Celebrating the products of AEC Southall Ltd, most famous as builder of London's buses.

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 Post subject: What About Rover?
PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:06 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:44 pm
Posts: 171
In a previous post I said something like:

“LMC lacked decisive engineering management at main board level and through the vast majority of its subsidiaries, investment was lower than productivity; although productivity was not of the worst in British Industry and perhaps only Albion and Scammell within LMC had the discipline to get on with the job despite the neglect...”

Alvis and its parent Rover were latecomers to the LMC party, shepherded into the fold in 1967 after the disatrous D-Plate Reliance orders mentioned in the previous post were fulfilled and whilst Alvis was like AEC, a company getting its baseload from government contracts, at least it was planning with its core customer, the British Army, a big development which emerged in the early 1970s as the welded-aluminium monocoque light armoured figthing vehicle; Scorpion Tank et seq. (This is light for the value of tank, not light per-se although 8.074 tonnes u.w. is about the same as a Paxton-bodied Leopard coach of the time.) The mark one, fitted with Jaguar XK 4.2 litre engine and capble of 50mph top speed entered service with the Household Cavalry in 1973.

Rover always had bright engineers and in 1947 one of these, Maurice Wilks, had come up with the idea of a versatile, cheaply-tooled 4x4, which eventually became the product that took over its company… A later bright idea, in 1949, whose time never came, was the two-shaft gas turbine…

The nephew of the man who’d come up with these (and his elder brother, Spencer Wilks the Rover GM) had his own ideas stewing mostly waiting for development funds at the time LMC bought Rover and its 1965 purchase over. The inline five-cylinder 2 ½ litre engine (certain Germans might describe it as an advance through technology?) was not needed because one of Mr Spencer King’s colleagues found by accident that General Motors USA had an orphan-engine it needed a home for and was prepared to help this little English company (which Rover was then) to the extent of sending Buick staff from Michigan to help Rover redesign their ‘Aluminium Fireball’ 3.5 litre V8 to cope with European operational conditions and production on typical West-Midlands plant, using typical West Midlands proprietary fuelling and electrical components. Otherwise, under the product planning of LMCs expansionist Chief Executive, and the permissive society of its engineering director Bertie Fogg, Rover were given the wherewithal not just to engineer the developed Buick into their existing saloons but to start work on two new products and develop a third stymied one.

The first two began as product-cycle things, the big Rover saloon would need replacing about 1970, even with the sales uplift given by the new engine, it is said to be specifically Stokes’ encouragement that saw it develop into a big car by world rather than British standards, with the 3.5 stroked to 4.4 for the application and the new car, more sophisticated still than the Rover 2000, swell in size to the same class as the mark X Jaguar, Mercedes Benz 600 and the US ‘mid-size’. BLMC happened and somebody (maybe Spen King) decided P8 could not do anything the XJ6 couldn’t and the XJ6 was ready for production. P8 was axed and the engine drawings went over to Australia,the 4.4 V8 ending up as the high-line engine for the Leyland Australia P76, with the cheaper models getting Alec Issigonis’ E2600 straight six...

Alivs’ grand tourers were fine,bespoke, old-school cars (and I loved my rides in a friend’s immaculately restored TE21 when he could spare the petrol money to run it) but the sales were dying as the customers did; the Duke of Edinburgh was one of the younger buyers of the marque. The idea Rover had and LMC bankrolled was a new-style grand tourer with a mid mounted V8, seats for three adults and luggage stowage fore and aft, think a Ferrari Mondial five years earlier and you’re close to the P9 as planned as the next Alvis. It was a much more radical and lower volume prospect than Giovanni Michelotti’s devlopment of the large Triumph saloon into a Mercedes 280-beater and so (entirely unconnected with Mr King’s promotion to chief engineer of all LMC cars) Canley’s project Stag got the go-ahead rather than Rover P9.

The third project, which had started in the 1950s as a replacement for the Tickford coach-built Land-Rover, then been influenced by the Jeep Wagoneer and had come to a halt until the Buick engine arrived was the 100-inch Station Wagon. With the new engine, permanent 4x4 and long-travel coil springs, it became project Velar, and under BLMC, the Range-Rover. An MoD proposal also came Rover’s way at the time and the 101FC Land-Rover using many Range-Rover components (not least the engine, 4 wheel drive system and those long-travel springs) beat Volvo’s Laplander candidate under severe MoD tests: some would say this was the only time a BLMC product was ever victorious over a Volvo one.

Doctor Fogg, Bertie to all but his subordinates, liked the twin-shaft gas turbine, and it became the top-power engine in his new-design triumverate for Truck & Bus Division powerplants. Of course cheap petroleum would last forever… It was only after the 1973 oil crisis that BLMC stopped development work on the Marathon-based, productionised version of the Gas-Turbine Truck… Dr Fogg had by then retired at the statutory age. Had limitless cheap kerosene continued one presumes the 2S/350 would have been built at Leyland by Leyland Gas Turbines, kit-marshalled there with a splitter pneumocyclic and charged coupling and then sent (by rail) to Southall to be built into the Marathon GT. I imagine the oil companies would have been the major purchasers. Airports being an ideal environment for them.

Interesting that even after BLMC and their decision implemented after the 1970 show that new Truck and Bus lines would all be Leyland-badged : the slightly earlier production of a unified UK and Irish Republic sales force [not only that of AEC and Leyland/Albion/Scammell, but also Leyland Redline (BMC), Daimler/Guy and Bus Manufacturers Holdings, the latter, one presumes, with the consent of its joint-shareholders at the Ministry of Transport] and after the total failure of the Mandator V8 it was decided the design to take on the Volvo F88 and the Scania 111 would come from Southall and have a non-animal name beginning with M. Marathon had of course previously been a Maudslay single deck bus and coach, initially the name of the ML5 from 1937 when it got its Leyland Cheetah-like radiator, and then the post-war Marathon II which was the last full-size UK half-cab offered exclusively with a petrol engine, a six cylinder development of the ML5s engine. Marathon III was introduced prior to the ACV takeover but it had the AEC 7.58 litre engine and AEC sliding-mesh gearbox. Mammoth would have been a rationalised name but was already in use, Mastodon might have done but BLMC didn’t own it . That said, when Bristol Commercial Vehicles were tasked with project B45, the rationalised double decker designed to bail out the devlopment costs sunk into the TN15 Titan, they wanted to call it the Unicorn.

Best Wishes

Stephen Allcroft



 Post subject: Re: What About Rover?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:05 am 
Site Admin

Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:29 pm
Posts: 95
Fascinating article Stephen, thanks.

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