History : Some surprises sold under the British Leyland banner

Wolseley Hornet Mk III: in production until mid-1969

With May marking the 53rd anniversary of the creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) in 1968, we thought it would be fun to look at a few models inherited from the past which found themselves part of the British Leyland product range during those early years.

Obviously, on day one, everything sold by BLMC fell into that category. And most people are aware that many stalwarts of the British Leyland range through the 1970s, like the Mini and Triumph 2000, traced their roots to an earlier era.

However, here’s a selection of what not many people would class as ‘British Leyland’ vehicles. They are cars (and a couple of commercials) that remained on sale in the UK into 1969 and, in some cases, longer. They appeared (if briefly) in British Leyland’s product catalogue, were sold through dealers that displayed the British Leyland sign, generated sales revenues that flowed into BLMC’s coffers and were advertised as British Leyland products.

These are vehicles many people assume had been dropped by then – perhaps some will surprise you.

Austin-Morris Half-ton (A60) van and pick-up

The Half-ton van from the Austin-Morris division of British Leyland

Derived from the Austin Cambridge of the 1950s, these old stagers just kept on going, defying proposals to replace them like the mooted Austin 1800 van. Sharing their 1622 cc B-Series engine with the Morris Oxford VI, they were available with either Austin or Morris badging which kept both sides of the still dual-channel Austin-Morris dealer network happy. In his landmark book ‘The Leyland Papers‘ first published in 1971 author and journalist Graham Turner expresses surprise these dated commercials were still trickling off the production lines. They would finally be replaced by derivatives of the Marina in 1972 (though assembly overseas continued a little longer).

Morris Minor 1000 range 

Morris 1000 Traveller for 1970

Man may have walked on the moon in 1969, but reassuringly you could still buy the dear old Morris 1000 Tourer (convertible) from British Leyland, though the year saw it dropped. But the saloon models (two and four door) continued until late 1970 while production of the Traveller kept going until early 1971 and commercial versions a little longer (in New Zealand from kits until 1974). Some of the last wood-framed Travellers were painted in colours shared with the new Morris Marina, but like the commercials, they were built at Adderley Park, Birmingham in their final years.

There had been thoughts of developing the Minor design (on Volkswagen Beetle lines) when British Leyland was formed, but it was concluded the time had passed. But at Board level in 1969 Filmer Paradise (Sales and Marketing Director) advised that, as customers still wanted them, production should continue.

And with the Morris 1000 offering tremendous value for money, customers were not hard to find though sales volumes had shrunk massively since the car’s 1950’s heyday. Output of saloons (built at Cowley) was running at just a third of peak volume by 1968.  Economies of scale were crucial and Graham Turner records how the Morris Minor was generating a loss (£9 per car) in 1968 while the Mini, then close to its production peak, was earning a profit of £15 per car (contrary to popular mythology). But with market share prioritised over profits, British Leyland kept on building the Morris Minor.

In late 1969 the two-door Morris Minor 1000 (actually 1098cc) was priced at £681 including tax, which was just £7 more than a (998cc) Mini 1000. While at £763 the Traveller (in ‘non Deluxe’ form) was exactly the same price as the new Mini Clubman estate. Choices, choices…

Austin A60 Countryman and Morris Oxford VI Traveller

The Austin A60 Countryman and Morris Oxford VI Traveller (pictured). Terribly practical, but terribly dated, with tailfins from 1958 unchanged from the Austin A55 Mk II Countryman. (The saloons had seen them reshaped in 1961)

These roomy estate cars were looking rather dated by the time they came under the British Leyland umbrella in 1968. Just compare them to Vauxhall’s sleek new Victor (FD) wagon. So, after a year in the BLMC portfolio, it was no surprise they were dropped in early 1969, coinciding with the launch of the hatchback Austin Maxi, which acted as something of a substitute. The A60 Cambridge saloon departed at the same time, but the Morris Oxford VI saloon was spared the axe for now.

The departure of the A60 Countryman and Oxford VI Traveller left rather a gap in the British Leyland range, filled only when the Morris Marina estate was launched in 1972.

Austin-Healey Sprite Mk4

Apologies for the very ‘of its time’ copy of this 1968 advert for the Austin-Healey Sprite… Austin, Austin-Healey, BMC (which continued to exist as a division) and British Leyland are all name-checked

Austin-Healey did exist for a short period as a brand within the British Leyland empire, although the writing appears to have been on the wall. In North America advertising was already referring simply to ‘the Sprite’ in 1968 (from your Austin/MG dealer) with no mention of the Healey name. And, in the UK, the Austin-Healey Sprite Mk4 would be officially renamed Austin Sprite for 1971 (and, after six months, be dropped altogether). Nonetheless, at the end of the Sixties, Austin-Healey counted as a British Leyland marque, and the Austin-Healey Sprite Mk4 as a British Leyland product.

