History : The Austin-Morris story – Part Two : May to October 1968

Ian Nicholls, AROnline‘s historian-in-residence, tells the story of Austin-Morris, and their part in the downfall of the British motor industry.

Here, in the second part, we track the progress of the newly-formed British Leyland Motor Corporation in the weeks and months that followed its formation.


The Austin-Morris story: Leyland takes over Longbridge

Back in early April 1968 the BBC’s Economics Editor, Graham Turner, had put out a television news report suggesting that the new British Leyland Motor Corporation was looking for 30,000 redundancies in two years. The source of this information was the Leyland Finance Director John Barber, who chose manpower per car produced as the yardstick for assessing the efficiency of British Leyland. Barber thought that, in order to compete with its rivals, such rationalisation was imperative.

After the story was broadcast, shop floor management at British Leyland plants had to reassure workers that reports of 30,000 redundancies in the new group during the next two years, were groundless. Sir Donald Stokes, Chief Executive of British Leyland, said in response to the report: ‘It is going to take quite some time to interpret the studies and talking about closing factories and sacking people before we have even done that is stupid.’

Even before the British Leyland Motor Corporation had officially come into being, representatives of the 180,000 workers formed a joint organisation, which promised an early show of teeth.

The unions start jockeying for position

In Birmingham on 1 May, 250 Shop Stewards’ Conveners, representing the 80 factories run by British Motor Holdings and the Leyland group, set up the British Leyland (Motor Corporation Combined) Trade Union Committee (BLTUC). Joint Chairmen were elected: Communist Dick Etheridge, the Convener of Shop Stewards at BMC’s Austin factory in Longbridge, and Eddie McGarry from Leyland’s Standard-Triumph International plant at Coventry.

The plan was that the new body would meet once every six months, but domestic problems would still be left to the existing organisations in the separate factories or groups of factories. The fact there were 80 factories in the group indicated the need for rationalisation. One of its first moves was to call for an early meeting with Sir Donald Stokes, to discuss future plans.

Dick Etheridge said after the meeting: ‘We do not want any change in the arrangement for the meeting with the BMC Shop Stewards. But we want Sir Donald to meet the Executive Committee of the new body to discuss his intentions with regard to reorganisation and rationalisation, which, already seems to have started.’

The meeting unanimously passed a resolution pledging an early show of the organisation’s strength and insisted on some form of action ‘that will have more than a salutary effect on the employers’.

Consultation demanded by the Shop Stewards

At the afternoon session the meeting unanimously passed a resolution calling for full consultation on any plans for the movement of work from one factory to another. Dick Etheridge said: ‘Unless there is consultation and mutual agreement, then there will be no movement of work. If a factory refuses to have work moved away the question will be referred to the official trade union movement upon whom we shall call to put the matter in dispute.

We realise that there must be considerable change. We do not oppose change for the sake of opposing it, but we shall fight redundancies. It seems everybody is scared of Sir Donald Stokes, including the management. We are not.’

The BLTUC would prove to be a thorn in the side of management for many years to come, and something the armchair analysts had not taken into account when they prognosticated on how to manage the British-owned motor industry. The confrontation between Stokes and the powerful BLTUC, which held such sway in BLMC’s 12 main plants, took place on 9 May at Longbridge behind a lightly maintained security curtain. Works police allowed no one to approach the exhibition hall during the two hour meeting between Sir Donald and the 34 Shop Stewards. Reporters were turned away at the works gate.

In a 20-minute speech Sir Donald made no attempt to gloss over the basic truths of merging the two groups. Afterwards, he said: ‘I cannot discuss the contents of the meeting because this was confidential between the Stewards and myself, but I would like to say that I enjoyed the opportunity of having this first meeting at which there was a frank sensible and constructive exchange of news on both sides.’

As expected, Dick Etheridge, the veteran chief Shop Steward at Longbridge, put the union’s case for the earliest possible consultation before redundancies were announced. He stressed that the continuing uncertainty about their future employment was affecting morale throughout the group.

Stokes would have a fight on his hands

A no-punches-pulled question-and- answer session that followed made it abundantly clear to Sir Donald that, small or big, redundancies in BLMC plants would be fought tooth and nail.

In the middle of the Longbridge meeting, news was brought in that 2000 workmen – the whole of the day shift- had staged a one-hour token stoppage at another of the group’s Birmingham plants. They were protesting at the exclusion of their Shop Stewards from the talks. The walkout at Pressed Steel Fisher, Common Lane, involved the whole of the day shift. A spokesman for the plant’s Shop Stewards’ Committee said they had asked to see Sir Donald because of increasingly persistent reports that the Common Lane plant would be one of the first to be closed as a result of the merger.

A Leyland spokesman said: ‘Today’s meeting was arranged some time ago and only related to BLMC Shop Stewards. Sir Donald will be meeting Shop Stewards at other factories in the group such as this one as soon as possible.’ More than 3000 men and women were employed at Common Lane on the production of body parts for Morris Minors, Travellers, vans and outside jobbing contracts.

The merry-go-round powers up

On 13 May 1968 British Leyland appointed Michael Shanks, aged 41, as Director of Marketing Services and Economic Planning. This was an appointment designed to remedy what had been recognised as a serious failing of British car makers, the lack of detailed information and forecasting on consumer demand.

For the previous year Michael Shanks had been dividing his time between his job as Economic Adviser to Leyland and his role as special writer on industrial affairs for The Times newspaper. His new appointment was full-time. Shanks joined The Sunday Times in 1964 as Economics Correspondent and, in January of the following year, he was seconded to the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) as one of their new industrial advisers.

In May 1966, he was promoted to the post of Industrial Policy Co-ordinator, which, in effect, made him head of the DEA’s industrial advisers. During his stint at the Department of Economic Affairs, Shanks had been given the task of surveying the British motor industry. Speaking in the 1980s, Michael Shanks said: ‘We were looking at the structure of British industry, particularly the problem areas. And the biggest crisis area was the British motor industry and particularly BMH.

‘It was the flagship of the British motor industry, enormously important and it was going bankrupt. It was going bankrupt because it had run out of models. It had very few new models in the pipeline. The models that it had were old, and not very effective, with the exception of the Mini – and it had an enormous dealer structure with far to many dealers trying to sell too few products.

‘You could see this huge company headed for the scrapheap – what did you do about it? You could either let it go or you could find somebody to take it over, and really the only candidate was Leyland, which was a much smaller company.’

The trouble with experts…

Shanks was typical of the desk-bound motor industry outsiders with influence who poured scorn on BMC’s prospects because of one admittedly bad financial year and had no experience of running a business. Eric Lord, the Cowley Plant Director, later recalled: ‘When Leyland appeared we all got swept up into different heaps and a disaster unfolded; countless idiots arrived, professional windbags.’

Leyland would end up doing more or less what the pundits had suggested with BMC, and it would end in disaster.

On 14 May 1968 the new British Leyland Motor Corporation officially came into being and a brave new world beckoned. Leyland’s merger with BMH in January was described tactfully at first as a joining of forces, but the new operating structure announced that day was clearly dominated by Leyland management philosophies and Leyland men.

BLMC’s new structure

In the tightly-controlled pattern set by American companies, such as General Motors, there were to be seven operating divisions, under Sir Donald Stokes as Chief Executive, linked by a central staff division to provide special services for the whole organisation.

The divisions were:

  1. Volume car and light commercial (BMC)
  2. Specialist car (Jaguar, Rover and Triumph)
  3. Truck and Bus
  4. Pressed Steel Fisher
  5. Overseas
  6. General engineering and foundries
  7. Construction equipment

Although not widely publicised at the time, Sir Donald Stokes had already taken over personal control of volume car division, which was still known as the British Motor Corporation.

Two key appointments were announced: Harry Webster, formerly Chief Engineer at Standard-Triumph, officially became Executive Chief Engineer of the volume car division with a place on the BMC Board; and Keith Hopkins became Director of Public Relations for the corporation.

Sidelining Issigonis

Mini 621 AOK with Alec Issigonis

Harry Webster later said: ‘I was instructed by Stokes to try and get some cohesion into the whole group. Austin and Morris might have been joined together but it was still a case of never the twain shall meet. They still had two of everything. It was an impossible remit to try and get them singing from the same piece of music, but it would have been futile to let them go on as they were. I realised that Charles Griffin was the mainspring there. My first move was to give him as much control as I could and sideline Issigonis by putting him into a separate organisation called Forward Research.’

The cell system that BMC had used to develop its front-wheel-drive range was disbanded and its personal were reassigned to other duties. Harry Webster also said he spent his first few months ‘rushing round, turning off all the expenditure taps. Money was rushing out of Longbridge, and we had nothing to show for it – it was quite terrifying.’

It appears that Harry Webster then invited Italian styling house Michelotti, which had a close relationship with Standard-Triumph, to restyle the ADO16 as an alternative to Roy Haynes’ own ADO22 facelift proposal (below) to upgrade the ADO16. The resulting design used many of the styling cues that became so familiar to Triumph buyers in the next decade. Featuring an extended bonnet and boot, Michelotti’s design was a stylish makeover of the original Pininfarina ADO16, but it was perhaps too close in appearance to the smaller Triumph saloons in the pipeline. At least one prototype was produced, bearing the registration OOJ 722G.

ADO22
ADO22 was swept aside as the BLMC new broom took charge at Longbridge

Getting the public relations right

For public relations man Keith Hopkins, this was further promotion for garnering the Leyland Motor Corporation with such a positive public image. Hopkins was a former student of the Sorbonne University in Paris, which was at the centre of the student unrest which occurred in the French capital during May 1968. If there was one thing that British Leyland was really good at in the years ahead, that was its upbeat PR statements, courtesy of Keith Hopkins, who always had an optimistic statement to feed the media.

Sir Donald Stokes was interviewed. On the question of redundancies, Sir Donald treaded cautiously. ‘What we are trying to do is to examine all the facilities and plant that we have,’ he said. ‘Obviously, there is going to be some reshuffling and readjustment. But where we decide it will be necessary to do something or streamline anything, we will consult the people concerned in advance. Obviously, we are going to do some streamlining, but it will involve nothing like the exaggerated figures which have been flying around and which have been very irresponsible.’

In the 1980s Lord Stokes said: ‘We realised as soon as we took over that we needed a cutback of about 30,000, but it proved impossible. Just before we took over, GEC had taken over AEI and had a huge redundancy programme, and when we tried a similar programme there was a tremendous resistance from the unions.’

Also he said that the GEC takeover of AEI and the resulting redundancy programme had ‘created an absolute core of resistance among the trade unions to any job losses whatsoever and we just couldn’t face a strike because it would have resulted in an all out one. We had shareholders and we couldn’t take that strong a stand. You couldn’t go on with a public company resisting unions that were hellbent on confrontation in those days.’

