Here at ViaRETRO, we have often touched on the subject of the complete collapse of the British car industry. We have done so both on our Danish site as well as here on our English site – multiple times even. It’s a fascinating – if rather sad – subject. Today, it’s time to revisit the fall of British car manufacturers again simply because I happened to stumble across this excellent graphical illustration.
The great sinner in the collapse has of course long been known to be the British Leyland corporation. This illustration shows perfectly just how brutal its strangulating hold on the whole industry became with the grand merger in 1968.
Of course, the illustration also shows that there were several other mergers prior to 1968, however they were all of much smaller scale and nowhere near as all-encompassing as in 1968. Have another look at the diagram: British Leyland killed off all of seven proud, old British car manufacturers, starting with Riley only one year after the merger, and eventually including big and significant marques such as Austin, Morris and Triumph – all of which dated back to well before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Yet mergers like these aren’t uncommon, and similar events took place in other car producing nations – just not with the same catastrophic consequences as in Britain. Of all the marques on the diagram, every single one of them is now either deceased or owned by non-British corporations. In fact, that even applies to those British car manufacturers which are not displayed on the diagram – except for one…
The only British marque to have dodged the bullet, remained British owned and largely continued unchanged since the company’s very conception is of course the Morgan Motor Company. Had they been included in the above diagram, they would have simply been illustrated with one long, straight, vertical line. At Morgan, development has never been permitted to impact on the original concepts. Of course there has been a slow evolution of their models – especially in recent years (driven largely by legislation). But despite now utilising all-aluminium engines, the tradition bound company still to this day holds stubbornly onto using ash frames in order to strengthen the bodywork of their small roadsters.
The Morgan company is in many ways the very definition of British. Further to that, it’s driven by a man – or a few men – with a very clear vision. It was a small workshop with mechanics and engineers which slowly grew with time and ended up with actual car production. And that’s where it remained.
What can we deduct from this? I’m not entirely sure myself. Would Austin have survived if it had been managed by someone like Henry Morgan or his son Charles? Probably not. How do our knowledgeable ViaRETRO readers feel about the demise of the British automobile industry, and how do you feel about Morgan? Feel free to discuss in the comments area below…