Past Shadowed Beams Lean The Wintry Rays

The ostensible initial aim of this small article was to find out how many engines British Leyland had around about the mid-1970s. I didn’t answer that question at all. So, what did I discover?

1967 Triumph 2000: source

Before getting very far (as in reading one single page of the internet) I learned that truck and bus maker Leyland Motors Limited owned Triumph (acquired 1960) and Rover (acquired 1967) before LMC got merged with the British Motor Corporation in 1968 (bringing Austin, Morris, MG, Mini, Wolseley et al to the party). That puts a slightly different light on the later fate of Triumph. Conceivably LMC might have been able to manage the two brands better had it not been merged with BMC.

Innsbruck? source

A short look at the Triumph range from 1960 under Leyland shows quite a busy period. In the 1965 they showed the 1300 where much the biggest investment must have gone, this being a whole new car with a whole new drivetrain concept. As well as that there were numerous revisions of other cars in the range.

In 1965 the world received the TR4A, an evolution of the TR4; the Spitfire Mark II appeared in 1965, a facelifty kind of update; the GT6 of 1966 was a Spitfire derivative. The TR5 turned up in 1967, an evolution of the TR4A. The TR6 appeared in 1969 and this is perhaps another more convincing case of a new-ish car. I am not sure about the 2000 Mk1 which appeared in 1963 but was thoroughly revised in 1968.

The way I interpret this is that while Leyland Motors owned Triumph they invested in the existing cars, paid for the completion of the 2000 and fully invested in the front-wheel drive 1300 model. The Stag must have been the last car planned before the effect of the Rover purchase and the merger with BMC began to kick in.

Now I wonder what did Leyland Motors acquire when they bought Rover in 1968? Let’s look at the timeline. In 1968 Rover had the P5 (launched ten years before) and P6 (launched five years before); on the drawing board was the Range Rover and in the show-rooms the Land Rover and, I suppose, all those forward-control utility vehicles that you don’t read so much about.  There were also plans for P7 and P8 (as my collegue Eoin Doyle reminded me – thank you), some of which were loose development projects.  The P8 got as far as tooling but that was under the BLMC regime (1969).

We can see what Leyland Motors did with Triumph but we will not know what they had planned for Rover because the merger with BMC threw a box of spanners in the works. What could they have done?

One, close Rover cars and keep the Land Rover and commercial vehicles. Two, replace the P5 and let the P6 die unreplaced while keeping Land Rover and the commercial vehicles. Three, let Rover cars and the commercial vehicles die and keep the Land Rover line only. In all three scenarios I see keeping LR as worth the trouble. In most cases, Rover cars seem a marginal bet. With no evidence at all, I bet Leyland did not plan to save Rover cars but wanted the LR and commercial vehicles.

1970 Triumph 1500: source

Looking at this case then from the Leyland perspective in it seems Triumph was doomed the moment someone decided to save Rover. With only two cars in the “range” the decision to save Rover strikes me now as even more insane than I previously thought it to be.

To summarise all this: Triumph cars in 1968 had various Spitfires, TRs, the 1300 and 1500 fwd mass-market saloons and the newish 2000 and 2500 range. In 1968 Rover cars line-up consisted of two saloons: the superannuated P5 and P6 which was a car with half a model cycle left in it. From an engine point of view, there was little there either (an in-house four-cylinder and a thirsty mid-Atlantic V8).

(c) gracesguide

If you look at the story of Triumph from after the merger of Leyland-BMC it is not so clear what should have happened to Triumph or Rover; Jaguar’s presence complicates things too. But from the viewpoint of 1968, when Leyland had two car marques, it becomes even clearer that a good car brand with a lot of potential was snuffed out for reasons other than good brand management and that the often-vaunted Rover brand has been an undeserving beneficiary of bad, politically motivated planning.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

20 thoughts on “Past Shadowed Beams Lean The Wintry Rays”

  1. Richard, I would be curious to see your analysis of the BL engine range – because I am still trying to figure it out.

    GM had a lot of engines, say, prior to the 1973 fuel crisis. But the basic pattern was that Chevrolet had four due to its greater model range. And the other divisions had their own V8.

