The Stupidity of it all...
In the early 1980's there was again another name change,
this time Jaguar-Rover-Triumph Inc. MG, yet another famous nameplate to
vanish, had gone belly-up after 1980 model year, this leaving only the three
mentioned in the new name.
Next up was the SD1,
otherwise known as the 3500S in America. Richard flew to Texas to pickup the
test car, a white automatic. It was highly over geared to comply with CAFE
regulations, thus the performance suffered terribly - as did the Jaguars at the time
in the USA. One Saturday dad
and took the SD1 and the old 3500S out for a comparison run... the old car
was so far superior to the SD1 is wasn't funny. The SD1 lacked any
performance, while the 3500S had 10.5:1 cr and ran on 104 octane fuel! The
brakes and handling on the old vs the new was a joke. The old car had
4-wheels discs (inboard at rear), IRS with a DeDion tube, with lovely ride
and road holding. I remember pushing the 3500S a bit too hard on a twisty
road. Dad had warned me, "Don't lift the pedal in mid corner or it'll
swap ends." Guess what I did? I looped mums car and missed the guard
rail by 12 inches! The leather seats and their positions in the old car made
those of the SD1 look like they'd come from a couch in a Nevada bordello!
This was the beginning of the end, the SD1 was not the Rover's that we once knew
and grew up in. The old 3-Litres, 2000's and the 3500S far superior to this
BL crap! The 1980 Rover 3500S (SD1) was short lived, all that cost and
effort to get it to test and comply with emission and safety regulations
huge waste of money, money they didn't have in the UK... BL had been
bleeding Rover dry for years to feed the bottom line cars such as Morris and
later MG. The America press made noises about Rover importing a V8 car at a
time when MPG was becoming a big deal, yet they never realized that it's
mileage was far better than any V8 Detroit could muster at the time. The
story helped kill sales and soon it was gone too. Instead of refining the
car on the line in Solihull. putting a bit lower axle ratio in it and do
something with the god-awful interior trim, they ran for home.
Then there was the TR7 nonsense in England.
One day dad came home and he wasn't very happy. He was afraid he wouldn't
have a job Monday morning. Come Monday he found out there would be no
more Triumph's, Period.
TR7 Photo: This was the first
"Bullet" aka TR7, brought to the west coast, I picked it up at Benicia, CA
(Cal-Auto); here it is at Dublin in Feb 1975.
This issue stems from a number of
productions problems created by others; The boys in the UK would jamb wooden
blocks in the suspension in such a way as to damage the car when lashed down
in on board ship. Then there is the hundred's of TR7 Coupe' in 76/77
arriving in America with blown head gaskets, this was only two things they
did. During this time I was a head gasket changing fool, for we had
600 cars on one ship alone in Benicia that were effected. Richard arrived at
Cal-Auto one Friday to see what was going on, seems UK wasn't torquing up
the head bolts, but leaving them lose on purpose. Richard dually ordered
gasket kits to repair all those on the west coast, which included Los
Angeles, SF and Portland, then sent to bill back to the UK. England went
absolutely mad! Saying something comical that it wasn't their
responsibility, nor would they pay for it. Well pay they did, the American
company just debuted the UK parts account for not only the parts, but the
labor per car as well. As for me? I (and others) did nothing but change
blown head gaskets on TR7's, 600 in Benicia alone to be exact. It was also
in '76 that the California TR7 was fitted with a single 175CD Stromberg
whereas the "Federal car" had twin carbs, this not only killed performance,
but sales. This was short lived and California soon had twin carb's again.
Finally, and I'm wringing my hands as I say it, the EFI TR7 arrived in 1980,
too little too late. What we wanted with the 16-valve head from the Dolomite
Sprint and the fuel injection... had they done it years before, the TR7
would have been a giant killer. It was also at this time that Bruce
McWilliams tried to bring the MG nameplate back to the USA. How you ask? By
re-badging a TR7 roadster. It was still born, like many ideas that
originated in America.
