Blog : What would you like to see next on AROnline?

Okay… it’s a New Year, and the first job is to check in with the AROnline community to see if our combined love of old British cars is as strong as it ever was. I know that you love a good yarn, and also love to comment and feed back your opinions on the stories I put up here. But in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I thought I’d post an input thread – and find out from you as to what you’d like to see more (or less) of in 2020…

There have been some very interesting stories posted of late, some of which have attracted a considerable amount of interest. The story on the launch of the Mini Metro went down really well, as did the fate of the prototypes at Longbridge. You love the development stories of both production cars and those that didn’t make the cut – and I consider these to be the heart and soul of this site. Clearly you’d love more – but where do I take it? Jaguar Land Rover, Reliant, more Rootes, Vauxhall and Ford? Most importantly, how British do we need keep it? Do let me know on that.

Just so you know, the most popular development stories in 2019 were (in order or traffic from Jan-Dec 2019):

  1. Austin Maxi
  2. Rover SD1
  3. Austin-Morris Princess
  4. Austin Allegro
  5. Austin Maestro
  6. Rover 200/400
  7. BMC 1800/2200
  8. Jaguar X-Type
  9. Austin Metro
  10. Rover 800
  11. BMC 1100/1300
  12. Austin Ambassador
  13. Rover 75
  14. Ford Sierra
  15. MINI (R50)
  16. Ford Mondeo
  17. Rover 800 Coupe
  18. Ford Granada
  19. Austin 3 Litre
  20. Innocenti 90/120

So, you clearly love Austin Maxis and Rover SD1s…

I know I’d love to see Car of the Month make a regular return. There are some amazing cars out there, and we need to showcase more of them on here, and not just on Facebook. Equally, there’s still plenty of news and events – especially in Clubland – so do drop me a line if you have a story you’d like to share. But how much do you want? More, or less. News? Classic, modern or both? Should we include more road tests? New cars, road tests of classics?

As has been said before on here, all suggestions or ideas, no matter how ‘out there’ they may be, are welcome. The only proviso is that, unlike many consumer websites, this site continues to be run on a purely voluntary basis. As it stands, I’m not looking to turn this site into JLROnline but, if this site is to stay purely in the domain of ‘the firm’ going forwards, then it’s inevitably going to look that way as the memory of MG Rover becomes increasingly distant. Please do comment below, email me on keith@aronline.co.uk, or look me up on Twitter

For now, thanks again for sticking with AROnline – the site wouldn’t be as brilliant as it is without your amazing contributions – let’s make 2020 the best year yet.

Keith Adams

31 Comments

  1. The idea of more development stories such as Reliant etc.is a great one. Plus more Mike Humble & recollections of working at the various companies in the UK over the years.

  2. Would be worthwhile seeing a return of counterfactual and alternate history type articles as well as a return of the “Most Tragic Missed Opportunities” type content, the latter does not have to be strictly limited to BMC/BL/Rover/etc prototypes and additionally could also be expanded to engines and more.

    On the subject of how British to keep the development stories for production cars and prototypes, perhaps the best approach would be to include marques with some trace connection back to the British Motor Industry?

    Reliant and more Rootes are a given though would also include more Simca (e.g. Simca 936 prototype) as well as Isuzu, in which case would also include Opel for Vauxhall as well as Ford’s European division. That is not forgetting the role Austin played in the stories of BMW/Dixi, Datsun/Nissan (and again in the 1950s+), Rosengart as well as American Austin later American Bantam from the latter Jeep or Morris Motors ill-fated acquisition of Léon Bollée.

    Other British carmakers could include the likes of Armstrong-Siddeley as well as Frazer Nash and Bristol, especially the latter via the 225 and 220/240 projects plus the all-alloy Twin-Cam inline-6 160 project.

