Herbert Austin, later Sir Herbert, the former manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company founded The Austin Motor Company in 1905, at Longbridge, which was then in Worcestershire (Longbridge became part of Birmingham in 1911 when its boundaries were expanded).
Around the 1920s the company produced the Austin 7, an inexpensive, small and simple car and one of the earliest to be directed at a mass market. At one point it was built under licence by the fledgeling BMW.
A largely independent United States subsidiary operated under the name American Austin Car Company from 1929 to 1934; it was revived under the name “American Bantam” from 1937 to 1941.
In 1952 Austin merged with the Nuffield Organisation (parent company of Morris) to form the British Motor Corporation (later British Leyland). Austin automobile and engine designs were copied by the fledgling Nissan of Japan. That company produced Austin-derived models into the early 1960s.
In 1982, the by now greatly shrunk British Leyland company was renamed Austin Rover Group, with Austin acting as the “budget” brand. However, the continuing bad publicity associated with build and rust problems on the Metro, Maestro and Montego models meant that the badge was dropped, and the last Austin-badged car was built in 1987.
The rights to the Austin badge are owned by MG Rover, currently in administration, the heirs to the empire that was once BMC and BL. There are no plans to resurrect it. Austin’s historic assembly plant in Longbridge was, until its collapse in April 2005, MG Rover’s only remaining plant.
Morris was started in 1913 when bicycle manufacturer William Morris (1877-1963) turned his attention to car manufacturing. A factory was opened in Oxford and the company’s first car the “Bullnose” Oxford was introduced.
During the 1920s Morris established a reputation for producing high quality cars. In 1924 Morris overtook Ford to become Britain’s biggest car manufacturer, holding a 51% share of the home market. Also in 1924 the head of the Morris sales agency in Oxford, Cecil Kimber, started building sporting versions of Morris cars called MG after the agency Morris Garages.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s the company produced mainly simple but reliable family cars. The most famous Morris car was the Morris Minor introduced in 1948 reusing a name from 1928. The Morris Oxford of 1948 was the basis for the design of India’s famous state-produced Ambassador automobile.
In the early 1950s Morris merged with its old rival Austin to form the British Motor Corporation. In 1968, the Morris brand became part of British Leyland.
The Morris brand name was used until the early 1980s on cars such as the Morris Marina. The facelifted Marina, the Morris Ital was the last Morris-badged passenger car until its demise in 1984. (The last Morris was a van based on the Austin Metro.) The Morris assembly plant in Cowley was turned over in the early 1980s for the production of Austin and Rover badged vehicles.
The rights to the Morris badge is currently owned by MG Rover, who have inherited the remains of and BMC and BL. The Cowley assembly plant is now owned by BMW, who use it to assemble the new MINI. With MG Rover currently in receivership, it is not clear who will buy the Morris badge.
British marque that traditionally has produced sports cars from 1924 to 2005. MG originally stood for “Morris Garages”, a dealer of Morris cars which began producing its own customized versions. Almost all “pure” MG’s are two-seat open sports cars, but the brand has also been used to designate sportier versions of other models belonging to the same parent company.
There is some debate over when MG started. The company itself believes it is 1924, although the first cars bore both Morris and MG badges. Some disputing this believe that MG began trading in 1925.
From 1929 until 1980 the MG factory was in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. As part of Morris, (itself part of the Nuffield Organisation), MG was effectively absorbed into the British Motor Corporation in 1952, and latterly British Leyland in 1968. The factory was shut down as part of the ruthless programme of cutbacks necessary to turn BL around after the turbulent times of the 1970s.
MG is now part of the MG Rover Group based in Longbridge, Birmingham. This Group went into receivership in 2005; the future for English production – if not the brand – remains uncertain.
There were various pre-war models built, not all of them sports cars. MG established a name for itself in the early days of the sport of international automobile racing. Beginning before and continuing after World War II, MG produced a line of cars known as the T-Series Midgets which, post-war, were exported worldwide, achieving better-than-expected success. These included the MG TC, MG TD, and MG TF, all of which were based on the pre-war MG TB, with various degrees of updating. MG departed from its earlier line of Y-Type saloons and pre-war designs and released the MGA in 1955. The MGB was released in 1962 to satisfy demand for a more modern and comfortable sports car. In 1965 the fixed head coupé (FHC) followed: the MGB GT. With continual updates, mostly to comply with increasingly stringent American emissions and safety standards, the MGB was produced until 1980. Between 1967 and 1969 a short-lived model called the MGC was released. The MGC was based on the MGB body, but with a larger (and, unfortunately, heavier) six-cylinder engine, and somewhat worse handling. MG also began producing the MG Midget in 1961. The Midget was a re-badged and slightly restyled second-generation Austin-Healey Sprite. As with the MGB, the Midget design was frequently modified until production finally stopped in 1979.
