Tuesday, 14 May 2013


Lest we forget. A messy 30 years in the dog days of British Leyland. Extract from chronology section of The Classic MG File.

1965 Jly: BMC makes offer for Pressed Steel effective September 1965.
Jly 22: Rover buys Alvis.
Oct 20: MGB GT at Earls Court.
1966 Jun: Leonard Lord, now Lord Lambury, retires from BMC board. George Harriman becomes chairman, Joe Edwards managing director.
Jly 11: BMC and Jaguar agree merger, finalised December.
Oct 19: MG Midget Mark III (GAN4) (above) launched at Earls Court with 1275cc A-series engine. Also Austin-Healey Sprite Mark IV.
Nov 3: Assembly of pre-production MGC begins at Abingdon, two months after Healeys reject BMC’s proposed Austin-Healey 3000 Mark IV. 13 pre-production MGCs built for development.
Dec 11: Leyland agrees merger with Rover, effective March 1967.
Dec 14: BMC and Jaguar announce joint company: British Motor Holdings. Joe Edwards becomes BMH chief executive under Sir George Harriman.
1967 Feb: Industry Minister Anthony Wedgwood Benn announces exploratory talks between Leyland and BMH in House of Commons.
Oct: Merger discussions between BMH and Leyland follow meeting at Chequers between George Harriman (BMH), and Donald Stokes (Leyland), at invitation of prime minister Harold Wilson.
Nov: first cars to meet new US safety and emissions requirements built with ‘Abingdon Pillow’ padded dashboards and dual-circuit brakes. Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III discontinued.
1968 Jan 17: £320 million merger of Leyland Motor Corporation with BMH forms British Leyland Motor Corporation. Cars divided into Austin-Morris (including MG) and Specialist Cars (with separate Rover, Triumph and Jaguar boards).
Apl: MG 1300 replaces 1100 Mark II. Joe Edwards resigns from BMH prior to formation of BLMC. Harry Webster and George Turnbull, ex Triumph, in charge of Austin-Morris.
May 14: Creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation.
May 22: Roy Haynes proposes MG ADO28 (Morris Marina).
Aug: Harry Webster announces advanced engineering and conservative styling policy for Austin, more style and conservative engineering for Morris.
Aug 5: BLMC board views three AD028 prototypes by Pininfarina, Michelotti, and Roy Haynes. Haynes’s proposals accepted.
Oct 15: Earls Court Motor Show. Sir Donald Stokes instructs competitions department to go only for outright wins.
1969 Apl: Austin-Morris design transferred from Cowley. Interior design remains at Cowley until October.
Jun 27: John Thornley retires, Les Lambourne now assistant general manager.
Jly: Riley 1300 production discontinued; Riley 4/72 carries on until October.
Sep 18: Last MGC leaves Abingdon.
Sep 19: BLMC board approves ADO67, the Austin Allegro of 1973.
Oct 11: British Leyland facelift Midget and MGB - recessed matt black grilles.
Oct 15: Mini Clubman and 1275GT at Earls Court. Austin and Morris 1300 GT effectively replaces MG 1300.
Nov 5: Abingdon starts work on mid-engined AD021.
1970 Autumn: Engineers Spen King and Mike Carver visit USA to research market for TR sports car. Competition between Austin-Morris styling Longbridge, Triumph Canley and Michelotti. MG Abingdon not invited to put forward mid-engined AD021.
Oct 31: Abingdon Competitions Department closes. Special Tuning continues as low-cost unit.
Nov 4: MG ADO21 full-size clay viewed by British Leyland management.
Dec 29: Work ceases on ADO21.
1971 Jan: Austin-Healey Sprite rebadged Austin. Healey royalties cease.
May 27: 250,000th MGB, left-hand-drive Blaze MGB GT, made at Abingdon.
May: Syd Enever retires as chief engineer. Roy Brockleburst takes over.
