Motor Sport editor, Bill Boddy, (waving) aboard a Panhard on the London-to-Brighton run 50+ years ago. I'm so out of touch that I don't know if this once-fun event takes place nowadays. Presumably suspended through the pandemic?
Build quality,when have you ever seen an accountant that knows how to use a spanner,the reasons the allegro and all of the other Leyland cars were a bit carp was thanks predominately down to the unions, as they were always on strike and in the uk ,can’t say for other countries ,the majority of industries that were run buy a union now no longer exist ,coal steel cars motor bikes ect ,the main problem with any union is as soon as you allow the workforce to dictate how much you have to pay them your doomed.doors closed game over so think upon the allegro the next time the Loony lefties ask for your vote
The real problems, I believe, started back in the early 1950's as most of the UK's manufactures either couldn't afford, or didn't want, to invest in new plant and manufacturing as there was plentiful labour at the right cost to continue in the old ways. When in the late 60's and early 70's they finally decided to invest in modern plant and techniques it was already to late. I think more than wages it was the protection of jobs that was the main problem. There is no advantage gained if a new machine is invested in that cuts the manpower needed from 10 to 2 if the unions insist 10 still do the job.
The Alegro as designed should have been a nice car but lack of investment meant that the new engine wasn't available and the car had to be redesigned to fit around existing parts.
Another problem which effected all UK built cars sales and helped increase the sales of imports was that, due to the strikes, you never knew how much rust was already sitting under the paintwork.
I highly recommend this podcast - The re-union, the collapse of British Leyland. I heard it earlier this week and it is highly relevant to this thread. They brought together top management, union reps and shop floor workers to re live the times. Illuminating.
It didn't really help the situation when Lord Stokes bought BMH, and started to impose Leyland methods and rules across the whole BL group. It meant that those of us working there who'd spent time gaining qualifications and 'learning our trade' on the car side were totally ignored when it came to promotions or re-organised departments.
The ex-Leyland Trucks guy who was put in charge of the area I worked in hadn't got a CLUE about monocoque car bodies, and kept on talking about 'chassis' when there weren't any. etc.
A very long and incredibly complex story, with no single answer.
The rot really set in, IMHO, at the end of WW2, British manufacturing infrastructure was clapped out, really needed massive investment, but the mass of the proletariat voted for the little money available to be spent elsewhere, catching up would take a very long time.
The BMC merger led to serious internal policy and politics dispute at management level which didn't help.
Longbridge and Cowley weren't the best of mates.
Inter factory transfers of parts/ bodyshells was time consuming and uneconomic.
The mini made virtually no profit, warranty claims were excessive.
Along came the 1100, totally different policy to ford, quickly became the best selling car in the UK, basically until the initial problems with the mk 3 cortina were resolved in 1972.
BMC were were forced by Tony Benn to merge with the more profitable Leyland group.
Lord Leyland Atlantean stokes wasn't particularly keen, but it all went ahead, Stokes wasn't overly impressed with the BMC maxi about to be launched, he ordered a new front end, but couldn't do much about the cable operated gearbox for a year or so.
One of ford's top designers was lured in, that's why the mini clubman front end looks like a mk 2 cortina, he proposed a limited platform approach for the group, like that which is today so very profitable andsuccessful for VAG, board said no, so off he went.
BL quickly needed a fleet car, cash wash limited so the Marina was hashed up from the parts bin, even so it sold quite well, it was only intended to be a stop gap,hence Morris minor lever arm dampers, it was meant to rival the mk2 cortina, but delays meant by the time it launched, ford had moved the class up half a size.
The Austin / Morris 1300 was still selling well, but had little time or money spent on development, it was crying out for a hatchback, but soldiered on until the allegro.
Harris Manns styling sketches were much sharper and with more rake to the design than what came out, due to the height of the e series engine.
Leyland problems of union action happened elsewhere too, but ford made cars that sold, that equalled profits, which could pay the workforce more, Leyland had much more capacity than they were building/selling.
Many exciting and class leading models were designed and prototyped, but from there the problem was twofold, little or no money to develop them, but also Leyland were very worried about taking sales off themselves, particularly between Rover and Triumph.
Concerned about American legislation the ageing sports car fizzled out, the TR 7 came as fixed head only at first.
These problems went on and on for years during sucssesive management changes and company names.
Too many marques, models, factories, too little money to develop new models, fortunes stated to be turned around with the Honda liason, 200,400,600,800, but BMW coming on board, for a very short time really, saw politics at BMW board level wash there hands of what they called the British patient, taking the forth coming jewel in the crown, the new mini and importantly that brand with it.
The rival bid to the phoenix four, think it was called Alchemy, was much more realistic, fewer cars, fewer factories to make economic sense, but that meant fewer jobs in the socialist West Midlands, not exactly a vote winner, so it didn't stand a chance.
Future cars were styled and indeed prototyped, a tie up with Walkinshaw showed great promise, until he went bankrupt, attempts for a Chinese tie up started, but the Chinese realised they could pick up the remanents of MG Rover very cheaply, rather than getting into bed with them.
A long and sorry story, many could say they are guilty in one way or another, management, workforce, Governments, no one of these is wholly to blame, though the social engineering of the late fifties and early sixties to force manufacturers to expand into areas of high unemployment didn't help either.
Rootes to Linwood, to justify investment in the new Scottish steel strip Mills, Ford, Vauxhall and Leyland ended up in Liverpool, Leyland trucks and tractors to Bathgate, all good intent, but getting Ship builders and Dockers to adapt to the shift work and monotomy of building cars was always a tall order.
There's a great online site covering prototypes and models development, called aro online, thoroughly recommended.
I always think BL/Rover could have survived if the management were ruthless and reduced the number of brands, factories and models to concentrate on maybe 2 car brands with a reasonable range of models and Leyland trucks. If they started this practice before the rot/rust set in this may have saved the company. In a small market like the UK there is no advantage in competing against yourself with identical products under different brands with rival dealer networks.
The Rover Tomcat was a great looking car and showed what Rover could do.
It wasn't only the Brits that had this type of problem though. Fiat built the Lada plant and the Italian motor industry was paid back with fake Russian steel, complete with inclusions which caused the steel sheet to self destruct even when properly painted. This gave a reputation to Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia that took decades to shake off.
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