By on April 30, 2015

a genuine british lawn ornament

We go down memory lane this morning and look at some of the great cars British Leyland didn’t build.

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16 Comments on “While You Were Sleeping: The Unbuilt Beauties of British Leyland...”

  • avatar

    I assumed with “The Unbuilt Beauties of British Leyland” you were referring to the care they put into the assembly of their cars in general.

    • 0 avatar

      I assumed he meant BL cars like the one in the picture that have been left for dead and are slowly rotting into the ground; like urban exploration photography of abandoned industrial sites and boat and steam locomotive graveyards.

      That picture makes me sad. I loved the looks of the cars of this era; their clean and simple lines are such a contrast to the garish chrome laden cars of the 1970s and the flame surfaced/bangle butt/angry fish cars of today. I remember picking up a glossy copy of Car on heavy paper that had one of these on the cover, and how excited they were about about the Sterling. Too bad it turned out like it did. I also have a Matchbox Sterling in my diecast collection; the only Audi 5000s I could find in 1/64 scale is a hard-to-find wagon.

  • avatar

    Fallout of the British class system. America has different issues.

  • avatar

    If you want to see more of British Leyland, Rover, Austin and all their concept cars, plus mind-numbing detail on all models ever made, visit Austin Rover Online. The Autocar article is by comparison mere piffle.

    You will also discover that the reason for the demise of the British Empire is that the natives forgot how to construct or spell sentences in English, their native tongue.

    The average TTAC commenter has no clue how to use it’s or its, and gets it wrong almost 100% of the time as does Mr. Schreiber recently. Pluralization is also difficult when it should be easy. The plural of Honda is not Honda’s but Hondas, for example, no apostrophe required. When in doubt omit.

    However, TTAC commenters ARE capable of sentence construction, while the Brits fumble at that!

    See where this “we are unable to spell” trend first started in none other than Blighty by visiting aronline. At least they don’t sugarcoat the disaster that was BL, BMC, BLMC or whatever it was at any given time.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Considering the rise and fall of Sturmey-Archer, which sat on several 4- and 5-speed hub designs for decades all the while declaring “3’s good enough for everybody,” I’m certain there was a lot of “we know what’s good for you” in BL’s management of the time as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Post-war, & possibly earlier, Britain went full blown socialist. The entire concept behind socialism is “we know what’s good for you.”

      And if you have any doubts whatsoever about where the good old USA is heading, take a gander at just about any law/regulation from any level of government, particularly the Federal. [e.g. If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Oops, sorry, we know what the best policy must contain, so no personal choice allowed.]

      And I am sure the B & B here are completely aware of the tremendous effect of Federal regulations on the cars we buy; each effect (safety, emissions, mileage, etc.) for our own good, dontcha know.

    • 0 avatar

      I find you comment interesting, having just restored a 1969 Raleigh Sprite with the S-5 hub. First time I’ve messed with one of those hubs since 1973.

      It’s an odd design in operation. Two stick control, the right side is the usual 3-speed hub that just about every American child knew about. The left stick, with pulled back, engaged underdrive (if the right side was in first) or overdrive (if the right side was in third). Second gear had no affect on the left stick.

      While the right side was very smooth operating, the left side could be best describe as “clunky”. You’d have to engage with deliberation, and expect a momentary delay before the gear change kicked in. And thoughts of discovering that the hill you were climbing in first was steeper than you though, no problem I’ll just shift into underdrive are strictly dreaming. You want underdrive, you shift before starting the climb, and expect a couple of turns of the crank before it clicks in. Assuming you don’t get false neutral instead.

      No wonder Raleigh went to derailleurs on the 1970 Sprite.

      Sturmey Archer 4-speed hubs (the three speed ratios, plus an underdrive) worked well, but the mechanism was nowhere near as strong as the classic AW 3-speed. Then again, in all fairness, no internally geared hub was as good as the AW, no matter what the manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Oh geez, I remember that dual pull model now; I think my test experiences in the 60s and 70s were so unpleasant I excised the memory of that model. I recall in Hadland’s S-A Story a cover of several other patents involving single-pull 5 speed drives that weren’t introduced which should have been far more popular for general use, although that memory may be defective since I haven’t read a copy of the book in over 20 years.

        The AW seems to be the one to study when another hub maker wants to create another 3 speed unit; the no-name clones of that model seem countless.

        I recall the warm reception Shimano’s Nexus series enjoyed when their 7 speed units were introduced in the 90s, though their dirty little secret (no lockup gear on odd numbered hubs) was not yet widely known.

        I haven’t put enough miles on the Rohloff to fully deburr the internals yet, though this summer’s pedal party rides should go a long way towards that goal. The Schlumpf drive is still as easy as kicking your heels together, and though I prefer the look of the high speed (2.5:1) model with its integrated chain guard it would have created a ridiculously tall upper gear range, while the 1.6:1 model offers a nice jump without becoming too tall in the end.

        I’m still annoyed there aren’t any Gates belts available in lengths compatible with Linear’s LWB recumbents; with an open rear yoke, there’s no triangle to chop open for fitment.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve always dreamed of owning a Rohloff – but considering the cost of one of those new is about double what it cost me to restore my best road bikes (a pair of mid-80’s Rossin’s, with a third frame waiting its turn) has stopped me cold. And I’ve yet to see a used Rohloff offered.

          And the secret for making an AW the perfect everyday hub is a Shimano 23 tooth sprocket. S-A doesn’t make one that big, and it drops 3rd gear to 2nd, 2nd gear to 1st, and makes the new first gear really good for hill climbing.

  • avatar

    The fact that Rover was capable of screwing up its version of the Acura/Honda Legend tells you all that you need to know about British Leyland.

    • 0 avatar

      Lol, this.

      We’ll take a Legend, compromise the suspension design, and add less reliable electrics, and build it with little care.

      But it’s got more wood panel!

      • 0 avatar

        This is worth a read.

      • 0 avatar

        Although there were some mechanical and electrical differences between the British Leyland (or Austin Rover, or whatever they were calling themselves) and Honda models, Rover’s plight was first and foremost caused by poor or nonexistent build quality, which PrincipalDan humorously mentioned…to the point that even though the UK-market Hondas were assembled in the Cowley facility alongside the Rover version, Honda had its units re-routed to its own Swindon facility, where build defects were rectified before they were sent out to dealers. That also pretty much killed the short-lived Sterling brand here in the States, for whose unreliability no excuse could be made.

  • avatar

    If you were to use a venn diagram to represent cars BL built and great cars, the circles wouldn’t overlap.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think any vehicle produced by Leyland was an “unbuilt beauty”.

    Leyland had potential. This potential was the fact the maybe one day it could of produced a reliable vehicle.

    Back in the 70s Leyland Australia used to manufacture the Leyland P76. This was powered by the alloy 4.4 V8. The vehicle could of been great.

    Because Leyland was involved it was a flop.

  • avatar

    Leyland did well with large trucks/ buses and owned Standard/ Triumph and Rover.

    They were arm wrestled into the merger with BMC by then UK government, when they saw the BMC numbers and forecasts up close they wanted to back out of the deal.

    It was supposed to be a merger of equals but most of the BMC management were pushed aside as part of the agreement with Leyland.

    BMC was in terrible shape, and was heading for bankruptcy. Morris and Austin had merged 15 years earlier but minimal consolidation had occurred with factories. Multiple dealers with badge engineered Austin, Morris, Riley, MG, Wolseley models.

    The money that Leyland required for investment on new models was squandered on keeping the BMC part of the business afloat.

    Leyland should have stayed independent, or looked for a better suitor.

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