This is an ATL timeline of Rover Group models regarding an alternate break up of British Leyland.
This will start out as an OTL until 1984 when BMW signs an agreement with Rover to produce a range of saloons then continuing to 1986 when Ford Motor Company buys the Rover Group.
It will also encompass the 2008 Financial Crisis when Ford has to sell Rover & MG to BMW and Austin to Mazda
In 1980 apart from the long lived Allegro 3, Princess 2, Maxi 2, Mini, Rover SD 1 and the new Honda based Triumph Acclaim, British Leyland Motors (Car Division) had very little in the way of modern offerings to sell to the British public. With the successful launch and reception of the Triumph Acclaim it was decided to split British Leyland into seperate groups to hopefully save the UK motor industry. Daimler Group encompassing Daimler, Jaguar and Triumph, Wolesley Group encompassing Morris and Wolesley and Rover Group. Leyland Truck & Bus will encompass all the groups commercial vehicles.
Rover Group : Rover / Austin / Land Rover / MG (based at Castle Bromwich, Longdridge & Soilhull)
Mini Mk IV
The Mark IV was introduced in 1976, though by this stage British Leyland was working on a new small car which was widely expected to replace the Mini before much longer. It had a front rubber-mounted sub frame with single tower bolts and the rear frame had some larger bushings introduced, all intended to improve the car's mechanical refinement and to reduce noise levels. Twin column stalks for indicators and wipers were introduced, as were larger foot pedals. From 1977 onwards, the rear light clusters included reversing lights.
In July 1979 the lower end of the Mini range was altered. The basic Mini 850 (which had featured in various forms since the original launch 20 years before) was withdrawn. Its place was taken by two models at slightly lower and slightly higher price points. The new base model was the Mini City, with black-painted bumpers, an untrimmed lower facia rail, part-fabric seats and wing mirror and sun visor only on the driver's side, plus unique 'City' body graphics and boot badge. Above the City was the new 850 SDL (Super Deluxe), which had the same specification as the standard Mini 1000 but with the smaller engine.
For August 1979 the Mini's 20th anniversary was marked by the introduction of the first true limited-edition Mini, which was the Mini 1100 Special. This was a 5000-car run with the 1098 cc engine, broadly to the specification already in production for the European market as a standard model with the same name. However this was the first time a UK-market 'round-nose' (i.e. non-Clubman) Mini had been available with the 1098 cc engine, and the UK limited edition was also fitted with unique Exacton alloy wheels – the first time these were fitted to a factory-produced Mini – and plastic wheel arch extensions. Inside was the 1275 GT's three-dial instrument cluster and a leather-rimmed wheel with a rectangular centre from the Innocenti Mini hatchback.
The 1100 Special and 850 City models were phased out by 1980, and during the same year the engine was upgraded to the improved A-Plus unit from the new Metro in 998 cc form, which was now the only engine available in the Mini. This was then followed by a number of incremental developments.
In 1978, the Mini was one of the key cars made available to disabled motorists under the new Mobility scheme.
Reports of the Mini's imminent demise surfaced again in 1980 with the launch of the Austin Metro (badging with the word "mini" in all lowercase). Faced with competition from a new wave of modern super minis like the Ford Fiesta, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo, the Mini was beginning to fall out of favour in many export markets, with the South African, Australian, and New Zealand markets all stopping production around this time. Buyers of small cars now wanted modern and practical designs, usually with a hatchback.
Although the Mini continued to be produced after the Metro's launch, production volumes were reduced as British Leyland and its successor Austin Rover Group concentrated on the Metro as its key super mini. The original Mini's last year in the top ten of Britain's top selling cars was 1981, as it came ninth and the Metro was fifth. The arrival of the Metro also had production of the larger Allegro pruned back before it was finally discontinued in 1982. In 1982, BL made 56,297 Minis and over 175,000 Metros. During the early 1980's, the Mini received many mechanical upgrades which were shared with the Metro, such as the A Plus engine 12-inch wheels with front disc brakes, improved soundproofing and quieter, stronger transmissions. This not only modernised the Mini but, because many of its major sub assemblies were now shared with the Metro, made it very cost-effective to produce despite falling sales volumes. The Mini's 25th anniversary fell in 1984 and British Leyland produced a 'Mini 25' limited edition model, both to mark the occasion and to publicise the recent upgrades to the model. This marked the start of a turnaround in the Mini's fortunes. Basic models such as the City and the City E (using the economy-tuned drive train from the Metro HLE) filled in the bottom of the Austin-Rover range and still found buyers who wanted a compact city car that was easy to park and cheap to run. Low purchase and running costs also made the Mini continually popular as a first car for younger drivers, and Austin-Rover introduced a steady stream of limited editions with bright paint colours, body graphics, and trim to appeal to this market. The Mini was also becoming prized as a characterful and nostalgic car in its own right, and the London Edition of limited-edition models was more upmarket and luxurious and named after affluent or fashionable parts of London. These marketing strategies proved very successful; Mini production actually had modest increases through the mid-1980's, from 34,974 in 1985 to 35,280 in 1985 and 39,800 in 1986. By 1990, with the reintroduction of the very popular Cooper model, Mini production passed 40,000. In 1988, Rover Group decided to keep the Mini in production for as long as it was viable to do so, putting an end to reports that it would be discontinued by 1991, by which time the original Metro would also be replaced.
Land Rover Series III
The series III had the same body and engine options as the preceding IIa, including station wagons and the 1 Ton versions. Little changed cosmetically from the IIA to the series III. The series III is the most common series vehicle, with 440,000 of the type built from 1971 to 1985. The headlights were moved to the wings on late production IIA models from 1968/9 onward (ostensibly to comply with Australian, American and Dutch lighting regulations) and remained in this position for the series III. The traditional metal grille, featured on the series I, II and IIA, was replaced with a plastic one for the series-III model. The 2.25-litre engine had its compression raised from 7:1 to 8:1, increasing the power slightly (the high compression engine had been an optional fit on the IIa model for several years). During the series-III production run from 1971 until 1985, the 1,000,000th Land Rover rolled off the production line in 1976.