Jly: Austin-Morris styling studio MG Magna proposal for new BLMC corporate sports car approved, and becomes Triumph TR7. Last Mini Cooper, last Austin Sprite.
Aug 4: Abingdon instructed to build MGB GT V8, following assessment of Costello conversion.
Aug 31: MG 1300 Mark II discontinued.
1972 Mar: Rover-Triumph created under Sir George Farmer. Board has seven Rover and five Triumph members.
Spring: MG SSV1 experimental safety vehicle shown at Washington road safety exhibition.
Aug: MGB range facelifted for 1973 MY.
Sep: O-series engine emerges as overhead-cam B-series. Soft bumpers approved for MGB.
Dec 12: Production of MGB GT V8 starts.
Feb: British Leyland plans MGB in case TR7 is late; O-series engine is due by April 1974
1973 Aug 15: MGB GT V8 launched.
Sep: Bumper overriders for MG Midget, MGB and MGB GTs in the USA
1974 Jan: Work starts on ADO88.
Summer: O-series engine decision for MGB and Marina by 1977 model year, autumn 1976. Delayed to 1978 MY.
Jly: British Leyland cash crisis. Banks talk of £150 million loan.
Oct 16: Soft bumpers for Midget, MGB, MGB GT and MGB GT V8. Midget adopts Triumph Spitfire 1493cc engine.
Nov 27: Banks and government discuss BLMC’s finances.
Dec 3: Triumph Spitfire 1500 launched in UK with same engine as Midget 1500.
Dec 6: Tony Benn tells Parliament government guarantees BLMC’s capital.
Dec 18: Sir Don Ryder, governmental industrial advisor, appointed to investigate BLMC by March.
1975 Jan 1: MGB GT withdrawn from USA.
Jan: Triumph TR7 two-door sports coupe announced for sale only in USA.
26 Mar: Ryder Report recommends government contribution of £2.8 billion over seven years; company split into four divisions: cars, trucks and buses, international, and “special products”.
Jun 27: British Leyland Motor Corporation renamed British Leyland; government 99.8% shareholder.
Aug 11: British Leyland formally nationalised.
Sep 13: First post-Ryder marque realignment. Austin-Morris 18-22 series renamed Princess.
Dec 16: Government secures Chrysler UK with £162.5 million.
1976 May 19: Triumph TR7 introduced in UK and Europe.
Jun: MGB withdrawn from Continental Europe.
Jly: Last two MGB GT V8s finished at Abingdon.
1977 Jan: Work restarts on “federalizing” O-series engine for MGB, aiming for introduction in 1980.
Feb: pilot-build of Triumph TR7 Sprint and TR7 V8 begins at Speke.
Nov 1: Michael Edwardes joins British Leyland.
1978 Jan: ADO88 replaced by larger LC8 project.
Feb: Edwardes reveals plan to reorganise Austin-Morris including MG, and Jaguar-Rover-Triumph.
Feb 15: Proposal for Speke factory to close and move TR7 production to Canley.
Apl 1: BL Motorsport Abingdon homologates TR7 V8 rally car.
Apl 3: government provides £450 million equity in British Leyland.
May 26: Triumph TR7 production ends at Speke. TR7 Sprint and Lynx cancelled. TR7 V8 – the TR8 – delayed two years.
Jly 1: British Leyland renamed BL. Leyland name remains on commercial vehicles. Austin-Morris is under Ray Horrocks, and Jaguar-Rover-Triumph under William Pratt-Thompson. Development MGB with O-series engine presented to BL management. Approval of £275 million for LC8 Metro.
Aug: BL in exploratory talks with Honda.
Sep: 1.7-L O-series engine for Marina 2. MG becomes part of Jaguar-Rover-Triumph.
Oct: Triumph TR7 production restarts at Canley after five-month gap. US dealers unhappy.