    Of the production cars along with projects that never made it, the following that immediately comes to mind would be seeing development stories for the likes of the:

    – Austin-Healey Sprite / MG Midget – including the 1622cc MGA-powered MARS / EX221 prototype, as well as Brabham built 1216cc Coventry Climax powered versions (with Brabham also fitting the engine to the Triumph Spitfire and Herald).

    – Morris Minor – including Wolseley OHV, FWD and other interwar/post-war prototypes

    – Austin A40 Farina – including an Innocenti developed van prototype

    – Jensen 504 prototype – a 1.2 A40 Sports powered sportscar proposal that was meant to appear at the the 1952 Earls Court Motorshow

    – Land Rover Challenger – Essentially a proposed Discovery-derived replacement for the Defender as partly touched upon in Land Rover Owner International Magazine September 2016

    – Daihatsu turbo-diesel Mini – As mentioned in MINI WORLD magazine 10/92

    – Gerald Palmer’s projects including his two MG proposals

    – Rootes / Chrysler UK’s vain attempts at giving the Imp a more modernized exterior beyond the hatchback proposal shown at the site

    – Morris Viceroy / Wolseley Imperial prototypes that were to sit above both the Morris Six MS and Wolseley 6/80

    And lastly would probably update the Engines section as well as look to include any other prototype engine projects whether experimental or derived from existing production engines.

    • I like your idea about more development stories, but the problem I have found trying to get information about the work at Roots, is that people involved like my father and his colleagues have now mostly been visited by the Grim Reaper and for those who have not, there recollection of events half a century ago is now understandably clouded by age.

      • It is indeed an issue trying to get more information in general nowadays from events that happened in the past within the British Motor Industry beyond a few curious tidbits, while are not elaborated upon yet have the potential to both change perspectives (largely for the better) as well as raise more questions.

        Seems the best approach would be to try and consolidate what is already available both online and in books before trying if possible to further tie up any leftover loose ends from other contributors.

        Plans for a 1.2-litre A40-based 2-litre inline-6 along with the 1-litre A40 engine (which would be utilized at Nissan as the C Stone engine) or the Tadek Marek developed A40-based V8, are a few examples that come to mind.

        Jon Pressnell’s book on Morris pretty much states a connection exists between the post-war Morris Oxford MO (plus Wolseley 4/50) and Morris Six MS (plus Wolseley 6/80) to the Morris developed BMC C-Series engine.

        Would be interesting finding out more about the 2.4-litre E6 as well as dieselized versions of both the 4-cylinder E-Series and E6 engines.

        As for Rootes, mainly curious about the following:

        – The links between it and Isuzu plus the extent the latter utilized Rootes mechanicals / patents in the Bellel, Bellett and Florian, the latter is rather similar to the Arrow in a number of respects while the smaller Bellett brings to mind a more thorough updated Audax / New Minx.

        – The rear-engined 1.1-litre Spartan styling study in Graham Robson’s book on Rootes that apparently led to the Swallow project and the possibility the Swallow’s planned 1250-1750cc FWE-based engine was originally conceived as a 1.1-litre+ car likely with a similar displacement to the related 1098cc FWA unit.

        – The potential links between the V8 used in the Swallow project and the later Coventry Climax 1.8-2.5-litre CFF/CFA V8 used in Jaguar’s XJ Junior project (as well as its ties to Rootes’s Imp and Swallow units).

        – The tall-block 998-1150cc Imp engines as well as the Ian Carter developed 1197-1268cc units.

        – The 238 hp 273 Chrysler LA V8-powered Humber Sceptre V8 prototype via collaboration with Jensen (as mentioned in Jensen V8 by Mark Dollery).

        – Interestingly have read elsewhere of the Humber Hawk engine being considered for the Sceptre as well as a 2-litre or so 4-cylinder derived from the 2.9 6-cylinder Armstrong-Siddeley based engine used in the Humber Super Snipe being considered for the Sunbeam Alpine

        – The last would be focusing a bit more on the Imp’s ancestor’s via the pre-war 1938-1939 front-engined RWD 750cc water-cooled Little Jim prototype as well as the post-war 1949 rear-engined RWD VW Flat-Twin powered Little Jimmy prototype by Craig Miller.

