The pathetic but True story of British Leyland.

Lord  Banks By Lord Banks, 23rd Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2jl5wggg/
Posted in Wikinut>Money>Travel & Transport

I explain the reasons for British Leylands demise as a major motor vehicle manufacturer.

The pathetic story of British Leyland

The pathetic true story of British Leyland and its demise.


British Leyland (Later called MG-Rover) was a conglomeration of some of the best known names in British car manufacturing, such as M.G.(Morris Garages) and Rover with Austin and Riley and Austin Healy and lets not forget Triumph and Jaguar and many more.

With such a pedigree of manufacturers under one roof how could this force of manufacturing houses fail? Well quite easily actually. I have studied this subject with interest as I was around during and at the end of British Leyland. I have had the dubious honour of working on many of British Leyland’s efforts at production cars.

British Leyland suffered from start to finish with Union problems. Their strikes in the 1970s were staggering and world famous. It appeared from an outsiders point of view that the production line workers were inherently lazy! I’m sure many of you will disagree with me passionately but this is my opinion.

British Leyland cont,

In a recent documentary one key union official was reported to have said “We used to call a strike over virtually nothing in the 1970s” he further went on to say “We halted production one day over 5 minutes being knocked off our courtesy tea-break”
The tea break was not a legal requirement of the employers but a courtesy to rest the production staff.

I cannot lay the blame totally at the production workers feet. British Leyland’s design team were at best incompetent. During the 1970s and 1980s car design underwent massive changes. There was the best selling V.W. Golf which was the worlds first hot-hatch. The Ford motor company was perfecting their Capri and rally winning Escorts. Audi was trail blazing the way with its Quattro.

British Leyland responded with the Allegro and the Marina (Laugh if you want I am) British Leyland spent millions of pounds in design with their SD1 Rover it actually looked the part for once, it was sleek looking and very 80s. However the build quality was so bad companies returned their fleets of company sponsored cars and demanded their money back!

For me however in the wall of shame for British Leyland has to be the Allegro. It looked awful it drove terribly and had the build quality of a chocolate fire guard! Now this is true so bear with me the design team wanted to be different with the Allegro so what did they come up with? A square steering wheel! Now call me old fashioned but does the word wheel not imply a round object?

British Leyland cont

The square steering wheels were all replaced free of charge if you didn’t like a square wheel! Another design first was a smaller and lighter weight chassis. One rainy Tuesday afternoon when I was a mechanic in London. I was asked by the manager as a favour to a customer, to change the spare wheel onto the right front wheel on an Allegro.

I jacked up the car on the right hand front side and I then heard a grinding popping sound, the windscreen had popped out! I stood there like a goldfish with my mouth opening and closing but no words came out. All the mechanics gathered round the crippled Allegro and asked me what I had done? I replied “I just jacked up the car that’s all!”

It turns out that the Allegro’s body was so thin if jacked up on one side the windscreen fell out and none of the doors would open! What turned out to be a five minute wheel swap took two of us a whole afternoon to put the car back together!

The Austin mini was a world wide success with its lively performance and excellent handling. Then British Leyland got their kiss of death hands on it and reinvented it as the Mini Metro an absolute flop of a car. It boasted terrible suspension and it corroded quicker than butter melts!

British Leyland staggered and lurched through the 1990s and part way into the 2000s. The killer blow for the company was the “K Series” engine. In theory it was light weight it had a good power to weight ratio and it was modern and had 16valve technology. However it was British Leyland so it had failure in its blood.

The engine had a radical head gasket which was made of tin with a splash of sealer on it. The problem was the head gaskets blew very regularly and it was a £200 to £600 repair! The “K Series” engine was fitted into 90% of their model range.

The company could not survive this engineering disaster and the British public turned their back on the company and it went out of business. Unfortunately millions of pounds worth of tax payers money went into trying to save the doomed company. This is why many British engineers like me speak so ill of the debacle that was British Leyland.