The series III saw many changes in the later part of its life as Land Rover updated the design to meet increased competition. This was the first model to feature syncromesh on all four gears, although some late H-suffix SIIA models (mainly the more expensive Station Wagons) had used the all-synchro box. In keeping with early 1970's trends in automotive interior design, both in safety and use of more advanced materials, the simple metal dashboard of earlier models was redesigned to accept a new moulded plastic dash. The instrument cluster, which was previously centrally located, was moved to the driver's side. Long-wheelbase series-III vehicles had the Salisbury rear axle (the differential housing and axle case are one piece) as standard, although some late SIIA 109-inch (2,800 mm) vehicles had them too.
In 1980, the 2.25-litre petrol and diesel engines received five main bearing crankshafts to increase rigidity and the transmission, axles and wheel hubs were strengthened. This was the culmination of a series of updates to the transmission that had been made since the 1960's to combat the all-too-common problem of the rear axle half-shafts breaking in heavy usage. This problem was partly due to the design of the shafts themselves. Due to the fully floating design of the rear wheel hubs, the half shafts can be removed very quickly without even having to jack the vehicle off the ground. The tendency for commercial operators to overload their vehicles exacerbated this flaw which blighted the series Land Rovers in many of their export markets and established a reputation that continues in many markets to the present day. This is despite the 1982 re-design (mainly the increase of driving-splinesfrom 10 to 24 to reduce stress) that all but solved the problem.
Also, new trim options were introduced to make the interior more comfortable if the buyer so wished (many farmers and commercial users preferred the original, non-trimmed interior).
These changes culminated in April 1982 with the introduction of the "County" spec. Station Wagon Land Rovers, available in both 88-inch (2,200 mm) and 109-inch (2,800 mm) types. These had all-new cloth seats from the Leyland T-45 Lorry, soundproofing kits, tinted glass and other "soft" options designed to appeal to the leisure owner/user.
Of more interest was the introduction of the High Capacity Pick Up to the 109-inch (2,800 mm) chassis. This was a pick-up truck load bay that offered 25% more cubic capacity than the standard pick-up style. The HCPU came with heavy-duty suspension and was popular with public utility companies and building contractors.
Stage One V8
The first Prototype V8 Land Rover the creation of Bruce McWilliams, then President of the Rover Motor Company of North America Limited. Bruce thought that the newly acquired all alloy V8 from GM would be perfect for the Land Rover. Early 1966 the project was given to then Service Manager and newly appointed Product Development Engineer, Richard F Green of Rover Motor Co of NA Ltd based in South San Francisco, CA (373 Shaw Rd). Richard's past was from year on the GP & Sports Car Racing with teams like Aston Martin & MG/BMC. Green came to America in Feb 1956 after the Monte Carlo Rally, his sponsor was Ken Miles, another Brit, Ken had driven 1 of 3 of the EX182 (to later be the MGA) at LeMans 1955. Project was named "BOP" (Buick-Olds-Pontiac). McWilliams listed specifications he wanted in addition to the V8 such as Primrose Yellow pant, Black upholstery, Side pipes from a Corvette, a Hurst Shifter, making a hot rod in the California sense of the word. Richard Green had other ideas... A new 1966 88" Station Wagon was pick-up at the SF Docks and taken to British Sports Car Service in Hayward, CA for teardown. Rochard designed and draw out a blue print for the engine adapter plate (the same one the Factory would go on to use for 3 other V8's they build some later). In Addition to the increased horsepower, Green would up-rate the 10" SLS drum brakes to 11" x3" wide DLS from the new NADA 109" they would soon be testing; Increase fuel capacity; Relocate and fit adjustable drivers seat; and with the help of Moeller Bros Body Shop they modified the rear bulkhead, and then painted the 88" Golden Rod Yellow... which would then become the new project name. "Golden Rod". By d the Golden Rod, then drove it to NY City for McWilliams to see, then it was shipped to Southampton where Green would later collect it and drive it to Solihull. Some of the guys still remember it coming through the front gate one wet Sept day in 1966.
From 1979 until 1985, the Stage 1 was built using some of the same components as the Range Rover and 101 Forward Control, such as the LT95 gearbox and 3.5-litre Rover V8 petrol engine. The engine was detuned to 91 hp (68 kW) from the 135BHP of the contemporary Range Rover. The vehicle came about because the competing Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol vehicles, fitted with powerful and durable 6-cylinder engines, were making considerable inroads into the market, particularly in Australia and Africa. A V8-powered Land Rover with the Range Rover's constant 4WD system was a considerable technological advancement on the part-time 4WD and 4-cyl engines of previous variants, though the Stage 1 still used the Series III's leaf springs.
The Stage 1 was normally available only in LWB 109-inch (2,800 mm) form but 24 examples were built with the SWB 88 in (2,235 mm) wheelbase.
"Stage 1" refers to the first stage of investment by the British Government in the company to improve the Land Rover and Range Rover product offerings to counter the aforementioned market challenges, and were a transitional development on the way to the coil-sprung Land Rover 90 and 110. The use of the Range Rover engine and drivetrain made it the only Series III vehicle to have permanent four-wheel drive.
Most of the V8 Stage 1 vehicles were exported, as the larger engine was not really sought-after by UK owners, for whom the 4-cyl 2286 cc engine seemed to be sufficient and somewhat more economical. A small number may have been used by the British armed forces. However, the New Zealand Army bought 566 Stage 1 V8 Land Rovers which entered service over the period 1982 - 1986. The New Zealand Army standardised on the type, retiring the previous mixture of British- and Australian-built 88" and 109" Series 2 variants. All the V8 vehicles were 109" configuration and were supplied with a plastic-coated canvas canopy with bodywork in Deep Bronze Green. All had 24v electrics with Fitted For Radio (FFR) vehicles having a larger 100 amp generator supplied by Milspec Manufacturing Pty Ltd of Australia. Variants included a hard-top fitted vehicle used for specialist signals tasks (some of which had dual rear wheels for lateral stability to counteract the weight of additional equipment carried). There was also a white-painted 300 TDI conversion of approximately 20 vehicles, including a hard top and locally-devised disc brake conversion, for peacekeeping service with New Zealand's UNPROFOR contingent in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1994 to 1996. The retirement of New Zealand V8 Stage 1 vehicles started from 2000, with the last examples taken out of service in 2006 once sufficient numbers of the Pinzgauer replacement vehicle became available. The vehicles were sold off in a series of disposal auctions, and many are now cherished by private owners in New Zealand.