    I previously considered GM the epitome of corporate duplication and wastefulness, but if you compare BL to GM, which i think BL wins, and not just on engines.

    After the Corvair was killed, GM never had multiple standalone platforms competing in the same market segment. By contrast, BL had a bunch.

  2. TBH Leyland should have acquired Jaguar instead of Rover, since Jaguar would have been a better fit slotting above Triumph and at least the latter would have survived (albeit at the cost of Triumph’s ambitions of moving upmarket being restricted by Jaguar). Ultimately their engines under Leyland could be reduced down to 2 to 2 1/2 engine families.

    Let us also not forget Jaguar itself initially used Standard-derived engines prior to using the XK6 and that other marques (like Morgan, etc) used Coventry Climax tuned versions of those same Standard-derived engines converted to OHV layouts. So there was already history between Triumph (via Standard), Jaguar and Coventry Climax.

    1. I think a strong group could have been built if mass lay-offs could have been acceptable. (Discuss)
      Austin for the Mini, Triumph for 1300 through 2000 plus a halo small sportscar, Land Rover for 4×4 authenticity and Jaguar for a two pronged attack at the luxury market.
      Bin the rest.
      This should have been done in 1963, to guarantee the best teams.
      No management duplication woild have ensured some control during the initial teething troubles.
      B.M.C. As a true rival to what B.M.W. would become?

    2. Such a scenario would not have been sustainable and 1963 would be too early a starting point. Of the view BMC was (just about) salvageable with the right points of divergence (ranging from as late as Leyland walking away from buying BMC in the late-1960s to as early as pre-BMC Miles Thomas pushing through with his post-war modernization of the Morris / Nuffield group), with both BMC (plus Rover / Land Rover) and Leyland (including Triumph and Jaguar) would have been better off remaining separate entities instead of forming British Leyland.

      BMC needed a strong presence at the upper end of the range that Rover could have easily provided (in contrast to the likes of Riley, Wolseley, Austin, Princess, etc), while Rover needed to be aligned to a bigger company to push through with its own projects (e.g. P8, P9, P10, Range Rover, etc).

      Jaguar’s William Lyons was open to the possibility of joining Leyland instead of BMC had circumstances been different, which would have potentially meant Triumph could have made use of a Jaguar V6 based on the V12 while Jaguar in return could have made use of an upscaled 4-litre+ Triumph / Saab V8 (that would not be on the receiving end of cost cutting and penny pinching which resulted in the V8 gaining its infamous reputation) in place of the 60-degree V8 based on the V12 (short of Jaguar under Leyland managing to find a way to develop a 90-degree V8 on the same production line as the 60-degree V12 like Mercedes-Benz did with the 60-degree V6 and 90-degree V8).

  3. My engine choices..

    Austin A-series. The cylinder head for the overhead valve version of the A-series engine was designed by Harry Weslake. Famous for his involvement in SS (later Jaguar) engines and race engines.

    The Triumph slant four.. first appeared in 1968 in a Saab! Should have been kept in Britain, but Triumph couldn’t afford to go it alone hence the Saab deal. This would be one of two “core” engines.

    The second being the Triumph Six (itself an evolution of the Standard Motor Company’s inline-4 Standard Eight, with the addition of two cylinders and a larger displacement) which eventually grew to the 2600 unit found in the SD1. This rather than the Jaguar unit.

    The Daimler V-8 engines designed by Edward Turner and produced from 1959 to 1969 in 2.5-litre and 4.5-litre versions.

    This choice need not have eliminated the possibility of a V12 in the future, and with Turner and Weslake the accent would be on sophisticated, sporting powerplants.
    A 1 litre twink off the A-series, 1.3 to 2 litre Triumph slant fours, thus eventually including the 16 valve head. moving up-range the six in 2 litre and 2.6 litre variants and finally the eights.

    The overlap of capacities for range transitions should not be considered an error. To me it allows the filling of niche opportunities.