Lord Banks

Tags

Allegro, Austin, British Leyland, Ford, Marina, Maxi, Mini, Mini Metro, Morris, Vauxhaqll

Meet the author

author avatar Lord Banks
I am 46 years old. I was born in London and have lived in various counties around the UK. I presently live in Yorkshire. By trade I am a qualified Vehicle Engineer. I have been writing since my school days. I specialise in WWII aircraft. My blog pag...(more)

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Comments

author avatar drelayaraja
26th Jun 2010 (#)

very sad.. But Ashok Leyland is doing well in India it seems..

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author avatar Shoestring7
27th Oct 2010 (#)

Interesting piece, and I can agree on the woeful quality of BL products. But the Marina was launch in 1970, and for a long time was Britain's best seller. The Metro arrived in 1980, and was also an overwhelming success.

BL's demise was caused by poor management, they were responsible for risable product planning, and for losing control of the factorys to the militants. The K series produced class leading power and low weight, but it was poor production design and an inability to introduce and effective fix that give it the reputation for unreliability.

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author avatar Harry
3rd Nov 2010 (#)

i can see the tories at work here.
bl was destroyed by thatcher, not the unions

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author avatar Derek Robinson
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

What a spastic.

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author avatar Lord Tebbit's Father
3rd Feb 2011 (#)

1. How many car plants closed under Labour

2. How many opened under Thatcher?

3. DO YOU SEE?

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author avatar Irritated
23rd Feb 2011 (#)

Lord Banks - Great title but you are so obviously not the person to write it. You have no professional standards if you can produce such an outstandingly poor article against such a demanding subject. I suggest you look in the mirror and you will find out exactly why BL failed.

I think this is the most uninformed and narrowly based article I have ever read on the subject.

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author avatar Mr Newman
10th Mar 2013 (#)

Not true in fact. BL came in being at the end of the 1960's. Thatcher won the 1979 election. So what happend in the 1970's? Bad management, unions etc. Not thatcher though!

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author avatar Barndoor
2nd Jan 2016 (#)

nothing to do with the tories - it was militant unions and poor products, never developed correctly or pushed on - Stag, Metro, Mini, Rover 200, 400, 800 - all of these were not developed to their potential for one reason or another - the unions with their antics just sucked cash out of the company

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author avatar Steve Johnson
19th Nov 2010 (#)

The British Government put all the motoring eggs in one basket, and then smashed the basket.

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author avatar William Morris
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

The Metro a flop? Have you ever BEEN TO ENGLAND? It was Britain's second most popular small car for much of the 1980's just behind the evergreen Fiesta and the Mini would have died long before it did if it hadn't been for the Metro. A+ engines anyone?

That same suspension that you seem so keen to pick apart when it underpins the dear old Metro is what endows the original Mini with its "excellent handling". The work of the great Dr Alex Moulton.

The updated 'R6' Rover Metro/100 of 1990 was much-improved. So much so that when production ended in 1997 customers up and down the country were scouring the Rover dealer network searching for unregistered examples.

How did BL "lurch" through the '90's? The 1989 200 and 400 received universal praise from all sides and the 600 was a hugely competent car, especially when equipped with the L-Series diesel and T-Series petrol engines. Both Rover designed and built, by the way.

Oh, and remind me who it was that developed the highly-regarded new MINI? Clue: Not BMW.

Hmmm.

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author avatar William Morris
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

Also,

I think you'll find that the worlds first hot-hatchback was the SIMCA 1100 Ti launched two years before the Golf GTi.

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author avatar Swain Stouter
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

That has to be one of the worst, most ill-informed 'articles' I have EVER read, from someone who claims to be a WRITER and a VEHICLE ENGINEER.

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author avatar Dave
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

Have you ever actually driven a Metro? Thought not. Rustwise it was BETTER than the Mini of the day, and the suspension was Hydrolastic - which used aerospace grade components. The Mini used to use hydrolastics but then moved on to LOVELY rubber cones...