Combined with sabotage, poor build quality,
far too many warranty claims, and constant union strikes in the UK, then add
in the fact that Margaret Thatcher came to power, there was no more "free
money." She sent in the head hunters and the deal was, in short; No more
strikes, get the quality up, the build time down, then ship as many to
America as we can build. Once we start making some money the management was
willing to share in the profits with the workers. This didn't happen,
instead the union boys dug in their heels in their demand for more money,
more this and that, thinking (wrongly) that Mrs. Thatcher would bail them
out like PM's of the past. Instead she put her foot down, as she should
have, and shut them off! The British Government would load money to Triumph,
with interest, but no more hand-outs. The boys threatened a strike,
again, and the head hunter said, in no uncertain terms; "You strike and I
close the plant." and close it did. The works rioted, tearing the place to bits,
even flipping over the head hunters car! Thus Triumph ceased to exist.
With the Rover running for
home and the TR7/8 plants closed two names had to removed from the then
current business name, hence Jaguar Cars Inc. Richard stayed on in Brisbane
as Service Manager for Jaguar. At one point in time he turned down a
promotion to VP of Service for Jaguar because it required a move to New
Jersey, one he wasn't willing to make, for him "home" was in Dublin,
California. Note: At the
end of 1989 Ford Motor Company bought Jaguar Cars. Richard Green retired
after 30 years service, 3 days before the Ford take over, he was 71.
The foolishness of it
amazes me to this day the foolishness on British Leyland and the British car
(and motorcycle) industry in general... I'd dearly love to
have rung a few necks. Land Rover/Rover was nearly bled dry of money by
management to keep the BMC section afloat. Never mind that they lost $100.00
per every MGB sold at one point, no one had enough sense to up the price. I
even said this as a young man.
The emission regulations in
America were killing nearly all manufactures in North America, the "why?"
being; They were all still learning, learning the hard way. In 1973 the Land
Rover was getting emission'ed to death with charcoal canisters, ERG valves,
a vacuum retard distributor, retarded ignition timing and lean mixture, all
this resulted in even poorer performance, even worse fuel mileage than
before, and burnt exhaust valves. Add to that the constant running problems with these add-ons, all of
which hurt sales. By the end of '74 it was announced there'd be no more Land
Rover's imported due to future emission regulations.
By 1975 BL's cars in America;
the MGB, Midget, and Spitfires were reduced to single carb, cat converter,
EGR valves, vacuum retard dist... it was a miserable time. The TR6 was
deemed a 49-state car thus avoided California regulations, as did the XJ12L.
Gone was the GT6, the V12 E-Type, the Rover 3500S and the Land Rover 88".
The 109" had vetoed by some nitwit in the New York office in 1968 due to it's lack of road speed and price.
The lessons learned from the Golden Rod had not been put into practice.
Now add to that the new
US bumper and headlamp height regs, the MGs now wore these nasty bumpers and
"4-wheel drive" type suspension my buddy Bret called them. Then Stromberg
changed from brass drains plugs on the carbs to plastic, then some bonehead
at MG fitted the cat converter right under the carb! Though they made this
cute little heat shield under the carb, it acted more like a saucepan
catching and holding the now leaking gasoline, which then the heat from the
cat soon set alight! This caused not only a load of warranty claims, but law
suits to replace burnt out cars. By now the MGB was so outdated that
Bruce McWilliams even made an attempt to doll it up himself when the UK
refused to. The bottom line was the UK lacked money. When MG went belly up
McWilliams again went to work, this time re-badging a TR7 roadster as an MG.
It was a deadloss, as my dad would say.
Taking a few steps
backwards... we had the Triumph Stag for some years here, but instead of
correcting the reliability issues with the 3.0-Litre Triumph V8, which they
could have done with a little engineering, or by shoving a Rover 3.5 V8 into it,
instead they just threw up their
hands and stopped importing it. However, the Stag went on until 1977 in the UK and
By the late 1970s Land Rover
had somehow jumped the BL ship and went at it alone, thus Land Rover
Limited. It was at this time, some 13 years after Golden Rod, that the first
V8 powered Land Rover came off the line. It still had leaf springs, drum
brakes, and get this; restrictors behind the carbs to limit horsepower! They
still didn't get it, but at least they were out of BL control. Jaguar would
follow suit and become a stand-alone company too, even getting on the NY
Stock Exchange prior to the Ford by out.
The car's they should
have brought to North America...
Land Rover: Now
my brain is working! First and foremost was the Range Rover of 1970.