The British used series Land Rovers in large numbers (and continues to use the modern Defender versions). The British Army tested the 80-inch (2.03 m) series-I Land Rover almost as soon as it was launched in 1948. At that time, the Army was more interested in developing a specially designed military utility 4×4 (the Austin Champ). However, the Champ proved too complex, heavy and unreliable in battlefield conditions so the Army looked to the Land Rover. In the late 1940s the Ministry of Defence was keen on the standardisation of its vehicles and equipment. Part of this plan was to fit Rolls Royce petrol engines to all its vehicles (even though most were not actually built by R-R). A batch of series-I Land Rovers were fitted with Rolls-Royce B40 four-cylinder engine, which required modification to an 81-inch (2.06 m) wheelbase). However, the engine was too heavy and slow-revving, which stunted performance and produced torque that the Rover gearbox could only just cope with. Rover convinced the MOD that, considering the quantities of Land Rovers they were considering ordering, that the standard 1.6-litre engine would suffice. The MOD started ordering Land Rovers in batches from late 1949. The initial batches were for 50 vehicles, but by the mid-1950s the Army was buying Land Rovers 200 vehicles at a time.
Land Rovers were deployed to the Korean War and the Suez Crisis and became standard light military vehicles throughout the Commonwealth.
However, as the 1960's progressed, more and more specialised versions were developed. As well as the standard 'GS' (General Service) vehicles, a common variant was the 'FFR' (Fitted For Radio', which had 24-volt electrics and a large engine-powered generator to power on-board radios. There were also Ambulances on the 109-inch (2.77 m) series-II and series-III chassis. A well-known version was the LRDPV (Long-Range Desert Patrol Vehicle), commonly called the 'Pink Panther', on account of their distinctive light pink sand camouflage. These 109-inch (2.77 m) series IIs were converted by Marshalls of Cambridge by being stripped of doors and windscreens and fitted with grenade launchers, a machine gun mounting ring and long-range fuel tanks and water tanks. They were used by the SAS for desert patrol and special operations.
By the late 1970's, the British Army had acquired around 9,000 series-III models, which were mainly a special "heavy duty" version of the 109-inch (2.77 m) soft top. These models had improved suspension components and a different chassis cross-member design. These were produced in 12-volt 'GS' models and 24-volt 'FFR' versions. A small number were 88-inch (2.24 m) GS and FFR models, but in general the Army used the air-portable half-ton, 88-inch (2.24 m) “lightweight” version. The lightweight was in service by many armies all over the world. In Europe also the Royal Dutch Ground Forces and the Danish Army used the Land Rover lightweight. Instead of the petrol engine the Dutch and Danish lightweights had diesel engines. Instead of the canvas top the Dutch ones had PVC tops like the modern Land Rover "Wolf".
In addition, there were also 101-inch (2.57 m) Forward Control models, 109-inch (2.77 m) FV18067 ambulances built by Marshalls of Cambridge.
The RN and RAF also acquired and maintained smaller Land Rover fleets during the 1960's and 1970's. The RAF used 88-inch (2.24 m) models for communications, liaison, personnel transport and airfield tractor duties. The Royal Navy's fleet was, understandably, small and consisted mainly of GS-spec and Station Wagon versions for personnel and cargo transport.
All British military Land Rovers used the 2.25-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, except the forward control 101 which used the 3.5 litre Rover V8 engine . However, some overseas customers (such as The Netherlands) specified the 2.25-litre diesel unit instead.
The Land Rover is also the basis for the Shorland Internal Security Services developed by Short Brothers.
Range Rover Series I
Introduced to the public in June 1970, the new "Range Rover" was launched as "A Car For All Reasons", boasting a top speed of around 100 mph (160 km/h), a towing capacity of 3.5 tons, spacious accommodation for five occupants, hydraulic disc brakes on all wheels, and a groundbreaking four-speed, dual-range, permanent four-wheel drive system.
To much critical acclaim, it appeared that Rover had succeeded in their goal of making a car equally capable both on and off-road – arguably better in both environments than any other four-wheel-drive vehicle of its era. With a top speed of 95 mph (153 km/h) and acceleration from a standstill to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 15 seconds, performance was stated as being better than many family saloon cars of its era, and off-road performance was good, owing to its long suspension travel and high ground clearance. The 1995 Classic Range Rovers would reduce the 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) time to around 11 seconds, and increase the top speed to approximately 110 mph (180 km/h).
Chassis & suspension
The Range Rover broke from the Land Rovers of its time by using coil springs instead of the then-common leaf springs. Because of its hefty weight, it also had disc brakes on all four wheels. Originally, it had no power steering though this was added a few years after its introduction.
One problem with the Range Rover chassis was that it suffered considerably from body roll. Because of this, the suspension was lowered by 20 mm (0.8 in) in 1980, and later gained anti roll bars and was introduced in late 1992 for high-end 1993 models.
Most Range Rovers had a 100-inch (2,540 mm) wheel base. However, 1992 saw the introduction of a more luxurious model, branded the LSE in the United Kingdom and County LWB (long wheelbase) in the United States, providing expansive rear-passenger legroom absent from the 100-inch wheelbase models. These had a 108-inch (2,743 mm) wheelbase, air suspension and 4.2-litre engines.
The 100-inch Range Rover chassis became the basis for the Land Rover Discovery introduced in 1989.
Originally, the Range Rover was fitted with a detuned 135 hp (101 kW) version of the Buick derived Rover V8 engine. The 3,528 cc (3.5 L; 215.3 cu in) engine was increased to a displacement of 3,947 cc (3.9 L; 240.9 cu in) for the 1989 model year, and 4,197 cc (4.2 L; 256.1 cu in) in 1992.
Petrol-fuelled Range Rovers were fitted with carburettors until 1986, when they were replaced by Lucas electronic fuel injection improving both performance and fuel economy. The Lucas injection system continued to evolve over the next several years, culminating in the 1990 to 1995 Lucas CUX.Some export markets retained carburettors, with the original Zenith Stromberg manufactured units being replaced by Skinners Union (SU)-manufactured items.
