In the build-up to 1980’s Motorfair, where the crucially important Austin Mini-Metro was to make its public debut, BL’s TV advertising was to put it mildly, of a decidedly patriotic nature. An array of doughty Metros standing sentinel on Dover’s white cliffs to repel Britain’s foreign invaders certainly got the message across, but in any conflict situation, real or imaginary, there is always collateral damage.
Because within a year of Metro’s triumphant debut, Britain’s homegrown supermini had dealt Allegro a fatal blow. Despite their differences in size and mission, such was the level of domestic enthusiasm for Britain’s ‘car to beat the world’ that by the end of 1981, Allegro sales, already in freefall, had almost halved. For the BL board, the evidence was unequivocal, and under Sir Michael Edwardes’ pragmatic leadership, it was elected to Continue reading “Running With Scissors [Part Ten]”
Allegro 3 arrived onto the market in Autumn 1979 and the BL marketing machine, amid the grinding of E-Series gears, stirred into life. “SuperVroom”, the promotional copy declared, and a nation held its breath. Or perhaps not. Amid the lexicon of advertising taglines, it was no exclamative for the ages. Indeed for most casual observers, it meant little and bore even less relation to the product being placed in front of them. But amid the siege mentality that permeated BL’s Bickenhill corporate fortress circa-1979, the marketing teams, much like their equivalents elsewhere in the organisation had to Continue reading “Vroom the Bell Tolls”
DTW recalls BL’s last stand: the 1980 Austin Metro.
Friday, 8th October 1980 was the day. The car: most commonly referred to as Metro, others ADO88 (Amalgamated Drawing Office – from when Austin and Morris tied the knot in ‘52) with only those in the know as LC8. Forty years have now passed since the car hailed as Blighty’s answer to the inflow of foreign imports was launched. We deal here with the Metro’s tentative first twelve months (amidst some background) of being.
Any story concerning British Leyland inevitably must invoke the company’s changes of name and ownership, not to mention the impossibility of not mentioning crippling strikes, poor workmanship and the demise of the domestic car industry. Peeling back (most) of the bad apple nevertheless reveals a passion for this new project to succeed.
With experienced hands Spen King and Charlie Griffin at the helm, the Metro plan got off to a better start than most. Perennially cash strapped yet astute at finding talent, Griffin stipulated strict guidelines: larger than the original Mini, smaller than the competition, do not Continue reading “Another One Bites The Dust”
The 1982 Austin Ambassador was a poorly executed attempt to update the BL Princess and was met largely with indifference in the market. DTW examines why the Ambassador was such a flop.
The old axiom that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” may be literally correct, but that does not stop people trying. The British Leyland 18-22 Series is a case in point. It was launched in February 1975 under three different BL marque names, Austin, Morris and Wolseley, each distinguished with its own bonnet and front grille treatment, but nothing else in the case of the Austin and Morris versions. The Wolseley had a light dusting of the more upmarket fixtures traditionally associated with the marque, including its rather twee illuminated grille badge.
The 18-22 Series was a quite stylish wedge-shaped four-door D-segment saloon, replacing the spacious but frumpy 1800/2200 LandCrab. It was designed under Harris Mann, Head of BL’s Longbridge design studio. Despite its profile, it did not have a hatchback, but a conventional boot. At the time it was launched, BL insisted that its research showed this was what the market wanted, but a more likely explanation is that BL didn’t want to Continue reading “Disappointment at the Ambassador’s Reception”
To many observers, the Morris Ital marks the absolute nadir of the BL era. Today we celebrate the Ital’s fortieth birthday and reappraise this much maligned car.
The story behind the Morris Ital is one of pure desperation on the part of its makers. Throughout the 1970’s BL wrestled with an outdated, incoherent, poorly built and often unreliable range of cars, terrible labour relations and an owner, the British Government, that was fast running out of patience with having to Continue reading “Definitely Not The Italian Job”
We welcome stalwart reader and commenter, Daniel O’ Callaghan to the ranks of DTW guest-writers with a latter-day review of the combatative former BL Chairman’s 1983 memoir.
This book tells the story of the author’s five years as Executive Chairman of BL (formerly British Leyland). Sir Michael Edwardes joined the 99% state owned company in November 1977 at the invitation of the Labour government of James Callaghan. The book charts the many crises faced by the company as it struggled to Continue reading “Back From The Brink – A Review”
The Acclaim did not live that long a life, but, in a quiet and unnoticed way typical of the car itself, its legacy can be considered to be enduring.
“NO OFFENCE. Reliability, something not always associated with BL products, was the most memorable characteristic of our LTT Triumph Acclaim, though the spritely Honda drivetrain also won it approval”. Title of Car’s Long Term Test article regarding an Acclaim HL which it ran over 28,000 miles in 18 months.
So, the Acclaim did achieve a reputation for reliability.
In this fourth part of our look at the Triumph Acclaim, we dwell on what at times seemed to be a bitter-sweet truth for BL; everyone knew the latest car from Cowley had a heart made in Tokyo.
“We shouldn’t call this car British. When BL took over the standard of their cars went down. There’s no pride left in their work, only pride in opening their pay packets”; a quote in an article in Autocar from its survey of 200 members of the British public at the time of the launch of the Acclaim.
The best known and remembered aspect of the Triumph Acclaim was that it was originally designed, engineered and manufactured by Honda as the Ballade. Indeed practically every written reference to the Acclaim that can be researched from that time makes early, direct reference to the fact, for example: Continue reading “Cowley’s Japanese Boy”
In the previous instalment, we outlined how BL, under the driving ambition of Michael Edwardes, got in step with Honda, to collaborate on a new model. This time, we focus on the car itself and the choice of manufacturing plant, which took on almost as much significance.
“According to Ian Forster, the men from Honda, who have been worried by problems with ‘orange peel’ in the paintwork of their own cars, are learning to minimise it by adopting BL’s techniques.” Steve Cropley, Editor, Car Magazine.
The choice of model for Project Bounty, it seems, was largely determined by Honda. Hattori Yoshi (Car, November 1980) explains, “But why did BL pick the Ballade? Well, they didn’t. The fact is that BL picked Honda as being the Japanese company with the most compatible technology and went cap in hand in search for a car – any car – to help them keep going.