MGC and MGC GT

MGC advertising from 1968 by British Leyland. As often occurred in that period, it’s a pre-existing BMC advert with the British Leyland logo added

Introduced by BMC in 1967 the three-litre MGC (roadster and GT) was not a success, something evident by the time BMC found itself part of British Leyland. Only the 15 inch road wheels and bonnet bulge distinguished it externally from the much cheaper MGB which may have discouraged some buyers,

The revised 2912cc C-Series engine (shared with the equally ill-starred Austin 3 Litre) was a heavy unit so the performance and handling of the MGC came in for criticism. After less than two years, the MGC models were dropped during 1969. But, as seen above, they were advertised as British Leyland cars towards the end of their short life.

Wolseley 16/60

Wolseley 16/60 for 1971. ‘This is a big, roomy, comfortable car conventionally designed to make travel smoother and quieter’ declared the brochure. ‘Family motoring at its best’

The prolific range of ‘Farina’ (ADO9) cars first seen in the late Fifties didn’t really have a place in British Leyland’s vision for the 1970s, but they left the scene only slowly. First to go was the MG Magnette IV, production of which ended in April 1968. Its comrade the Riley 4/72 hung on into 1969 as did the Austin A60 as mentioned above. But the Morris Oxford VI saloon and Wolseley 16/60 stuck around, not least because the new Austin Maxi was only retailed through Austin dealers.

With the Morris Oxford VI saloon continuing to bring in business, helped by the loyalty of the provincial taxi trade, there was little obstacle to continuing production of the Wolseley 16/60, essentially a better-trimmed version of the Oxford. They were replaced by the Morris Marina in the spring of 1971, by which time they’d both served three years as British Leyland cars.

The Riley range

The Riley line-up for 1969 included three models

British Leyland killed off the Riley marque, as is well known. This was the first of several brand extinctions, but it took a while to do so, with Riley production continuing until July 1969. ‘With less than 1% of the home market they are not viable’ the press were told at that time.

A range of three Riley cars were therefore fielded by British Leyland for the 1969 model year, comprising the Riley Elf Mk III, the Riley 1300 Mk II and the venerable Riley 4/72 saloon. The Elf and its sister car the Wolseley Hornet Mk III (at top of page) would be replaced as ‘posh Minis’ by the Clubman in late 1969, so for the Elf cessation of production appeared logical. Likewise for the 4/72, unchanged since 1961 and harking back to another era. It had reached the end of the road.

The Riley 1300 Mk II (called Kestrel in this bird-themed advert though it usually was not) was introduced in late 1968, during the British Leyland era

But things were a little different for the (four door) Riley 1300 Mk II. This sporting member of the vast ‘ADO16’ family was actually introduced by British Leyland in October 1968, along with the (two door) MG 1300 Mk II which shared its 70bhp engine. Although this was simply an evolution of the preceding Riley Kestrel 1300, it does mean the short-lived Riley 1300 Mk II qualifies slightly more as a ‘British Leyland car’ than others on this list. That didn’t save it from the chop though.

Its place was taken by the Austin/Morris 1300 GT (introduced late 1969) where “ye olde walnut” (as British Leyland’s design staff disparagingly called it) gave way to bold colours and black vinyl.

Triumph Herald 1200

Triumph Herald 1200: the ‘entry-level’ Triumph well into the British Leyland era

In October 1967 the long-running Triumph Herald range was freshened with the arrival of the Herald 13/60 as saloon, estate or convertible. These models with their restyled bonnet and improved interior continued until 1971 and tend to be perceived as British Leyland cars (not least because for nearly all their lifetime they were). But it’s often forgotten the old Herald 1200, with 1147cc rather than the 1296cc engine of the 13/60, continued alongside until 1970, and retained the original Herald nose.

It was only available in two-door saloon form in that period, and marketed on price. Triumph realised there was always a market for ‘cheap wheels’ and the Herald 1200 was a firm favourite of driving schools as the Sixties turned into the Seventies. Volkswagen published a cheeky advert in 1970 listing all the ‘1200’ cars you could buy for less than a Beetle. There were only two cars on it: the Skoda and the Herald 1200.

The Geneva Motor Show in March 1969. The photographer is aiming at the Triumph Spitfire (Mk3), but behind we can spot a Triumph Herald 1200 with the affordable price of 5,990 Swiss francs made very clear. In Switzerland as in the UK, the Herald 1200 acted as a ‘price leader.’ Photo via Jurg Schopper

Land Rover Forward Control IIB

We need something from Rover on this list for the sake of completeness, but few people would be surprised to learn that either the P6 saloon (2000-3500) or P5B (3.5 litre saloon/coupé) were sold through British Leyland. Even if the body of the P5B dated from 1958, its role as Prime Ministerial conveyance reminded people it was still “current” in the late ’60s/early ’70s. But rather more obscure is the (civilian) Forward Control Land Rover, introduced in IIB form as pictured above in 1966. Though anyone could buy one, these vehicles didn’t sell well.

They offered superior ground clearance and load space compared to a regular Land Rover, utilising esentially the same set of components, just put together another way. With a 110 inch wheelbase the IIB was a development of the earlier IIA model, benefiting from a wider track and powered by either Land Rover’s 2.6-litre six-cylinder engine or 2.25-litre diesel. Less than 3000 found buyers (globally) between 1966 and 1972. But this is a vehicle sold by British Leyland – it was in the company’s catalogues at the time, and it shouldn’t be ignored. In the Seventies a new ‘101FC’ Foward Control Land Rover was introduced, but that was reserved for military customers only.