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author avatar King Fabulous
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

Ditto to Swain Stouter

This has got to be one of the flattest dullest most poorly researched & inaccurate pieces of crap I've read in a long time (& I'm a Daily Mail reader!) Tis a shame its not on paper as it would be ideal for wiping my arse on,

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author avatar Mack Droitwich
2nd Feb 2011 (#)

Are you really an writer? Surely the first rule of writing a piece is to reaserch it first? I've not heard such inaccurate spastic dribblings since the time I was doing some work in a mental hospital. Were you even around during the time you are writing about???? Or have you cribbed Clarksons 'Shit wot I just made up' columns? Do the world a favour, throw away your pens and pencils, smash up your keyboard and then hang yourself and stop pissing on the memory of this countrys fine manufacturing heritage.
What AN CUND.

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author avatar Albert Ross
3rd Feb 2011 (#)

What a lazy piece of journalism. Rather than come up with something original, you choose to slag off BL because a) everyone does it and b) the company are no longer around so make an easy target.

The metro was a huge success - it was still in demand when BWW killed it off (after something like 17 years) and as a result BMW lost a lot of loyal MGRover customers. It was a better car in every respect than the Mini - except perhaps for the last 10% of its handling. Bigger, more versatile and MUCH easier to work on (which you should have appreciated as an "engineer").

This piece of journalism ranks down there with the worst of Top Gear.

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author avatar sheefag
4th Feb 2011 (#)

IS YOUR PHONE RINGING, IS IT?
I'D LIKE A LITTLE WORD FUCKER..........

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author avatar King Fabulous
4th Feb 2011 (#)

Only the ONE?
I admire your restraint but I'd have several words, Speaking of words tis quite telling that there is no response from this clueless keyboard warrior though i suppose thats what happens when YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR DEPTH & TALKING OUT OF YOUR ARSE!

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author avatar Jonesy
18th Feb 2011 (#)

Is it only Union Members and Militants that responded to this article. Lets face it BL were shit, the cars were crap the workforce were always on strike. It's a shame so much taxpayers money was wasted trying to keep it going. QED

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author avatar Lord Bank's mum
28th Mar 2011 (#)

All of the above (except the last one) Yeah, you have an absolutely film thin layer of understanding of this subject. I know at least twice as much as you and do not consider myself vaguely qualified to comment (apart from that it appears BMW worked quite hard to weaken the comapny before the lovely John Towers and his mob raped the remains for all they were worth) By the way, I heard the anecdote about the windscreen before. It wasn't you but thanks for passing it off.

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author avatar Paul
27th Jun 2011 (#)

Hardly the definitive history of British Leyland is it? The article is just a rehash of 40 years of pub gossip. It completely ignores how BL came to exist in the first place, how it was crippled by the 73/74 recession forcing the government to nationalise it, how it prospered under British Aerospace with Honda support, how it failed under BMW and how the pheonix 4 finished it off.

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author avatar Earl of Dingleberry
14th Jul 2011 (#)

Wow, lot off lazy arse socialist scum came here. Isn't the truth sometimes painful? Together with bell end managers lazy arse commie fuckers brought the British car industry down. Congratulations!

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author avatar Walshy66
15th Aug 2011 (#)