    The V8 was beloved by rodders and early drag racers. More sophisticated than the Rover (Buick) unit, the Turner V8 would have been the luxury lynchpin.

  4. I disagree with your analysis and conclusion. In the 1960’s Rover was a more sober and up-market brand than Triumph, whereas Triumph had a more sporting image. Rover and Triumph could have co-existed rather well, with Triumph covering the lower to mid-market (plus small sports cars), and Rover covering the more comfort-oriented mid to upper-market (plus off-road vehicles).

    The only real overlap would be the Triumph 2000 / Rover P6, and that should have been manageable (similar to the VW Passat / Audi 80). The P5 was old, but the P8 development was underway. And don’t forget the P9, which might have given Jaguar some competition.

    This view is further supported by the fact that when Leyland bought Rover they pushed the P8 up-market to compete with Mercedes and become a flagship product. It wasn’t intended to kill Triumph at this point.

    Leyland had turned Triumph from a basket-case into a success, so I would have thought there would be a natural inclination towards protecting their baby. Where I do agree is that the merger with BMC created a whole new level of duplication and complexity in the product range, which would have needed a decade to address.

  5. If you think British Leyland’s engine collection was less than rational, consider what The Rover Company was making in 1967, their last year of independence, and the first year of V8 production. They had five completely unrelated engines with cylinder capacities between 438cc and 571.5cc. All were produced at some time in their life with a cylinder capacity just under 500cc.

    Alvis 3 Litre OHV in-line six.
    Rover 2.6 litre IOE in-line six – the reduced capacity P5 engine used in Land Rover Series IIA.
    Land Rover 2.25 litre OHV in-line four. Petrol and Diesel.
    Rover P6 OHC in-line four.
    Buick OHV V8.

    Moribund by 1967, Willie Dunn’s 1948 Alvis engine was made in tiny numbers, but was probably a better unit than the IOE Rover engine – it had seven main bearings from the start and close to optimal bore/stroke dimensions. The simple in-line OHV head was meant to be a temporary expedient soon to be replaced by a twin-cam design, but Alvis’s priorities changed.

    The 1957 Land-Rover OHV engine was pretty bobbins until it got five crankshaft bearings in 1980, when it advanced to the status of mediocrity. Industry folklore claims it was copied from the Standard-Triumph / Ferguson OHV diesel engine using drawings made available to Rover when an earlier merger was under consideration. To confuse matters further, Spanish Land-Rover licensee made the OHV engine in six cylinder form, the British never took up any such initiative.

    Jaguar, by comparison were confident in putting all their eggs in the XK basket until 1971. They never needed to resort to the four cylinder XK, which had been readied for an XK100.

    Standard-Triumph, post WW2 and prospering on Ferguson traction production, devised a sensible engine strategy from 1947 with the elephantine and versatile detachable liner Vanguard OHV four (1850-2138cc ) and the 1953-on SC “miniature four” (803-1493cc). The 1960 two litre 20S six was a curiosity, developed from the SC but sharing few parts and built on different production machinery. Its dimensions were set by the need to fit the engine bay of the final series Vanguard – Standard Triumph couldn’t afford Pressed Steel’s price to re-tool the Vanguard bodyshell to accommodate a larger six.

    Under Len Lord, Austin’s early 50’s engine strategy almost mirrors the rationality and ruthlessness of VAG’s twenty years later. The extraordinary A-series arrived in 1951, the B-series was developed from an earlier OHV GM-inspired design used in the dollar-magnet A40 Devon/Dorset cars, and Morris were given the job of designing and producing the 2.6 litre C series six to replace a diverse collection of over 2 litre engines produced in uneconomically small numbers by constituents of the newly formed Austin-Nuffield empire.

    We should regret that the production strategists in the early years of British Leyland lacked Len Lord’s unsentimental pig-headedness and clarity of thought.

    1. Is it known to what degree the Alvis engine was related to the 220 hp 3.5-litre OHC inline-6 from the Alvis TA30 project and if so, whether the latter gives an indication as to how a Twin-Cam version would have performed had it been utilized by Rover-based Alvis models?

