#BookReview for British Leyland – From Triumph to Tragedy: Petrol, Politics and Power by Lance Cole @penswordbooks #GuestReview #LanceCole #BritishLeyland

What really happened at British Leyland (BL)? Was it ‘just’ the cars, or were other factors vital to the story? Who really was to blame for BL and MG Rover’s death?

The ‘truth’ about BL is deeper than its cars – were ultra- Left-wing plots to topple BL and British society real? Did secret deals and political intrigue really exist? Was it Labour or Conservative powers who ‘killed’ BL, or was it BL itself? How was it that BL’s design genius was hobbled?

Author Lance Cole lifts the bonnet on BL and presents a forensic yet easy to read new analysis in a story of BL, its cars, and the era of their motoring as powers on the political Left and Right waged war, sometimes even with themselves.

Here is a book about cars and more, a conversation on all things BL: this is a new account of a classic British story told across a trail of evidence in a British industrial and political drama.

Many mistakes made BL, but some of the cars were superb, the designs of genius, the engineering excellent; it is just that we have either forgotten, or been brainwashed into believing the worst.

In a BL book like no other, written by a classic car fanatic with a background in industrial design, automotive, and wider journalism, this story lifts the lid on BL’s cars and more. The author also adds inside knowledge from time working in the motor industry.

Lance Cole tells the deeper BL story across the era of its greatest successes and its biggest failures. 


Today I am delighted to be able to hand over my blog to my husband Mark so that he can share with you his review for British Leyland – From Triumph to Tragedy: Petrol, Politics and Power

Lance Cole will be a name familiar to the transport enthusiast. A prolific author with at least 20 works to his credit ranging from ‘Allard’ through to the ‘VC10’, the depth and breadth of his knowledge combined with a tendency towards polemic usually makes for informed and compelling reading. 

In this work, British Leyland from triumph to tragedy the author touches the rawest of automotive nerves with a trademark forensic dissection of the erstwhile industrial behemoth that was BL.  In stark contrast to pre-existing works, this particular account is based upon the authors’ experiences as a former Austin Rover employee, which is complimented by a mix of interviews; archival research, and personal communications which contrive to provide an eminently readable, multi-layered analysis of the political and economic factors at play on ‘the track’; within the boardroom, and the Westminster corridors of power. 

This work is a tour-de-force or both emotion and intellect and raises the bar in terms of analysing how and why BL collapsed in the manner it did. The author transcends the veneer of accepted understanding by placing BL firmly within the socio-economic climate it operated within – a society where deference had collapsed and class-based inequality was at a postwar low not seen before or since.  Whilst figures as prominent as Alec Issigonis; ‘Red Robbo’, Margaret Thatcher and Michael Edwardes are all referenced and their impacts considered, so too is the surreptitious which ranges from  labour-movement collusion; state subsidisation of competing manufacturers, and the obliteration of ‘brand-equity’ via relentless badge engineering and the stifling of marque innovation inherent within BL. This work is an important re-telling of the BL story which deserves to be widely read and understood. 

For the casual BL enthusiast, there is plenty within the book to satisfy the most ravenous of appetites. The vast array of makes; models, and their direct competition are subjected to detailed treatments without the author pulling any of his punches. Indeed, if you are a fan of the Blue Oval, or own a Morris Marina or Ital you may wish to buckle up!  That being said, the standard of photography throughout the book is generally of a high standard with Austin 1300’s; Land-Crabs, Allegro’s’, and Triumph 2000’s rubbing shoulders with Rover P6’s and Sterling’s’. In addition to this traditional fayre, coverage of the prototypical and pre-production vehicles such as the Lynx; SD2 and Rover SD1 Estate which have found sanctuary at Gaydon are as compelling as they are melancholic. ‘What could have been’ is a recurrent theme within this book. 

In conclusion, British Leyland  – From Triumph to Tragedy is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the grim realities of the destruction of British-owned volume car production, and the unlikely unity of forces which have contrived to make it an apparently permanent affair.