The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part One)

Did a brilliant but uncompromising engineer sow the seeds of BMC’s downfall?

Sir Alec Issigonis with the result of the XC9000 programme. (c) BMIHT

Sir Alec Issigonis was undoubtedly a brilliant and visionary engineer. He was also, allegedly, imperious and autocratic, and highly intolerant of what he perceived to be interference or compromise. Latterly, it has been suggested that BMC’s failure to manage Issigonis effectively and channel his engineering talents to produce motor vehicles that were both desirable and profitable was a significant factor in the company’s ultimate commercial failure. This is the hypothesis we will examine in this series of articles.

Issigonis was born in 1906 in the Greek port city of Smyrna, (now called Izmir and part of Turkey). Greek by birth, he also enjoyed British citizenship because of his father’s naturalization while studying in London in the closing years of the 19th Century. Following his father’s death, Issigonis and his mother moved to London in 1923, where he studied engineering. He initially worked as an engineer at Humber, in his spare time competing in motorsport. His first racing car was a supercharged Austin 7 Ulster with a heavily modified front suspension of his own design.

Issigonis’ success in racing brought him to the attention of the Austin Motor Company, and he was invited to join its engineering team. There, he designed and built the so-called Lightweight Special, an elegant and advanced monoposto which was based on a stressed aluminium and plywood monocoque and all-round independent suspension, using rubber springs. By 1936, when it was completed and ready to race, Issigonis had already moved on to Morris Motors, but Austin still agreed to supply him with a works specification supercharged engine and drivetrain. The Lightweight Special not only competed successfully at hill-climbs and speed trials, but also acted as a potent calling card for Issigonis’ conceptual talents.

Issigonis and George Dowson’s Lightweight Special. (c) Autocar

Issigonis’ most significant work for Morris, however, would be the 1948 Morris Minor. Conceived in 1941, it was developed during the war years by a small team headed by Issigonis under the code name Mosquito. It is alleged that William Morris (Lord Nuffield) who was then chairman of the company, was not made aware of the project because it was believed he would frown at the distraction from the company’s war work and disapprove of Issigonis’ radical design.

The initial Mosquito design was indeed radical, with independent suspension all round and a new flat-four water-cooled engine. When the design was finally revealed to Morris, he hated it and was appalled by the potential cost of tooling up for an all-new clean-sheet design that shared nothing with any existing model.

Savings had to be found to make the project commercially viable. The flat-four engine was discarded in favour of an existing in-line side-valve unit from the Morris Eight. The independent rear suspension was replaced with a live axle on leaf springs. Issigonis railed against these compromises and struck back by insisting at a very late stage in the development process that the car be widened by 4” (100mm) to make it more spacious and modern looking.

1948 Morris Minor. (c) autoexpress

Despite (or possibly because of) the compromises, the Minor went on to be a great commercial success for the company and over 1.6 million units were sold before production finally ceased in 1971.

In a 1979 interview published in Vogue magazine, Issigonis rather pretentiously described the Minor’s styling as a product of his “American period“. He also identified it as the best of all his designs, which is surprising when one remembers just how compromised it was by the cost-saving changes ordered by Morris. Rather bizarrely, Issigonis claimed that, after the merger that formed BMC, the Austin people did everything they could to kill the Minor! The reality was that the Minor was given the new Austin A-series engine from the A30, which undoubtedly helped prolong its life.

Notwithstanding the Minor’s success, Morris and Issigonis continued to clash over the latter’s engineering radicalism and in 1952, following the merger of Austin and Morris to form BMC, Issigonis accepted an offer to join Alvis.

Predominantly a producer of military vehicles, Alvis’ passenger car business was small and focused upon upmarket low-volume sporting saloons. Typically, no more than around 500 cars would be manufactured annually. As ‘Engineer in Charge’ Issigonis again set out to produce a clean-sheet design for his new employer that would utilise nothing from the company’s existing models.

