set as Billy Durant found out the hard way. There are simply far to many instances of Donald Stokes making the wrong decision usually in areas where a CEO shouldn’t have been involved at all due to lack of subject knowledge; he was simply too high up to have a grasp of what was happening down on the floor yet that was the level he was making decisions. Removing BMC from the group doesn’t alter the executive level failings.

    I also have doubts that Rover would have merged at all if BMC remained separate. One key reason was Leyland owned Pressed metal, who made Rover’s bodies. However Pressed Metal belonged to BMC prior to the merger with leyland. Rover at the time was not only profitable but all its models made money and it was investing in new products due to come on line very soon after (V8 P5 and P6, Range Rover, Alvis P6BS, Mercury Diesel). The economics alone would prevent merger.

  10. By the way can anyone tell me what the ugly brown and beige monstrosity was/supposed to be? I have never seen it before. It looks like an FSO Polenz crossed with a Cavalier.

  11. Thank you very much indeed for this article. I love these counterfactuals and I’d love there to be more on this site. The Alternate History forum has quite a few on British motor industry counterfactuals which are also well worth reading.

    Personally, I can’t understand the P8 hate; I think it looks impressively brutal. It’s been mentioned in the comments that using the Triumph engines would have been problematic; if Saab could sort out the basic design, I’m sure Triumph/Leyland could have eventually. However, I think that Rover had plenty of great engines in the pipeline, including their own 16 valve four cylinder which might have eventually led to an almighty replacement for the Buick V8.

    As has been suggested before, perhaps another interesting counterfactual might have been to go back a few years before the proposed BMC/Leyland merger. On reflection, I feel that Rover might have been better placed with BMC to give them a convincing rival to Mercedes or Jaguar in a way that Wolseley could never have done. A Leyland controlling Triumph and Jaguar (rather than Rover) would have been interesting as you would butterfly away that duplication between Rover and Triumph in terms of the 2000 saloons. Perhaps Leyland would eventually have picked up Rootes too, with the Leyland name supplanting the likes of Hillman or Singer (maybe ‘Sunbeam’ could be used as their sporty tuning arm?) Of course, this exposes Rover to the Austin Morris penny pinchers who seem to have ruined the SD1…

    • The Triumph end of the equation would depend on whether they are able to resolve the issues of the Slant Four / V8 engine family that would potentially undermine what they had planned in the pipeline, whether on their own or with continued collaboration with Saab.

      Otherwise IMHO Rover is the stronger of the two based on what they had in the pipeline on both the product and engine fronts along with the solid and over-engineered reputation, the Rover P8 and P10 replacements for the P5 and P6 respectively could have benefited from carrying over more styling cues from the Range Rover to both tidy up the P8’s looks as (and piggyback off the latter’s success) well as provide the Rover range a with a common family look.

      Rover could have easily developed a lighter more production viable inline-5 or inline-6 from the P10 4-cylinder engine, as was previously investigated with the P6 OHC derived P7 inline-5 and inline-6 engines. That is not even mention the potential of a Rover V8-based V6, Slant-4, dieselization in addition to carrying over the developments from the 16-valve DOHC fuel-injected P10 engine.

      Would have to question the ability of Donald Stokes to properly run things at Leyland in both the commercial and automotive divisions, regardless of if the latter is composed of Triumph, Rover / Triumph or Rover (in place of Triumph with Rover taking over or producing their own analogue of Bobcat/SD2).

      Would have to agree that Rover would have probably been better off under a better managed BMC or if possible operating as an independent. ,

  12. I love the counterfactuals, but I think this one is a little wide of the mark.

    As others have said P8 is unforgivably ugly and I would certainly believe it had some kind of relationship to the P76.

    Sticking with the Triumph V8 makes no sense to me, though the Slant 4 as an entry level unit with the SAAB fixes would have been great. The ex-Buick V8 is bullet proof and and V6 and slant 4 versions were developed.

    RT3 RWD Dolomite replacement on a shared platform with TR7 is a potential winner and should have been Britain’s 3 series.

    What to do about the large executive sector? I think it’s way too early for a hatch in that segment. I’d say a direct W123 competitor, not dumbed down to protect Jaguar, powered by Triumph straight six engines, with one V8 Halo model at the top end. 4 door Saloon + Estate. Focus on quality control, and badge it as a Triumph in the US.

    But the big opportunity is not mentioned – a LR Discovery in about 1978. The 70s were the decade Landcruiser and Patrol stole the global 4WD market, and that was the firm’s cash cow.

