Ian Nicholls recalls a couple of moments when the General Election trail intersected with the motor industry. It wasn’t always that positive…
The current General Election campaign has given me an excuse to delve into the archives for politician-related material. We start with an image of Conservative Party leader Edward Heath being greeted at Cowley by BMC Managing Director Joe Edwards (above).
I believe the occasion was during the 1966 General Election campaign, but I cannot pinpoint the date. It is said that BMC were disappointed that Mr Heath turned up in a Ford. The next image dates from early 1965 and is of Quintin Hogg MP, better known as Lord Hailsham, taking delivery of his brand new Austin 1800, voted European Car of the Year 1964 (below).
In his time Lord Hailsham was a soldier, barrister and government minister and, unbeknown to him a BMC test driver, as indeed were all the early ADO17 owners. It is not known what his Lordship’s ‘customer experience’ of CLA 620B was, to use modern vernacular.
Did the Landcrab meet ministerial expectations?
What exactly was wrong with these early ‘Landcrabs’?
One early production car, probably AOB 987B, was driven by Philip Turner of the now defunct Motor magazine. In July 2016, his son Tony Turner wrote in Classic Car Weekly: ‘It spent its early life pottering around London testing accessories but became a motorway express once my dad got his hands on it.
‘This is when the first of three engine blow-ups occurred. Eventually the truth dawned that the B-Series engine had the same dipstick markings it wore in the Austin Cambridge- even though the sump was now full of gearbox. Correcting that cured the blow-ups.’
On one long run for the magazine he recalled: ‘We had to juggle the heater and blower controls to keep the engine temperature gauge out of the red during the last hour of the return journey and emerged kippered at the finish.’
Cars and politics don’t mix
In 1988, Labour MP Tam Dalyell recalled his only meeting with Alec Issigonis at a prolonged working lunch with BMC Chairman George Harriman to discuss the Bathgate plant situated in his constituency.
‘It is indelibly marked on my memory that Issigonis argued for tougher laws on defective vehicles, confident in the quality of his own. I am not quite sure that Harriman was equally enthusiastic!’
Maybe Issigonis was arrogant, but arrogance is the personality trait that distinguishes politicians from the rest of us ordinary mortals.
- History : The Austin-Morris story – Part Nine : 1972 - 6 February 2021
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