The new car, codenamed TA350, would be powered by a new all-aluminium 3.5 litre V8 engine and have fully independent interconnected suspension, designed in conjunction with Alex Moulton, and inboard disc brakes. The transmission encompassed two gearboxes and clutches, a conventionally mounted Smiths Selectdrive unit behind the engine and a rear-mounted two-speed transaxle gearbox built by Alvis. Issigonis also proposed a smaller engined variant, the TA175, powered by a 1.75 litre V4. The TA was intended to lead to a major ten-fold increase in production volumes for the company.

As the work progressed, it became increasingly clear that the ambitious and complex design Issigonis was proposing was far beyond the limited resources of Alvis’ car division to productionise, manufacture and sell profitably. A single prototype was built, a rather undistinguished looking car that bore a resemblance to the contemporary MG Magnette, but development was halted and Issigonis was let go. Realistically, the TA350 as proposed is likely to have bankrupted Alvis – certainly, any carmaker who wished to put it into production would have required huge resources and an insatiable appetite for red ink.

Issigonis returned to BMC in 1955, recruited by Chairman Leonard Lord explicitly to design a new range of cars, codenamed XC/9000. XC/9001 was to be a large family car, XC/9002 a medium-sized car and XC/9003 a small town car. Priority was initially given to the large saloon, but the 1956 Suez Crisis and resultant petrol rationing caused a switch in focus to the smallest model. It was given a new development code ADO15, the letters standing for BMC’s Amalgamated Drawing Office.

XC 9001 prototype. (c) AROnline

Issigonis devised an ingenious and very compact powertrain with a transverse engine, below which was the gearbox within its sump and sharing the same oil. Even the radiator was mounted sideways to the right of the engine to save space. Issigonis had specified a maximum length of 10’ (3,048mm) and sketched out a rudimentary two-box bodyshell, which went into production largely as drawn. Launched in August 1959 as the Austin 7 and Morris Mini Minor, it soon became known simply as the Mini.

Sales of the Mini actually started rather slowly as people came to terms with its revolutionary design, but soon accelerated. On the back of its success, Issigonis was promoted to the position of BMC Technical Director in 1961, but would retain overall responsibility for the upcoming XC projects.

This investigation continues in Part Two.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

37 thoughts on “The Man Who Broke BMC? (Part One)”

  1. Good morning Daniel. This promises to be another masterpiece; thank you very much. It has always struck me that Mr Issigonis was far too clever for his own good and that the undoubted brilliance of his concepts were always let down by almost willful silliness. Such as the unforgivably uncomfortable driving position of the Mini, described at the time as being akin to balancing a soup-plate on your knee. Certainly they gave me instant back-ache (and I was only a teenager at the time!).

    The Alvis TA350 does indeed bear more than a passing resemblance to Mr Palmer’s Magnette, but lacks the Palmer panache. I look forward to Part Two.

    1. Good morning JTC, and thanks for your kind words. Eóin and I have put a lot of work into this series, so we hope it will be well received. There will be a number of related pieces on BMC and BL cars running concurrently, so lots to look forward to. Stay tuned to DTW!

    2. Hear, hear – I’m looking forward to it, too.

      Please publish a bibliography at the end, Daniel & Eóin.

      I read Issigonis’s official biography some time ago and thought it was pretty well done. From what I recall from that book, Issigonis claimed that his favourite design was the 1800 range, but I bet his answer to that question was inconsistent – it’s a very difficult question to answer. By the way, I think Issigonis’s ‘American period’ comment was very tongue-in-cheek.

    3. Hi Charles, I think you’re right: he was probably trying to impress Vogue’s artsy and fashionista readership. Regarding the 1800, it was the favourite of his BMC designs. I won’t say more than that for now as I don’t want to scoop our own pieces!

    4. As far as I remember the Mini’s uncomfortable driving position was deliberately awful because Alec Issigonis was convinced that back-ache kept the driver from falling asleep.