      Read Rover during development of the P6 engine also looked at a related all-alloy 4-cylinder and V6 OHC as well as the P6 OHC and unrealised inline-6 (P7) version. IMHO the P6 OHC engine should have been adopted by the Land Rover when the opportunity appeared.

      Have to wonder how a 4-cylinder XK engine would have performed in a P6-sized Jaguar (or 4-cylinder engined Daimler SP), especially if the earlier version was superseded by a 4-cylinder version of the all-alloy short-stroke 185 hp 3-litre XK6 prototype engine.

      The Morris designed C-Series was said to be based on an OHV derivative of the post-war Wolseley 4/50 and Wolseley 6/80 OHC (inline-4/6) models, plus SV Morris Oxford MO and OHC Morris Six MS. Apparently a 1100cc OHC version was looked at during the development of the Morris Minor (for an MG version), while a 1750cc OHV version was tested in a Morris Oxford during the early/mid 1950s (possibly Series II) where it clocked speeds of 100 mph on the Autobahn and possibly related to a 4-cylinder version of the upcoming 2.6 C-Series engine (not forgetting Gerald Palmers plans to develop a twin-cam C-Series 6-cylinder which could have found its way to a hypothetical 4-cylinder C-Series).

      There is also speculation that the weight of the C-Series engine stems from early post-war plans to produce larger displacement 3.25-4.0-litre inline-6 engines for Wolseley and Morris under the stillborn Imperial and Viceroy projects, which were to be derived from enlarged versions of the Wolseley 6/80 and Morris Six MS.

      While reluctance to develop a 6-cylinder B-Series was somewhat understandable (in spite of it being potentially very desirable), am disappointed the B-Series never reached 2-litres during its production life before the tooling was completely worn out (leading to the O-Series) even though a number of 2-litre prototype engines were made.

      The A-Series meanwhile was a venerable engine yet it is a shame the A-Series never reached its capacity limit of 1596cc, when Nissan managed the same thing with its evolutionary A-Series derived A / E engines nor followed the example of Renault whose C-Type engine had a similar capability and was evolved into the related E-Type and K-Type engines.

      Obviously the A-Series could have also potentially followed the example of the Standard-Triumph SC engine by forming the basis of a smaller inline-6, though not sure what benefit it would have over a 6-cylinder B-Series besides being slightly lighter and more compact with the possible exception of forming a 4/6-cylinder Austin equivalent of the Triumph PE166 (that had scope to include diesel powered variants).

    2. Great sum-up.

      There seems to be a popular myth, first written in something like Classics and Sports Car by someone of little note, that Austin copied the GM Chevrolet Stovebolt Six/Bedford lorry engine. One glance at the cam and pushrod layout would show Austin were on their own. Both A and B series, the 4.0 litre six and the Gypsy/A90/Healey 100 engines had cam and pushrods on the same side as the induction/exhaust, a pretty crazy arrangement because of the restricted porting layout it imposed. No GM inline ohv six ever did that! The camshaft and pushrods were always on the opposite side of the engine from the induction/exhaust. Who would deliberately run pushrods up through where the intake and exhaust ports were? Austin alone.

      The actual monobloc cylinder block design of engines in general was common enough by the late 1930s across the industry that there was nothing to copy, so the only thing Austin could have been inspired by is the cylinder head layout of the GM engines, and that they most certainly did NOT do. The Morris C Series is the copy of the GM layout, a pretty late one at that and weighs about as much – 600 to 700 pounds but for a litre’s less displacement.

      Ford had made the Consul and Zephyr four and six cylinder ohv engines by 1950, and they were like GM’s with the camshaft/pushrods on opposite side from the intake/exhaust, much like Volvo’s B14 from 1944. Vauxhall were standard GM layout of course.