Jaguar 420G

Jaguar 420G. Until 1970 the big 420G, and not the XJ6, remained the flagship of the Jaguar saloon range

One of the most exciting events during British Leyland’s first year was the introduction of the new Jaguar XJ6 (in 2.8 and 4.2-litre form) in September of 1968. It’s often assumed the XJ6 replaced all the many Jaguar saloons available previously, and eventually it would. It’s true the rakish Jaguar S-type saloons, plus the (Mk2 body) Jaguar 340 and the (vertical grille) Jaguar 420 were all dropped from production before the XJ6 arrived, though a few were undoubtedly sold during mid-1968 after the British Leyland era had dawned.

But Jaguar had been building a plethora of models and that cull still left the 240 in production at the bottom end, as well as the much bigger 420G at the top. The 240 which, together with the deleted 340, was an evolution of the Jaguar Mk2, continued in production until April 1969. It gave Jaguar an entry-level model below the XJ6 2.8, but with XJ6 demand booming and concerns over internal competition with Rover and Triumph, it’s not surprising its stay of execution was short.

However, the 420G (not to be confused with the smaller 420) was another matter. Before the long wheelbase XJ6 (and XJ12) arrived in 1972 the original XJ6 was rather cramped for rear seat passengers, more sports saloon than limousine. The longer wheelbase would eventually be standardised. But during 1968-1970 the 420G was retained to cater for Jaguar owners who favoured the ‘Space’ component of Grace, Space and Pace, including Sir William Lyons who made use of a 420G equipped with the glass division that could be specified.

Only small numbers were being produced, with this huge car (formerly known as the Mark X) withdrawn from North America – once intended as its principal market – after 1967.

But had it not been for the new Daimler DS420 limousine (which was based on the 420G platform), this big old Jag could have claimed to be British Leyland’s flagship right through to 1970.

Daimler V8 250

The Daimler V8 250 – the last car to use Daimler’s V8 engine

Not only did the arrival of the Jaguar XJ6 leave two of the preceding Jaguar saloon models still in production, but it was also effectively staggered. The new Daimler Sovereigns (2.8 and 4.2-litre) which mirrored the XJ6 in all but grille and details of trim were not introduced until late 1969, a year after the Jags.

As a consequence Daimler, a member of the British Leyland family, fielded a line-up of cars for 1969 which included both the V8-250 and the ‘old model’ Daimler Sovereign, first seen in 1966 as a companion to the now-deleted Jaguar 420. While the Sovereign was a Jaguar ‘clone’, the V8-250 featured the hemispherical-head 2548cc V8 Daimler engine designed by Edward Turner. Like the 2.5 V8 which had preceded it, the V8-250 employed the Jaguar Mk2 body, offering a final chance to buy a car with those classic lines.

Daimlers for 1969. An exclusive little sub-group within the broad British Leyland car range that year

Others 

We’ve tried here to mention all the British Leyland car marques, but have nominated just one vehicle per marque (more or less) which means there are other models which, though sold by British Leyland, are not generally perceived as ‘British Leyland cars’. The very ‘BMC’ Austin 3 Litre could be one, although the vast majority of the 10,000 cars sold were built after British Leyland was formed.  No doubt there will be other nominations.

Vanden Plas doesn’t get a mention although it was borderline. Both the Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R and the huge Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre limousine were still in production at the start of 1968 and one can assume a handful of the last ones were sold through sales outlets where the British Leyland badge had already been nailed above the door. But that’s stretching things a bit. Unlike them, the Vanden Plas Princess 1300 is recognised by most people as a car built during the British Leyland era.

We’ve focused here on the British market. Things differed abroad though in general the overseas product line-up was more streamlined than in the UK. However, British Leyland was still very much a multinational in its early years meaning vehicles were sold under the British Leyland banner in foreign parts that we never saw in the UK,  like the Wolseley 1000 or the Daihatsu pick-ups that formed part of Leyland South Africa’s range around 1970. But trying to cover such cases could get very confusing, as could consideration of the sprawling truck and bus range.

So this piece has simply tried to pinpoint a number of cars and light commercials which, though generally associated with the period before British Leyland was formed, could nonetheless be bought new in Britain and registered on a ‘G’ plate (valid for the year commencing 1 August 1968) and, in several cases, also during the subsequent ‘H’ and ‘J’ registration years. These models were therefore very much members of the British Leyland family, even if that wasn’t how they began life.

Chris Cowin

65 Comments

  1. Mooted 1800 van maybe, but one enterprising young man in Australia did just that and I imported it 10 years ago – it is for sale here in the UK. However, there there does not seem to be any way for me to post a photo on here.

  2. Perhaps the similarity with the Ford Anglia 105E – all four corners of the car readily visible to the driver when behind the wheel – is what made the Triumph Herald 1200 popular with driving schools. I learned to drive in an Anglia.

    The forward control Land-Rover was certainly liked by the armed forces. And a travel company used one to tackle the dirt roads – often muddy with rain – in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, southern Africa, in 1969/1970.

  3. I was surprised the Morris Minor was making a loss in its final years, was that just from being undersold as the tooling would have long paid for itself?