    5. Ah- thanks, Daniel. I’ll be careful how I comment, as I don’t want to pre-empt your articles and spoil everyone’s enjoyment.

    6. It’s entirely possible Alec did plant his tongue in his cheek with a lot of his pronouncements, but I can’t help but feel that while they may have been partly in jest, there was a good deal of earnestness there too – another of his half in jest comments alluded to him being ‘the last of the Bugattis’. That, dear boy is surely for others to adjudge.

      Regarding the driving position on the ADO cars, Issi was a packaging zealot, and nothing could get in the way of him attaining the absolute maximum passenger space within a given volume. Even at the expense of comfort (keeps you alert, my dear) or luggage space for that matter.

    7. I can’t help wondering how many people around my age have chronic back problems thanks to driving Issigonis’ designs (although I cannot blame my dodgy back on dear Alec).

  2. Very much enjoyed this piece, Daniel, thank you.

    As a child I always regarded our neighbour’s Morris Minor as looking very old-fashioned compared to my Dad’s Beetle. Clearly one is never too young to be a snob [sniff]!

    Can you tell me please why the TA350 needed two gearboxes and clutches?

    Looking forward to the rest of this fascinating series. Thank you!

    1. Hi vwmeister. Thanks for your kind words and glad you’ve enjoyed the piece. Plenty more good stuff on the way regarding BMC/BL and its many trials and tribulations.

      Regarding the Elvis TA350, I would guess that the two-speed transaxle rear gearbox offered low or high ratio options, similar to those one used to find on traditional 4WD vehicles. This would have given the car, effectively, eight forward speeds (assuming the main gearbox was a four-speed unit). Quite why a road car with s 3.5 litre V8 engine would need this is beyond me, however.

      Of course, I may be talking through my ‘tailpipes’ in saying the above but if so, doubtless Dave or Bob will come to the rescue with a properly technical explanation.

    2. With Ales Moulton being an Aurelia owner a gearbox under the rear seat of the TA350 could be expected.
      The Alvis used a Smiths Selectadrive electromagnetic clutch at the engine, driving propshaft running at engine speed to a Laycock DeNormanville overdrive unit under the front seats and a second propshaft running at reduced speed to a two speed gearbox at the rear which had a twin plate standard clutch. In all, the TA350 had four gears and a possiblity to provide automatic operation due to its Smiths clutch up front and the planetary gear set of the overdrive. (The whole thing somehow reminds me of the original Smart which also had a three speed primary gearbox combined with a two speed secondary one, resulting in the awfully slow and clunky gearchanges so typical of a Smart.)

  3. The original Minor could have probably still been a success if not more so had it at least received the Wolseley Eight OHV engine if not bot the engine and the all-independent suspension, the all-independent would have potentially benefited BMC’s later RWD cars. While the Wolseley Eight OHV was a pre-war design and essentially an OHV conversion of the Morris SV that itself was allegedly copied from the Ford Sidevlave for the Morris Eight, one only needs to look at Ford Germany’s distantly related OHV conversion of the Ford Sidevalve engine that was produced until 1964 in the Taunus P3 as well as tuning of the related Morris SV by Alta to see the engine was capable of much more (if not able to directly replace the A-Series).

    In some respects it seems the dream of Alec Issigonis was to design a fully clean sheet design down to the engine to cement his place in history rather then building upon the designs he already developed, that is despite his record of developing engines being mixed at best* and in the case of the 124 hp Alvis TA350 V8 engine’s flaws draws some comparison with W. O. Bentley designed Lagonda V12 (from reading Karl Ludvigsen’s Bentley’s Great Eight).