What a collective piece of drivel from someone who promotes his own cause to cover up his lack of knowledge. At least BL were brave enough to try something different unlike Ford who just promoted their dinosaur technology better and fooled people into buying it. Yes the unions didn't help their own cause in the end and better management would have prevented that but here we had a manufacturer who were 2nd in size to Volkswagen and almost overtook them at some points. They were about more than just cars and had some many industries under their umbrella. Maybe that was one of their downfalls?
But lets look at some of the good stuff they did.... A front wheel drive spacious family car in 1969 with the Maxi, that had load lugging abilities beyond belief for its time. A best seller in the Metro that saved the company, and rotted less than a Fiesta. The 1st mass produced 16v engined car in the Dolly Sprint. An upto date iconic 70's wedge shaped sportscar in a TR7, that drove well and wasn't that expensive. Arguebly the best small V8 engine that carried on until the mid 90's and that was used as a basis for TVR's for years. And saving the best till last with the Jaguar XJ6, a car that in different guises was produced for almost 40 years and even with a late XJ40 that you can pick up for under a grand is still one of the most comfortable places in the world to sit and be wafted along with "pace, space and grace" to quote William Lyons.
Ok they got a lot of things wrong but give them a bit of credit for the good stuff.
The clown who wrote this article really needed to get his facts right too,badly researched and by someone who's exactly the reason why BL failed by only mentioning the negatives.

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author avatar Zzz
20th Mar 2013 (#)

this guy surely knows how not to research his article. I gather his next one is how Rumple Stiltskin mastered turning straw in to gold. Never read such a total lump of junk, and the sad thing is he thinks he is a writer.

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author avatar Martijn
27th Aug 2011 (#)

Great article! I understand that most replies to this article are written from a British point of view. I live in Europe and remember that my grandfather was a very loyal buyer of British cars. When I was a young boy my grandfather had an Allegro, I loved it. After that he drove a Triumph Acclaim. I believe that it was more a Honda. But in the 1980-ies those British cars were really not up to standard with the other brands. My grandfather switched to a small Japanese car and the world of driving changed. He said: this is the best car I ever drove and it is so reliable! I think that this is an example of the British Automobile story. They were very good in the 50 and 60-ies (when my grandfather was buying the best there was on the market) but slowly the competitors got better and BL could not catch up anymore.
That Metro was maybe a succes in Britain, but in Europe there were a lot of competitors that were usually a bit better and cheaper.

A friend of mine drove a Rover SD1 for 15 years and he is also deaf for any critical remarks. The car looks great but he had a pile of spare parts, unbelievable. And compare that with the big German cars... And then you understand why the customers in Europe changed from British cars to German and Japanese cars.

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author avatar Larry wells
2nd Sep 2011 (#)

could you send me a sticker for triump spitfire or just a british leyland.thanks 530 arrow circle kodak, tennessee 37764

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author avatar Bibiles
16th Sep 2011 (#)

Total crap. Bigoted, uniformed and above all a total mishmash of rubbish with no truth to it.

This is the sort of crap which perpetuates a myth.

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author avatar Zzz
20th Mar 2013 (#)

couldn't agree more

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author avatar Red Robo
13th Oct 2011 (#)

Wow what a lot of crap I worked in a BL garage in 74 to 84 and in 76 we changed to a Renault agency as BL nealy made our garage go broke with crap models that were designed in the 50s and 60s and the Marina was popular because it was cheap not because it was a great car. Don't any of u clowns remember Derek Robertson who basically bought the company to it's knees. Watching him stand outside the gates and speel his communist shit and when he got the sack demanding that they go out on strike for him. Best decision the mangament ever made was to get rid of him but to late for the company as the damage was done. I spent some time in Australia and bought a Leyland P 76 and that disappoint me the biggest selling point was u could get 45 gallon drum in the boot which was the only positive thing about it. Rust, suspension, oil leaks, falling apart same company different country. This is not a myth as some say but the truth is hard to take.

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author avatar One who knows more than you
14th Mar 2012 (#)