The marque lived on after 1980 as British Leyland (later Austin Rover Group), the then-owner, placed the MG badge on a number of Austin saloons. In New Zealand, the MG badge even appeared on the late 1980s’ Austin Montego estate, called the MG 2.0 Si Wagon. There was a brief competitive history with a mid-engined, six-cylinder version of the Metro.
In the late ’80s, ARG was renamed as the Rover Group and revived the two-seater with the MG RV8, then in 1995 introduced the all-new MGF (redesigned and relaunched as the TF, reviving an old MG name).
With the demerger of Rover from BMW in 1999, the MG name appeared on sportier versions of the current Rover saloons and the Rover 75 estate.
The MG Rover Group purchased Qvale, which had developed a new De Tomaso Mangusta. This car, already approved for sale in the United States, formed the basis of the MG XPower SV, an “extreme” V8-engined sports car. It was revealed in 2002 and went on sale in 2004.
As of 2003, the site of the former Abingdon factory was host to McDonalds and the Thames Valley Police.
MG car production has been suspended since 7 April 2005, due to the receivership of the MG Rover group. It is hoped that MG production will continue, either at Longbridge or elsewhere, if a buyer for the marque is found. It has been rumoured that Rover production could also continue – possibly in China or Iran, depending on where the company’s buyer comes from.
The British Motor Corporation ( BMC)
was a car company, formed by the merger of the Austin and Morris companies in 1952. It was the largest British car company of its day, producing a wide range of cars under brand names including Austin, Morris, MG and Austin-Healey. Its headquarters were at Longbridge, near Birmingham.
In 1958, BMC hired Pinin Farina to redesign its entire car line. This resulted in the creation of three “Farina” saloons, each of which was badge-engineered to fit the various BMC car lines:
The compact Farina model bowed in 1958 with the Austin A40 Farina. This was the first hatchback car ever produced. A Mark II A40 Farina appeared in 1961 and was produced through 1967. These small cars used the A-Series engine.
The mid-sized Farinas were launched in 1958 with the Wolseley 15/60. Other members of the group included the Riley 4/68, Austin A55 Cambridge Mk. II, MG Magnette Mk. III, and Morris Oxford V. Later, the design was licensed in Argentina and produced as the Di Tella 1500/Traveller/Argenta. The mid-size cars used the B-Series straight-4 engine.
Most of these cars lasted only thorough 1961, though the Di Tellas remained for four more years. They were replaced with a new Farina body style and most were renamed. These were the Austin A60 Cambridge, MG Magnette Mk. IV, Morris Oxford VI, Riley 4/72, and Wolseley 16/60. These mostly remained in production through 1968, with no rear wheel drive replacement produced.
Farina also designed a large car. Launched in 1959 as the Austin A99 Westminster, Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre, and Wolseley 6/99, it used the large C-Series straight-6 engine. The large Farinas were updated in 1961 as the Austin A110 Westminster, Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre Mk. II, and Wolseley 6/110. These remained in production through 1971.
In 1966 BMC merged with Jaguar to form British Motor Holdings. In the following year there was a further wave of mergers in the British car industry, and the company became the British Leyland Motor Corporation, more commonly known as British Leyland. Subsequent de-mergers resulted in the MG Rover Group.
Leyland Motors is a British vehicle manufacturer of lorries and buses. It gave its name to the nationalised British Leyland Motor Corporation, later to become just British Leyland.
Leyland has a long history dating from 1896, when the Sumner and Spurrier families founded the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland in North West England. The company’s first vehicle was a 1.5-ton-capacity steam van. The Lancashire Steam Motor Company was renamed Leyland Motors in 1907 when they took over Coulthards of Preston.
Leyland Motors built the Leyland 8 racing car, which was driven by Parry Thomas at Brooklands. Parry Thomas was later killed in attempt on the land speed record when a chain drive broke. Three generations of Spurriers controlled Leyland Motors from its foundation until Sir Henry Spurrier sadly died of a brain tumour in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Whilst they were in control Leyland enjoyed excellent labour relations and reputably never lost so much as a day’s production through industrial action.