    *) It is not clear whether the Issigonis designed Nuffield Flat-Fours were one design ranging from 800-2500cc or two designs to be used in the Minor (in 800-1100cc) as well as the Oxford (1300-1500cc IIRC), MS, unbuilt Imperial/Viceroy (2500cc IIRC) and Nuffield Gutty (1800-2500cc IIRC), etc. Issigonis’s other engine projects include the Alvis V4 / V8 and DX 4/6-cylinder for the 9X/10X.

    Agreed that Issigonis needed to be kept on a tighter leash to better channel his engineering talents to produce desirable and profitable vehicles, at the same time it is the fault of BMC’s management for misusing their experimental department and allowing Issigonis to run wild on other projects such as the revised C-Series, MGC and other projects (though it is possible Harriman was using Issigonis to take the blame for his own incompetence).

    Someone should have seen the Innocenti A40 Combinata’s hatchback layout as something very useful for Issigonis’s front-wheel drive cars, while the large engine bays of the 1100/1300 and 1800/2200 could have easily accepted an end-on gearbox layout that Issigonis himself looked at with an experimental front-wheel drive Morris Minor prototype prior to his move at Alvis.

    Would like to believe the Alvis TA175 V4 and TA350 V8 projects were salvageable, obviously it was beyond Alvis’s capability to bring into to production yet under Alvis had some involvement with Singer Motors before the latter was acquired by Rootes. Given Singer Motors was once the UK’s 3rd largest carmaker in the pre-war era before both Austin and Morris, have always wondered if there was a way for them to avoid their decline to the point where an independent Singer would have been more willing to take a gamble on some version of the TA175 and TA350.

  4. Full marks, Daniel. Anything connected with “Greek Al” is worthy of deeper inspection. Can you elude to how many parts this episode contains?

    1. Hi Andrew. Three recording Issigonis’ history with BMC/BL, then a fourth with our conclusions.

  5. Daniel, I salute you for taking on this task, and look forward to the continuing series and the lively debate. I’ll resist contributing my opinions for the moment.

    However on a factual matter, according to various published accounts, the Alvis TA350’s drivetrain comprised a Smiths Selectadrive electromagnetic clutch in a bellhousing on the rear of the engine, which drove a primary propshaft running at engine speed to a proprietary two-ratio Laycock overdrive unit under front seats. Drive continued through a second propshaft to an Alvis-manufactured two-speed transaxle, thereby giving a range of four speeds and clutchless operation.

    (Those familiar with the BMW 503-507 may note a similarity, although in the case of the ‘Baroque Angel’ the central gearbox was a conventional four speed manual. Something similar was also proposed by Issigonis for XC9001)

    What I’ve described thus far was the principle. As the drivetrain had no remotely similar precedent, Issigonis’ team developed it by a process of trial and error, starting with the overdrive first mounted at the rear in unit with the transaxle, then relocated below the front seats, with propeller shafts to the engine and transaxle. At some stage of the development process the electromagnetic Selectadrive unit was replaced by a conventional two-plate clutch.

    As an aside, in the early design stage Greek Al proposed a transaxle in unit with a live axle, as he believed that the fashionable fixation with unsprung weight was a load of hooey. I’d like to think Old Marlburian Al put him right on that matter.

    Jonathan Wood’s Issigonis biography (the best one, though not the “official” one) mentions a radical change not referred to in other accounts. A problem arose with the bronze-bushed drive pinion assembly which could be worn out in a night’s testing. Wood quotes Alvis’s chief of aero-engine design, Arthur Varney who said: “The solution to the problem, I believe was to use a ZF gearbox mounted in the normal position, and to build a new pinion assembly in the gearbox casing. This used the normal Timken tapered roller bearing to take care of the thrust and radial loads.”

    The ZF gearbox was a conventional, probably five speed, general-purpose manual. The timeline in Wood’s biography suggests that the change was made by the time the prototype was registered for the road in February 1955.