The Shop Stewards quietly take control

Stokes only had to look back to the autumn of 1966 to see the consequences of trying to shed labour, when BMC had tried to make 10,000 workers redundant in response to the July credit squeeze. Protest strikes restricted supplies to the dealers and reduced market share to 27 per cent, BMC lost £3.2 million and fell into Leyland’s grasp.

By the end of the summer of 1968 the issue of redundancies was quietly forgotten and put on the back burner. Sir Donald Stokes had failed his first major test. He had baulked when challenged by the BLTUC. It was a fatal error. John Barber, Jack Plane and Lewis Whyte had all played their part in handing BMC on a plate to Sir Donald Stokes, who now dithered over what to do with it.

BLMC’s Finance Director, John Barber, later said: ‘Looking back, Donald Stokes was in many ways too kind a man to have taken over BMH. What it needed was a really ruthless rationalisation – models, people, the lot. He tackled it the kind way, setting up working parties covering every aspect of the company. He tried to do it in a consensus way and, if you start off that way, you don’t get things achieved as rapidly as they are needed.’

Leyland starts to see the issues

Stokes and his team had discovered why BMC had only been part-rationalised after the merger of Austin and Morris in 1952. Sir George Harriman, judging by his recent public comments, seemed to accept that in order to avoid a damaging industrial dispute, expansion was the only practical way to absorb British Leyland’s surplus workforce, something that would eventually be accepted by the corporation’s Board. It was easy for industry observers to lay into BMC over its widely scattered plants, but doing something about it was another matter entirely.

The spectre that the British Leyland Shop Stewards would bring the entire organisation grinding to halt if any attempt at rationalisation was attempted, haunted the company’s future planning for a decade.

Sir Donald Stokes had now publicly committed himself to a policy of expansion in order to utilise British Leyland’s surplus labour force, but with the British car market having remained stagnant since 1965, such extra sales would have to come from exports, exports that were inhibited by trade tariffs. BMC had developed the most advanced family cars in the world and could not sell them in the Common Market in large numbers because of trade barriers. And then there was the emerging threat from Japan, which in 1968 produced over 2,000,000 cars for the first time, and was chewing away at Britain’s Commonwealth markets.

A lack of ruthlessness when needed

In the 1980s Stokes reiterated his philosophy: ‘I don’t like firing people. I hate it. I didn’t agree to the merger of the British motor industry to get rid of people. I thought that we were going to create jobs.’

It is difficult not to conclude that, in the summer of 1968, the newly-merged British national motor manufacturer found itself by default managed by a man elevated above his natural level of competence due to his own PR machine. That natural level of competence was as a truck and bus salesman, a task which he was extremely good at. His path to the top at Leyland had been facilitated by the resignation of Stanley Markland at the end of 1963. It was Markland and the late Sir Henry Spurrier who had knocked Standard-Triumph into shape, ruthlessly firing those whom they deemed surplus to requirements.

But Spurrier had now been in his grave for three years and Stanley Markland had retired to his farm with full pension rights. Their hard graft soon produced positive results on the Leyland balance sheets, but it was Sir Donald Stokes who took the credit for the sales success of models conceived before he arrived at Standard-Triumph.

The carefully nurtured image of a buccaneering salesman who could sell British goods abroad took in many, including politicians, industry analysts and his fellow British Leyland Directors, yet by his own later admission Stokes lacked the ruthless streak necessary for the job of running British Leyland. His fellow Leyland Directors, John Barber, Jack Plane and Lewis Whyte, certainly had the ruthless streak as they had demonstrated in the removal of Sir George Harriman from the senior management.

Was Stokes out of his depth?

In the removal of Harriman, Stokes had acted as a conduit for his more hawkish Directors, but once in overall charge, he vacillated over the issue of redundancies. The only man who saw through the Stokes PR facade was Joe Edwards and his resistance soon cost him his job. In the summer of 1968 Sir Donald Stokes was a man punching above his weight without a vision of his own for BMC and susceptible to suggestions from his fellow Directors as to what was to be done.

As related earlier, the new British Leyland management simply adopted for its volume car division policies advocated by armchair pundits with no real motor industry experience.

Their mission statement was as follows:

  • Develop a simple rear-wheel-drive fleet car to take on the Ford Cortina
  • Eliminate badge engineering
  • Reduce the rambling dealer network
  • Phase out piecework and replace it with measured day work
  • Introduce Ford-style cost control methods in project development.

It would be so easy…

The view from abroad

Authi Mini produced in Spain

On 21 May, The Guardian newspaper reported on the fastest growing car market in Europe which was Spain, and in spite of a ban on car imports into Spain the newly-merged British Leyland Motor Corporation was making a determined attempt to capture a bigger slice of this market.

Only 17 months previously BMC had gone into partnership with Nueva Montana Quijano to form Authi (Automoviles de Turismo Hispano Ingleses SA) and had already captured five per cent of the market. By 1969 it hoped to have ten per cent. Moreover, the overall market was growing at a terrific pace, in spite of the squeeze that followed devaluation in November 1967. Official Government estimates put the likely growth at ten per cent a year.

Under licence from BMC, Authi assembled ADO16 Morris and MG 1100s (above) in a brand new factory at Pamplona, modelled on BMC’s Longbridge plant. Spanish law required a 70 per cent Spanish content initially on cars, rising to 90 per cent within three years, so BMC relied mainly on royalty payments for its profits.

Price-wise the ADO16 1100 was not competitive with the other models on the Spanish market, but the man behind Authi, a Spanish aristocrat named El Marquis de Haidobra, had cleverly been selling the ADO16 1100 as a prestige car. The interior trim and general finish of the models was far superior to the British version, and power-assisted brakes were fitted as standard equipment. Despite the higher prices, sales had been booming, with the ADO16 MG being the most popular model. Later in the year, Authi hoped to start manufacturing its version of the BMC Mini.

Haynes spells out his product vision

Early ADO28 clay model

The following day Roy Haynes of PSF Cowley wrote a memo to John Barber, the new BLMC Finance Director, setting out his proposals for the ADO28 family of cars, which in his BMC product plan was the C-class model. The ADO28 was Roy Haynes’ proposal for a BMC fleet car and one assumes he wrote to John Barber because he was also ex-Ford and had been involved in the development of the original Ford Cortina.

The idea of BMC developing its own Cortina rival clearly made sense in May 1968. With Britain seemingly locked outside the Common Market permanently, the notion of BMC selling copious quantities of front-wheel-drive cars larger than the ADO16 seemed an illusion. If BMC wanted to remain in business that meant a rear-wheel-drive car that appealed to the fleet buyers and, with Alec Issigonis now sidelined and Harriman on his way out, the window of opportunity had opened.

As one unnamed British Leyland Executive said: ‘If only BMC had had a ‘straight’ motor car coming along that would have given us an entree to fleet sales on the one hand and the ability to make a decent profit margin per unit on the other, we should have given the American-owned firms a real run for their money.’

At this stage Harry Webster and his team believed that the ADO28 could be developed by the simple expedient of re-bodying the existing Morris Minor.

The cupboard that wasn’t really bare

1968 Mini Clubman proposal

BMC was also working on restyling the Mini. On 30 May somewhere in the bowels of BMC, possibly at Roy Haynes PSF Cowley studio, a photograph was taken of hatchback Mini Clubman (above), part of the ADO20 programme. The incoming Leyland executives created the myth that BMC executives had no new models in the pipeline apart from the Austin 3 Litre and ADO14 BMC 1500.

This was not strictly true. Alec Issigonis was now working on his 9X Mini replacement, which also had a brand new engine design. What worked against the 9X was the sheer cost of bringing such a new concept to fruition and there have been claims that the production tolerances required for the new overhead camshaft engine were simply not attainable at the time. However, there were substantially revised versions of established favourites, the Mini and ADO16 1100/1300 series, in the product pipeline.

The ADO20 project matured into the Mk3 Mini and Clubman range of October 1969, but the car photographed on 30 May also had a revised rear and a hatchback resembling the later Morris Marina Coupe. Another car on the stocks was the ADO22, a revised ADO16 1100/1300 with new subframes designed by Charles Griffin which reduced noise and vibration and the car’s propensity to rust.

Haynes’ way was the best way?

Both these cars featured updated styling by Roy Haynes and his team and clearly showed that they had been reading the car market. They took proven basic designs, retained the existing good points, improved them in other areas and clothed them in more modern metalwork – in other words, exactly what Ford had just done with the Cortina. He had also overseen an interesting platform strategy which you can read about here.

Sadly, the new British Leyland management and the financial analysts did not appreciate that the Mini and ADO16 had strong brand loyalty from their customers and that new did not necessarily mean better. The notion that both the Mini and ADO16 were a spent force, reeling under the Ford onslaught, took a knock in 1968. Mini production rose to 246,066 while that of the ADO16 was 229,803, the best since 1965.

Indeed, the ADO16 regained its place at the top of the UK sales charts with 13.7 per cent of the market, a firm riposte to the doomsayers. The new Mini 1000 and ADO16 1300 models had boosted sales and suggested that offering improvements of existing cars was a way forward. In 1968, 56 per cent of all ADO16 production was of the new upgraded 1300 models. The ADO20 hatchback and ADO22 were further extensions of this theme – in short, there was still a lot of life in the old dogs yet. The ADO22 and hatchback Mini Clubman were stopgaps to buy time for Roy Haynes masterplan.

Stokes faces a hostile crowd

On 12 June 1968, 500 British Motor Corporation distributors representing the whole Austin, Morris, MG, Wolseley and Riley distribution network crowded into the exhibition hall at Longbridge for a question and answer session on their future with Sir Donald Stokes, the Chief Executive of the British Leyland Motor Corporation. Many of them went in to the meeting expecting to hear the worst from a man who, in the past, had been critical of BMC’s retention of such a wide range of marques.

To their amazement, Sir Donald told them that reports that he was dropping Wolseley and Riley were way off the mark and both would continue to be produced and sold alongside the main Austin and Morris ranges. Stokes left the distributors at the meeting in no doubt that, unless they themselves were prepared to reorganise their own operations and put pressure on their dealers to do the same, they could expect short shrift.

At the same time he reassured them: ‘I have no intention of presiding over the liquidation of any of our real assets. Obviously, there will be pruning and re-adjustment but together with my colleagues, and I could not wish for a more competent and enthusiastic bunch, I am determined that with your help we are going to recapture far more than our present share of the domestic market.’

Out with the old, in with the new

He promised them a completely new model policy for the next five years under the direction of Harry Webster. Stokes seemed to have been of the view that what the volume car side needed were completely new models from the wheels up and not radical improvements and revisions of existing models such as the ADO22.

He then detailed the changes being made to the long-awaited ADO14 1500 saloon (above) whose delayed appearance had left such a gap in the middle of the BMC range.

This appears to be the point when the ADO22 died to be replaced by the ADO67 project. It was deemed by the cost accountants, now being recruited mainly from Ford, that although the ADO22 was very good, it was far too expensive to manufacture and it would be better to design an altogether cheaper car by dispensing with the subframes which mounted the suspension to the body. This was the genesis of the ADO67.