From 1979 onwards, Land Rover collaborated with Perkins on Project Iceberg, an effort to develop a diesel version of the Range Rover's 3.5-litre V8 engine. Both naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions were built, but the all-alloy engine blocks failed under the much greater pressures involved in diesel operation. The project was, therefore, abandoned. The effort to strengthen the Rover V8 for diesel operation was not, however, completely wasted; the 4.2-litre petrol variant of the engine used crankshaft castings developed in the Iceberg project.
Because of the Iceberg failure, it was not until 1986 that Range Rovers gained diesel engines from the factory. The more efficient 2,393 cc (2.4 L; 146.0 cu in) inline four VM diesel from Italy was made available as an option for the heavily taxed European market as the 'Turbo D' model, and were increased to 2,499 cc (2.5 L; 152.5 cu in) in 1989. The VM engines were highly advanced and refined diesel engines for their time but were received poorly by the UK press due to their inconsistent torque delivery compared to the V8 models. To counter these criticisms Land Rover used a Turbo D Range Rover to set several speed and endurance records for diesel vehicles during 1987, including a continuous run over 24 hours at over 100 mph (160 km/h). The VM were replaced by Land Rover's own 200 Tdi turbocharged diesel engine in 1992. and 300 Tdi at the end of 1994.
The Range Rover used permanent four wheel drive, rather than the switchable rear-wheel/four-wheel drive on Land Rover Series vehicles, and had a lever for switching ratios on the transfer box for off-road use. Originally, the only gearbox available was a four-speed manual unit, until Fairy overdrive became an option after 1977. A three-speed Chrysler Torgue Flite automatic gearbox became an option in October 1982, after years of demands from buyers.This was upgraded to a 4-speed ZF box in 1985, coupled to an LT 230 transfer box.
The other major transmission upgrade in the Range Rover's lifetime was the switch from the LT95 combined four-speed manual gearbox and transfer box to the LT77 five-speed gearbox and separate LT 230 transfer box in 1983. The LT 230 was later used on both the Defender and Discovery models, but was replaced on the Range Rover by a Borg Warner chain-driven transfer box incorporating an automatic viscous coupling limited slip differential – earlier transmissions had a manual differential lock (operated by a vacuum servo on the LT95 and mechanically on the LT 230). The LT 77 had two major design changes: first an upgrade to larger bearings for the layshaft and new ratios around 1988, then a newly designed synchro hub for third and fourth gear and double synchros for first and second. This is also known as the suffix H gearbox or LT 77s.
In 1971, Rover, at that time a part of the British Leyland (BL) group, began developing a new car to replace both the Rover P6 and the Triumph 2000 / 2500. The designers of both Triumph and Rover submitted plans for the new car, of which the latter was chosen. David Bache was to head the design team, inspired by exotic machinery such as the Ferrari Daytona and 265 GTC/4 and the late 1960s design study by Pinninfarina for the BMC 1800 which also guided the design of the Citroen CX Spen King was responsible for the engineering. The two had previously collaborated on the Range Rover. The project was first code-named RT1 (for Rover Triumph Number 1) but then soon changed to SD1 (for Specialist Division Number 1) as Rover and Triumph were put in the new "Specialist Division" of British Leyland.
The new car was designed with simplicity of manufacture in mind in contrast to the P6, the design of which was rather complicated in areas such as the De Dion type rear suspension. The SD1 used a well-known live rear axle instead. This different approach was chosen because surveys showed that although the automotive press was impressed by sophisticated and revolutionary designs the general buying public was not unless the results were good. However, with the live rear axle came another retrograde step – the car was fitted with drum brakes at the rear.
Rover's plans to use its then fairly new 2.2 L four cylinder engine were soon abandoned as BL management ruled that substantially redesigned versions of Triumph's six-cylinder engine were to power the car instead. The Rover V8 engine was fitted in the engine bay. The three-speed automatic gearbox was the Borg Warner 65 model.
The dashboard of the SD1 features an air vent, unusually, directly facing the passenger. The display binnacle sits on top of the dashboard in front of the driver to aid production in left-hand drive markets, since it avoided the expense of producing two different dashboard mouldings for LHD and RHD versions. The air vent doubles as a passage for the steering-wheel column, and the "podular" display binnacle can be easily fitted on top of the dashboard on either the left or right-hand side of the car. This concept was not entirely new; it had also been used on the Range Rover and was used again on the Mk.1 Austin Metro both of which were also designed by David Bache. The interior of the Series 1 was notable for its lack of wood embellishment in comparison to previous Rover saloons, with an extensive use instead of modern soft-feel plastics, and a new "skeletal" version of the Rover badge would appear on the bonnet - Bache was keen that the SD1 should make use of the latest industrial design trends and be a clean break from the past.
An estate body had been envisaged, but it did not get beyond the prototype stage. Two similarly specified estates have survived, and are exhibited at the Heritage Motor Trust and the Haynes International Motor Museum respectively. One was used by BL chairman Sir Michael Edwards as personal transport in the late 1970s. The two cars as befit prototypes differ in the detail of and around the tailgate. One car has a recessed tailgate, while the other has a clamshell arrangement, where the whole tailgate is visible when closed.
The SD1 was intended to be produced in a state-of-the-art extension to Rover's historic Soilihull factory alongside the TR7. It was largely funded by the British government, who had bailed BL out from bankruptcy in 1975. Unfortunately, this did nothing to improve the patchy build quality that then plagued all of British Leyland. That, along with quick-wearing interior materials and poor detailing ensured that initial enthusiasm soon turned to disappointment.
SD/1 Series I
This car was launched on its home market in June 1976 in hatchback / fastback form only, as the V8-engined Rover 3500: SOHC 2.3 L and 2.6 L sixes followed in November 1977, when the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000 were finally discontinued. Although there was no four-cylinder version of the SD1 at this point, British Leyland produced 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2 versions of the smaller Princess in order to compete with the entry-level versions of the Ford Granada, as well as more expensive versions of the Ford Cortina.
The car was warmly received by the press and even received the European Car Of The Year award for 1977. Its launch on the European mainland coincided with its appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1977, some three months after the Car of the Year announcement. Dealers had no left-hand drive cars for sale, however, since production had been blocked by a tool makers' strike affecting several British Leyland plants and a "body shell dispute" at the company's Cowley plant. Closer to home, the car and its design team received The Midlander of the Year Award for 1976, because they had between them done most in the year to increase the prestige of the (English) Midlands region.