    The prototype photograph shows the floor mounted overdrive selector lever to the right of the driver’s seat, and a small panel with a vertical T-bar on to the far right of the dashboard (curiously similar in location and appearance to the automatic BMC 1800’s selector). There is a lever in the centre of the floor, which could be the conventional gear selector. The near-flat floor suggests that if the ZF gearbox was fitted, the engine was mounted well forward, in the manner of the Minor.

    1. My immediate thought Robertas was that the arrangement as proposed for the Alvis was an attempt to do an automatic transmission (or a semblance of one) on the cheap – or to be fair, to do it without having to purchase one from the US – which was probably rather expensive at the time. It was also typical of Issigonis – why do something straightforward when you could do something complex instead?

      I may have read something in the past which backs this up, but I have always harboured a suspicion that Alec didn’t have much time for manual transmissions – certainly, the ones he was responsible for were rather unpleasant devices, in my experience, which does suggest a certain element of suggestion on his part.

    2. Another observation, as regards the appearance of the proposed XC 9001 above. The fact that the ‘Issigonis style‘ appeared to be set in aspic circa 1956 is quite telling, even down to ‘those doors‘. This approach was appropriate for the Mini, which probably benefited from this pared back approach, but beyond that, Alec should never have been allowed inside a styling studio. In this regard at least, he really was a one-note author.

  6. Eóin – this has to be seen in context. Those able to afford new ‘premium’ cars in 1950s Britain were often middle-aged new drivers, who found a clutch and gears daunting. Refer also to the Rover Company’s “Roverdrive” offered on the P4 which is similar in concept to the TA350’s driveline.

    Even at entry level the Newton and Bennett ‘Newtondrive semi-automatic transmission was a popular option on the Ford 100E, and on the Standard 8/10, rebranded as “Standrive”. Rootes offered the Borg and Beck Manumatic, an inchoate DCT, later replaced by the Smiths Easidrive, an automated manual with an electromagnetic clutch.

    Trouble was all of them were a bit bobbins, and the Letchworth-built Borg-Warner 35 was a boon and blessing when it arrived in 1960.

    I wouldn’t be too hard on Greek Al for the unpleasantness of his cars’ manual transmissions. The businesses which went on to form BMC, BMH, and BLMC were all spectacularly incompetent in this matter. I learned to drive with an ADO16 – the driveline is just a rite of passage.

    That said, the AP four speed gearboxes were amazingly prescient, and the ADO17’s split Borg Warner 35 is a marvellous piece of pragmatic – mostly B-W – engineering, so good that GM copied it almost unchanged for the 1980 X-car.

    1. Thank you, Bob, Dave and Robertas for the additional technical information, all of which is a great complement to the piece. Some of the contributions I had to read more than once to get my head around the technical detail, but that’s the beauty of DTW having such a knowledgeable and well informed commentariat.

  7. Many thanks to all for the wealth of technical information in your replies to my question. I am amazed at the complexity of the design and engineering skills of Issigonis and look forward to reading more.

  8. Excellent, I’m looking forward to this series, not least for the comments which have already been great. Eg I didn’t know much about the TA350.

    Am I mistaken, though, in thinking that observations about Issigonis needing adult supervision to rein in his design eccentricities were being made at the time?

    Also, despite the A30 engine going into the Minor, that doesn’t preclude an Austin faction trying to kill the car.

    1. Hi John H. Glad you’re enjoying this series. The comments are, as always on DTW, well informed, and very welcome. Part Two is out tomorrow, so stay tuned.

      Regarding the Minor, I don’t doubt there were factions within BMC and one may well have had it in for the Minor but, given its longevity, their efforts to kill it must have been pretty feeble! Thank goodness it continued to sell for so long. BMC would have been in an even poorer place financially if the ‘killers’ had got their way.

    2. Presumably those trying to kill the Minor would have been pushing the A35 instead, no need to say more?

  9. I would love to know more about why Issigonis thought that Austin people were trying to kill off the Minor. I know he hated it when they raised the position of the headlights (I’m with him on that), but that was done to comply with US regulations and thus help sales.