Actually it was poor management, no product costing at concept, no idea of product lines and how to exploit the jewels in the crown of brands etc, poor pricing, and the week management led to strong union power at the plants. However after Red Robbo was sacked, union problems cannot be blammed. The company had jewel after jewel of brands but manufacturing plants every where. Cowley and all the other plants should have een shut and everything moved to Longbridge, Canley and Solihull, products should have been planned correctly, the Maxi when being developed had to use the Austin 1800 doors, that made it the wrong size, it was meant to be an Escort not the size it became. Reliability was no worse than other main stream products from Ford or Vauxhall, just look at their warranty costs at the same time. Ironically the lowest warranty engine costs when Rover was part of BMW was Rovers T series 2.0 litre engine. BMW still have major reliability issues but they know how to market the product. The main cause of failure was weak manahement and lack of ideas of utilising a treasure chest of brands and taking too long to merge the differing divisions and rationalising engine ranges and floor pans etc. So none of this knock it if its British shit please, as the press also had its part to play, by always knocking products that were as good as others at the time. And K engine actually was the reason Ford and GM wanted to buy BL when it was up for sale, K was developed on a shoe string and it is moron machanics like you who assumed it was always a head gasket failure, when in fact something else 8/10 was the cause of the failure, but not rectified so the problem repeated. SO before you talk rubbish get your facts right or keep your mouth shut with opinions.

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author avatar ILIKE
4th May 2012 (#)

sausages.

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author avatar IHATE
4th May 2012 (#)

Burgers

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author avatar JRS
18th Feb 2013 (#)

Just doing some research and came across this post... I worked in Leyland (Centurion Way) in the 70's and the the real cause of the complete breakdown between workers and management was a single department called Staff Relations who got in the way of everything, if you were a bad manager or a good union rep you got promoted sideways to this dept, and your job was to get in the way and obfuscate what either party was trying to say, so negotiations went absolutely nowhere time and time again... hence the regular cry of "strike brothers" ... thats my twopence worth. PS> In Leyland it was the truck and bus division so the demise of BL cant be solely down to ther c**p cars, if we are honest with ourselves they were atrocious.

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author avatar Flobalobalob
21st Sep 2013 (#)

about as good as Fords, Chryslers and Vauxhalls of the time.

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author avatar JRS
18th Feb 2013 (#)

Just doing some research and came across this post... I worked in Leyland (Centurion Way) in the 70's and the the real cause of the complete breakdown between workers and management was a single department called Staff Relations who got in the way of everything, if you were a bad manager or a good union rep you got promoted sideways to this dept, and your job was to get in the way and obfuscate what either party was trying to say, so negotiations went absolutely nowhere time and time again... hence the regular cry of "strike brothers" ... thats my twopence worth. PS> In Leyland it was the truck and bus division so the demise of BL cant be solely down to ther c**p cars, if we are honest with ourselves they were atrocious.

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author avatar Zzz
20th Mar 2013 (#)

What a load of crap and you call your self a writer? Did you do any research? May I suggest you buy a book called 'why are the British bad at manufacturing' and it will show it was management that got it so wrong. Oh and as a real engineer, the Allegro had a higher torsional strength than any other car in its class for many years. However, if your were a dick head of a fitter and as crap at that as you are at some very basic research, then you would know facts like that. You jacked it up at the wrong point you prick, the car had stressed areas that would take the jacking and points that wouldn't. It was obvious you researched your job back then as much as your writing now. Do us a favour, go and write an article on why rabbit shit is in pellets, dogs shit is in long lumps and cows shit is a splatter, as you obviously know shit!

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author avatar Flobalobalob
21st Sep 2013 (#)

Your comment is much better researched that this so called writer, never read such rubbish by someone who calls themselves a writer in my life! I like the sh*t comment, it sums this author up, little research and writing pub gossip as fact! A true idiot of the 1st order. I think the Beano is to advanced for this worst writer I have had the misfortune to ever accidently read in my life. Please please please Mr so called Lord Banks, please do us all a BIG favour and refrain from ever writing an article again.

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author avatar Garbage
29th Mar 2013 (#)

What a pathetic, ill informed and badly written article.
A good writer researches his subject before publishing his article which you clearly didn't.
I hope I never own anything you've engineered as you don't understand something simple like jacking up a car properly.
Maybe you should write for The Beano next time.

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author avatar Chris railton
26th Nov 2013 (#)

hi if british leyland minis was that bad why does people pay silly money to get one some cost more than a new german mini fromchris lincolnuk

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