The money men move in

Cost accountants, financial controllers and other money men soon invaded BMC courtesy of Leyland. Howard Dancox of the Longbridge East Works Research and Development department commented: ‘Under Harriman there had been far too little in the way of financial controls but under Leyland the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction. It wasn’t long before you needed a sanction committee to blow your nose. Most of those in financial control were young graduates. You had to justify everything to snotty-nosed little kids who hadn’t a clue.’

The demise of the ADO22 perfectly illustrated what was going on under the new regime. Instead of proceeding with the ADO22 for minimal outlay, because the money men deemed it too expensive to produce, British Leyland would spend or borrow £9m to develop the ADO67, complete with financially degraded engineering, plus another £16m on the factory to build it. If BMC really was running out of money why was it spending capital it did not have?

Many times in the years ahead the costings experts would veto economical and logical ideas because actual manufacturing costs would exceed their theoretical manufacturing costs of starting anew. Did the money men really know what they were doing?

The end of the consultants

On 28 June, British Leyland announced that it had concluded on a deal with the Cooper Car Co. for a further three years’ collaboration on production and sale of BMC Minis. Stokes said that the development of the Mini Cooper saloons and their numerous successes in international racing and rallying had played a major part in promoting world-wide sales of BMC cars.

The reality behind this announcement was that the new British Leyland management felt it had no need of paid consultants and began dispensing with their services. Daniel Richmond of Downton Engineering was one of the first to go. For the time being the Mini Cooper had a three-year stay of execution, but John Cooper (below right) himself no longer had any influence at Longbridge. It is fair to say that Stokes and Cooper never bonded. Within a year Stokes would be looking at ways to get out of the deal.

John Cooper later recalled Sir Donald Stokes saying: ‘We employ 150,000 people here, what do we want consultants for?’ On another occasion, Stokes asked Cooper: ‘What do you do’? Cooper replied: ‘I come here once a fortnight and wind Issigonis up…’! According to Cooper, ‘I don’t think he liked that very much.’

Alec Issigonis and John Cooper at the launch of the Mini-Cooper
Alec Issigonis and John Cooper at the launch of the Mini-Cooper

British Leyland stayed good to their word. Exactly three years after this announcement, the last Mini Cooper 1275S came off the line at Longbridge. Also on their way out was the Healey family, whose name adorned the Sprite sports car built at Abingdon.

Marina plans take shape

The next month Roy Haynes continued with his thesis for the ADO28 fleet car. He argued that its styling had to anticipate the future trends of the American owned company’s. He wrote: ‘Any attempt to create an image radically different from the competition will destroy the opportunities which can be created to effect an immediate transfer of loyalty from the competitive brands.’

Joe Edwardes goes

Joe Edwards’s period as consultant to the Board of British Leyland Motor Corporation proved short-lived. On 3 July, he announced that he was resigning from this position ‘in order to take up other industrial interests.’

Joe Edwards was encouraged by the response from other firms. He said: ‘In the short time since I gave up my directorships in the British Leyland group, I have been overwhelmed with offers and suggestions. Even if I had wanted to remain inactive, outside my consultancy relationship with British Leyland, it seems that my friends in industry would not have let me!’

At the same time, came the first announcement of a new appointment for Joe Edwards. He joined the Board of Associated Engineering as a non-executive Director. AE, which was headed by Mr H.R. Moore, was itself closely associated with the motor industry as a components supplier. At the end of August he joined the Board of Joseph Lucas Industries, which manufactured electrical equipment for motor vehicles.

As he departed the scene, Joe Edwards is alleged to have said to Sir Donald Stokes: ‘It’s all yours now, Donald, the bloody lot.’

Austin-Morris strategy takes place

The last day of July was normally the end of the BMC financial year, but because of the merger with Leyland, it would be extended by two months to the end of September 1968, thus creating a 14-month financial year.

In August 1968 Harry Webster, the BMC Chief Engineer announced a plan for future Austin and Morris cars: advanced engineering and conservative styling for Austin, with an emphasis on style, but conservative engineering for Morris. It had been officially decided to discard Roy Haynes masterplan and go for a direct all-new ADO16/B-class car replacement, in the form of the ADO67, and the ADO28/C-class fleet car. It was decided not to proceed with the ADO22 or the Michelotti ADO16 and the Mini Clubman proposal was watered down.

The priority was to get the ADO28 into production in order to compete in the market for fleet sales, then develop an all-new ADO16 replacement. The Mini would be retained in production as it was still selling well and had not peaked. Not for the first time was its replacement put on the back burner.

Developing the Marina at speed

This proposal by Michelotti was favoured by Harry Webster who being ex-Triumph could be forgiven for harbouring this view as the Italian styling house had successfully created the Herald, 1300, Toledo, 2000 and Stag. It was eventually turned down because of the fear of it costing too much to build.
This proposal by Michelotti was favoured by Harry Webster, who being ex-Triumph, could be forgiven for harbouring this view as the Italian styling house had successfully created the Herald, 1300, Toledo, 2000 and Stag. It was eventually turned down because of the fear of it costing too much to build

Pininfarina put forward this proposal, which was turned down because it was considered too glassy - and therefore would cost too much to build. Harry Webster supposedly said of this, 'it's like sitting in a bloody goldfish bowl'.
Pininfarina put forward this proposal, which was turned down because it was considered too glassy – and therefore would cost too much to build. Harry Webster supposedly said of this, ‘it’s like sitting in a bloody goldfish bowl’

Events were moving fast with the ADO28. On 5 August the British Leyland Executive Policy Committee viewed three ADO28 full scale models: one by Pininfarina (above) in two- and four-door versions: a two door car by Michelotti (above), and Roy Haynes two- and four-door proposals, the former being a fastback coupe intended to appeal to younger customers. Haynes’ basic style was chosen.

By now relations between Roy Haynes and Harry Webster were going downhill. Although Pininfarina was regularly consulted on styling matters, Roy Haynes resented Michelotti being brought in to the design process. Harry Webster personally believed that Michelotti’s submission for the ADO28 programme was the best, even though it lost out to the in-house design. In addition to this Roy Haynes had failed to convince Harry Webster of the merits of his forward planning, which completely undermined the reason why he was poached from Ford in the first place.

During September 1968, the BLMC Finance Director John Barber, complained to Sir Donald Stokes that the projected profitability of the ADO28 had not been fully spelt out in planning documents. Stokes replied that the detailed financial implications would be worked out later. Although highly critical of what he found at BMC, John Barber later claimed he was in agreement with Sir George Harriman that it was unwise of the volume car division to build a Ford Cortina-beating repmobile.

Barber prefers an upmarket approach

John Barber

Speaking in the 1980s Barber (above) said: ‘That was stupid in the first place, because it challenged Ford, a very strong company. My advice at the time, and all the way through, was that we ought to go a bit upmarket of Ford, and if we had deliberately pitched it a bit beyond the Cortina in quality, image and so on, we might have done something.’

Whether he actually believed that at the time is open to debate. John Barber had come to Leyland from AEI. Born in 1919, he had studied economics at university, interrupted by wartime army service, followed by a stint at the Ministry of Supply. In 1955 he joined Ford of Britain’s Finance Department as Assistant Controller, recruiting graduates who became experts in cost control.

Along with Terry Beckett, he was heavily involved in the costing of the Ford Cortina. By 1962, he was heading Ford’s credit division and in 1965 he joined AEI as Finance Director. When GEC took over AEI in 1967, Barber joined Leyland as its new Finance Director. He soon persuaded another ex-Ford and AEI finance man Gerry Wright to join him. A consequence of this was that those within BMC who thought the company needed a Cortina beater were knocking on an open door.

The ADO28 was a product of the British Leyland marketing men, a project built around the fantasy that there were substantial conquest sales to be gained at Ford’s expense. That BMC could maintain its existing dominance of the private car market and then invade and conquer the 40 per cent of the UK car market for which front-wheel drive had no appeal. It would absorb both time and money and enable Continental manufacturers to catch up and surpass Longbridge in front-wheel-drive technology.

Maxi warnings

British Leyland’s marketing men also told Sir Donald Stokes that the forthcoming ADO14 BMC 1500 would be lucky to capture four per cent of the UK market, equating to around 1000 sales per week. Perhaps the real problem with the BMC 1500 was that, no matter how much British Leyland tinkered with its styling, it was front-wheel drive and intended for a market sector dominated by the conservative requirements of the fleet buyers.

Failure, with the luxury of hindsight, was inevitable. It had been conceived in the heady days of 1965, when BMC had won the European Rally Championship with the Mini and the Austin 1800 had won the coveted European Car of the Year 1965 award. BMC had seemed omnipotent and the ADO14 was a product of the confidence permeating the company. Since then the Ford Cortina Mk2 had tightened its grip on the company car market and the prospects for the BMC 1500 were now altogether bleaker.

The Austin 1800 had already demonstrated that critical acclaim did not always translate into sales success.

Raymond Baxter and George Harriman go

It was also announced that Raymond Baxter, the BMC Director of Motoring Publicity was to leave the company. He would receive an undisclosed amount of compensation. He intended to maintain ‘an active association’ with the company at the request of British Leyland’s Chief Executive, Sir Donald Stokes. Raymond Baxter would later front sales training films for British Leyland. With Keith Hopkins on board, the former Spitfire pilot was surplus to requirements.

Sir George Harriman announced on 17 September that he would retire as Chairman and a Director of the British Leyland Motor Corporation on 1 November 1968 and would simultaneously retire from his directorships of other companies in the group. He would become President and Sir Donald Stokes became the new Chairman and Managing Director. This was, of course, pre-arranged and Harriman’s departure from the scene was a condition of Leyland agreeing to the merger.

Announcing his retirement, Sir George said: ‘The formation of a really effective British motor manufacturer has always been one of my ambitions and now that I am satisfied it is off to a really good start, I feel the time has come for me to make way for younger men.’

The new team takes shape

George Turnbull and Alec Issigonis

At the same time details were released of the men chosen by Sir Donald Stokes to hold key positions in his new team. It was obvious to observers that the new company was dominated by Leyland men. Dr Albert Fogg, Leyland’s highly-regarded technical expert, Jack Plane, a Leyland overseas specialist and George Turnbull, the 42-year-old Director and General Manager of Standard-Triumph, were appointed Deputy Managing Directors.

George Turnbull (above, left), who was in France at the time, said: ‘Everyone will now have clear targets, and it will be a matter of going flat out to expand each division as fast as we can.’

John Barber continued as Director of Finance and Planning with Ron Lucas, formerly a Deputy Managing Director of BMC, with responsibility for finance, now as Treasurer. Sir William Lyons, Chairman of Jaguar, and Lewis Whyte, a Leyland Director, were appointed Deputy Chairmen of the group. The corporation also announced the appointments of the management structure of the new operating divisions which would take effect from 1 November 1968.