      • Much of the info on the Morris Viceroy / Wolseley Imperial at this time can so far only be found in Jon Pressnell’s book on Morris, it was intended to counter the American manufacturers akin to the Austin Princess / Sheerline with its nearest post-war US rivals being viewed at the Nash Ambassador, Studebaker Champion, Hudson Six and V8 Ford (possibly either the 1941 Ford or retrospectively the 1949 Ford).

        The engine considered was initially the 2.2-litre inline-6 OHC or the Flat-4 of the Nuffield Gutty (that was capable of growing up to 2.5-litres), before settling on a 100+ hp 4-litre inline-6 OHC that was later revised to 3.25-litre before the venture was quietly abandoned.

        Given the 2.2-litres inline-6 OHC engine later became the 2.6-2.9-litre OHV C-Series (also mentioned in Jon Pressnell’s book), it could possibly explain why the Morris developed C-Series engine was heavy (due to it having planned scope for further enlargement beyond 2.9-litres – similar to the 3.5-4-litre “D-Series” used in the Austin Princess / Sheerline).

    • Hi! How about stories on the development of the TVR Tasmin or the Reliant Scimtar, ie, the GTC or GTE. The Marcos line of cars would be nice. Also, the history of Daimler or Jaguars sedans from the fifties or early sixties.

  3. It would be nice to see some coverage of events and current happenings in the community. So some stories from / about clubs and individuals and what they are up to with their cars. Strikes me telling the personal stories and letting people know what is going on with the British classic movement will keep the interest and knowledge of enthusiasts as well as young people discovering these cars going.

  4. Don’t forget that MG is still around and that a number of new cars are coming from them over the next two years, also what about the return of teh Morris J2 ? more on this would be cool, classic road tests from cars of the 50-60’s would be awesome, and well worth a look, more in the lost/not lost prototypes and what is actually going to happen to them, unless i have missed something which considering i have been in hospital for weeks is possible. LOL.

    How about interviews with clubs, when they started, members, cars etc, its advertising for them, and info for us, how about more on the cars that are no becoming increasingly rare.

    And lastly – More on Rolls Royce and Bentley, especially from aorund the era of BMC and RR/B collaborations, there is more to this story, lots more.

    And definately lastly, what about stories on the lost brands, the ones that have all be sold off, how they started, why they were bought and where they are now, not just British ones either, Alpine is Back, Morris is Back, MG has been Back a while, Datsun is back, etc, why were these brands brought back and how are they/going to, succeed ?

  5. Adding to what Graham wrote: it seems that pretty much all critical specimen of cars have been dealt with in the “development” series. It is rather the task of our times to collect and organize information for future generations, both all bits of objective information starting from insiders information from the car makers down to sales brochures, tv and magazine ads, and subjective information, memories, individual reports etc.

    Apart from that: Congratulations and keep up the good work!

  6. Agree with all that are asking for more about development cars and older stuff. My personal interest is the smaller volume manufacturers that we no longer have, Jowett,, BSA, Armstrong Siddeley (as has been mentioned already), Kieft, Allard, Bond, Fascel Vega, Gordon Keeble/Peerless, AC, Railton and Alvis (Cars) to name a few from memory. In all this talk of cars though, I love to read about the people – designers, stylist, engineers, industrialists et all.

    • Agreed on exploring smaller volume manufacturers. Not to mention Lanchester, the stillborn Lanchester Sprite with the Hobbs Mechamatic gearbox.

  7. One of the pictures in the article has given me the thought that more pictures of scantily-clad ladies posing next to rubbish cars might be nice…

  8. A great site, for which I can offer nothing but thanks!

    From a personal point of view as a reader (who sadly can’t offer any help!), I’d love to read about the “missing” BMC/Triumph/Rover cars yet to be fully covered, e.g. the Big Farinas (and their predecessors), the Morris Minor and it’s 1.5 derivatives, which are barely covered here, plus the likes of the Spitfire and TRs.

