Wednesday, 16 November 2022

It Just Happens To Be That Year

In 1947 the Austin Motor Company tasked it's subsiduary, coach-builders Vanden Plas, to design and build a high end luxury vehicle.  The original competitors were perceived as Bentley and Rolls-Royce, but available at less than half the cost.
In the early 1950s, Austin was subsumed/combined in the British Motor Corporation, and both the Princess and Vanden Plas badges were used to signal luxury versions of existing BMC vehicles.

BMC brought together the marques Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley.  Jaguar joined the party in 1966, and then later merged with the Leyland Corporation which owned Triumph.
The main problem for BMC was a reliance on basically the same vehicles but bearing different badges.
After the merger, British Leyland was formed with the express intention to stop the badge-engineered duplication of vehicles.
The first fruits of this strategy were the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina - not exactly awe-inspiring looking cars (or reliable cars for that matter) but it did show that British Leyland was putting a stop to the duplicity in the range.

In 1975, British Leyland looked to fill a gap in the market (that didn't really exist) with a luxury family car, and the Princess name was resurrected.
The car was a relatively radical design - a wedge shape - which suggested aerodynamic sleekness (even though it has the aerodynamics of a breeze block.
The original intent was to have a hatchback hence the sloping back, but British Leyland decided that the existing Maxi was to be the hatchback in it's range, so the Princess was given a solid back end with a boot of a compromised size.
The Mark 1 version was a return to BMC's previous problems, by creating Austin, Morris and Wolseley variants of the same vehicle.  The basic design was the same, and the differences subtle - mainly bonnet lines, front grilles, and headlight configurations.
In terms of luxury, it was only the Wolseley variant which provided this with uprated trim levels and larger, smoother engines.
The Mark 2 was badged as British Leyland, ending the different badge names, but was also being built through times of Industrial strife for British Leyland.
Build quality, realiability, and reputation all affected sales.  As did it's pricing position - it was basically more expensive than each of it's competitors, and was also loading out to increasing imports of more realiable (and better looking) Japanese cars.
In the early 80s, the Austin-Rover Group (as British Leyland consolidated, streamlined, and renamed itself) gave it one more shot with the launch of the Austin Ambassador.
The design was similar, if more rounded, and it was eventually given a hatchback.  But the same issues prevailed - reputation, reliability, pricing - and production ceased within 2 years.

Graham Fellowes was a drama student at Manchester University when he asked in a local record shop if they knew of any independent labels that might release a couple of songs he'd written.
He was directed to Rabid Records, who picked up on the demos and with Martin Hannett at the controls, released the record - albeit in limited numbers.
One of these found it's way to John Peel who suggested on air that if the record were picked up by a record company with larger means then they might have a success on their hands.
EMI International did just that, and shipped nigh on of 500,000 copies of "Jilted John" / "Going Steady".
They even provided the funds to allow Graham / John to create a concept album titled 'True Love Stories'.
But John retired at the end of 1978, with Graham Fellowes going on to appear in several episodes of Coronation Street.  Soap star fame did not happen, and by the mid-80s a new character was in development.

John Shuttleworth's first tilt at fame was trying to get his song "Pigeon's In Flight" accepted as the British entry for Eurovison.
But fame and notoriety probably doesn't sit comfortably with John, preferring the mundane, normal, and very probably dull.
John's "unique style" of songs celebrate(?) the horror of finding 2 open margarine tubs in the fridge, the greatness of the A1111, balancing the notty problem of having 1 or 2 cups of tea, the inability to return to savoury course once you've started on your pudding.

John drives an Austin Ambassador.  A 1982 Y Registration version.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks - one tries
      (and will try again with another stream of bollards in a week or so)