They were:

  • Austin-Morris division: Managing Director, George Turnbull
  • Specialist Car division: Chairman (Jaguar) Sir William Lyons, Chairman (Rover) Sir George Farmer, Director and General Manager (Triumph) Cliff Swindle

Stokes denies it’s a Leyland takeover

Stokes was asked if it was a Leyland takeover. ‘Not quite, we have put the right men in the right jobs. The fact we have taken a little time to do it ensures that it is seen to be fair.’

Nevertheless, the three key men under Sir Donald, all Deputy Managing Directors, were Leyland men, Dr Albert Fogg, Jack Plane, the man who ran the South African operation, and George Turnbull, who would also be the boss of the Austin-Morris volume car division. Another Stokes protégé was 43-year-old Ron Ellis, who took over the Truck and Bus Division. His star had rocketed after he became Assistant to the Sales Director, then a Mr Donald Stokes, in 1960. Now included in Ron Ellis’ domain was the BMC Bathgate plant in East Lothian, Scotland.

The most prominent of the former BMC men were John Lutyens, who continued to run the Pressed Steel Fisher division and Bill Davis who became the sole Deputy Managing Director of Austin-Morris.

However, the man singled out as a high flyer was Filmer Paradise, the salesman whom BMC had headhunted from Ford in June 1967. He moved up to Director of Sales (Home and Overseas) for volume cars. The man who had originally secured his services, Lester Suffield, another former BMC Deputy Managing Director, was relegated to the role of London Sales Director.

Turnbull’s appointment welcomed

Stokes’s appointment George Turnbull to one of the key British Leyland Motor Corporation posts was welcomed both by his new colleagues at Longbridge and by top union officials. One senior Longbridge man said: ‘Most of us know George very well. He has done a good job at Standard and succeeded in making a lot of friends in the industry at the same time. And remember, he will be leaning heavily on Bill Davis as his deputy, and Davis is a through and through production type. He knows the problems here backwards. Between them they should make a damn good team.’

Top of the list of problems facing George Turnbull was the replacement of the frighteningly complex pay structure, which had bedevilled labour relations at Longbridge for years. Harry Urwin, the top Transport and General Workers’ Union official in the Midlands revealed what he expected from George Turnbull.

‘We are not looking for a Father Christmas with a sack of gifts. What we want more than anything else is a man we can respect for his ability. There is a great deal of scope for improvement in labour relations at BMC. Most of the troubles date back to the original Morris/Austin merger in 1951/52. Then, Sir Leonard Lord called all the trade union officials together to explain the need for rationalisation.

‘He assured us labour relations would be dealt with plant by plant, each affiliated to its local employers’ association. To me that seemed doomed from the start. You cannot have a coordinated policy excluding labour relations. On the two occasions when BMC faced major breakdowns, in 1956 and 1966, the Board had to step in to carry through wholesale slaughter of the labour force. Stokes and Turnbull have a reputation for competence and integrity. I hope they will use it to introduce a more co-ordinated labour relations policy.’

Andy Boyle, Coventry District Secretary of the AEF and a former Convener at Standard-Triumph, said: ‘George Turnbull is an extremely efficient administrator who has earned the respect of trade unionists by his actions. He is always correct in his dealings. Not only does he know the book, but he gets on well with the shop floor. He is a firm believer in involving his Shop Stewards in the company’s long-term planning. I think his new appointment is a good one from our standpoint.’

Eddie McGarry, Chairman of the Shop Stewards’ Committee at Standard-Triumph and Joint Chairman of the unofficial but extremely powerful BLTUC, said: ‘Turnbull is a shrewd operator who has earned his promotion. I suppose it could be called payment by results. When he took over Standard we were in a pretty poor way. Much of the subsequent success of the company is a direct result of Turnbull’s dealings with the unions. Make no mistake, he can be a hard man to deal with, but one you can respect.’

Filmer Paradise faces a tough task

Filmer Paradise
Filmer Paradise

Filmer Paradise, British Leyland’s new Sales Director for Austin-Morris, was tasked with raising the home sales base. British Leyland planned to raise its domestic sales base to 40 per cent from the existing 31 per cent and to base an aggressive worldwide marketing strategy on this, he said.

‘By rationalising the volume car business into one division, simplifying the existing product range and introducing sales-orientated new models, our share of the home market will be aggressively expanded.’

Industrial unrest raises its head

However, all was not well with the British motor industry despite the big talk. The Times reported on 1 October that British Leyland had had a ‘showdown’ with its component supply companies. A recent series of strikes had cost the group about 4000 cars a week in lost production, equal to a fifth of its potential sales. Executives of 1000 component manufacturers had been called together to be told in no uncertain terms that, if the strikes could not be halted and orders could not be delivered on schedule, the company would go elsewhere for its car components.

In recent days there had been a series of four meetings in London at which the Directors of BLMC had held discussions with their component suppliers in groups of 250. Each meeting had been held in strict secrecy. At the time British Leyland’s orders were outpacing its production, which had been hit by the strikes.

The British motor manufacturers had begun 1968 with high expectations. Devaluation of sterling had given them the edge on export prices they had sought for so long, particularly on the Continent to become sufficiently competitive to mount a real drive in the world’s fastest-growing car market. However, right from the beginning of the year, they had been hit by a disastrous series of strikes at the plants of key component suppliers. The first to bring the industry to its knees was Automotive Products of Leamington Spa, which supplied 90 per cent of the clutches and 50 per cent of the brakes. This dispute seriously affected production at a time when every effort was being made to meet booming export orders.

Pressed Steel-Fisher – British Leyland’s huge body building subsidiary, which supplied firms outside the group – had been in continual trouble throughout the year, mainly because of attempts to simplify its very complicated wages structure. BMC was thought to have lost 100,000 orders for its best-selling ADO16 1300 model because of serious hold ups in production, some of which were due to strikes at foundries and other suppliers of parts for the new engine.

A recent strike at Girling plants left half the industry short of brakes and caused wholesale shutdowns. Before that was settled trouble broke out at the Birmingham plants of Joseph Lucas, which supplied 90 per cent of the industry’s electrical components. It was only settled the day before the article in The Times was published.

The workforce gets a warning

The 195,000 people who worked for British Leyland were warned on 9 October by Stokes that strikes would strangle the car industry and open up the market to a flood of foreign competition. In a personal message in the house newspaper of the Pressed Steel Fisher division of British Leyland, Sir Donald wrote that, if they maintained the quality of their products and the continuity of their output, they would build up a prosperous British industry; but if they failed through poor quality or through dislocation of supplies, then they were going to do themselves irretrievable harm.

The strangulation of the British car industry would be similar to, but worse than, the way in which the Lancashire cotton industry was destroyed by a flood of foreign imports. Sir Donald also stated: ‘Since the official formation of British Leyland there has not been one single day when we have not been affected by a strike or labour dispute of some kind or another.

‘Not all these troubles have been in our factories, in fact, our own record is rather better, because out of some 116 disputes only 17 were within our own organisation; the others were due to outside suppliers or services, but nevertheless they have affected our ability to supply cars or trucks to our customers. I am sure everybody will agree that this is an intolerable situation, and it is impossible to run any business on this basis, and certainly impossible to go out and sell in world markets if you do not know whether you are going to be able to deliver the goods you offer at the price you quote for them at the time of negotiating the deal.’

He ended: ‘You may think British Leyland is a big company, but may I remind you it is only one tenth the size of General Motors. We are David fighting Goliath, and, unless we accept this fact and all fight together against the competition, and not for it, then the outlook for all of us will be pretty cloudy.’

Industrial outlook: not great

The American Time magazine reported that British Ford General Manager William Batty had claimed Britain was committing ‘industrial suicide.’ A rash of strikes had wiped out the competitive advantages of the devaluation of sterling, holding vehicle exports to a meagre 20 per cent increase over 1967, far from the hoped-for 35 per cent.


Late 1968: Model changes, launches and deaths

Mini Moke
The MIni Moke might have been cool, but it wasn’t a commercial success…

On 16 October, the ADO16 MG 1300 Mk2 was launched. The car featured a 1275cc A-Series engine, twin SU carburettors and a big-valve cylinder head.

By September 1968 BMC had three prototypes of the mini-Mini intended for the Italian market.

On 26 September, the same day as the new Jaguar XJ6 was unveiled, BMC announced that the Mini Moke had gone out of production at Longbridge. Manufacturing equipment was being shipped to Australia where production would resume.

On 30 September, Authi announced the Morris Mini 1275C at Jarama. Also announced at the same time were the ADO16 Morris 1300 and MG 1300, both using the same single carburettor engine as the Morris Mini 1275C.

40 Comments

  1. Good article, Keith. You mention the production of the Mini in Spain. During the 1960s and early ’70s I was living in Spain as a child, with my family. I well remember the Spanish-built Minis, which were available in 850, 1000 and 1275cc engine versions. The two smaller engines were by far the most numerous on the Spanish roads, but a German friend of ours bought the 1275cc version, and it was quite fast. Spain, at the time, was starting to do well economically under Franco. Apart from the English cars and Fiats (SEATs) being built under licence, the Spanish Barreiros company was also producing at the time large numbers of Dodge Darts and Simca 1000s, which Spaniards were snapping up in healthy numbers.

  2. In my comment above I should have said “Good article Ian”! My apologies. As an addendum to my comments about the Spanish Minis, I remember going into a Spanish Mini dealership in Malaga in 1970 with my father. The Minis in all three motor displacements were going around on pivots. I can remember the salesman telling my father and I that the sales of Minis in Spain had really started to boom upon the release of the film The Italian Job. Michael Caine (“You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”) and friends thus helped Mini in Spain quite a lot!

  3. The ADO17 failing was mostly the poverty interior. The gauge package on the ADO16 was better, the specs were better. You didn’t even get a cigarette lighter socket in the Wolseley 18/85. You didn’t get a tachometer, you didn’t get a volt/ammeter and you certainly didn’t get an estate model (which could have been done in house ala the Crayford) in comparison with the Humber Sceptre which was the Rootes competition. The manual was two ratios down and it *really* hurts it..
    The specs didn’t make sense – the build quality was lousy but that was a reflection in the general crapness of everything else.
    ADO17 could easily have been fitted with a 5 speed (even without the E series engine (and fitting a 4 speed to the 2200 was criminal)). Switch plates could easily have fitted into dashboards (Rootes interiors were a whole different class of design – if mostly cardboard) not hanging off the bottom like an Arthur_Daley @Halfords afterthought – in the most expensive car they did. It was like trying to sell a 2020 Ford Mundano with the interior spec of a 1981 Fiesta Popular. The Renault 16/17/20/30 had central locking as either standard or option at the time – blmc was hard pressed to fit locks that even stayed in the door…
    Kimberly with 1800/2200 5 speed should have replaced the 1800/2200 – ditto an updated ADO16 in hatch/saloon/estate/convertible with a 1500 5 speed or auto.
    But sensible product development was never going to happen without sensible management and union co-operation – so it just went round and round the drain. For decades.