      The Ferguson/Standard/Triumph ohv engines were laid out like GM, as were the Herald/Spitfire units. Rover stuck its head in the sand and proclaimed intake over exhaust was the winner. Surely even they must have read the SAE journals and observed what US combustion chamber design of all those early 1950s V8 engines was like. Instead, like Willys/Kaiser they had a run at being different. But then RR made a last gasp IOE six for the Princess in the ’60s after having already made the V8 for themselves for years, so who knows what wandered around in their minds. The Daimler ohv V8s were Chrysler Hemi scaled copies right down to the splayed pushrods – no wonder Sir William Lyons was not impressed! Even if the engines themselves were quite good.

      The Austin cylinder head design was unique so far as I know, unless there is some real corroborating evidence that it isn’t. Nobody else I can find tried cramming everything on one side of an inline ohv engine. The miracle is that the A Series turned in such great BSFC numbers with that restrictive layout.

    3. Was under the impression the Austin “D Series” 4/6-cylinder was a reversed engineered 2nd gen Chevrolet Straight-6, which was not unusual in the British Motor Industry given the 918cc Morris SV / Wolseley OHV was said to be a reversed engineered Ford Sidevalve (that Ford of Germany converted to OHV and enlarged to as much as 1758cc) as well as the all-alloy Reliant OHV itself being a downsized reverse-engineered Standard-Triumph SC.

      Curious to know how the Morris designed C-Series and its SV / OHC precursor was likely to be a more of reverse-engineered 2nd gen Chevrolet Straight-6 compared to the Austin unit, as was under the impression aspects of the design such as the OHC layout were inspired by Hispano Suiza. Know though that William Morris liked the ruggedness of the 1948 Holden and envisioned the Morris Oxford to be more like the former in Australia, which prompted him to abandoned the notion of Morris cars having SVs (along with Wolseley having the unreliable OHC layout) and ultimate led to what became the OHV C-Series prior to the formation of BMC.

      Also read in Graham Robson’s book of the Standard marque that the Ferguson/Standard/Triumph ohv engines owed much (or at least some elements do) to the 4-cylinder engines used in the Citroen Traction Avant and Citroen DS, with a loosely related derivative being used in the Citroen CX until the early-1990s. Interestingly Standard-Triumph themselves looked at a 2446cc dry-liner version of the OHV wet-liner engine.

      If there is any truth between the Ferguson/Standard/Triumph ohv engines owing elements or being inspired by the Citroen engines, it leads to the question of whether Standard-Triumph themselves could have attempted to develop a related V8 like Citroen did both pre-war and post-war (along with a Standard-Triumph analogue of the Twin-Cam engines used in the DS Sport prototypes) without the cost and hassle Citroen experienced in seeking to create a FWD V8 car.

    4. The A and B series engines with the pushrods where they are is an absolutely bizarre setup. I don’t know of any other engine that does that except for the Nissan copies made under licence.

      Later Nissan B-based engines went to the conventional pushrod location, apparently by moving the cam and pushrods to the other side of the engine.

      It may be that BMC was trying to use existing tooling for machining flatheads to build the new A and B series. On a flathead, the cam is on the same side as the ports. If BMC didn’t want to move the intake and exhaust to the other side of the engine, say, for packaging reasons on existing cars, they may have decided to keep the same cam location and run the pushrods up thru the port side.

      Crazy, but that’s what happens when you make “short term” cost saving compromises. But, as often happens, in this case they were locked into a deficient design for the next 30 years.

    5. Always though Austin developed the A-Series and B-Series in such a way to avoid direct copyright claims, though it is possibly they were trying to use existing tooling for machining flatheads to build the new A and B series.

      However was under the impression that Austin under Leonard Lord made a great effort at modernizing production tooling and machinery, etc along with making sure all future Austins were OHV (despite the early prototypes for what became the A-Series allegedly being SV).

  6. I certainly wouldn’t claim omniscience on the Alvis TA350 project, but I’m not aware of an in-line six. The new 3.5 litre OHC V8 was at the heart of the design. What’s known is that it was all-aluminium, and the camshafts were shaft driven by bevel gears, as Wolseley had done before, and Honda would do much later. The valves were in-line, and the state of tune relatively soft. The oddity was the Miller-inspired “tunnel”crankcase, abandoned in favour of a more conventional arrangement because it was impossible to produce in a reliable form on the tooling available. The whole unit sounds typical of Greek Al – half understood ideas forced on a design team who probably knew they were no-hopers.

