Leyland Marina: no safe harbour in Australia

22 February 2019

17 January 1968 was a crucial date in the demise of the British motor industry through the 1970s and 1980s. On this day the Leyland Motor Corporation took over British Motor Holdings, comprising BMC, Pressed Steel and Jaguar, to form British Leyland. The new chairman was Leyland man (and, indeed, Triumph stalwart) Donald Stokes (later Sir Donald, later again Lord Stokes).

Almost a decade before the Marina, BMC Australia released its unique Morris Major Elite. Like the Wolseley 1500 and Riley 1.5 siblings of 1957, the Elite was developed from Minor underpinnings. But the Elite was superbly configured for local conditions at the time and extremely keenly priced, while the Marina was essentially too late and too old-fashioned. Perhaps the key take-home message here is that BMC Australia’s engineers did a better job than their British counterparts. The 1489cc B-Series engine, for example, was enlarged by them to 1622, which in turn paved the way for the uniquely Australian 2.4-litre Blue Streak sixpack for the Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80.

Stokes was heard to complain that he found the BMC cupboard was bare. But that was hardly true because it contained not only the ADO10 Mini, the ADO16 Morris 1100 and the ADO17 Austin 1800 but also the ancient Farina 1.6-litre sedans and the even more ancient Morris Minor 1000. What he probably should have said the future product cupboard was almost bare, the sole new car in planning being the Austin Maxi.

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