Poor construction quality was apparent even in the company's press department fleet. The British magazine Motor published a road test of an automatic 3500 in January 1977, and while keen to highlight the Rover's general excellence, they also reported that the test car suffered from poor door seals, with daylight visible from inside past the rear door window frame's edge on the left side of the car, and a curious steering vibration at speed which might (or might not) have resulted from the car's front wheels not having been correctly balanced. Disappointment was recorded that the ventilation outlet directly in front of the driver appeared to be blocked, delivering barely a breeze even when fully open; the writer had encountered this problem on one other Rover 3500, although he had also driven other cars of the same type with an abundant output of fresh air through the vent in question. Nevertheless, in March 1977, Britain's Autocar was able to publish an article by Raymond Mays – a famous racing driver and team manager during (in particular) the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s – in which Mays explained why, after driving it for 12,000 miles, he considered his Rover 3500 was "the best car he [had] ever had", both for its many qualities as a driver's car and for its excellent fuel economy even when driven hard. Similar ventilation problems persisted until 1980 and were reported in tests of the V8-S version.
Another area of concern was flaking paint on early models, forcing British Leyland to spend a lot of money on repainting cars.
In television shows John Steed in The New Avengers and George Cowley in The Professionals both used yellow Rover 3500 models
Cosmetic tweaks and range expansion
Between 1976 and 1981 there were some very minor updates to the car including new badging (front and rear) and chrome backed door mirrors - the traditional-style Rover Longship emblem returned for the 1981 model year, thus replacing the 'skeletal' version, although the latter continued to be used on the hubcaps, and indeed a variant of this Rover logo was later used as a hubcap emblem on both the later SD3 Rover 200 and Rover 800 models as late as 1989. The saw the introduction of the then range-topping V8-S model with no mechanical alterations, available in a rather bright metallic "Triton" green amongst others with either gold or silver-painted alloy wheels depending on the body color. Interior specification included air-conditioning, thick luxurious carpets, velour seats and a headlamp wash/wipe system. This now very rare model was replaced in late 1980 with the Vanden Plas (VDP) model, which came with a leather interior as standard.
In 1980 Rover obtained US type approval for the SD1 and re-entered the American market after a ten-year absence. The car was only made available as a single variant, using a modified version of the V8 engine and badged simply as "Rover 3500". The equipment and trim levels were similar to that of the UK market's then top-of-the-range V8-S model. The main differences were a smaller steering wheel, the manually operated sunroof being a cost option and rear passenger head restraints were not available at all. Small Union Jack badges were fixed to the lower section of each front wing, just ahead of the doors, to promote the car's British origins. Canadian market cars had V8 badges instead of the Union Jack.
The five-speed manual gearbox was supplied as standard, with the three-speed automatic version being a cost option.
US safety legislation (that first applied to the Citroen DS) demanded that the headlamp arrangement excluded the front glass panels. Also larger, heavier bumpers were required, increasing the overall length to 191 inches (4850 mm).
American emissions regulations necessitated other differences including replacement of the carburettors with Lucas’s L Jetronic fuel injection system and the fitting of dual catalytic converters a modified exhaust manifold and de-smogging equipment. The engine's compression ratio was modified to 8.13:1. Publicity material claimed it was capable of reaching 148 hp (SAE) at 5100 rpm but the car as sold actually peaked at 133 hp (at 5000 rpm). A desmogged carburetted engine had already been on sale in Australia since August 1978, with 102 kW (137 hp). Australia received a version of the fuel injected federalized engine with 106 kW (142 hp) beginning with the 1981 model year.
Despite the necessary modifications, Rover chose not to set up an assembly plant in the US but built and shipped the cars from the Solihull factory.
The SD1 gained positive reviews in the American press and was competitively priced against rivals such as the BMW 5 Series and corresponding Mercedes Benz’s. Nevertheless, the car achieved just 480 sales between its launch in June 1980 and the end of that year. The whole of 1981 attracted 774 sales, although most of these cars had actually been built and stockpiled the previous year.
Rover ceased the supply of American market SD1s at the end of 1981, although unsold cars remained available from dealers well into the following year.
Reasons for the commercial failure of the SD1 in the US are open to speculation. The weak value of the American dollar against European currencies at the time rendered imports relatively expensive in comparison to a home-built product. A significant rise in oil prices during 1979 led to many motorists opting for more fuel-efficient cars. Public awareness of the SD1 may have been low as the dealership network across America was small, while Rover's expenditure on the aforementioned modifications, testing, and approval for the US market left limited budget for publicity and advertising. (To save money the official press launch was combined with that of the Triumph TR 7/8)
Austin Maxi IIThe Hydrolastic suspension was replaced by Hydragas and in doing so, the Maxi was brought into line with the rest of the Moulton-suspended range. Finally, in 1980, the Maxi was further, cosmetically face lifted – new bumpers, wheel trims and interior trim brightened the car, but did not significantly improve it.
1485 cc - E Series - 55 kW (74 hp)
1748 cc - E Series - 62 kW (84 hp)
Austin Princess II
In July 1978, the Princess was given a revamp and renamed the Princess 2. The main change was the replacement of the 1800 cc B Series engine with the new O Series engine. The new engine was offered in two sizes: 1695 cc and 1993 cc. Since there was an 1800 cc tax barrier for company cars at the time, the 1700 cc O-series engine was developed to take advantage of that, whilst the 2000 cc engine was developed for the private motorists who wanted something different from the hugely popular Ford Cortina. The car had perhaps reached its pinnacle when the prestigious Motoring Which publication described the Princess 2200HLS automatic model as "An excellent car, marred only by poor reliability".
Production of the Princess ceased in November 1981.