World War 2
During the war, Leyland along with most vehicle manufacturers was involved in war production. Leyland built the Cromwell tank at its works from 1943.
After the war, Leyland continued military manufacture with the Centurion tank.
In 1946, AEC and Leyland worked to form the British United Traction Ltd.
On the other hand, Leyland Motors acquired other companies in the post war years:
* 1951: Albion Motors
* 1955: Scammell Lorries Ltd – military and specialist lorry manufacturer
* 1960: Standard Triumph, cars and some agricultural machinery interests
* 1962: Associated Commercial Vehicles (ACV), which incorporated AEC, Thornycroft, Park Royal Vehicles and Charles H. Roe. Then Leyland Motors was renamed Leyland Motor Corporation.
* 1965: Bristol Commercial Vehicles, Eastern Coach Works
In 1968, the merger with British Motor Holdings, which included the Daimler and Guy, Austin and Morris Commercial bus and lorry lines to give the British Leyland Motor Corporation with the majority of famous British goods vehicle and bus and coach marques in one organization.
British Leyland era
The British Leyland group was difficult to be managed because there were many companies under its marque. Also, there were competitions between these companies due to duplicated products. These, and some other reasons, led to the financial difficulties of British Leyland. In December 1974, British Leyland had to receive a guarantee from the British government.
In 1975, after the publication of Ryder Report, the British Leyland group was nationalised and split into 4 divisions. The division of British Leyland’s bus and truck production became Leyland Truck & Bus.
Leyland Truck & Bus was spilt into Leyland Bus and Leyland Trucks in 1981.
Leyland Name post-British Leyland
The Leyland Bus operations was divested as a management buy-out (sold to its management) and subsequently bought by Volvo Buses in 1988, which discontinued most of its product range.
Leyland Trucks merged with DAF and Leyland-DAF was formed. In 1993, Leyland-DAF went bankrupt. Its UK division was bought through management buyout and named Leyland Trucks again. The Leyland-DAF van interests was also bought through management buyout and became LDV Limited.
In 1998, Leyland Trucks was taken over to become a subsidiary of the US truck manufacturer PACCAR Ltd. It operates from the Leyland Assembly Plant in North West England manufacturing around 14,000 trucks per year of which about a third are sold in the EU.
Leyland Motors also had an Australian subsidiary, Leyland Australia. It produced the Morris Marina, badged as a Leyland Marina, and the large P76 car, as well as the Mini.
Historically, Leyland Motors was a major manufacturer of buses used in the United Kingdom and world-wide, being probably most famous for the trend-setting Atlantean rear-engined double decker design produced between 1956 and 1986.
A SBS Transit 3-axle Leyland Olympian (air-conditioned) in Singapore. It is the last order of buses to be built under the Leyland name.
* Titan – 1927-1970
* Tiger (front-engined)
* Atlantean – 1956-1986
* Leopard – 1959-1982
* National/National 2 – 1969-1985
* Fleetline – 1973-1980, from Daimler
* Titan (B15) – 1974-1984
* Victory Mk 2 – 1978-1981, built in Guy factory at Wolverhampton
* Olympian – 1979-1993, replaced by Volvo Olympian
* Tiger (mid-engined) – 1979-1992, replaced by Volvo B10M
* Royal Tiger (B50/B54) 1982-1987
* Lynx – 1984-1992, replaced by Volvo B10B
* Lion – 1985-1988, replaced by Volvo Citybus
* Swift – 1987-1991
The car firms (and car brands) which eventually merged to form the company are as follows.
The dates given are those of the first car of each name, but these are often debatable as each car may be several years in development.