    It’s like an IKEA flatpack version of commercial suicide. Insert talentless wazzock A into critical management position B..

  4. The 50’s and 60’s are a depressing era for British industry. So many mistakes made, so many opportunities lost. In hindsight Leyland shouldn’t have touched BMC with a bargepole. It was a terrible fit.

    There is no guarantee Leyland would have done any better on its own. Their lorry division was their cash cow and that faced increasingly stiff competition. However their car range actually made allot of sense.

    Triumph did small/medium cars and sports cars. Rover did larger executive cars and off roaders. The only overlap with the 2000/P6 and that could have been fixed very easily. There still could have been issues, the troublesome Stag V8 and Dolomite engines but without the distraction of BMC, they could have been handled better.

    In the end they achieved the opposite of what they wanted. BMC helped kill Leyland, instead of Leyland saving BMC.

    • @bartelbe, compared with the seventies, the sixties were a paradise for what became British Leyland as everything from the Mini to the Jaguar XJ6 was a massive success and when formed, the company had 40% of the new car market and a healthy export market. Yet the warning signs were there in 1968 with the growing number of strikes and the lack of success of the ADO16, which was BMC’s first relative failure.
      I still reckon had the ADO 17 been better equipped for the money and the E6 brought forward, it could have done better, espeoially after the early faults were sorted out. Here was a car that rode like a Jaguar, was huge inside, could perform well in twin carb and six cylinder form, and was a quiet car at speed. Also it would be one car I’d feel safe being in a crash as it was solidly built.

      • Was the ADO16 really a failure, considering it often outsold the Cortina & probably made more money than the Mini did in the same time?

        The ADO17 really should have set the alarm bells ringing, being too big & heavy to replace the Farinas & simple errors like the oil dip stick being marked wrongly.

        I did wonder if it should have been pensioned off early in favour of the Maxi saloon.

        • The ADO16 was the biggest selling car in Britain for nine years and until age caught up with it in the early seventies, was a fine car. Also as Ford would do with the Escort in the seventies, it covered all bases from a poverty Austin 1100 model to the Vanden Plas Princess.
          OTOH the ADO17 had the potential to be a great car, but being spartan and expensive didn’t help its cause and the styling was controversial. It was a shame the Wolseley Six didn’t arrive until 1972, as had this been launched in 1969 and specs upgraded on the 1800 models, the ADO 17 could have had a successful career as an upmarket large saloon. Another thing in the car’s favour was it seemed well rustproofed for the time and thousands were still running in the mid eighties.

      • I assume judging by your comment below, the reference to the Ado16 in the first paragraph should be Ado 17, because the Ado 16 was a great success.

        I think the error with the Ado17 was that it did not know what it was, it had the functionality of a 1500 family saloon but the space and a price tag of the class above. Had it been 102″ wheel base the Ado 16 styling would sized up better (i.e. Peugeot 205 to 306) and offered with a 1500 B series base engine and the 1800 for high line MG, Riley and Wolsey models, the quantilities of space and good driving and functionality of its interior would have gained traction in the market.

        The sad thing is they went and did exactly the same with the Princess, creating a car that had it been pitched half a size smaller into the space occupied by the aging Maxi would have worked much better.

        • More interested to know the dimensions of the smaller Pininfarina ADO17 proposal that reputedly resembled a larger ADO16 before BMC opted for the larger in-house proposal that became the 1800/2200 in take advantage of the B-Series enlargement from 1622cc to 1798cc.

          Really BMC needed a new engine for launch by the early/mid-1960s instead of the late-1960s with both the Austin Maxi and ADO17 2200, something more useful and evolutionary (defined as being able to be built on existing production tooling) in place of the canned narrow-angle V4/V6 engines.

          Even if ADO17 was Maxi-sized from the outset that would have meant it becoming a 1600/1800cc car as opposed to a 1500-1800cc, in short it would have still missed the 1400cc-1500cc sector (since the 1.5-litre B-Series was only used in the Riley 1500 / Wolseley 1.5 until 1965 a year after the launch of ADO17).

          ADO17 could have been partly salvaged had it been repurposed as a 2000/2400-litre car when it was drifting away from its brief into a larger vehicle instead of a 1800/2200-litre or 1300-1500/2000cc car.

          • If you scale an Ado16 up by 8% inline with an 8 inch increase in wheelbase you end up with a car with a 159 inch length which is the same as the Maxi.

            Now in mid 60s 1500 cc cars were common, ie Roots Arrow Minx and Gazelle, Kent engined Ford 1.2, 1.3 and 1.5 Cortina Mk2 with these cars coming in at 170 and 168 inch. so a 102 inch “big” Ado 16 with a 1500cc engine would not have been out of step with the market.

            The B Series was with 5 bearings respectable enough in the mid 60s (after all it was to live on for a decade and a half more), also no reason why a 1500 could not have been offered, just because the A series became 1275, did not kill the smaller engined versions of the A and the O series development of the B came in 1700 and 2 Litre. So certainly the B could have lasted until a mid life face lift and a new mid range engine.

          • For whatever reason BMC decided to discontinue the 1.5 B-Series from 1965 in favour of the mk2 1.6 B-Series after the Riley 1.5/etc stopped production, cannot see BMC opting to keeping the 1.5 B-Series in production for one model short of it being thoroughly updated and given a similar weight reduction programme as the revised C-Series.

            Another concern would be how the weight of the B-Series engine in general for a Maxi-sized car (as opposed to the larger real-life ADO17) even at a smaller displacement potentially has a similar negative affect on it as the B-Series did for the more conventional Morris Marina, also while not sure whether the 1275cc A-Series would have been considered for a Maxi-sized ADO17 in place of the 1.5 B-Series even so the former did not appear in standard tune for ADO16 until 1967.

            Provided the standard tune ADO16-spec 1275cc A-Series appeared earlier and the B-Series was enlarged to 2-litre (done as early as 1964), can see a Maxi-sized ADO17 being a 1300-2000cc car though not convinced the existing B-Series would have been adequate enough as opposed to an earlier 1600+ E-Series or even ~1600cc sub-E-Series engines.

            Do see some value in the existing ADO17/X6 above a hypothetical Maxi-sized ADO17 as more of a DS challenging car, however the would it have been worth keeping it FWD or at least having X6 repurposed as a Rover P6-sized RWD car in place of the Rover P5-sized Austin 3-litre / ADO61?

          • Nate

            Given the very long stroke of the B Series, a 1500 could have been derived by shortening the 1800 stroke, (still much longer stroke than the 1600 Simca engine). This would keep commonality with the 5 bearing 1800 engine and its tooling. The 1500 class was the centre of gravity in the market, you would expect to sell a lot more than you would 1800, so the economics would be favorable.

            Yes B Series is heavy, but the ADO17 carried its weight well, dynamics of a hydro elastic sprung car with double wish bone front end is night and day better than a Marina. The A Series was not so light either and nothing wrong with Mini dynamics.

            If they had taken the route of a more compact Ado17 of 102 inch wheelbase a 112 inch FWD wheelbase car above it would make sense (3 litre was 114.5 inch). This could have been the vehicle to bring to market an E6 engine type solution. Offered as a 2 and 2.4 litre and pitched by BMH against the Triumph 2000 / 2500 and Rover P6 2000 / 2200. The long wheelbase would translate well into a concealed rear wheels set to the rear (DS / CX like) to avoid the need to adopt self leveling suspension to minimize the hydro elastic pitch up when carrying a load in the boot and or towing.

            This “E6” would then provide for a “E4” 1.3 and 1.6 mid size engine and a “E3” 1,0 and 1.2 3 cylinder engine for the mini and 1100 replacements.

            This could lead into a BL “Austin Morris” model strategy for the 70s could and should of looked like:

            Peugeot 104 like evolution of the 9X with

            88 inch Mini 3 1.0 (4 speed), 1.2 (4 speed) and 1.6 Cooper tuned variant for “nutters”
            94 inch Mini 5 1.2 (4 speed), 1.3 (5 speed) and 1.6 GT (5 speed)

            94 inch Minor Saloon / Traveler (See prototype 104 Sedan and Estate) 1.3 and 1.6.

            102 inch Maxi 5 (Scaled up 104 styling as with the 205 to 306) 1.3, 1.6 and 2.0 GT (+ Cooper 2.4 Nutter version)

            102 inch Major Saloon / Traveler (above with premium nose as with Maestro / Montego) 1.6 and 2.0 Litre (+ Cooper 2.4 as basis for saloon car racing)

            If still BMH you would add a

            112 inch (lwb version of above platform) Fast Back and Traveler based on styling of Pininfarina 1800 powered by 2.0 and 2.4 sitting neatly below the 2.8 litre entry level XJ6

            This way you have just two platforms and one power unit sitting over a light duty and heavy duty transmissions covering off the market. Where as BL had Mini, Allegro, Marina, Maxi, Princess all on separate platforms using 3 engines and 4 transmissions (although Marina shared its with Triumph).

        • Yes they had an awkwardly sized and marketed car which didn’t sell, but then replaced it with the Princess another awkwardly sized and marketed car…

          So by the mid 70s instead of the modern ADO77 RWD saloon to take on the Cortina and desirable new Cavalier, we had the too small and decrepit Marina, the ageing and “niche” Maxi and the too large and also a bit “niche” Princess

          • My understanding is the reason for the Princess size was because that having been put on the back foot with the Cortina sizing up half a size in 71, they decided to plan for the FWD mid range car, to be half size up from the Cortina Mk3 in readiness.

            We also must note that with Ado 77 being at 100 inch and the Princess at 105 inch in their plans they would have had the market covered off and had things gone to plan, bracketed the Cortina..

            However this was before the Fuel Crisis and following recession which both stopped the fleet market up sizing and also contributed the collapse of the company and with it the plans for the Ado 77.

            The question however remains, why they did not make the Princess a hatchback and so allow the Maxi to be dropped and help boost Princess volumes.

          • Graham……Princess was concieved and originally engineered as a hatch. This was why Ambassidor was so easy and quick for us to do. ADO71 wasn’t allowed to launch as a hatch because it was feared that it would take sales from the struggling SD1.

          • The Princess was a lot bigger than the Maxi though, longer and wider, a clear size up in the market

            When you look at the production figures, to me ADO77 should have been the clear priority, not Princess. For example in 1972/3
            Landcrab – 38k
            Maxi – 71k
            Marina – 202k
            Showing that the boring RWD saloon was what the market wanted, not a large FWD saloon

          • Kev

            I think you statement is a little flawed, the SD1 was launched after the Princess and demand outstripped supply.

            However I can see that with the Princess sitting above the mid sized car market centre of gravity it would conflict with the SD1 if it was a hatchback.

          • maestrowoff

            But in the planning they expected the market to size up half a size (as it had done in before with the Cortina mk2 and 3) so a larger car than the Maxi was desired as the Maxi was relative to Cortina now undersized, the Princess was only 4-6 inches longer than Cortina Mk3 / Mk 4 of its time.