1700 L - 1978 - 1981 - 1695 cc O Series I4
1700 HL - 1978 - 1981 - 1695 cc O Series I4
1700 HLS - 1979 - 1980 - 1695 cc O Series I4
2000 HL - 1978 - 1981 - 1993 cc O Series I4
2000 HLS - 1979 - 1981 - 1993 cc O Series I4
2200 HL - 1978 - 1979 - 2227 cc E Series I6
2200 HLS - 1987 - 1981 - 2227 cc E Series I6
1700 L - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
1700 HL - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
1700 HLS - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
2000 HL - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
2000 HLS - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
2200 HL - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
2200 HLS - 4 speed manual / 3 speed automatic
Austin Allegro III
The Allegro 3, introduced at the end of 1979, used the "A-Plus" version of the 1.0-litre A-Series engine (developed for the forthcoming new Metro), and featured some cosmetic alterations in an attempt to keep the momentum going, but by then the Allegro was outdated, and was now up against high-tech opposition in the form of the Ford Escort Mk III and Vauxhall Astra Mk I / Opel Kadett D both launched within a year of the Allegro's face lift. The cosmetic alterations were fairly minimal; the Allegro 3 gained a new grille with the revised Leyland badge; it carried the 'Allegro 3' name, bore a larger bumper and gained additional side indicators. The interior was modernised with new components such as a new round four spoke steering wheel. By now, however, British Leyland was working on an all-new car to replace the Allegro and Maxi during the early 1980s - the LC10 - which would eventually emerge as the Austin Maestro.
British Leyland entered the small hatchback market – pioneered during the 1970s by the likes of the Renault 5 and Volkswagen Golf – with its Metro which was launched in October 1980. The Metro would be built at the Longbridge which had just been expanded to provide adequate production capacity for the new car. But with BL hoping to sell more than 100,000 Metros a year in Britain alone, more capacity for production was needed and production of the Allegro and the Mini were pruned back as a result. The base models of the slightly larger Triumph Acclaim - the first product of BL's alliance with Honda introduced in 1981 - also acted as a substitute for the Allegro until the Maestro launched.
After 1980, it failed to feature in the top 10 best selling new cars in Britain, barely a decade since its predecessor had been Britain's most popular new car, though this fall in sales was compensated by the large sales figures achieved by the smaller Metro, as well as the fact that the slightly larger Triumph Acclaim was among Britain's top 10 selling cars by 1982.
The Vanden Plas models were rebranded as the 1.5 and the 1.7, the 1.5 having a twin carburettor 1500 cc engine and a manual gearbox, while the 1.7 had a single carburettor 1750 cc engine and an automatic gearbox.
Some models of Allegro 3 (the early HL and later HLS models) were equipped with four round headlights, rather than the more usual two rectangular ones.
Allegro production, which had lasted for nearly a decade, finally finished in March 1982. Its successor, the Austin Maestro went into production in November 1982 and was officially launched on 1 March 1983. The backlog of unsold Allegro 3 models remained sufficient to stock dealerships into 1983, well after the Maestro had launched.
1980 - 1982 - 998 cc A Series Plus I4 - 33 kW (44 hp) - 71 Nm (52 lb ft)
1980 - 1982 - 1275 cc A Series Plus I4 - 46 kW (62 hp) - 98 Nm (72 lb ft)
1973 - 1982 - 1485 cc E Series I4 - 51 kW (69 hp) - 113 Nm (83 lb ft)
1973 - 1982 - 1748 cc E Series I4 - 57 kW (76 hp) - 141 Nm (104 lb ft)
1974 - 1982 - 1748 cc E Series I4 Twin Carb - 67 kW (90 hp) - 141Nm (104 lb ft)
Austin Metro Mk I
On 8 October 1980, BL introduced the Austin Mini Metro. The roots of the Metro lay in an earlier project denoted as AD- 088 (Amalgamated Drawing Office, 88-inch wheelbase), which was intended to be a direct replacement for the Mini However, poor reception to the ADO88 design at customer clinics, coupled to the realization within BL that Mini-sized cars were evolving into larger "super mini’s", such as the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 127, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo, forced a major reappraisal of the project after 1975. In late 1977, ADO88 was given an eleventh hour redesign, to make it both larger and less utilitarian in appearance, whilst the Mini itself would now remain in production in smaller numbers alongside it as a low-priced model. The beginning of Metro production also saw a reduction in volumes for the larger Allegro. The revised project was given the new designator LC8 (Leyland Cars No8), and the definitive Metro design would ultimately emerge under the leadership of BL's chief stylists David Bache and Harris Mann
Plans for a replacement for the Mini had been afoot within BL since the early 1970's, but none of the concepts conceived got beyond the initial design stages, largely due to a shortage of funds at British Leyland, and its eventual bankruptcy and government bail-out in 1975.
The modern super mini market had evolved during the 1970's, with earlier mini-cars like the Mini and hillman Imp being followed by mostly larger cars with the "hatchback" body style – beginning with the Fiat 127 in 1971 and Renault 5 in 1972, with the next five years seeing the arrival of similar cars including the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo as well as the Vauxhall Chevette from General Motors (also built in West Germany as the Opel Kadett) which was also available as a saloon and estate as well as a hatchback. These cars gained a decent sized market share in Britain and most other European markets.
Following the Ryder Report, which prioritized the ADO88/LC8 project, Longbridge would be expanded in 1978 with a £200m robotised body assembly line (known as the "New West Works") to enable it to produce the new model which it was hoped would sell 100,000 or more units a year in Britain alone; production of the smaller Mini and larger Allegro was also pruned back to enable the plant to produce as many units of the Metro as possible, with the Allegro finally being axed in 1982 to make way for the Maestro.
Some of the Mini's underpinnings were carried over into the Metro, namely the 998 cc and 1275 cc A Series engines, much of the front-wheel drive train and four-speed manual gearbox and suspension sub frames. The Metro used the Hydragas suspension system found on the Allegro but without front to rear interconnection. The hatchback body shell was one of the most spacious of its time and this was a significant factor in its popularity. The space efficient interior was also lauded for the novel 60/40 split rear seat which was standard on higher specification models. The original Mk.1 Metros also featured David Bache's signature "symmetric" dashboard design (also used on the Range Rover and the Rover SD/1), where the main dashboard moulding consists of a shelf, onto which the instrument binnacle is simply mounted on the left or the right hand side – this arrangement saves the tooling cost of two separate dashboard mouldings for right and left-hand drive. Initially, the Metro was sold as a three-door hatchback only (as were most of its competitors), with a choice of 998cc (1.0 litre) or 1275cc (1.3-litre) petrol engines.
The name was chosen through a ballot of BL employees. They were offered a choice of three names, Match, Maestro or Metro. Once the result was announced, the manufacturer of trains and buses, Metro Cammell, objected to the use of the Metro name by BL. The issue was resolved by BL promising to advertise the car only as the "Mini Metro", although after a while the Mini Metro name disappeared. There were also van versions, introduced in late 1982, known as the Austin Metrovan.