  13. Interesting

    I’ve no idea whether it could have happened, but it would have been really interesting if Leyland were able to partner, invest in or even buy Saab-Scania (less the aircraft side)

    Both for the car side – Saab’s great development work on the Slant 4 and high quality would surely have taught Rover and Triumph some lessons – but perhaps more importantly for the truck side which was really strong in the “English” speaking world but really weak in Europe, and in the trans continental sector

    Not convinced by P8 at all. However I also don’t agree with the idea of one Rover (SD1) replacing both the big Triumphs and Rover P6, as there was surely scope for 2 related models. A more downmarket Triumph SD1 to compete with the Granada and a more sober AND higher quality Rover to compete against the Mercedes etc which would partially cover where P8 would have been.

    I don’t see the need for anything smaller than the Dolomite. BMW quite happily continued with the 3 series as their smallest car until the 1993 3 series Compact

    • I was thinking the same in fact I think partnering with SAAB would have made sense at multiple times during the firm’s history.

      Leyland / DAF / SAAB combo in trucks.
      Landrover / SAAB dealers in the US
      The SAAB 2.3 litre in Freelander instead of an over-stretched K series.
      A 4WD SAAB 9-5 estate – XC70 style

      The irony is BAE were (and still are) collaborating heavily with the SAAB parent company in defence – Gripen and Tempest

  14. A significant part of the equation not mentioned in the article is Leyland`s presence in the commercial vehicle (truck) market.
    The issue post 1968 would not just be about investing in cars, but a major part of their business was trucks- Leyland / AEC / Scammell etc at the time.
    By 1970 the Leyland Ergocab was already starting to date and had fallen behind the new wave of Volvo`s, Scanias etc.
    Their ability to develop their existing car range would have been limited if they had just gone it alone without BMH- possibly a merger with another commercial manufacturer could have been a way to generate spare cash investment for cars?

    • Agree about the need to invest in bus and trucks.

      However we should not forget that Leyland had formed with Triumph an alliance with Saab who purchased Scania in 1969. Expanding this alliance into HGV would have given access to Scania manufacturing facility in the common market (Netherlands) as well as being able to share cab, chassis and powertrain development costs.

  15. Yet another interesting read. It occurs to me that a Rover – Triumph tie up would be similar to what Jaguar / Land Rover is nowadays.

    The Rover P8 (although I like it in context) does look a bit like Toyota / Datsun designs from that era.

  16. Interesting article and have thought similar things on the basis Stokes should have realised that the task of consolidating not only Rover and Triumph but also his truck businesses was more than enough for his under capitalised and marginally profitable business.

    However there were opportunities with BMC, principally their Daimler Bus business, light duty trucks and Nuffield tractors would have leveraged well with existing Leyland operation, so this is what he should purchased from BMC.

    He also with Triumph has a deal with Saab, whilst there was limited opportunity to leverage activities with the fiercely independent thinking car operation at Trollhattan, the Saab group had recently bought the Scania truck and bus business. This business faced exactly the same challenge of Leyland’s own truck and bus business of needing to expand out of its domestic base into the wider European market from outside the common market.

    So my “Stokes” strategy for success would have been this.

    1: Purchase Daimler Bus business, light duty trucks, Nuffield tractors and PSF Castle Bromwich site from BMC with an agreement excluding their return in these markets for next 25 years.

    2: Aggressive consolidation of bus / truck chassis, HGV powertrain and cab manufacturing to an expanded Leyland site funded by regional development loans. Leyland brand to be adopted as core brand for product, with Daimler and Scammell as derivative brands offering a more bespoke product, i.e. Gardner powertrain.

    3: Rover to move more upmarket towards Jaguar with a more sporty P5 replacement which will also be a basis for a premium GT car to replace Stag and compete with Jaguar in US market, Triumph to cover P6 segment as part of its premium volume range.

    4:Cars based around two platforms

    Triumph SWB – Toledo, Dolomite (but with fresh bodies and a wider package), GT4/GT6 (think TR7 with 4/6 cylinder) TR7 (TR7 with V8, aggressive styling tweaks and upgraded running gear using P8 components. All these with Michelotti styling.

    Triumph LWB – Triumph 2000/2500 (and Rover P6) replacement (think SD1 simplicity in a little narrower package and Michelotti styling)

    Rover Premium (P8) – Premium saloon to replace P5 and a Rover GT Car to replace Stag and compete with XJS

    5: Land Rover to move to single Range Rover derived platform

    100 inch – Land Rover SWB, Range Rover 2 door
    110 inch – Land Rover LWB Range Rover 4 door

    6; Freight Rover brand to be established to better cover LCV market using van product utilising parts bin detived van (think Sherpa)

    7: Powertrain

    Recognise that with more premium product that the volume exist for dedicated V8 engine rather than the current Triumph strategy of a derived unit. However this leaves a gap in the 2 to 3 litre sector and this would be best filled with a straight 6 derivative of our new Slant 4 engine. In addition a beefed up Slant 4 / 6 should be developed for diesel and forced induction applications. Rover V8 production would be expanded as well as a development strategy to evolve this into an all all alloy fuel injected OHC twin 16v and quad cam 32v engine over the next two model cycles.