    The V8 was probably a lot worse than bobbins. David Brown obtained one for examination by the Aston Martin Lagonda engineers when a merger with the Alvis was contemplated. They were far from impressed, with particular criticism directed at the appallingly weak crankshaft.

    The Alvis V8 was intended to be a modular engine, with an in-line four envisaged for a TA175. Issigonis took the drawings – as well as his design team – to BMC in 1955 and used them, including a V6 derivative – for early proposals for the ‘XC’ cars. It’s unlikely any of the engines were ever built at BMC, but who knows?

    1. The 220 hp 3.5-litre OHC prototype engine used in the TA30 project was apparently an inline-6, developed long after the TA350 yet shortly prior or during the merger of Rover and Alvis.

      The 3.5-litre TA350 project was said to have been fairly quick when tested against Jaguars despite its very underwhelming 124 hp output, though it seems Issigonis’s weakness was in both engines and gearboxes.

      Yet the post-war Flat-4s (both the 800-1100cc in the Minor prototypes and 1800 Nuffield Gutty – it is not clear whether they were one family or two related Flat-4 families) were said to be fairly decent (aside from the under-powered 800cc) and capable of up to 2500cc, along with the 9X engine with both the 9X and E-Series engines capable of being much better then they were.

  7. Bob and Angel – I too marvel at how well the A series did given the strictures and solecisms of its design. It was pretty much a clean-sheet design, whereas the Triumph SC used tooling for the Mayflower side-valve engine, but got the general arrangement right, allowing an eventual upgrade to an eight port head, something never achieved in mass-produced A series engines. The little BMC engine was probably never intended to outlast the A30/35, a typically Austin pared-down ‘minimal’ car.

    The 1975 OHC A series prototype addressed the porting issue, although the designers didn’t go as far as making it crossflow. The power and mpg figures were impressive, but the three bearing crankshaft and the capacity limitations of the block remained.

    What BMC needed was an unambitious “Super A” engine with pushrods, five main bearings eight ports and another quarter inch between the bore centres. They needed this before ADO16 was long in production. Renault managed it with the Sierra / Cleon, which built on the principles set by the Billancourt /Ventoux engine. Instead they got the E series, an odd thing which arrived eight years too late. We shouldn’t be surprised – it was the Harriman / Issigonis era and common sense had gone out of the window.

    1. Graham Robson’s book on the A-Series, Jon Pressnell’s book on the Mini and Barney Sharratt’s book on Post-War Baby Austins all mention the many various upgrades considered for the A-Series during its production life that it is unfortunately most did not see production (including 5-bearing crankshaft, limited-run hemi-heads or twin-cams, all-alloy, 7/8-port heads, entry-level version later possibly considered for Chilean market in tax special form with 803cc bore and 848cc stroke, 2nd gen South African engines with common 70.6mm bore – later used for OHC prototypes, etc). – http://mk1-performance-conversions.co.uk/experimental_dept.htm

      Would another quarter inch between the bore centres have helped an evolved 5-bearing crankshaft A-Series with 8-port heads to reach its potential upper 1380-1596cc displacement limits? Since it would have been a great asset to ADO16 against the mk1/mk2 Ford Cortina even without a Twin-Cam version, with the power limit of the existing 1275cc A-Series for everyday use said to be around 120-130 hp (and even a hypothetical 1596cc OHC would put out around 105 hp or way below the 120-130 hp limit).

      BMC were better off with an A-Series that evolved along similar lines to the Nissan A/E and Renault C-Type/E-Type/K-Type, plus aspects of the larger O/M/T-Series (etc) engines.

  8. For any who are interested, here is some documentation of the Austin “transfer line” which they used to automate the production of A and B engines.
    http://www.austinmemories.com/styled-128/index.html

    And one of those great Pathe documentaries showing the transfer machines in action

    The downside is that an assembly line like this really “grows roots” and it is hard to change anything on the engine design.