A two-door saloon model was included in the Metro's development, which would have been similar in concept to the Vauxhall Chevette saloon as well as the Volkswagen Polo based Derby. However, by the time production of the Metro began, it was decided not to include a saloon version, this niche being filled by the Mini remaining in production, and only a few of the Metro's competitors were available as a saloon.
BL's last all-new mass-produced car before the Metro's launch was the 1976 Rover’s SD/1
One of the consequences was that there was enormous public interest in the car from well before its launch. The company chose to stage the launch presentations for dealers and major company car buyers on board a cruise ship, the MS Vistafjord. This launch event took place over a three-week period in September 1980 sailing between West Gladstone Dock in Liverpool and the Isle of Man, where guests could drive the car, so long as sea conditions allowed them to land by tender as there was no dock facility for the ship. The news broke in the national newspapers a full year ahead of the public launch with The Sun, among others, carrying the story. It was finally revealed to the public on the press day of the British Motor Show with the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in attendance.
The Metro quickly proved popular with buyers, a 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer buying one of the early examples, and was regularly seen in it being hounded by the paparazzi just before her marriage to Prince Charles in July 1981. Even then, during the early part of its production life, it was the best selling mini-car in the UK, before being eclipsed by the updated Ford Fiesta in 1984. Its clever interior design made it spacious considering its dimensions, and Hydra gas suspension gave surprisingly good ride and handling. Its updated A+ series 1.0 and 1.3-litre OHV engines hardly represented the cutting edge in performance, but they were strong on economy.
In its best year, 1983, more than 130,000 Metros were sold in Britain; only the Ford Escort and Sierra outsold it. This was despite the arrival of a host of new super minis on the British market that year – the Ford Fiesta received a major face lift, and four all-new super minis (the Vauxhall Nova,, Fiat Uno, Nissan Micraand Peugeot 205) went on sale in Britain between April and September.
A major TV advertising campaign was created by the London agency, Leo Burnett which came up with the headline "a British car to beat the world". The advert also featured the similar-sized Fiat 127, Renault 5, Volkswagen Polo and Datsun Cherry as "foreign invaders" and the voice over spoke of the Metro's ability to "send the foreigners back where they came from". Following the launch of the Austin Maestro in 1983, less of British Leyland's advertising was focused on the Metro. The Maestro initially sold very well, but within five years sales were declining sharply, although it remained in production until 1994.
During production Land Rover referred to it as either the 'New Range Rover' or by its model designation of 'LP'.
During 1981, British Leyland confirmed that the Metro range would soon be expanded with more luxurious and high performance versions.
The Austin Metro was a huge seller in Britain, with more than 1 million being sold over a 10-year production run. The Mk III Ford Escort (1980–1986) was the only single model to outsell it in Britain throughout the 1980's, and by December 1989 only the Mk III Ford Escort was a more common model on British roads. However, the first three generations of Ford Escort combined outnumbered it by this stage.
All Metros were powered by the 4-cylinder A-Series engine, in 0.85-, 1.0- and 1.3-litre options. Outputs varied depending on year and trim level, with a low-compression 1.0-litre option available on lower-specification models suitable for 2-star petrol, an 0.85-litre option available in some South American countries; no other market existed for this engine size.
Metro 1.0 - 1981 - 0.998 L (44 hp)
Metro 1.0 E - 1981 - 0.998 L (47 hp)
Metro 1.3 - 1981 - 1.275 L (63 hp)
Metro 1.3 Vanden Plas - 1982 - 1.275 L (71 hp)
Metro MG 1.3 - 1985 - 1.275 L (73 hp)
Metro MG Turbo - 195 - 1.275 L 94 hp
Rover SD/1 Series II
Rover SD/1 Series II
Early in 1982, Rover unveiled the Cowley-built, facelifted line to the public (although some early Series 2 cars were in fact built at Solihull). These cars benefited mostly from small cosmetic changes on the exterior as well as a quite extensively redesigned interior. The biggest interior change was to the instrument binnacle, which was made both flatter and longer than the original, with the ancillary gauges and digital clock moved out of the driver's line of sight almost over the centre of the dashboard, whilst the dials themselves followed modern practice being under a glass hood instead of being deeply recessed as before. Wood trim on both the dashboard and the door cards were included after criticism that the original interior looked downmarket. Car spotters can distinguish the two series by the headlights, which were chrome-rimmed and flush fitting on the Series 2, recessed on the Series 1, the deeper rear window, now fitted with a rear wash wipe, and the new plastic wrap around bumpers which replaced the three-piece rubber and stainless steel ones. Other details, which are not as easy to assign include the full-width rear badge strip under the tail lights, engine size badges on front wings, and a range of new wheel trims and alloy wheels. The automatic gearbox was now a French built GM Turbo-Hydramatic 180 model ( TH180 ), still offering three speeds but better ratios. The electric window switch pack moved from the centre console to the driver's door (and is well remembered for lacking edge finishing trim around the recesses), and a fully automatic choke appeared – eliminating the manual choke lever which had a tendency to break.
Further Range Expansion
1982 was also the year when SD1 buyers could finally opt for a four-cylinder engine since the two-litre BL O Series engine of the Morris Ital was now fitted to the car, now called the Rover 2000 - marking the first time an engine from the Austin-Morris division of BL would appear in a Rover. The engine was particularly aimed at company car fleets where its size enabled it to beat a taxation threshold. This broadened the SD1 range and made it more affordable to potential buyers, giving British Leyland an all-round rival to the Ford Granda which had always featured a four-cylinder version, although unlike the SD1 or earlier P6 had never been available with a V8 engine. The Rover 2000 was not particularly fast, with a continental magazine stating that the most one could say was that it was faster than diesel and turbo diesel cars in the same class.
Another four-cylinder engine became available in the 90 bhp (67 kW; 91 PS) Rover 2400 SD Turbo. This was the only diesel engined SD1, utilising the HR492 motor from Italian VW Moton also used in the Range Rover Turbo D model, chosen for its petrol-like smoothness. BL had intended for a diesel version of the Rover V8 engine to be used in the SD1 (as well as other models) but the problematic development programme was cancelled in 1983 in favour of engines bought-in from outside manufacturers.