    1500 – 2000 – Slant 4
    2250 – 3000 – Slant 6
    3500 – 4500 – Rover v8

    9: Leyland Saab Scania development alliance

    Alliance to share development and manufacturer of components

    10: Leyland Saab Scania manufacturing alliance

    Alliance to develop and share manufacturing in export markets

    11: Leyland Saab US

    Alliance to consolidate import and sales operations for Rover, Saab and Scania brands in USA

    Later opportunities

    I believe the above strategy would have positioned Leyland well in 1971 to scoop up the Rolls Royce car and ICE business instead of it going to Vickers.

  17. What a VERY interesting read!

    Donald Stokes and Leyland management. I did a study in 1970 on ‘Leyland’. They had taken over/crushed most other truck & bus manufacturers, but it was not proven whether they had done this to kill all opposition, or in the naive belief that additional numbers would enable better overhead absorption and thus profitability – and this ‘logic’ from firms which were already in the doldrums. It was obvious that they were very short of cash having tried to ‘rationalise’ the UK truck industry. The management was fragmented and the companies which had been forced together, were still in grave daily conflict. Jim Slater’s book “Return to Go” gives a good flavour of how it all was. Clearly wasting his talents, he eventually in great frustration shot off to join Peter Walker in the Slater-Walker enterprise.

    Stokes amateur attempts to sort engineering were doomed as (hardly surprisingly) they eventually forced a new weak truck cab and grossly underdeveloped and badly manufactured engine (the 500) up all nameplates. Both were under-developed. Needless to say, the engine caused huge warranty claims and the loss of all customer loyalty toward the nameplates. There were traces of this blueprint they had created across the whole group, repeated up to 2000.

    In the same period, the dawn of mass customer awareness started. Vehicles could be more pleasurable than rattling around in a Standard 8. Consequently vehicles needed to become much more desirable, while reliability and excitement was to become very important. Such things were regarded as an extra wish if possible, but without manufacturing cost.

    We as a nation, seem to always blame the workers. They could see with their own eyes that their companies were continually in virtual collapse, their management was either hopeless or Victorian and they were forced to work in appalling conditions using 100-year-old fly presses to knock out body panels! Hardly surprising morale was abysmal, strikes, absenteeism and theft were all high. A distinct contrast to our German friends.

    Regarding the slant-4 and V8 family, they were designed to fit in everything from 1500cc to 4,000cc with turbo. But there were very many basic design errors made which rendered them hopeless – chief of which was a development/competitions department with very few staff and no realistic budget. I won’t get too technical about them, suffice to say Saab didn’t do their homework too well in 1971 and the resultant warranty problems threatened to scupper them too. They had taken the new engine to avoid design and development costs, even a production line and other organisation changes which forced them to modify what they had been told worked, to make it actually work. There were almost immediate major changes and continued through many years as what they eventually had was a b…. good strong engine. BHP went up from 71 to 265 I think, and production only tapered off when GM forced their power units on them in the early noughties. History repeated, I wonder? This family of engines continues to work more or less faithfully for the classic car community – with the kind of mods you can generally do in your back yard.

    Regarding the ‘K’ series, some of the endemic surrounding shortcomings had been mitigated and Rover Group were determined to make a good engine – but they were as always playing catch-up. Avoiding most of the technical details, as stated above in lower powered versions the ‘K’ made a good engine and this is still liked in Elise racing. But again lack of further development struck when hastily introduced higher powered versions suffered many of the old problems. In the after-life these have been more or less sorted out by enthusiasts using MLS head gaskets, home-made cooling systems and even a few with the ‘tall’ engine.

  18. At least Bertone didn’t let his TR7 go to waste, he clearly recycled it, and flogged it to Lancia who stuck a Ferrari Dino engine in it, added one the most iconic rallying liveries ever and the rest as they say is history !

    • Unfortunately… This gorgeous Bertone NSU Trapeze was presented in 1973, when the Stratos was already 2 years old. So this Bertone beauty never made it to production.

  19. I wonder if there’s another interesting counterfactual here whereby Rover could have remained completely independent and not part of the Leyland-Triumph combine. P8, P10, P9, Land Rover, Range Rover and a 70s Discovery analogue plus a promising range of engines sound like the basis for a great line up of cars without the complication of Triumph, let alone the rest of BL.

    In the meantime, I wonder if Triumph could have done well on its own under the Leyland umbrella, so that it could produce its own successor to the 2000 without stepping on Rover’s toes and not be squashed in the BL mess by MG or cheaper fwd vehicles.

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