    • It seems a lot of it was due to the production facilities allocated to Minor production not being scaled back (or reassigned) as fast as sales contracted – since the time when the Minor was a best seller. So the fixed costs of plant were spread over a far smaller number of cars than historically – increasing unit costs. The production process was also very inefficient spread over several locations.
      In its final years the Minor saloons were produced at Cowley while the Traveller and commercial versions were produced at Adderley Park, Birmingham. Total production (all versions) was around 50,000 annually in the late sixties (1970 was 43,000) with the commercial versions accounting for around half of that. In the late 1950s total output (all versions) had been over 100,000 annually.
      Interestingly, the commercial models were selling better than ever in the late sixties, helped no doubt by the introduction of the Austin badged versions for 1968, (and the related disapearance of the Austin A35 van). But the “car” versions (saloon and Traveller) were selling at only a third of their late 1950s level. Production of the saloons at Cowley was under 20,000 annually in 1968/1969/1970 (when it had been over 70,000 a few years before). A huge contraction.
      Building cheaply priced cars in far smaller volumes than once planned tends to be a recipe for losses …

      And of course the other part of the “pincer movement” on Minor profit was pricing strategy. In order to prevent Minor sales shrinking further it was priced very cheaply. It was practically the cheapest new car you could buy around 1970. That obviously impacted on profit. Those figures (£9 loss) would come from the accounts/meeting minutes of BMH which Graham Turner had access to. Of course, determining the profitability of an individual car is far from simple. Different approaches to the allocation of central overheads (for example) can change the outcome at the stroke of a pen ….. Another accounting approach from that used by BMH might have produced a different result

      • Thanks for filling me in, I had thought since my original post that the minors probably needed a lot of hand assembly and other immediate post war era methods that were labour intensive.

        My Dad once mentioned about someone building a Minor from spare parts, which was expensive but the only so source one after production ended. I believe it was on an N plate.

  4. I was disappointed my dad bought his last MG 1300 in 1970, as the Riley Kestrel was more stylish and more plush inside, and had the practical advantage of 4 doors.

    As for the Minor, it was designed for 1948 production technology, so it would have been laborious to build alongside designs from 20 years later. It also used components like lever arm dampers, an under-floor brake master cylinder, and cable driven windscreen wipers, which would be built in steadily reducing quantities and could not be commonised with any other vehicles at the time.

    The wooden frames for the Traveller would also be vary laborious to build.

    • I believed the Mini was the car which as hard task to assemble on the production line, and so many expensive parts , the CV Rzeppa joint drive to the front wheels, and the car so compact, hard work for access to the interior by the line worker.

      The Minor had so much space under the bonnet, the pea in a drum for the engine, and end of line quality control and rectification work, surely the Minor would score over the Mini for ease of rectification.

      Any ex-BL workers who might comment?

  5. Not that surprising that the A60 van was still in production, as vans until recent time tended to have long lives, easily outliving the saloons they were derived from! The Citroen C15 was probably the last of this type, in production until 2005 when the Visa was discontinued in 1988!

    Indeed, its ’50s styling is more timeless than the Farina A60, which quickly looked very dated.

  6. Yes, how could the Minor lose money? Such a simple car, probably easy to assemble on the production line, and warranty costs, again surely low, loyal Minor owners of the era looked after their cars driving them carefully. Nothing else available from the competition like a Minor – other than, perhaps, the Beetle – so another £15 pounds on the sales price, the owners would pay up.

    A Minor was built entirely from spares, commencing with a new shell, soon after production formally ceased. I recall the magazine article. The owner would accept nothing else.

    • Quite easy.

      With the Traveler you have the body being hand built at Morris Bodies in Coventry around a wooden frame and being shipped to Cowley for final assembly. The Travelers were often built at MG’s Abingdon site when it was not the season for buying sports cars in the US, where they were pushed by hand down a track that dated back to the early 1920s. Things were a little better with the saloon and van, they were on a semi mechanised track that had been installed in the early 30s!

      This was the problem, the Minor had been conceived as a car that could be built at by Nuffield in the immediate post war period to earn export dollars using what was there, which was for car production what had been there before the war plus any lease lend stuff that could be re-purposed. Yet they were having to sell at a price point below that of the Ford Anglia, that’s design and factory were representative of the best practice in volume small car production.

      • Not a great deal of difference between a Ford Anglia and a Morris 1000, or for that matter a Mark 1 Escort, they are all basic RWD monocoque cars, everything tried and tested, well understood by the consumer. So why did the Morris have to be sold at a price below the Ford products?

        • Well – the marketing people in BMC (and later British Leyland) concluded Minor had to be cheaper than Escort based on their understanding of the car market at the time. And it would be normal for a car at the end of its lifecycle to sell at a discount to a competing model that was fresh, like the Mk1 Escort.
          Even though the Minor was cheaper than a Ford Escort, Brits bought far fewer (17,000 in 1969 compared to 85,000 Escorts). You would think that – if they were perceived as equals – it would be the other way round, given the Minor’s price advantage. (As the Morris was available at just as many dealers nationally as the Ford).
          There wasn’t that much in it. In April 1969 the base Minor 2 door cost £624 including tax and the base Escort 1100 cost £672. Though £48 was a lot of money in those days : ) Comparing the respective “Deluxe” models, the Minor 2 door Deluxe was £63 cheaper than the Escort 2 door Deluxe.(£650 vs £713)

        • Because people pay more for something they perceive as being new and fashionable.

