A heroic failure: the Australian Leyland P76 V8

A heroic failure: the Australian Leyland P76 V8
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British Leyland was already in big trouble when they decided to design a full-size saloon car for the Australian market. And guess what? It was even a pretty good car. But still, production stopped within two years.

In the 1960s and ‘70’s the Australian car market was dominated by the large cars, like the Ford Falcon, Chrysler Valiant and Holden Kingswood. The Australian subsidiary of British Leyland had no model to compete with these ‘full-size’ sedans.

All the British could do was to make some Aussie-variants of their standard Austin Cambridge/Morris Oxford line and of the Austin 1800 ‘landcrab’.

Big boot
But in the early seventies, the decision was made to build a new car, especially for the Australian market.

The car was designed from scratch and contained some desirable features for the day, like power-assisted front disc brakes on all models and MacPherson-struts front suspension. The engines were an upgraded version of BL’s old six-in-line and a 4.4 liter V8, based on the ex-Buick V8 that was used in several Rover-models.

Also, the car was equipped with advanced safety features like side impact bars in the doors and recessed door handles. The Michelotti-designed car was soon nicknamed ‘the wedge’, for obvious reasons, and this shape resulted in a gigantic boot, big enough to carry a 44-gallon drum.

 

On paper, the car looked good and it was widely acclaimed by the Australian press, it was even awarded Car of the Year 1973 by Australian Wheels magazine.

But Leyland Australia was too hasty to produce this new car at their Zetland-factory and soon the customers started complaining about the poor quality. On top of that, there was, of course, a worldwide fuel crisis and at some of the suppliers’ factories, there were strikes. All in all the P76 was shortlived, in October 1974 the production at Zetland stopped.

In New Zealand, the assembly of CKD-kits of the P76 went on until August 1976.

First owner
So the P76 can be considered a complete failure, but still, it has a loyal following of owners and fans in Australia and New Zealand.

Finding a P76 in good condition can be a task in itself, but finding one from the first owner is really unique. And that’s exactly what this Leyland P76 V8 Executive is.

It was purchased directly from Leyland Motor Corporation in 1976 when it was 10 months old. It is believed to have been in the Test Press Fleet at the introduction of the P76 in 1973.
Owner Tony Luca was a former British Leyland employee and P76 devotee.

He kept the car until his passing and now the family is offering the car for sale. It is in original condition, though some modifications have been made, like the conversion of the speedometer from miles to kilometres.

This Leyland is to be sold by Shannon’s Auctions on February 17, 2020. The auctioneer has valued the car at AUD 18.000 to 24.000

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