            Also the Marina sales are not so convincing as you make out, half its volume had been achieved by dropping the aged Ado16 from Nuffield dealerships and you had launching into the 1300 & 1500 sector of the market the Allegro which was expected (I know but it was) to shift even greater volumes than the Ado16 and take with it the 1300 Marina / Ado 73 sales.

            Also the Ado77 and Princess were not in the same time period, the Ado 73 (a heavily face lifted Marina, the interior of which ended up in the Marina 2) was its contemporary, the Ado 77 was not kicked off until 73, by which time the Princess was signed off. In 1975 the Ado77 and SD2 became the TM1.

            With hindsight, we can say that the Ado73 should have been continued with, knowing the failure the Allegro would be. The Ado 77 / TM1 would however be a bad one to allow to continue, because by the time it would have been ready, BL no longer had the market share to sell it in sufficient numbers to be able to make it at competitive price by the end of the 70s. Ford would simply have priced it out of the Fleet market.

          • The Marina may have benefited from stopping the Morris ADO16 versions and production (a bizarre decision in itself), but nobody forced customers to buy it. They could have bought something else. They built 150 to 200000 or so a year because customers WANTED that many Marinas.

            I never saw the point of ADO73 as the problem with the Marina wasn’t its styling or its interior, but the mechanicals, especially the suspension. Put all the resources into getting ADO77 out by say 1977

            And if BL wouldn’t have been able top compete with ADO77 in the fleet market against Ford, why produce the Montego a few years later, a dull saloon designed to BE competitive in the same market? The Montego was a Marina replacement spiritually, not a Princess replacement

          • At the time of the Marina launch you still had separate dealer networks for Austin and Nuffield products and a strong brand and dealer loyalty. In the Nuffield dealers the Ado 16 and Minor were dropped to make space for the Marina and no doubt in BL dealers the Allegro, Marina and Toledo fought over the same market segment. So yes if they had kept the Ado16 in the Nuffield dealerships it would have conflicted with the Marina.

            I think the reason for Ado73, was the 1.5 million investment for the Marina had become 7 million and so it needed to live through two model cycles to recover its investment. i suspect if they had understood the costs to retool the Minor oily bits and factory, they would instead have used the Toledo as a basis, which would have required additional tooling (its Gearbox production capacity was increased for the Marina over the BMC units), but would have had a longer shelf life.

            It was recognised (at least my the Cabinet and Treasury according to the political memoirs) that the Maestro and Montego could never (despite what BL management were claiming) be sold in sufficient volumes to be viable. The decision to fund the projects which was resisted heavily by the Number 11 and the Treasury was pushed through by Number 10 and the Department of Trade not because they expected them to be a success, but to buy time to attract alternative employment i.e The Japanese.

            The other factor was of course that when the Marina was planned the UK was outside the Common Market, however when the Ryder plan was prepared we were very much in it and as that plan envisaged BL sweeping the European car market, FWD was the seen as the way to go.

  5. Not that British Leyland were immune to making cars that were too big for one class and too small for the other,, Vauxhall did the same with the Victor FE, which came only with 1800 cc and 2300 cc engines and seemed to be too big to take on the hugely successful 1.6 Cortina and too small to take on the Granada. Also the bigger engine being a four made it unattractive to buyers of cars like the big Triumphs and 2.5 litre Granadas, while the 1.8 was thirstier and no more powerful than the 1.6 found in the Cortina. It was no surprise that Vauxhall launched the 1.6 Cavalier in 1975 to take on the Cortina as sales of the Victor never matched expectations.

  6. IMHO the ideal for the B-Series would have been enlargement to 1998cc followed by possible short-stroke 1500-1800cc variants, thoroughly revised C-Series inspired weight reduction programme and possible production OHC conversion (via B-OHC) from the mid/late-1960s before the B-Series production tooling was completely worn out (as was the case in the early-1970s leading to the genesis of the O-Series). The B-Series (or production B-OHC) along with the C-Series would have been soon replaced by the alternate EA827/S-Series-like E-Series displacing 1500-2000cc (albeit with possible scope for a 1300cc version) 4-cylinder and 2000-3000cc 6-cylinder*.

    *- The ideal would have been for the E6 to be superseded by a related V6 as was with the case with the EA827-derived Audi V8-based V6.

    While the A-Series was no lightweight it had untapped potential for further development including all-alloy and alloy-head versions / etc (the same cannot be said for the B-Series a short of someone producing a comprehensive book), the only criticism that can be laid at the A-Series was its inability to further grow beyond 1275cc which IMO hampered ADO16, Spridget and to a lesser extent the Mini (in addition to prompting Colin Chapman to use the Ford Kent as the basis for the Lotus Twin-Cam engine after briefly considering using the A-Series as a basis). A criticism that could have been easily remedied had BMC’s research department not been badly utilized and made to explore blind alleys such as the narrow-angle V4/V6 engine that never ended up being applied, instead of developing a smaller engine and helping to properly cost the Mini and ADO16 to be profitable.

    Mini aside (short of a Project Ant meets Minki-2 type successor that ditches the in-sump gearbox) while expedient one wonders whether it was really necessary for ADO16 and ADO17 to make use of the in-sump gearbox layout given both appear to be have theoretically been capable of being converted to an end-on gearbox layout due to their large engine bays?

    As far as A-Series replacement goes BMC has a few paths they could have gone down:

    1-) 1000-1600cc Nissan A OHV / Nissan E OHC route aka slightly upscaled A-Series that is both the same weight or less than the latter yet capable of fitting into the engine bay of a Mini, has the benefit of being familiar territory for BMC (unlike the narrow-angle V4/V6) whilst potentially being cheaper to produce, able to largely use existing production tooling (assuming it is not completely worn out) and carries over the A-Series engine’s untapped potential and longevity before being replaced by an evolutionary successor.

    2-) A more compact 900-1600cc PSA TU-like development of the Renault-Peugeot X-Type “Suitcase” inspired 900-1300cc H/K-Series engine intended for ADO74 capable of being mated to an end-on gearbox.

    3-) A more EA827/S-Series like E-Series could potentially work via 3-cylinder versions and 1160cc+ 4-cylinder, has the same benefit of fitting into the same space as the A-Series whilst its S-Series style short-block and almost similar weight to the A-Series (at least in S-Series form*) makes it an adequate replacement.

    *- At least roughly based on Robert Leitch’s comment in S-Series, The Missed Bargain?

    4-) Despite reputedly being unviable for production there is also the 9X engine, however it is difficult to know which existing production engine to compare it to unlike 1 and 2 in order to extrapolate what a viable version of the engine would look like without the unnecessary inline-6. Was the 9X engine in essence a downscaled version of E-Series thinking (in spite of owning nothing to the latter), more like the Volkswagen EA111 or something else entirely that should have been reconceived as a 750-1600cc 3/4-cylinder engine instead of a 750-1500cc 4/6-cylinder engine?

    Very much open to the idea of an alternate ADO17-derived X6-like 2000/2400cc Vanden Plas FWD challenger to the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500, the only downside with BMC going full-on FWD in this scenario would be completely neglecting MG by leaving it out in the cold instead of leveraging its post-war success and marque recognition to both differentiate from other BMC models and push it further upmarket for mainly aspirational RWD cars* (akin to Triumph) rather than rebadged saloons.

    In terms of FWD model strategy from the late-60s onwards prefer the following:

    Mini II – Project Ant meets Minki-II in terms of being a cheaper and easier to build de-seamed hatchback successor with end-on gearbox (carrying over the many developments considered for the Mini mentioned in Jon Pressnell’s book), whilst capable of being upscaled if needed be to form the basis of a Metro-sized model being to Mini what the Peugeot 104 was to the Citroen LN/LNA or the Renault 4/6 was to the Renault 5.

    With the Metro-sized model itself later forming the basis of a thoroughly-developed Ford B platform-inspired retro-styled Mini III and modern R6X entry-level model during the 1980s, before being replaced by either a new clean-sheet design (or a modified Mini-sized AR6 platform).

    ADO22 – Like real-life prototype though converted to end-on gearbox.

    ADO22-ized ADO17 – Like above including larger 6-cylinder powered X6-variant.

    The ADO22 and ADO22-ized ADO17 replacements can be essentially described as mid/late-1970s equivalents of the Maestro and Montego with Peugeot-like Pininfarina styling (or Bertone like Innocenti Mini themed or Michelotti styling), thanks to the unbuilt Allegro proposal or some similar analogue instead being used as an earlier starting point (similar to real-life) which also forms the basis of a sub-Maestro ADO16-sized Super-Mini above Mini II until all are replaced by an alternate AR6 family trio.

    Not sure how viable it is though quite like the idea of differentiating Austin and Morris FWD cars from the 1970s by both their exterior styling (e.g. Austin = Pininfarina/etc / Morris = in-house) as well as the suspension systems used (e.g. Austin = Hydragas / Morris = conventional).

    *- It would be logical for ADO17 to form the basis of a family of RWD cars for the likes of MG given it was originally conceived as a RWD prototype, the other alternatives being being an earlier Minor/Oxford/Isis-derived trio as a stop-gap or some other RWD template (e.g. MGB with IRS, MG EX234, BMC acquiring Rover instead of Jaguar, etc).

    • Nate

      Good as this is, I think you are indulging in too much hindsight and applying solutions which were in reality for a company that could not afford new doors, unaffordable.

      I think in context of this article, you can only go back to 67, and look at the world with the understanding and limits of knowledge of Joe Edwards, he was strong armed into selling out of BMH without a doubt by the politicians. But I think his plans were broadly sound and so could have been carried on by Stokes with little modification.

      I think fundamentally the Maxi was both not ready and I however don’t think could have been made ready for market, and bringing the 3 Litre to market was also another waste of time and resources.
      I think flawed as the strategy was, they were given the age of the tooling of the B Series, forced to follow the strategy of the E4 / E6 to cover their engines above the A series. Again I would have gone further and made the A Series “Sunset” and replaced it with an E3.

      So the Austin Rover Model Strategy for the newly formed Austin Morris Motors, a wholly owned division of British Leyland could have been

      Short Term 69-70

      Project Top and Tail

      Pininfarina / Haynes tasked with giving Mini, Ado16 and Ado 17 quick refresh with new nose for mini and nose and tail Ado 16 (bonnet line raised for E series) and 17. Pinninfarina 504 style proposals taken forward.
      1500 version of Ado16 added to range using E4 with 5 speed gearbox and 2200 Ado17 launched using E6 and 5 speed transmission created from existing B series transmission for use with B and E series. To be launched 69 motor show, with a 4 door Estate version of Austin 1500 launched at 70 motor show.