* 1895 Wolseley Motor Company
* 1896 Lanchester Motor Company
* 1896 Leyland Motors (commercial vehicles)
* 1896 Daimler
* 1898 Riley
* 1903 Standard
* 1904 Rover
* 1905 Austin
* 1912 Morris
* 1913 Vanden Plas
* 1919 Alvis
* 1923 MG created by Morris
* 1923 Triumph Motor Company
* 1924 BSA used as a car brand
* 1935 Jaguar
* 1947 Land Rover created by Rover
* 1952 Austin-Healey created by Austin division of BMC (see below)
* 1959 Mini created by Austin division of BMC (although the name was first used on a variant with Morris badges)
Other Merger Events
Several of these names (including Jaguar, Land Rover and Mini) are now in other hands. The history of the mergers and other key events is as follows:
* 1910 Daimler purchased by the armaments-and-motorbikes engineering company BSA
* 1931 Lanchester purchased by BSA (last Lanchester 1956)
* 1938 Morris incorporates Wolseley and Riley forming the Nuffield Organisation
* 1944 Standard acquire Triumph, forming Standard Triumph
* 1946 Austin acquire Vanden Plas
* 1952 The Nuffield Organisation and Austin merge to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC)
* 1960 Jaguar buy the car-making interests of BSA, including Daimler
* 1961 Leyland Motors acquire Standard Triumph
* 1963 Jaguar acquire the engine and fork lift truck manufacturing company Coventry Climax
* 1965 Rover acquire Alvis
* 1966 BMC merge with Jaguar to form British Motor Holdings (BMH)
* 1967 Leyland absorb Rover
* 1968 Leyland merge with British Motor Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation
* 1975 Publication of the Ryder Report, British Leyland effectively nationalised due to financial difficulties, company changes its name to BL Ltd.
* 1977 Michael Edwardes appointed as Chairman by Labour Government. Begins massive cull of excess BL assets.
History of Divestments
* 1978 Land Rover separated from Rover to form a separate company, still part of BL
* 1979 Collaboration with Honda begins, sacking of Derek Robinson (“Red Robbo”)
* 1978 Closure of Triumph assembly plant in Speke – production moved to Canley
* 1980 Closure of MG and Triumph assembly plants in Abingdon and Canley
* 1981 Closure of Rover-Triumph plant in Solihull
* 1981 Alvis sold to United Scientific Holdings
* 1982 Michael Edwardes steps down as Chairman, British Leyland renamed Austin Rover Group (ARG)
* 1984 Morris Ital goes out of production, signalling the end of the Morris badge
* 1984 Jaguar floated off (including Daimler and the US rights to Vanden Plas); bought by Ford in 1989
* 1986 Austin Rover renamed Rover Group, Austin badges disappear the following year
* 1986 Leyland Trucks & Vans sold to DAF. Vans became independent LDV in 1993, and Trucks became Leyland Trucks. Leyland Trucks was taken over by US giant PACCAR in 1998 and integrated with Foden.
* 1986 Leyland Bus floated off; bought by Volvo in 1988
* 1987 Unipart, BL’s spare parts division acquired by management buy-out
* 1988 Rover Group privatised; sold to British Aerospace
* 1994 Rover Group sold to BMW; collaboration with Honda ends
* 2000 BMW decides to break up and sell the Rover empire; Land Rover sold to Ford
* 2000 Mini, Triumph, and Riley trademarks retained by BMW, but BMW’s other interests sold off
* 2000 Remainder of company became independent as the MG Rover Group
* 2005 MG Rover goes into administration with huge debts, and production of all vehicles at the Longbridge plant is suspended.
MG Rover Group
MG Rover was the last independent mass-production producer of the British motor industry. The company was formed by the de-merger of MG and Rover from BMW in 2000, with Government support being given to the Phoenix Venture Holdings bid over an Alchemy Partners bid, due to proposed job losses by Alchemy. The company went into administration in April, 2005, with Phoenix handing over responsibility to PricewaterhouseCoopers (the administrator). After much speculation about possible buyers (with around 100 proposed bidders) a list of three bidders was produced in July, 2005. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), Project Kimber (a British group led by David James), and Nanjing Automobile Group. The Nanjing bid was accepted on 22 July 2005. The future of the Longbridge plant in Birmingham, which has been in operation since the Austin company was founded in 1905, remains unclear, though Nanjing has proposed using it as an engineering site and possibly for the production of MG-brand sportscars and saloon cars, produced both in-house and from parts kits imported from China. Nanjing is also attempting to acquire the rights to the Rover brand. Currently, MG Rover Group Ltd. still exists as a non-trading subsidiary of Phoenix Venture Holdings, administered by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The assets of MG Rover are now owned by Nanjing Automobile Corporation (UK) Ltd. Nanjing Automobile is working with a British consortium – the GB Sports Car Company Ltd. – to reopen Longbridge and revive the MG, and possibly Rover brands. GB Sports Car will eventually receive a significant stake in the reformed British operation, and is rumored to be bidding for MG Sport and Racing Ltd. (still trading under administration).