    Anyone trying to promote the A30 / A35 over the Minor would have had difficulties, on the basis that the Minor massively outsold the A30 / A35. That said, the Austin and Morris cultures were very different and there would have been tensions.

    Issigonis was prone to exaggeration and inconsistency, from time to time – when the Mini first came out, he described it as a “charwoman’s car”. When it subsequently won the Monte Carlo rally, Issigonis said the victory was a retort to all those who had described it as a chairwoman’s car. Ahem. That’s not to criticize Issigonis, it merely reflects his fame, and the fact that so much of what he said and did was recorded and able to be analyzed, later.

    1. Could a “charwoman” afford to spend £700 on a new car back then? Sounds rather unlikely to me.

    2. Reading these interesting articles about Issigonis and BMC I noticed that, generally speaking, since then the opinions about Issigonis always present a two-fold approach, negative and positive.
      I am not in a position to delve further in this argument, but this charwoman thing appears to me to be a typical subject used to attack someone by using deformations of speeches or interviews.
      It works as follows: one takes out some words out of context, giving them a different meaning, and uses them to show something negative, as in this case inconsistency.
      I can’t believe that someone who fathered an important project like the Mini could dismiss his very product with those words: so I think that in that time some journalist took some words from some Issigonis’ interview, like “it will be a car for everyone, also a charwoman” or something similar, in order to use it as a negative remark against him.
      This would explain the subsequent Montecarlo-related answer.

    3. Thanks, anastasio. I think you’re right – the point I was trying to make was that as with the remark about the Mini, his comment about the Minor may have been a joke or throwaway remark, which got jumped upon.

    4. The factionalism of the Austin and Nuffield arms of BMC was a result of the two rival entities merging in 1952. Both came with their own set of orthodoxies and under the leadership of Leonard Lord, who seemingly bore a grudge against his former employer, was determined that Austin would dominate proceedings. This meant that no meaningful attempt was made to integrate the businesses with Austin generally getting the best of what resources were available and its products being favoured over those of Morris Motors at Cowley. Given therefore that the Minor was a legacy car from before the merger, it would not have been viewed with much affection at Longbridge – the fact that it was palpably more advanced than Austin’s A30/35 probably only exacerbated this NIH feeling. Austin’s response was 1958’s A40 with its elegant Pininfarina body, clothing what was essentially an enlarged A35.

      A more pragmatic solution (had BMC been managed along less partisan lines) would have been to instead to pool the best aspects of both cars – rebodying the Minor along similar lines, which would have given BMC a better, more future-proofed product, which could have then theoretically been produced in a wider variety of bodystyles and engine sizes. As it was, the A40 ( a decent car, but the Minor was better) lived a comparatively short life – especially when compared to Alec’s 1948 creation.

      It’s likely that rather than trying to stop the Minor (although that is entirely possible), the efforts at Longbridge were probably aimed at neutralising its prospects, in favour of the A40.

      The failure to integrate both businesses and have them work together in common cause must be viewed as Leonard Lord’s greatest failing as a leader. It would have highly significant consequences for BMC later.

    5. Thanks, Eóin – all true. It’s interesting that they (sort of) chickened out of re-bodying the Minor, instead just adding the Wolseley 1500 / Riley 1.5, in the UK, at least. I guess the Minor was just selling too well. The same thing happened with ADO16 – an addition, not a replacement.

    6. Pininfarina styling as on the Austin A40 Farina combined with an updated version of the Morris Minor platform (carrying over the best bits of Austin) under the Morris Farina name to replace both the Austin A35 as well as the Morris Minor (and possibly the Riley/Wolseley 1500/etc), could have worked very well with the Minor platform allowing for a 4/5-door variant – The former being a 3-box like the Peugeot 403 and the latter being similar to the 2/3-door 2-box A40 Farina yet with a similar rear to the Peugeot 404 Estate .