          By 1968 the Minor was a 20 year old design, with all the perceived glamour of post war austerity Britain, the Escort was a brand new design of swinging 60s Britain.

          • Prior to the Ford Anglia of the 60s, Ford cars had sidevalve engines, the famous 100E, and three- speed gearboxes, the Morris 1000 was somewhat ahead, 4-speed gearbox and torsion bar suspension throughout production from 1948, and the Morris soon gained the Weslake OHV A series engines following the merger of Austin and Morris, far from being modern, Anglia / Escort by Ford were contemporary carsbut with long overdue features, the 4-speed gearbox and OHV engine.

          • That is why I use the word “perception”, Ford kept their products fresh and most customers for a small compact car had little appreciation of the merits of different combustion chamber and valve train designs. However they did notice if it fashionable styling and colour options. The fact the Minor had been around since the 1940s and looked it, meant despite its many merits many more people bought the Anglia and Escort in preference to it.

        • The Escort was far more modern, both visually and under the skin.

          Hence while the Marina may have looked new, it’s use of 20 year old Minor parts under the skin really handicapped it.

    • An issue to bear in mind is the desire to “preserve the hierarchy” and price the Minor below the Morris 1100. In late 1969 the “base” Minor 2 door cost £681 but the “Deluxe” (which most people bought) cost £708. In late 1967 the two door Morris 1100 was introduced to the UK market which undercut the four door, closing the price gap with the Minor. And in late 1969 the two door Morris 1100 Deluxe cost £739. (all prices quoted include tax). They couldn’t put the price of the 1100 up because it, in turn, was priced to be competitive with Viva, Escort etc. Some customers for the Minor will have bought one simply because it represented a useful saving over the 1100 standing alongside it in the showroom – so shrinking that (£31) differential further would have reduced production volumes further.

  7. There’s a Mini Moke carrying a G reg at the BMW Museum in Munich – I think it has quite a story where British Leyland bought it back from a Hampshire owner to test various options including electric motors!

  8. Nice range of adverts here. I love the Riley Kestrel with Ambla upholstery. My Dad’s VX4/90 had the same. My brother owned a Herald Convertible (not 13/60 version though.

  9. Another reason, barring price, why the Minor was kept alive into the seventies, some police forces used them as Panda cars and appreciated the simple design, reliability and low running costs. Also the van version was very popular with the GPO for the same reason. However, for private buyers, the Minor was seen as very old fashioned by 1970 and just couldn’t compete with more modern rivals, and sales were a fraction of those ten years earlier and it certainly wasn’t seen as the practical classic it became in the eighties.

    • Indeed. What I hadn’t realised until I looked at the production data was that the commercial versions (van & pick-up) saw a boom in demand in the late 60s (due presumably to the dropping of the A35 van and Austin badging of the Minor for sale through the Austin dealers). From 1968 to 1971 approx. 25,000 commercials were built annually which was approx. half of all Minor production in that period (and nearly all of it in 1971). Prior to 1968, commercial production averaged around 16,000 annually.

  10. Probably not included in any statistics is the ‘affection’ rating of the Minor. Towards the end of its long life I think folks were buying it because it stood for ‘good old fashioned simple British engineering’. The 60’s was a decade of social revolution but not everyone subscribed – some wanted to appear traditional and ‘steady’ in these heady days. My father much preferred his Rover 3ltr years after the 2000 was introduced for exactly this reason – and thought my 3ltr Cresta was all show and had no integrity. The fact that the Cresta was quicker and just as quiet and comfortable impressed him not one jot! I think many Minor owners fell into the same category. I certainly thought the Rover was a very special place to be – but I never told him that!

  11. The Minor was probably the same as the Citroen 2CV in France during the eighties, there were so many more sophisticated French cars on the market by 1980, but the 2CV sold because it was a cheap and simple car and got France motoring after the war. The Minor had the same appeal, it was the first British car design after the war that sold in great numbers and some owners never decided to move over to the more modern ADO 16 as the Minor was a simple car that worked without things like fwd and Hydragas suspensjon to complicate life. However, it has to be said this was a very old design by 1970 and while the Minor had its followers, it just couldn’t compete with cars like the ADO 16 and the Viva.

    • Yes, the more modern ADO16 range and Viva HB (soon to be HC) were more sophisticated than the Minor by then. Who would have guessed though that the Minor has cult status nowadays.

      • The Minor started to become a cult in 1979, when an owners club was established and it was featured on Nationwide. It was seen as a durable small car and cheap to own and selling for banger money until the owners club saw used prices soar. While the driving experience harked back to the 1950s and performance was minimal( 80 mph flat out if you were brave), buying a ten year old Morris Minor in 1979 wouldn’t mean a car that was almost dead and riddled with rust like a 1969 Viva.