1979 Apl: US-market MGB Limited Edition (LE) model introduced at New York Motor Show.
May 15: Memorandum of understanding between BL and Honda. New Triumph saloon to be built at Canley based on Honda Ballade/Civic. Introduction planned for October 1981.
Jun: Sharp rise in strength of sterling affects BL, in particular US exports. BL forms CORE (Co-ordination of Resources) strategy. Edwardes Plan streamlines company.
Jly 9: BL meets industry minister Sir Keith Joseph to discuss funding of LC10.
Jly: Triumph TR7 convertible launched five years after TR7 coupe, for USA only.
Aug: Midget production runs down; among the last are 500 for Japan. Assembly of Vanden Plas 1500 transferred to Abingdon. Golden Jubilee celebrations at Abingdon.
Sep 10: Announcement of closure at AEC Park Royal. BL plans to end production of MG sports cars at Abingdon and manufacturing at Canley.
Sep 13: John Thornley invites 445 US Jaguar-Rover-Triumph-MG dealers to urge BL to continue MGB production.
Sep 26: BL claims loss of £900 on every MGB.
Sep 30: MG clubs stage London protest rally
Oct 14: Alan Curtis of Aston Martin Lagonda and Peter Sprague in the USA prepare bid for MG marque and MGB.
Oct 17: Union leaders recommend BL workers accept Edwardes Plan.
Oct 18: Consortium led by Aston Martin Lagonda announces bid to take over MG name and factory.
Nov 1: BL workforce ballot: 80% vote, of which 87.2% accepts Edwardes Plan
Nov 6: Californian MG dealers and 416-strong US JRT dealer council threaten to sue BL for £100 million if MGB is withdrawn. BL says MGBs will remain available until 1981, pledges to keep the MG marque.
Dec 12: Last MG Midget down Abingdon production line. Black UK-specification car for British Motor Heritage brings total to 224,817.
Dec: BL discusses MG Boxer project, low-cost MG offshoot from Triumph TR7, to placate US JRT dealers. Idea abandoned early in 1980, and MG returned to Austin-Morris from JRT.
Dec 20: BL says government agrees to recovery plan and a further £205 million.
1980 Jan: 500,000th MGB, a black roadster, built at Abingdon.
Jan 14: Jaguar-Rover-Triumph press release: “MGBs will be produced until late 1980 ... available into early 1981. The MG name will be retained and there are plans to build a successor to the MGB when production ends at Abingdon.”
Mar 31: Aston Martin consortium meets BL board, proposing £30 million deal for exclusive world-wide license to MG name and Abingdon factory.
Apl: Triumph TR7 production begins at Rover in Solihull, overlapping with production at Canley.
Jly 1: Aston Martin announces nearly half required £30m has been withdrawn. Last hope is that Japanese and Arab backers provide £12m. Aston Martin makes a quarter of its workforce redundant.
Jly 2: William Pratt-Thompson, head of BL International, announces Abingdon factory to be sold.
Jly 4: Alan Curtis talks with Japanese in an effort to acquire funds for take-over.
Jly 9: BL car divisions reorganised again: JRT dissolved, Jaguar becomes separate once more. Volume cars (Austin-Morris) absorbs Rover and Triumph to form Light Medium Cars (LMC). Cars Commercial looks after marketing and product planning. Triumph Spitfire discontinued. LM10 approved by BL board for 1983 launch.
Aug: last production-specification MGB bodyshell produced at Pressed Steel, Stratton St Margaret, Swindon.
Oct 8: Austin Metro launched.
Oct 23: Last MGB goes down the line at Abingdon.
Oct 24: MG factory at Abingdon closes.
1981 Jan: £990 million further state funding of BL over next two years.
Jan 26: announcement by BL of last MGB derivative, the UK-only MGB and MGB GT LE.
Mar 18-24: Auction of MG factory contents: 434 buyers, 3600 lots, totalling £100,000 for BL.
May 10: BL claims Jaguar loses £2 million per month due to unfavourable dollar/sterling exchange.