  9. Bob – sincere apologies on the TA30 / TA350 matter – blame mobile devices and advancing years.

    As due penance, I delved into the archive to find suitably tasty facts. I was aware of the project, but it was somehow overshadowed by stories of M R Dunn’s bombastic experiments with the six-carburettor version of the 1948 pushrod six designed by Chris Kingham under the direction of Dunn the Elder.

    The TA30 chronology is revealed in an essay by Mike Dunn in Kenneth Day’s “The Story of the Red Triangle”.

    “Tiring of the worrying times waiting for Ministry decisions on the next bread-and- butter contract, in 1965 the directors agreed to a takeover by Rover. Alvis had already started early design work on a new TA30 car to replace the TF21 Three Litre. It was to have a chassis-less integral construction and a dohc in-line six-cylinder 3-litre engine, which was to be readily stretchable to 3.5 litres. Interestingly the design included long studs that clamped the cylinder block between the main bearing caps and the cylinder-head. This feature appeared many years later in the Rover K Series engines. We had been influenced by the through-bolting of the Rolls-Royce K60 opposed piston multi-fuel diesel engine with its crankshafts above and below the cylinder block.

    After the takeover there was no place for this in Rover’s model plans, and instead their Vehicle Chief Engineer, Spen King, gave Alvis the job of designing and making the mechanical parts for the P6BS, a sporting three-seater coupe with a mid-mounted 3.5 litre V8 engine. Rover were to supply the body and electrical equipment for Alvis to build a prototype.”

    John Price Willams’ Alvis – The Postwar Cars” book also mentions that there had been studies of a front wheel drive arrangement with a V8 “like the Oldsmobile Toronado”.

    Alvis car production had been in crisis since April 1966 when Park Ward intimated they would cease body construction. They had been charging a third of the Alvis’s retail price per body, and by 1966 TF21 production was down to one car per week. For Alvis the only value of car production was prestige. Although they were far more expensive than the costliest Jaguar, it is hard to imagine the end of days 3-Litres made any worthwhile profits.

    The TA30 design work had started some time earlier, but it sound like a slack-time project to keep Dunn and his team occupied and interested, but with little prospect of Alvis finding the money to put such an ambitious ‘clean-sheet’ design into production. A running prototype was built, a sort of bodyless ‘flying bedstead’. It all sounds like 1955 all over again, but without Greek Al and Dr. Moulton.

    TA30 could also have been ‘takeover bait’, a demonstration of breadth of the company’s capabilities. By the mid ‘60s the Alvis board were already seeking a larger partner, recognising that the profit-making parts on the company were over dependent on one client, the British Ministry of Defence.

    The great regret is that Alvis’s passenger car business had the makings of a promising future under the stewardship of The Rover Company, but none whatever as part of British Leyland.

    1. Thanks for the information, knew the TA30 engine was either OHC or DOHC.

      It is unfortunate the TA30 inline-6 engine’s could not be carried over to an upmarket Alvis version of the Rover P6 (think Rover/Alvis GTS prototype “Gladys” meets Rover P7) or even the P8, essentially in a similar manner to how the Daimler V8 was used in a Jaguar mk2.

      Outside of the possibility of Alvis faring better under Rover were it not for BL and a non-declining Singer Motors remaining one of the UK’s top 3 carmakers (and potentially playing a major role in the TA350 project beyond being approached by Alvis to build the bodies), did Alvis historically have any other potential breakthrough moments or were they always destined to be acquired by another carmaker?

    2. I suppose the shift to monococque construction was what doomed Alvis. If they could have got by on a few thousand cars a year there might have been room for another brand whose USP was “being slightly different”. There is after all room for a multitude of slightly different jeans brands and nobody questions their existence. They are, however, affordable. An Alvis for, say, £60,000 is credible. One for £89,000 much less so. What would Alvis be today? If the model proliferationist mentality was kept in check, Alvis would make just a large touring car and convertible, priced above Rover and priced like a Jaguar XK.

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