  12. I remember being on a Cub Scout visit to the local police station just as the G and J registered Morris Minors were being phased out in favour of Escort panda cars. Both looked smart at the time in pale blue with white doors. Being a car buff I asked the duty sergeant if his officers were pleased with the change to the Escort, which brought the response that they missed the headroom for their caps. No other information was forthcoming except that we boys were advised never to give a lift to an unknown young lady otherwise you might be accused later of rape!

  13. Just around the corner from me in Basildon someone has a Minor done up in police panda colours, which is in excellent condition.

  14. Chris,

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane. I remember most of these from when I was a kid, fifty years ago. The local greengrocer had a P60 Half Ton Van. My parents didn’t own any of the cars listed, but I do remember relatives and friends’ parents owning several of the others.

  15. I’d forgotten about the elegant little Wolseley Hornet, a clever attempt to move the Min upmarket by giving it a longer boot, first generation ADO16 rear lights, and a bigger engine and a nicer interior. It was a so much classier car than the ugly Mini Clubman that replaced it.

  16. The Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf, is it an optical illusion, or did they have a longer wheelbase than a Mini? The Minivan, was that also a longer wheelbase than a Mini? Did the Elf and Hornet share the floorpan of the Minivan??

  17. Hornet and Elf were standard wheelbase . Van and Traveller were slightly longer AFAIK

    • The standard Mini wheelbase (as used on Elf/Hornet & Clubman saloon also) was 80.2 inches. Van/Pick-up & Traveller/Countryman were 84.2 inches.

  18. The Morris Oxford was a very elderly design by the time it was ditched in 1971 and apart from some taxi drivers, I wonder who would actually choose one over a car like a Mark 3 Cortina or a Hillman Hunter as these were far more modern to drive, weren’t near their natural limit at motorway speeds and had a wide range of models. Mind you, if either of these were to crash into a Morris Oxford, the Oxford would come off better.

    • I’ve heard the Farinas had a solid monocoque which probably explains their popularity in banger racing.

      I did wonder if BMC could have reskinned them in the early-mid 1960s with a more modern body style, along with some mechanical updates like front disc brakes to keep them fresh for a few more years.

      • That discussion has been had before. Its very valid though, as a reskin, although expensive could have kept the car fresh. Ford did it with the Cortina, and made money so why not BMC. A simple reskin similar to say a Datsun Bluebird 510, and addition of front disc brakes, along with the B series updates, could have made them money.

      • @richardpd, the idea was to replace the Farinas with the ADO 16, but since the ADO16 failed to reach its sales targets, the Farina models lingered on until 1971, when they were seriously outclassed, with 1950s technology and performance. Yet they were tough cars both mechanically and body wise, hence their popularity in banger racing, seemed to be quite rust resistant for the era, and became very cheap used in the early seventies, which probably explains why taxi drivers liked them.

          • Sorry the ADO17, the Landcrab, BMC1800, whatever you want to call it, a car that could have done better if it wasn’t priced above the Farina and was quite basic for the money. Otherwise a car that grew on me due to its fantastic ride, interior space, rugged construction and the excellent Wolseley Six, a limousine like car inside and a good drive if you specified it with PAS and automatic transmission. Perhaps a well specced 1800 version would have helped the cause.

        • Think you mean ADO17 – the Austin 1800 (and badge-engineered versions, actual and proposed). That was conceived as a replacement for the Farinas but an element of “mission creep” during the design phase resulted in it becoming notably more powerful and expensive, competing in the class above (where there were fewer customers). More Zephyr 4 than Cortina competitor. So the Farinas lived on while another all new car was planned to replace them directly – the ADO14 (eventually emerging as Maxi).
          It’s instructive to look at the pricing of various models to illustrate how the 1800 (which BMC themselves clearly had difficulty positioning in the market) was priced in the class up from the Farinas:
          In early 1969 the Austin & Morris 1800 Mk2 Deluxe cost £1,079 (incl. tax). That was slightly more than the (Mk4) Ford Zephyr 4 Deluxe at £1,058. Meanwhile the Austin A60 Deluxe saloon cost £893, the equivalent Morris Oxford VI Deluxe £904 and the (Mk2) Ford Cortina 1600 Deluxe four-door saloon cost £881. (“Base” versions of all those cars existed but more people bought the “Deluxe” versions so I’ve used those for the comparison).
          A price difference of around £170 doesn’t seem a lot today but in the eyes of a 1969 car buyer the 1800 (and Zephyr 4) were approx. 20% more expensive than the A60/Oxford (or Cortina). Times were tight and strict restrictions on credit during most of the ’60s limited consumers’ buying power.
          If that hadn’t been the case (and if the 1800 design had been a bit more appealing in terms of style) then it’s higher price and bigger engine compared to the Farinas might not have been the barrier they were to achieving big sales volume in the UK, and becoming the natural successor to the Farina range.
          But the 1800 coincided (for most of its life) with a period of economic difficulty for Britain (car sales didn’t expand at all between 1964 & 1969) and in that sense was a “victim of circumstance” as many potential purchasers were not in a position to “move up” to a more expensive and powerful car.

          • The Landcrab and the Maxi did not really replace the Farinas. They both missed the mid market by a long shot, especially in the eye of the consumer. It was only really replaced by the Marina, and that missed the growth of the Mk3 Cortina, the car it was aiming at, though the initial brief seems to have been Escort sized!