      Short / Medium Term 71-72

      Project Maximise

      Pininfarina / Haynes tasked with reskinning the Maxi into 102 inch wheelbase 5 door compact car (big 104 style adopted) powered by 1300 and 1600 E Series engines with 5 speed Gear box. To be launched 71 motor show
      Ado 17 receives 2400. MGC receives 2400 triple carb and tubular exhaust manifold along with mild refresh to become MGD. To be launched 71 motor show

      Project Maximise Phase 2

      Maxi 5 (102 inch) receives extended boot / estate and premium nose to create new “Major” model, powered by 1600 E4 and 2000 E6 (Ado 17 1800 dropped, 2400 becomes sunset pending new Rover / Triumph)
      MGB receives 2000 twin carb engine to replace B Series to be launched 72 motor show.

      Medium Term 73-75

      Project Minimise

      Pininfarina / Haynes tasked Mini and Ado 16 replacement using common platform (104 style adopted to fit in with Maxi 5)

      Mini 5 94 inch wheelbase (5 door hatch back) powered by E3 1200 4 Speed and E4 1300 5 Speed (Ado16 1100 and 1300 dropped) to be launched 73 motor show.
      Mini 3 88 inch wheelbase (2 door plus glass lift back) by powered by E3 1000 and 1200 4 speed (Mini dropped) to be launched 74 motor show
      Minor 94 inch (4 door sedan / estate) powered E4 1300 and 1600 5 Speed (Ado16 1500 dropped) to be launched 75 motor show

      You could also add a Lancia Beta Coupe / Spider or Audi TT like car on the 102 inch platform but you also have the TR7 to consider and so we would make the MGB/C sunset pending the TR7 launch.

  7. Graham

    Admittingly some of the ideas would entail a pre-1967 point of divergence or few (assuming BMC is not merged with Leyland), which IMO is where it would have been more likely for BMC to survive/thrive though to be fair a 2-litre B-Series was developed as early as 1964 (it was only during the early-70s upon revisiting the 2-litre B-Series / B-OHC idea where it was revealed the B-Series tooling was completely knackered).

    Like the idea of BMC or BL adopting a Peugeot-themed Pininfarina styling language, along with the idea of a common platform at the lower-end of the range reminiscent of Fiat (with the A112, 127 and 128 along with possibly the Ritmo/Strada/Regata/etc to a lesser extent) and Peugeot (with the LN/LNA, 104, Visa and reputedly the 205/309 and Renault 14). Even if of the view the Mini platform still had plenty of life left for further development (on top of being made significantly cheaper and easier to build), especially with R6 type Hydragas suspension.

    Speaking of Pininfarina, the Mini-based MG ADO34 prototype’s styling IMO (particularly at the rear) gives an idea of what an upscaled three-box Pininfarina styled ADO16 Austin Apache/Victoria could have looked like. In essence more akin to a downscaled ADO16 version of the X6-derived Vanden Plas Princess 1800 prototype, which could have allowed both to easily carry over a more Peugeot-like modern front-end by Pininfarina.

    Though 3-cylinder E-Series prototypes were developed (along with 3-cylinder Dolomite engines both of which probably led to the ECV3 engine), not quite convinced on the idea of a 3-cylinder E-Series displacing 870-1200cc (via 1160-1600cc E4) during the 1970s in place of the A-Series short of a more EA827/S-Series like evolution from the outset that resolves the flaws of the existing E-Series engine.

    While the following entails an earlier pre-1967 point of divergence. IMO as far as A-Series descended engines goes, view the 114 hp 1.5 Nissan E15T Turbo engine in the Nissan Cherry Turbo as a rough template for what a slightly enlarged A-Series replacement engine displacing up to 1600cc could have evolved into had BMC developed it for introduction in the early/mid-1960s (with production lasting til around 1990-2004* assuming it is not replaced beforehand).

    *- Have read the existing A+ like the T-Series both had potential to be certified for Euro 3 emissions standards, though am assuming the evolution of a more Nissan-like A-Series replacement would resemble a downscaled O/M/T-Series (plus Perkins/L/G-Series diesels).

    How MG and future RWD platforms evolve would depend on whether the company remains BMC or BMH or still becomes BL, it would probably be worthwhile for EX234 to replace both the Midget and MGB for 1.3-2-litre 4-cylinder sportscars while an MGC successor or the TR7 replaces the MGC/TR6 for 2-litre+ 4/6-cylinder and V8 sportscars.

    In a scenario without Leyland in the picture, ideally would have liked to have seen MG establish a more unique upmarket identity above the BMC range. Perhaps as was the case with EA827 forming the basis of the VR6 (and VR5 and W8) engine, the notion of a narrow-angle V4/V6 engine could later be revisited in the 1980s onwards via a more EA827/S-Series like E-Series for MG.

    • Nate

      The reason I go for a E3 is this.

      1. I need to engineer my new compact platform to take the E4, so the E3 will fit.
      2. Components such the carbs and inlet manifold from to twin carb 6 can be carried over, both saving tooling and adding production volume.
      3. It pushes volume through its new state of the art factory and I can close my out dared A series factory.
      4. I don’t need to spend cash I do not have developing OHC A or any other engine.

      Reason I would not develop the Mini platform is because it is too small for where the market is, in fact where it ever was. Because of its smallness people are going to want to pay less for it than my Metro sized car. I am also keen to drive as a high a volume out of my platform, the great BMC/BL failing of producing lots of cars on completely different platforms. For example 1300 saloon being covered by Allegro, Marina and Toledo!

      For MG, in a no BL world, I think I would go for a Lancia Beta Coupe / Spider type solution, or as VAG have with great success done since with the AudiTT. I dont think mid engined is the way to go, as performance simply does not justify it and the business model of the MG of selling cheap sports cars built from European saloon car components to Americans precludes a bespoke RWD platform.

      • Graham

        It would depend on whether the common platform for the Mini and ADO16 replacements was a significant improvement compared to a thoroughly updated evolutionary development of the existing Mini (which would not be against) as opposed to hastily conceived compromise. Fiat and Peugeot themselves demonstrated it was possible to produce entry-level cars like the Autobianchi A112 and Citroen LN/LNA (along with reputedly Renault via an unbuilt entry-level R2 project derived from a SWB platform below the Renault 4/5/6 that eventually evolved into the original Twingo), BL themselves reputedly experimented on similar lines with a wide-body Mini Clubman prototype that reputedly shared the same width as the Austin Allegro and for all intents and purposes used a SWB Allegro platform an in attempt to cut costs (albeit less successfully executed compared to Fiat’s and Peugeot’s efforts).

        A direct successor to the Mini using a SWB (yet still space efficient) version of the common platform could be sold as the Mini-Mini (albeit slightly larger at 124+ inches length compared to existing Mini as well as 12-inch wheels), while the Metro-sized and larger-sized versions of the common platform could be sold as the Mini and Supermini respectively.

        Curious to know how you envision things unfolding in terms of suspension, know the Allegro platform was used as a starting point for the Maestro/Montego that ended up featuring conventional suspension (aside from one Hydragas prototype). Have not read anything on whether the Mini or ADO16 were capable of being converted to conventional suspension or whether BMC/BL actually considered it, curiously the mk1/mk2 Volkswagen Polo-like suspension found in Alec Issigonis’s 9X project was not carried over to any Mini replacement proposals.

        Believe the company needed a small Mini-like car since it quickly became a brand in its own right (and was only looked down upon because of a lack of development/replacement due to BL’s issues before it bounced back to become a retro icon that for better or worse caught the attention of a certain German company), ideally with a few points of divergence would have been great seeing a scenario where “Mini II” (with a length of 124-126-inches) is a composite of Project Ant meets Minki-2 with end-on gearbox, R6-style Hydragas suspension in Austin form (or 9X-like suspension in Morris form), 12-inch wheels and a Nissan A/E/Renault-C-Type/etc-inspired successor to the A-Series capable of displacements up to 1600cc.

        The platform of such a car could have formed the basis of a more viable Mini-Mini (at a length of 120-inches unlike the Fiat 500/Honda N360-sized prototype conceived for the Italian market for Innocenti that later formed the basis of 9X) below Mini II featuring a 750-1200cc 3-cylinder derived from the A-Series successor engine (loosely inspired by the 714cc 3-cylinder C-Type unit in the Renault VESTA 2 concept) growing to as large as something of comparable dimensions to the Vauxhall Nova or Citroen AX/Saxo/etc (and Ford B platform), using the Metro saloon prototype and later committee car version of the R6X prototype (that included another 4-inches in the wheelbase).

        In other words an earlier properly developed version of the ADO88 platform with R6 suspension and end-on gearbox, which was itself conceived as small as a direct Mini replacement with a length of 126-inches before being enlarged in LC8/R6 with a length of 134-inches (with the addition of another 4-inches at the wheelbase of the latter R6X prototype committee car indicating a length of 138-inches with the Metro saloon prototype suggesting an ability for the platform to grow much larger to an ADO16-sized car).

        Would be very apprehensive of BMC or BL gambling everything on FWD at the expense of MG, believe MG has the same potential to become an upmarket brand as Triumph did. To be fair had Austin/Morris and later BMC played their cars right from the post-war period until their merger, the company could have been in a better position to evolve MG in such a direction (where its smallest model via a LWB-ADO16 platform with ADO34-like Pininfarina styling is essentially the British three-box saloon equivalent of the Lancia Fulvia with Citroen-like suspension that is succeeded by a Beta-like successor). Though will always associate the marque with RWD sportscars (and unrealised potential..).

        • I would propose to sell the SWB / LWB as either the Mini 3 and Mini 5 to differentiate the number of doors, you could also have a Maxi 5 (102 inch variant) to keep the connection (and a Maxi 3, if a 3 door version could be justified)

          I don’t think you would have got the rights to use the Super Mini as a name.

          I think it is beyond question that the Mini had to grow in size, simply at its original size with Uk manufacturing costs, it simply could not attract a price to make it viable until it became a classic in the 90s.

          I also do not think in the 70s, volumes were not sufficient to justify a unique platform, Joe Edwards appears to have recognised this and the strategy of Mini / Ado16 replacement was one of maximum commonality.

          My strategy is to pick off three core models inspired by those excellent Peugeot 104 Sedan and Estate and I would do a box van as well, something like a Citroen C15.

          Mini 3, Mini 5 and Minor (Sedan) and Minor (Estate) + Box Van.

          The idea would be that the Mini 3 and 5 go after the younger market, the Minor would have a plusher fascia and interior (HLS getting a bit of leather and wood) as with the Wolsey and Riley Ado16 to appeal to older customers, who want a compact car, but are willing and able to pay a good bit more for it.

          I would also go for Hydragas across my range, because I think we can use it to help demonstrate to customers that Austin Morris cars are more technically advanced and clever than the norm and help justify a perception that Austin Morris was the quality choice and so justified a higher price. Something VW has been so good at since the mid 70s.

          As for MG (which in reality as with Triumph sports cars was all about the US), yes it could have been moved up market to where Triumph was, but as Triumph was already there it made sense that took Triumph forward instead.

          However I do see potential for MG, to replace Cooper and become the Austin Morris performance and competition brand selling hot production versions along with club rally and race car versions of Austin Morris cars out of an Abingdon base.