May 13: Ray Horrocks of BL announces closure of Solihull Rover factory for all but Land Rover.
Jun 15: BL Motorsport moves to Cowley. Plans laid for MG Metro 6R4.
Jly 26: Sunday Times says BL plans MG-badged version of the Metro.
Aug 6: MG is among names considered for performance Metro.
Sep: Austin Allegro discontinued.
Oct 7: Triumph Acclaim launched.
Nov 12: Ray Horrocks and Honda sign co-operative agreement in Tokyo for new executive car, coded XX.
1982 Jan: Banks agree to lend BL £277 million over 8-10 years. David Bache resigns as design director following management disagreements. Replaced by Roy Axe, formerly of Chrysler.
May: Austin Rover Group formed from Austin, Morris, MG, Rover and Triumph. Harold Musgrove chairman and chief executive.
May 5: MG Metro 1300 announced.
Jly 1: BL announces Morris name to be phased out.
Oct 22: MG Metro Turbo announced at motor show.
Nov: Sir Michael Edwardes leaves BL, publishes Back From The Brink.
1983 Feb: MG Metro 6R4 prototype handed over by Williams Engineering to Austin Rover Motorsport at Cowley.
Mar 1: Austin Maestro range includes MG1600.
1984 Apl 25: Montego range includes 2-litre fuel-injected MG version with O-series engine. S-series replaces R-series in MG Maestro 1600. LC10 has cost £210 million. BL reports first operating profit, £4.1 million, since 1978.
Aug 10: Jaguar privatised. Government keeps “golden share” until end of 1990.
Sep: Austin Rover formed as LMC is integrated with Cars Commercial.
1985 May 8: Harold Musgrove announces Austin Rover Cars of North America (ARCONA) in partnership with Norman Braman to launch Austin Rover/Honda XX in the USA in 1987.
Sep 19: MG EX-E concept car launched at Frankfurt Motor Show. (in Heritage collection, Gaydon with other MGs)
Nov 1: MG Metro 6R4 homologated for international debut on RAC Rally.
Feb 2: Roy Hattersley claims General Motors wants to buy Leyland Trucks and Land Rover.
1986 Apl: MG Maestro introduced in Japan. Design studios at Canley reorganised.
May 1: Graham Day appointed chairman of BL.
Jly: BL renamed Rover Group
Jly 15: Honda/Rover joint project XX launched as Rover 800 series.
Sep: Harold Musgrove leaves.
1987 Apl 18: US-market Sterling (Rover 800) launched at New York Motor Show.
May: Austin Rover Motorsport Division at Cowley closed down.
Nov: Sterling 800 range on sale in the USA.
1988 Mar 1: British Aerospace (BAe) talks with government on acquisition of Rover.
Mar 30: British Aerospace buys Rover Group for £150 million; government writing off £800 million debt. £2.98 billion in state aid received since 1975.
Apl 13: British Motor Heritage launches MGB bodyshell.
Oct 22: MG Maestro Turbo, to be built by Tickford, announced at Birmingham Motor Show.
1989 Jan: Rover board restructured. Graham Day hands over to George Simpson, board members reduced from 36 to 11. John Towers becomes production engineering director and Graham Morris takes over as Sterling president from Chris Woodwark.
Jly 14: Honda announces £300 million first European assembly plant at Swindon, and 20% equity stake in Rover. Rover takes 20% stake in HUM (Honda UK Manufacturing).
Sep 18: Graham Day suggests sports car. Appoints Project Phoenix to investigate three MG concepts with different engine/drive train configurations: PR1, PR2 and PR3. ‘PR’ stands for Phoenix Route, nicknamed ‘Pocket Rocket’.
Oct 11: New Rover 200 range launched at London Motorfair. First production application of K-series engine.
Dec 1: Jaguar shareholders accept Ford’s cash offer.