            As I said earlier, a cheaper alternative to the AD017 would have been a Farina update, much like Ford did, putting new clothes on to keep the customer happy. Unfortunately for BMC, they had Harriman in charge who believed that Issigonis was God and couldn’t fail.

          • The funny thing about the Landcrab is that while it was wider than the Farinas, and had a longer wheelbase, it was actually 9 inches shorter, so it managed the unique achievement of being shorter than the car it was meant to replace, but more expensive and powerful.

            Indeed the lengths are quite interesting (assuming Wikipedia is right)
            Farinas – 174 inches
            1800 – 165
            Maxi – 159
            Marina – 166
            Princess – 175
            Ambassador – 179
            Montego – 176

            The Farinas were big barges for their time!

  19. The Farinas, while known as reliable and rugged cars, were severely dated by the end of the sixties and sales were tumbling. Who would really want to buy a car that struggled to reach 80 mph and looked like it was from another era, when it was possible to buy a Cortina that could reach 100 mph and most of the Farina’s rivals in the 1600 cc class were at least 10 mph faster and offered a far more modern driving experience.
    OTOH the Maxi that indirectly replaced the Austin Cambridge had a similar lifespan and looked almost the same in 1981 as it did in 1969. Yet the car boasted a hatchback, a five speed transmission and the 1750cc engine endowed it with decent performance, so it wasn’t as dated as the Farina when it was axed.

  20. It has always been a fallacy that the Landcrab was a “big” car : what it was , was an extraordinary feat of packaging with, like the Mini, an enormous interior wrapped within a body of modest length . It was also nice to drive on a long journey, with exemplary ride, quite reasonable performance, silence, and the ability to deal with gusty crosswinds with minimal need for steering correction. But….it is good looks which sell cars, in the Uk at any rate, which is how some real shockers from Ford nevertheless managed to be sales successes

    • In its ambition to become a big sales-volume family car, to replace the Farina range, the 1800 was handicapped by its price, which put it in the “big car” field. I’ve added to my reply to Glenn Aylett above by including some price comparisons.

      • @ Chris Cowin, so priced similar to cars like the Zephyr 4 than the Cortina. Mind you, if here was ever a dog of a car, the Zephyr 4 was one, an underpowered, evil handling waste of a thousand pounds. At least the ADO17 was a comfortable, fairly powerful car with a fantastic ride, but let down by being too basic for the money.

        • I’m surprised Ford managed to make such a mess of the Mk4 Zephyr considering it was an almost new design, and left it in limbo for years until the Granada was launched.

          At least with the Classic they managed to use the good parts to make the Cortina to quickly replace it.

          • The problem with the Mk4 Zephyr/Zodiac was it was the interference of senior management, especially that long front short tail which affected the handling due to the weight balance. The irony is that Ford USA built the similar sized Falcon mk3 at this time, and is reportedly a better car.

          • Yes DaveH the Mk4 Zephyr/Zodiac ended up a camel of a car, especially with the aircraft carrier bonnet.

          • As a newby on here I don’t like to argue with the seasoned professionals ….. But I cannot accept the seemingly universal condemnation of the Mk.IV Zephyrs. I had a 1968 2.5 litre automatic one, fairly basic trim, room for six inside and a boot far bigger than it looked from the outside. I did – and still do – rate it as a superb car. Did everything I wanted at a very sensible price. As I mentioned elsewhere in these discussions, the only car I reckoned to better it was the A110 Westminster. (Nobody seems to mention that one …..).
            My employers at the time, the BBC Film Department, had a substantial fleet of Mk. IVs based principally at the old Lime Grove studios, home of the current affairs programmes. I never heard any of the crews complain about them. The rest of us were mostly allocated to the ageing but totally reliable A60 Cambridge Estates, or if we were really unlucky one of the terrible Maxis on contract hire from Kennings. I can remember a number of occasions when I went round a corner and then couldn’t get any gears. The BBC never bought their own Maxis…..
            Then came the Granada-shaped 4 cylinder Consuls. They were so bad I don’t even want to remember them.
            Enough ranting for now. Thanks for your patience in reading this.

    • The Landcrab certainly seemed like a big car to the young me. A few years ago I was killing time by wandering around a supermarket, waiting for my better half, and I was amazed to find a Harvest Gold Wolesley version in the car park. Parked between the moderns it it actually looked quite small.

  21. Just a brief note about a BMC car that no-one else has ever seen or heard of.
    As a BBC film crew technician I was sent in 1970 from London to help out for several weeks at the BBC studios in Glasgow. At the time the standard London issue camera car was an A60 Cambridge Estate (with a camera platform on the roof), with driving characteristics and noise levels similar to a tram. A few awful Maxis had also arrived as short-term hires. The Film Unit chief in Glasgow (his name protected here) thought his crews should have something better and went out and bought a fleet of Volvo Estates. Even the Police at that time hadn’t discovered those. But – he had forgotten the BBC’s golden rule, enshrined in their Charter, that all equipment used must be British Made unless there was no alternative to a foreign product. So he was ordered to send the Volvos back.
    What then was to be the new Glasgow camera car fleet ? Austin 1800 HATCHBACKS. Yes, they did really exist, a small-scale conversion by – I don’t know who, probably a locally-based outfit. I admit that I wasn’t taking much interest at the time and didn’t ask the questions I should have. My long-distance guess is that there were probably around five of these built for the BBC. Does anyone know of any others ?? I must say I found the 1800s very comfortable and roadworthy, much quieter than the A60s and with an excellent gearchange in spite of being derived from the dreadfull Maxi. Though on one journey back to Glasgow in the gloaming I switched on the lights – and nothing happened.
    It would be wonderful if one of these hybrid cars has survived but I don’t think there’s much chance of that.