The flagship model was created when Rover introduced a 190 bhp (142 kW; 193 PS) fuel-injected version of its V8. Borrowing from technologies pioneered in the US and Australian markets (where strict emissions regulations meant the inclusion of high compression carbureted engines was not feasible) the new derivative was originally only available in the Vitesse model, but from 1984 onwards it was also offered in the luxury Vanden Plas range, badged as the Vanden Plas EFi. To meet the demands of the luxury executive car market, where automatic transmission tended to be preferred, Rover first offered an auto as an option in the Vitesse, but later withdrew the option and lured the customers to the plush Vanden Plas EFi instead which had all the standard comforts of the Vitesse, such as electric mirrors, windows and locks, a trip computer, headlight washers, an adjustable steering column and a four-speaker stereo (something special at that time). Additionally, it added standard leather seats (velour cloth was a no-cost option), an electrically operated sunroof (available on all models) and cruise control; the only option being air-conditioning. Very rare are the "Twin Plenum" Vitesses; these had two throttle bodies mounted on the plenum chamber instead of one and were produced in very small numbers as homologation for the twin plenum racers.
The SD1 continued until the launch of its successor, the Rover 600 in July 1986. the third product of the Rover venture with BMW, which had been in development since 1981 as "Project XX" and also formed the basis of the BMW 5 Series.
Despite production ending in 1986, stocks of new SD1s remained available well into 1987, with the latest civilian spec examples were registered under the "E" registration prefix, with some stockpiled police specifications being registered even later, the fastback version of the 800 arrived in 1988. The Rover V8 engine remained in volume production and continued to be used in Land Rover products until 2003.
The Metro range was expanded in May 1982 to include the luxury Vanden Plas and higher performance MG versions; the MG Metro marked a quick comeback for the marque previously used on sports cars until the Abingdon plant making the MG B closed in 1980. The Vanden Plas featured higher levels of luxury and equipment, while the slightly more powerful MG Metro 1.3 sold as a sports model (0–60 mph in 10.9 seconds, top speed 103 mph). The Vanden Plas
variant received the same MG engine from 1984 onwards (with the exception of the VP Automatic, which retained the 63 bhp (47 kW) 1275 cc unit). The luxury fittings marking out the Metro Vanden Plas took the form of a radio-cassette player, electric front windows, an improved instrument panel with tachometer and a variety of optional extras such as trip computer leather trim, remote boot release, and front fog lamps.
The changes between the MG engine (taken directly from the Mini Cooper) and the standard 1275 included a modified cylinder head with larger valves and improved porting, altered cam profile and larger carburettor leading to a 20% increase in BHP to 72 bhp. At the October 1982 Birmingham Motor Show the MG Metro Turbo variant was first shown. With a quoted bhp of 93, 0–60 mph in 9.9 seconds, and top speed of 112 mph (180 km/h) this car had few direct competitors at the time, although the growing demand for "hot hatches" meant that it soon had a host of competitors including the Ford Fiesta XR2, Peugeot 205 GTI and Renault 5 GT Turbo. This model had a few addition modifications bolted on over the normally aspirated MG model to give an additional 21 bhp. Aside from the turbocharger and exhaust system itself, and what was (at the time) a relatively sophisticated boost delivery and control system, the MG Turbo variant incorporated stiffer suspension (purportedly with engineering input from Lotus), and an uprated crankshaft of nitrided steel and sodium cooled exhaust valves.
Both MG variants were given a "sporty" interior with red seat belts, red carpets and a sports-style steering wheel. The Turbo also benefitted from an LCD boost pressure gauge. The Turbo also received alloy wheels, black wheel arch extensions, blacked out trim, a rear spoiler surrounding the windshield, and prominent "TURBO" decals. While it retained rear drums, the front disc brakes were changed to ventilated units. The later MG variants were emblazoned with the MG logo both inside and out, which only served to fuel claims of badge engineering from some of the more steadfast MG enthusiasts. Others believed that this sentiment was unfounded, particularly in the case of the turbo variant, due to the undeniably increased performance and handling when compared to the non-MG models. From 1983, the MG badge also found its way onto higher performance versions of the Maestro, and shortly afterwards it was adopted for higher-performance versions of the Montego.
The Austin Ambassador is a large family car that was introduced by the Austin Division of the Rover Group. The vehicle was a heavily updated version of the Princess, a saloon car that had lacked a hatchback. Only the doors and inner structure were carried over, but the wedge-shaped side profile betrayed the car's Princess origins, and it was not considered a truly new model. The Princess had been out of production for four months by the time that the Ambassador went on sale.
Unlike the Princess, a six-cylinder 2.2-litre version was not available; the Ambassador was offered only as a four-cylinder, initially with either a 1.7-litre or a 2.0-litre (single carburettor) variant in "L", "HL" and "HLS" trims. A benefit of not installing the taller E6 engine was that the bonnet could be made lower and flatter, although this meant that the wipers were now no longer concealed (unlike those of the Princess). Instead of the previous 2.2-litre models, there were the HLS and later Vanden Plas trim levels, both with a twin carburettor version of the 2.0-litre engine. In 1983, the 2.0-litre HL was upgraded to also use the more powerful twin-carburettor engine. A four-speed manual gearbox (and automatic) were the only transmissions offered, with commentators citing the lack of a fifth gear (available in other BL models) for the manual transmission, as one of the car's drawbacks.
Despite prototypes being built in left-hand drive, production versions of the Ambassador were only built in right-hand drive form and thus were not exported to continental Europe. Aside from the Ambassador's connections to the lowly repute of the Princess, commentators point out that its sedate image and driving characteristics (and low performance) also mitigate against its success in a market where performance and taut handling were becoming more important.
Some components, such as the headlights, were shared with the Morris Ital Other minor components, including much of the interior trim, was also shared with other BL products, such as the Allegro. The interior was generally not an improvement over that of the Princess, feeling cheap and lacking a rev counter, even in the top HLS model. According to Austin only the front door skins were directly shared with the Princess. The rear part of the chassis was modified to accommodate the opening hatch, and there were windows in the C-pillars which did make for an airier cabin.
L/HL - 1982 - 1984 - 1.7 L - O Series I4
HL - 1982 - 1984 - 2.0 L - O Series I4
HL/ HLS/Vanden Plas - 2.0 L O Series I4 twin carb