    More comprehensive production stats would be nice too (and yes I’m aware of how hard they may be to find!) as the ones here miss out the earlier BMC products, the ones for Triumph and Rover before the SD1 and TR7, and all the stats for Jaguar and Land Rover.

    • I’d love to see something on the Triumph GT6 / Spitfire as my mum owned both of these before I appeared on the scene. She still blames me for having to sell her GT6!

  9. As you say Keith, the development stories are the heart of this site. Is it too early to add/research recent JLR models? And yes, if you can complete the set of Rootes, Vauxhall, Ford, Reliant etc that would be great. I have spent many hundreds of hours on this site over the past nearly 20 years. It’s fabulous!

  10. Keith, your work here has been and continues to be superb. I get so much pleasure from this site as I’m sure many others do.

    In terms of the future, maybe broadening the scope to cover all British made cars, with content demarcated by bra d would be a way to go? More insider JLR stories would also be great, particularly as they are in many ways the modern equivalent of BL, somewhat sadly.

    Car of the month would be a good thing to revive but otherwise, it seems to me a case of keeping it fresh.

    I’d be happy for the site to be rebranded if the scope widened to British made cars.

  11. Maybe a feature on Repco’s GM based engines as used by Brabham to win two Formula 1 championships, as they share some heritage with the Rover V8s.

  12. Love the car sales / mechanics tales from years back, the car of the month articles are always interesting. I also like the bangernomics style writeups of running old cars on a shoestring and the project cars. Personally Im not at all interested in “New MG”, some will disagree but to me its just a mediocre foreign car with aspirations to rise above its natural place in the market.

    Keep up the great work, I find myself lost for hours within this site!

  13. I’d really love to see some of the existing development stories revisited and expanded upon. Perhaps it would be possible to add more / higher definition photos of design studio development models or pre-production prototypes? I’m especially interested in learning more about projects undertaken by Austin Rover and Rover Group through the 80s and into the 90s. Roy Axe’s tenure as Design Director was a very interesting period. I’ve recently read his book – and there were a few intriguing projects mentioned around this time – but a sad lack of good images which is a real shame!

    I wonder if more of the designers or engineers who worked on some of these programs would be willing to be interviewed or share their memories of the project timelines?

    Is there maybe some way we could see the design development that led to the production R8 200 / 400? Or the SK1 600? Or the HHR Rover 400? Was a Rover 600 Coupe or Estate ever looked at, perhaps? There was plenty of press speculation about these body variants at the time… The articles on these cars are really good in their current form – but we only really see the final design – and not much of the journey. Any photos of design studio clay models, design sketches, rejected ideas – all of this stuff is fascinating!

    The Metro story currently online here is particularly rich in pictures – but they’re not fantastically high resolution which is a shame – and almost all black and white. I appreciate this kind of resource must be incredibly difficult to come across – but maybe in the years since the article was first written some additional things might have turned up from other sources? The Instagram / Facebook page Car Design Archives covers this sort of design development material particularly well – but they don’t really have anything on British brands. In fact, I think the only Rover content they have just links to AROnline’s 800 Coupe article!

    Finally, the article that has probably the greatest potential for expansion – and leaves me hungry for more – is the Rover R30 development story! If this potentially very important project was truly as advanced as is rumoured, then there would have been hundreds of design sketches, multiple full size exterior models, production feasible interior bucks, the works… Someone, somewhere will have photos of how this car looked – even if BMW would rather they didn’t! How fantastic would it be if some of this material were to come to light!?

    Just my thoughts… I’ve followed this website for many years and find it super interesting and a great resource. Great articles, great work. Thank you!

  14. I have been a reader on this site for many, many years and enjoy it immensely.

    And one of the themes prevalent on the site seems to be that Leyland had too many engines in its portfolio and that rationalization was necessary but was not accomplished in a timely fashion.