      At the same time have always wondered if the Ponton styling of the Volvo Amazon would have also worked for a suitable Minor and A35 replacement, or possibly similar to the 1955 Volvo Wood Rocket proposal below.

      https://www.autopuzzles.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=eu3mu20rmhl8quvs1rt68jbcs7&action=dlattach;topic=30639.0;attach=107390;image

      As for the Farina B and Farina C model’s Pininfarina styling, would say out of both the Austin A110 Westminster at the front and a developed version of the Vanden Plas Princess R at the rear without the tailfins would have been a good starting point for updated largely Nuffield derived yet largely Austin-engined Morris badged versions of the Farina B and Farina C with possible elements of the Lancia Florida II and Peugeot 404 Coupe / Cabriolet.

      The rationale for badging the mainstream versions of the Farina cars as Morris rather than Austin would be due to an earlier BL-like approach at differentiating Morris and Austin when it actually matter (instead of under BL from the beginning of the 70s), with the latter making use of the then upcoming FWD cars (that would have ideally been hatchbacks from the outset amongst other things).

    7. Bob: you could drive yourself mad with counterfactuals – heaven knows, I already have. One thing I am convinced of, is that had Len Lord been more of a professional and less of an autocrat, the two marque identities would have been been subsumed under an an Austin-Morris nameplate. This would have solved a lot of problems, and allowed for a similar rationalisation amid the other nameplates. Why Wolseley and Vanden Plas? Riley and MG? These brands were competing against one another. ultimately, if one wants to get to the root of the whole BL shipwreck, we must go back to the 1952 merger of Austin and Morris. Everything flows from this.

    8. The more one looks into the history of BMC, BL and what followed, the more tragic it becomes. So much potential, fatally undermined by petty enmities, internecine warfare arrogance, incompetence and plain old stupidity. The only surprise is that it limped as long as it did, and even enjoyed periods of stability and relative success.

    9. Eóin Doyle – Do agree on a form of merger or more precisely a significantly degree of commonization between Austin and Morris in many respects, together with Wolseley and Riley being discontinued by the mid to late 1950s on the basis of low volumes unlike the brand recognition MG had with Vanden Plas having the potential to become much more (if not quite being the named luxury marque BMC were said to be looking for).

      Of the view a common Austin-Morris identity would have potentially forced BMC to commit to either FWD or RWD, both of which have their downsides whereas a differentiated (in layout / bodystyle / etc) yet commonized (in mechanicals / componentry / etc) Austin and Morris would have allowed the company to take a similar approach to Fiat regarding both Fiat and Autobianchi (albeit one that unlike Fiat with Autobianchi is more committed to FWD) until the buying public comes to accept transverse-engined FWD cars from the 1970s and beyond.

      Would argue some of the problems that afflicted BMC upon its formation in 1952, was Lord Nuffield’s unwillingness to follow a similar path of investment and modernization as was pursued by his rival Leonard Lord at Austin prior to WW2 (though Lord Nuffield’s parsimoniousness was said to be influenced by the bad example of Andre Citroen’s actions in the interwar period). Along with his effective sabotage of the Morris Minor that succeeded despite his best efforts as well as Lord Nuffield and the Morris board’s treatment of Miles Thomas who attempted a similar path of investment and modernization within the company from the Minor to the Sheerline/Princess rivalling Imperial/Viceroy project before he resigned from his position.

      Had Morris embraced Miles Thomas’s plans or even approved it prior to WW2, it would have placed Morris in more of an equal instead of a weaker position in the event a merger with Austin to form BMC still occurs.

  10. Fascinating history
    I think all the best artists and technicians were real characters : people like Colin Chapman or ken Richardson
    Not forgetting the ace
    Captain Marendaz who claimed fame with Alvis and certainly used Alvis engines in his first cars
    On on other thème the mg magnette was definitely designed with the Lancia b20
    As reference. Andrew

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.