It’s incredible to see that the national tragedy that was British Leyland is continuing to unwrap 42 years after it was created.
Earlier today a protagonist of the MG Rover collapse told me that PriceWaterhouseCooper is still working on the company’s liquidation, five years down the line.
Image courtesy of Google Maps
However, last week I spotted another sad story in the Lancashire Evening Post that will see a surviving BL asset destroyed.
This is a satellite shot of the Leyland Motors test track, built in the late 1970s when the company was under government ownership. (Leyland, if you don’t know, is a small town exactly halfway between London and Glasgow, and a few miles south of Preston).
The local council has just decided that track should be broken up, ploughed into the ground and covered with new houses.
State spending on British Leyland was massive after it collapsed in 1974. Money was poured into what was a huge industrial combine making everything from fridges to quarry trucks and employing (directly and indirectly) perhaps 500,000 people.
Leyland Truck and Bus – the healthy part of the combine in 1968 – also received its fair share of cash. Great hope was placed in the big T45 Roadtrain truck range, an ultra-modern design launched in 1980.
Investment extended beyond the vehicle to an all-new factory (still in use today, turning out Paccar and DAF trucks), a link road to the nearby M6 and this rather impressive test track.
Leyland Trucks was sold to DAF in 1987 and, when DAF collapsed in 1993, a management buyout took over, handing it on to Paccar in 1998. The Leyland brand was killed off in 1999.
Although Leyland Trucks has seen some significant success over the last 10 years, it’s a tragedy to see that no use has been found for the test track. Is turning it into another housing estate (sold on its proximity to J29 of the M6) the best the local authorities can do?
British Leyland was created by then-PM Harold Wilson and technology minister Tony Benn who pushed Leyland-Rover-Triumph into merger with the ailing BMC (Austin-Morris-Jaguar).
Compressing these two into one giant industrial combine proved to be a folly of banking crisis- proportions, the repercussions of which are still being felt today.