1990 Mar 28: Executive committee approves Rover Special Products (RSP) prototypes.
Mar: Work starts on Heritage MGB V8 project; Mark Gamble builds prototype at Snitterfield.
May 2: Launch of revamped Metro with 1.1- and 1.4-litre K-series engines. Top of range GTi not an MG.
Jun: Rover board reviews PR1, PR2, PR3 and PR4 (similar to PR2, but with a steel body). PR3 increased in size.
Sep 19: Graham Day tells press, “We are going to do a proper MG.”
1991 Jan: Rover commissions consultants MGA and ADC to develop styling clays based on mid-engined PR3. John Towers becomes MD in charge of product supply.
Apl: Rover Special Products researches significance of MG badge to potential customers.
May: Two styling models for PR3 presented. Rover approves PR3 from development to D Zero.
Jun: Customer clinic tests of sports car concepts; leads to rejection of pop-up headlamps and abandonment of PR5, seen as a Jaguar/Aston Martin style, not MG. Rover management approves RV8.
Jly: proposal of PR3 1.6-litre K-series engine with optional supercharger.
Aug 9: Rover Group drops US Sterling marque.
Sep: Gerry McGovern begins work on styling clay for PR3 at Canley.
Autumn: MG-badged saloons discontinued after MG Maestro and Montego 2.0i.
1992 Jan: MG RV8 prototype presented at Rover dealer conference.
Jan 22: Styling of PR3 clay model approved.
Mar 3: Geneva show. Rover 200 Cabriolet launched (Project Tracer nearly became an MG). Rover 800 coupe also launched.
Mar: Styling of PR3 approved. Rover staff invited to give opinions on “elements of an MG”.
Jun: Teaser brochure for RV8 issued with studio photograph of DEV1 prototype, “The Shape of Things to Come”.
Sep 18: MG Car Club, MG Owners’ Club and others invited to preview of MG RV8 at Canley.
Oct 20: RV8 launched by John Towers at Birmingham Motor Show, together with Rover 200 coupe.
Nov: Rover board approves 1.8-litre K-series with optional VVC.
Dec: PR3 design signed off. Mayflower and Rover agree Mayflower Vehicle Systems (the merged Motor Panels and IAD) to raise £24 million for design, engineering and production of bodyshells.
1993 Mar: Rover board approves PR3. Launch planned for 1995.
Mar 31: Mayflower investment includes rights issue to raise £34.6 million. Production of over 10,000 a year expected, with sales of £20 million for a 6-year contract.
Mar 31: First production MG RV8 made at Cowley for BMH museum (chassis Nr 251, British Racing Green metallic). First six customer cars completed on 19 Apl.
Oct: Woodcote Green MG RV8 at Tokyo Motor Show.
1994 Jan 13: First 46 RV8s leave Southampton for Japan.
Jan 31: British Aerospace sale of Rover Group to BMW AG for £800 million.
Feb 21: Honda relinquishes 20% shareholding in Rover, which releases its 20% in Honda’s UK manufacturing subsidiary.
Mar 18: Title and ownership of Rover Group officially transferred to BMW AG. Rover Group comprises two sub-groups: Rover Group Holdings plc, Birmingham (with 89 subsidiaries) and Rover Group USA Inc, Lanham, Maryland (with four subsidiaries).
Jly: Pre-production examples of MGF completed, using final tooling.
Sep: Pilot production of MGF.
1995 Feb 6: Preview of MGF for MG Car Club, MG Owners’ Club, Octagon Car Club at Gaydon.
Feb 20-24: Dealer MGF launch.
Mar 7: MGF launched at Geneva.
May: Rover 416 and 420 launched.
Aug 4: First volume-production MGF built at Longbridge CAB2.
Sep 23: First customer MGF deliveries.
Oct: MGF makes its UK and Japanese Motor Show debuts.
Nov 22: Last MG RV8, Woodcote Green bound for Japan.

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