    An example of this theme: Why didn’t Leyland use the Rover 3.5 litre V8 in the Triumph Stag?

    I do not have a technical background and would love to have someone who does explain (at some great length) why this rationalization might have been challenging for technical or financial reasons or both and not simply due to managerial incompetence.

    An engine production plant is an enormously complicated facility requiring very specialized and expensive machinery (generally, AFAIK, referred to as “tooling”). Many decisions are driven by tooling costs. Indeed, Jaguar unsuccessfully mucked about with various engine designs that were constrained by the hopes of using the (under-utilized) V12 tooling and the V12 “transfer line,” whatever that is. Furthermore, as I understand it, the current Jaguar V6 is utilizes a V8 block with the rear-most 2 cylinders blocked off, possibly to best utilize tooling.

    The tooling for existing Leyland engines was in place and productive. Increasing production of an existing engine family would probably require significant additional investment to increase production — money that British Leyland never had — and discarding productive tooling. Thus, Leyland was, I think, forced into maintaining an extensive and economically inefficient range of engines in the short term.

    Eventually, the engine range was more-or-less rationalized down the the K-series at great expense with the reluctant support of Margaret Thatcher’s government — Leyland could not have financed that effort on its own.

    Thus, while I do recognize that there were substantial internal politics involved in many of Leyland’s decisions, there were probably substantial practical and financial considerations as well.

    At least, that’s my theory. I would love to have somebody who actually knows what they are talking about explore this topic.

  15. I am not a technical person and I inserted a self-deprecating “grin” in the last sentence that the system eliminated for some reason.

    The last sentence should have read:

    “At least, that’s my theory. I would love to have somebody who actually knows what they are talking about [grin, acknowledging that I don’t know what I’m talking about] explore this topic.

  16. This is a great site with many interesting features.

    What is the attitude to the onging Roewe and MG efforts, I wonder.

    This could provide insights into new and future cars.

    I happened to notice that MG motors are having a bit of a resurgence:

    Firstly the MG ZS electric beating the Nissan Leaf (not bad from a standing start, but SAIC builds many hundreds of thousands of EVs per year) and selling well – The MG ZS is a nice car about Range Rover Evoque size but more spacious, I sat in one at the Staffordshire show this year:

    https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/mg/zs/108118/mg-zs-ev-vs-nissan-leaf

    Then the new MG HS getting a four star review from What Car (it’s about the same size as the Outlander):

    https://www.whatcar.com/mg-motor-uk/hs/hatchback/review/n20298

    I like the look of the MG eHS 50T PHEV, coming to the UK in November

    https://www.chinapev.com/saic/mg/noncamouflaged-mg-ehs-50t-phev-spy-photos-is-leaked/

    I like the sound of 4 wheel drive, 0-60 in six seconds, 40plus mpg on petrol, 37 mile all electric range, low cost electric fill up, the new true automatic ten speed gearbox developed by Ford and GM and all at an affordable £25k price.

  17. How about more tales of people’s individual cars, or perhaps some restoration stories? Would be interesting to hear about how people source rare parts or perhaps make them as they are obselete. Not trailer queens and £100k jobbies but more bog-standard, everyday cars.

    Would also be interesting to showcase active clubs and what they’re up to.

  18. You have a great site here Keith and appreciate how much effort you must have to put in to it!

    You asked for even “out there” ideas and I’d enjoy seeing the odd article on British bikes, especially as we’ve a successful indigenous industry, with a story to tell.

  19. We’ve had one article on owning an early Daewoo, but maybe a bigger feature on how they launched a new brand & their all inclusive package, which made many other manufacturers think about their sales & marketing methods.

    I remember seeing a lot of print ads comparing all the hidden extras other cars had added onto the list prices.

  20. I have long wanted articles on the North American/USA market models and sales numbers. The USA was one of the most important markets for BL and related brands, even today with JLR.

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