          We could do something a little special, such as a mid engined low volume MG Mini 6, where we shoe horn the E6 engine between the rear wheels.

          • The existing Mini platform could not be justified am not disputing that, however it could have been made significantly cheaper and easier to build (as well as thoroughly developed) compared to what unfolded. Unless aspects of the “Archives: Mini proposals” section on AROnline are conflating elements of ADO74 with a comprehensively re-jigged ADO20 Clubman, it would appear to suggest the wheelbase was capable of growing up to 94-inches (via a proposed 5 door Clubman fronted saloon sitting on a wheelbase 10 inches longer than the estate or in other words pretty much the same wheelbase as ADO16).

            Even if the above still cannot be justified, the common platform idea does not have to be limited into just 3-door SWB and 5-door LWB models, Fiat themselves demonstrated it was possible to underpin the Mini-sized A112, Supermini-sized 127 and roughly ADO16-sized 128 on a common platform without them overlapping with each other nor completely retreating from the Mini-sized segment whilst maximizing both profits and commonality.

            The following gives an idea of what was possible on a common platform.

            On the Autobianchi A112, it seems a 2-door three-box saloon version considered at one point while it also formed the basis of the A112 Giovani sportscar (think Mini-based MG ADO34/35 though now on a common platform akin to the Peugeot 104 Peugette roadster). The Mini 4-door prototype (along with potential Mini 5-door hatchback) gives an idea of what A112 was capable of becoming.

            The SEAT 127/Frua was available as a 3/5-door hatchback, the 127-derived Fiat Oggi and Fiat Panorama were available in 2-door three-box saloon and 3-door estate bodystyles (with the previous SEAT variants suggesting potential for 4-door three-box saloon and 5-door estate versions). Plus a 2-door Fiat 127 Coupe Moretti as well as a Renault Rodeo/Citroen Mehari-inspired called the Fiat 127 Moretti Midimaxi, in addition to other bodystyles.

            The Fiat 128 was available as a 3/5-door hatchback (in Yugo form), 5-door estate and also formed the basis of the Fiat X1/9 sportscar, along with other bodystyles. The SEAT 128’s usage of the ~1438cc Fiat 124 OHV engines (related to the Twin-Cam) suggest larger engines could have been fitted into the car as was the case with the reputedly related Fiat Ritmo/Strada.

            There was also the Fiat 128’s precursor the ADO16-rivalling Autobianchi Primula which formed the basis of the Fiat 238 small commercial vehicle and spawned various bodystyles (e.g. vans, pick-ups, campers, minibus, etc) along with the Autobianchi A111 4-door saloon (and the related Fiat 123 E1 prototype three-box hatchback reminiscent of the 2nd gen Skoda Superb), while the Simca 1100 would later form the basis of the Matra Rancho 3-door LAV.

            And getting back to ADO16 itself, the Austin Ant 4×4 aka ADO19 (differing from Project Ant aka Barrel Car) was said to have been derived from ADO16 along with the mid-engined hydrolastic Healey WAEC prototype sportscar (aka Wheel At Each Corner). Amongst other things it was the weight of the 1275cc Cooper S spec A-Series and tallness of the engine due to the in-sump gearbox which made the WAEC sportscar prototype nothing more than a one-off, along with questions of whether small mid-engined sportscars could be sold to the public given the potential risks of the layout. Meaning a common platform spiritual successor to the Healey WAEC would need both an end-on gearbox as well as a significantly shorter lighter and overall properly-developed E-Series 4-cylinder engine in order to be viable enough for production.

            Many of the above bodystyles and variants could have conceivably been spun off from just one common platform comprising of City Car up to C-Segment vehicles.

          • Nate

            Without a doubt a lot more can be done with putting skins over different platforms and Fiat represents a good example as to what is possible and of course we have today PSA/Fiat/Chrysler and VAG.

            However we have to be realistic as to what Austin Morris needed and was capable of doing, in an age when the lead time of tooling and relative cost was so much higher.

            So going back to 67, you are faced with a BMH which has run out of cash, it was effectively brought out by Leyland but alternatively may be the sale of its Bus, Commercial Vehicle and Tractor businesses to Leyland (along with agreement of exciting compact RWD cars / 4×4 sectors) would have been better both for BMH and Leyland. However the fact remains that BMH need to urgently refresh their entire volume car range, fill the gap between the Ado 16 and Ado 17, replace the B Series and the A Series as well in the medium term. Add to that, that the Maxi is also set to miss its market (poor styling and too heavy for its engine and missing the 1300 model).

            So we have to be realistic about what we can do and so I think a strategy has to be one that makes the most of what we have and minimise the cash going out while maximising the cash coming in. So my strategy is

            Short Term (69-70) – Leverage Ado 16 my giving it E Series, bigger boot and or 4 door estate to stop its price point slipping in the market.

            Short / Medium Term (71-72) – Reskin the Maxi into something smaller to capture aspiring Ado 16 customers (big 104) and saloon / estate derivatives to give us better traction in the fleet market

            Medium Term (73-75) – Replace Ado 16, Mini with something more “funky” for the young customers (104) and a saloon / estate derivative to appeal to the older customers and give us traction in the fleet market.

            Of course I would like to do more, would love to spin some Coupes, a mid engine baby Dino would be cool but these are nice to have and I think could only be funded when we have resolved the cash flow issues. I think however we need to be realistic, making cars in 1970s UK, is a struggle and I think it will still be a matter of surviving until the UK market picks up in the early 80s.

          • Graham

            Am highlighting what could have been done in better circumstances in terms commonality as opposed to limiting oneself to a 1967 point of divergence premise.

            Forgot to mention other versions of Simca 1100-derived products like the 1000/1100-derived 1967 Simca Project 937 and 1100/Alpine-derived 1975 Simca Van / Fourgon both by Heuliez (not sure to what extent the Simca Project 936 aka Isabelle Mini-rivaling proposal was derived from the larger 1100 beyond using the same engine).

            Given what was achieved with both the R6 Metro/100 and 1100/Alpine-derived European Horizon (sans unbuilt C2-Short Supermini), could a case have been made for producing a model derived from a further-developed (non-Allegro) ADO16/ADO22 analogue to the European Horizon along similar lines to the LC8/R6 Metro in terms of longevity (albeit more towards R6 or even R6X) with a similar production life up to the late-1980s+? The R6 proved to be pretty competitive against rivals despite essentially being a product of the 1970s and falling behind competitors in terms of dimensions, which leads to how larger B/C-Segment variations of the R6 theme would have potentially fared against rivals from the late-1980s onwards.

            Fwiw the Sherpa van article mentions an unbuilt FWD commercial vehicle project known as CV300, which used the ADO17 1800/2200 power packs for front drive and, as a result, was blessed with a superb low loading floor, very much like that of the Citroën HZ. Making it possible to walk about in the back even without a high-roof conversion – something unheard of in standard-spec panel vans of the time.

            One thing that is perplexing would be one would have thought there would have already been a lot more degree of commonality between the Issigonis FWD trio beyond their layout and gearbox during their development as was reputedly the case with the post-war Minor/Oxford/Six and descendants being upscaled or downscaled variants of the same theme to some extent (up to the Marina/Ital).

  8. I keep reading about peoples “love” of the E series engine, if you get an opportunity to inspect an engine out of the vehicle and note its size and gauge its weight, i think this will change your thinking.

    • Am aware the E-Series engine was a tall, heavy and generally very underdeveloped lump when it entered production. Otherwise its loose similarity to the later Volkswagen EA827 (together with the later shorter lighter S-Series) provides a rough template for what the E-Series could have evolved into in better circumstances as the proper replacement for the B/C-Series engines it was originally conceived to be, whether it was within BMC’s capability to build such an engine is another question (and debate) altogether though the company had plenty of badly utilized engineering talent to make it feasible (which is more than can be said for its management or the subversive unions).

      If BMC was ultimately too risk adverse to develop an advanced clean-sheet engine design or few (e.g. narrow-angle V4/V6, F/H/K-Series, etc) and invest in the necessary new production tooling, Nissan (via its links with Austin) provides one example of what an evolutionary yet largely conservative approach to updating/replacing its engines would look like at the other extreme (e.g. Nissan A/E/J/MA/CA engines etc) that IMO shares some parallels with BMC and the latter’s subsequent incarnations with its larger engines (e.g. B/O/M/T-Series petrols and Perkins/L/G-Series/Td5 aka Project Storm diesels).

    • It is not the case of loving the E Series engine, it is the case of facing the reality that it was the best they had, particularly in that they had a new state of the art production facility.

      Big as it was, it still fitted under the bonnet of an Ado 16 with a few tweaks, which does nit have the highest scuttle line.

      If you look at BL history, one of failings in the strategy was the failure to develop and sort the E out (after all unlike anything else they had, it had been engineered around Californian smog laws) in the early 70s and instead end up retooling the B and developing new straight 6 engines for the SD1.

      • The E series was a waste of money, consider they ended up keeping the B series in production right through the 70s and developing the O series to replace it!

        Yes the E6 was a nice engine, but a niche product really, and if the Maxi had used a 1.6 B series engine instead, would sales have been any worse?

        • It was, given what they did, a 16 million on the world’s most advanced engine plant, yet they decided to completely retool the B Series and follow through with the O series in a plant nowhere near as advanced.

          Although the R and S did utilise that E series facility in the 80s and early 90s.

          The question is why?

          I suspect it was driven by a desire to both rubbish anything BMC and the fact that they signed off the Marina with the B Series engine before they understood the state of the tooling and so the management covered up the issue by signing off the O series.

          I don’t think the B Series would have saved or ruined the Maxi, but the development of the E6 and the need for it to fit into the ADO17 and the large investment by BMH given their limited cash resources in a new production facility, suggests that the BMH management knew the B tooing was all but done for.

          • I think the B might have ruined the maxi. It was after all only available as the big lumpy 1.8 we got in the Marina, 1800 and MGB. The weight of it definitely effected the handling of the Marina, and the 1800 and B would both have benefited from less weight over the wheels, so it might have made the Maxi less nimble.
            In the 1800 it was fairly refined, but the maxi is (contrary to appearance) a much smaller car and NHV would certainly have been worse than the Maxi 1500. The debate about the 1750 not being as clear cut. It would also have meant either fitting a 4 speed gear box or doing a lot of work to make the transmission work with the B.

          • But then the E series was launched in the late 60s yet the B series stayed in volume production until 1978, so the tooling can’t have been THAT bad.

            They had the option of then using the E4 in the Marina 2 and Princess in the mid 70s, yet chose to develop the O series instead, which isn’t a great vote of confidence in that engine.

  9. Well the S series in the Austin years was probably one of the most unrelable engines produced ever. Fair does it was fairly refined and economical, but it was plagued with water pump failures, oil leaks, overheating issues in traffic, heavy oil consumption, and had a very temperamental ECU fitted. At least the B and the O series were fairly reliable.

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