    And I must record my thoughts about the Mk IV Zephyr “slobbermatic” for which few people seem to have a good word. Probably nearly the best car I ever had. The most comfortable ride ever ever, even smoother than the Volvos I’m driving today. Superb roadholding – and we were driving at 100mph on the M1 in 1970. A bit scary when I had a front tyre blowout in the outside lane of the Motorway, I got safely back across three lanes of traffic onto the hard shoulder in one piece.
    The only car that could improve on the Zephyr was my previous mount, the A110 Westminster from 1963.
    Total 17mpg civilised luxury in a Farina shell !

    I won’t mention my Daimler Double-Six, built with a minimum of care by BL and loaded with Lucas guaranteed-to-fail electric bits. My father worked for Lucas/CAV and told me never to buy any parts marked Lucas.

    Best wishes to all petrolheads everywhere. Those stupid electric cars will never catch on.

    • Fascinating … The 1800 hatchback “estate” was a conversion by Crayford, and looked like an overgrown Maxi – I imagine that’s what the BBC cars were (?). There were Mk1 & Mk2 models. Not sure if any survive ….They also apparently built a few “proper” estates (with a similar profile to the Volvo 145 estate at the rear) for the Transport & Road Research laboratory. If the BBC had some of those it would have been a very special order as the general public could not order one.

      • Other than the Crawford conversion on here I have not seen an 1800 estate, was it based on the van that nothing came of? I have seen the 3000 estate and it looks like the munster should drive it

        • The “full” 1800 estates built for the Transport & Road Research Lab. looked pretty dreadful. The glasshouse of the saloon was retained in full including the small triangular windows aft of the rear doors – then lots of panels were cut to fit and build on a boxy rear with vertical tailgate. (I can mail a picture if of interest). It was a “needs must” conversion to fill a need rather than anything designed in the BMC design studios.

          • I think it’s gorgeous. I want one. It’s even got the camera platform on the roof already. I promise not to drive it with the ladder dangling loose though.

            Forgot to explain the other reason for my Z Mk.IV – it is still one of the best looking cars I’ve ever seen. In blue mink. Streets better than a silly stainless DeLorean.

            And dare I introduce anaother BBC Film Unit masterpiece – maybe someone has already mentioned it on another part of this website that I haven’t found yet.
            It is – the Hillman Hunter Estate. In a highly appropriate putty colour and once again with a camera platform on the roof. We got arrested by the Dock Police in Dover for riding on said roof …..

    • Hampshire Police had some Volvo 220 Amazon estates as patrol cars on the M3 before 1970.

      The BBC used a late Citroen DS Safari as a camera car, which I guess was a bit easier to get around the rule makers.

      • The DS was used for filming horse racing. Believe ITV used them to on WOS. They needed a car that could provide a smooth ride for the picture quality on the rough tracks surround the courses. Believe they use Rangies with air suspension these days

      • My assistant at the BBC told me his father was involved with the Hampshire Police buying Volvos. His name was Pritchard. We never discussed it in detail but I always assumed the cars were 145s – should have asked some more questions !

        The BBC Citroen DS (I think there were two – the BBC always insisted on a spare for everything …) was chosen as you rightly say that there was nothing else that could cope with the bumpy racecourse terrain and presumably for that reason they were allowed to buy this “foreign equipment”. The hefty power demands of the CRT colour cameras of the day and also the link transmitter meant that the car had to tow its own trailer generator.

  22. Thanks, chaps, for you identification of the BBC 1800 hatchbacks. I’m sure the Crayford label is correct. As I recall they were painted in a sort of middle green, don’t know if that was a factory colour at the time. Not metallic as the paler green A60s were. They had the circular BBC “Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation” stickers on the front doors.
    I entirely agree that the 1800 should have started out as a hatchback. Ford made the same mistake with the Mk.1 Capri but it didn’t seem to matter ….. ” The car you always promised yourself”. No, I didn’t.

  23. I do recall the BBC using a variety of cars in the early seventies. I had a Blue Peter annual from 1970 where BBC News used a Vauxhall Cresta as a so called fast news car, I’d imagine the powerful straight six and plenty of space being the reasons they bought them. Then BBC OBs used Ford Zephyr and Citroen DS estate cars for coverage of events like the Grand National, the DS estate camera cars surviving into the eighties. Also I saw a promotional clip for TOTP from 1973 where David Cassidy jumps out a BBC Vauxhall FE. Not surprised the 1969 Maxis were ditched over the poor gearchange as some hack having to get through London traffic for an urgent news story would probably break the transmission.

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