We had one as a test car for a
short time, I loved driving it (no license either, for I was in the dirt
with it), dad thought it great and dealers were screaming for it. Yet good
old BL blew it. It wouldn't be until 1987 model year that the Range Rover
would finally arrive, some 17-years late. One day dad stopped by my shop in
Dublin and ask me; "Do you know a company called Range Rover North
America?" I replied; "I do, why?" Dad then told me; "Their
talking of importing the Range Rover and Jaguar Cars Inc doesn't want to do
it. While researching the name England told us of this company, so we're
having the lawyers to issue a cist and desist notice." I was doing work
for this Los Angeles based company at the time. A new company was announced,
Range Rover of North America.
The one man that should have taken the job
was Richard Green, but he turned it down, he was 68 when offer came.
Instead they hired a VW man, a total waste of time in my opinion. I was going to work
for them in '86- era but the pay was lacking, no company car and I was
racing so often I passed. In 1990 I joined RRNA service dept, still racing though.
Located in Lanham,
Maryland, it wasn't the Rover Motor Company that I grew up with, where it was
a family company. RRNA was politics and buddies. RRNA foolishly hired
people without Rover enthusiasm or knowledge... don't get me wrong, some
got enthused, while those with knowledge were scarce; instead they'd hire
guys from BMW who where clearly "ladder climbers," that would "do it on
my back", as I was warned twice by dealer friends, this wasn't happening
thus we parted company. I had second thoughts of going back, even writing
to them, thinking I could get something done, but that wasn't the case, as
the top office still had the same man in it... and UK wasn't listening
anyway. So what else is new?
By 1987 it had 4-doors and for
North America a ZF 4-speed automatic, electric windows, door locks, nasty
looking 3-spoke wheels and a big price tag. What we wanted was a version
with windup windows, a 5-speed manual box, more power under the hood, heavy
duty interior and a better price. Instead we got some Americanized version
all rigged out with electric this and that and woefully under powered 3.5L
Rumor was the NAS Range Rover would have the
3500S-Veitess engine, but when it arrived it had the single intake EFI
with low compression pistons, poor cam grind and NO POWER! The RR was a
pig to drive, my '73 2-door RR would run away and hide from the 3.9L
version of '89 on... and even the 4.2L of 1993. It always took far too
long to get anything done. I was asked about the 4.4L engine by Graham
Gardner in 1986/7 on a visit to Lanham, Maryland. It was some 7 years
later before got the 4.2L engine, which the stuck in the 108" Range Rover,
hence more weight/less performance.
England NEVER got it! Like dad said to JB Mc
in a telex in 1966; "I don't think Solihull understands the vast
distances involved over here, and the need for fuel range/distance, speed,
and driver comfort." Same problem, different time zone.
Rover was well aware of the 4.4L engine as
it was going to be in the P76 in the UK and Downunder, which pre-dated the
introduction of the Range Rover to North America, yet they continued to
build the 3.5L.
Then we have the 109" V8, which didn't come
off the line until February 1979! Which is amazing, because Golden Rod was
built in 1966. First one off the line was a yellow 109" wagon, so at least
LR thought about Golden Rod to some degree. It was perfect for the US
market, the then current SD1/3500s was in the USA, so all they needed to do
was fit the SD1 NAS engine and shove them on the boat... but it didn't
happen. Instead madness reared it's ugly head yet again. The engine has
reducers behind the twin 175CD Strombergs thus cutting horsepower to less
than the NADA 2.6L six had. The old 11" drum brakes from the NADA 109 also
we retained, when they could have used the disc's from the Range Rover.
Bottom line is, another opportunity lost.
My next choice for Land Rover
would be the Defender. The ONE-TEN wagon was imported in 1993, but it is
here that commonsense went out the window. RRNA want 500 cars for the USA
and, get this, 25 for Canada. The factory on the other hand wanted to "send
the lot." That meant Wagons, pick-ups, crew-cabs, hardtops, etc. All
of the Defender line-up. Didn't happen, Solihull wasn't forceful enough. The
"Defender", as it was known since '89, was sent in all white paint with an
external rollcage to exceed roll-over regulations, which it passed with
flying colors. They had it right thus far, but then the screw up's
appeared... in my eyes. First they used a under-powered 3.9L V8 to haul
around the 110 when it should of had the 4.2L, or better yet the 4.4L.
The handling was absolutely terrible, Solihull had fitted an anti-rollbar,
otherwise known as a "sway-bar", in the rear, but nothing up front. It took
me to get the handling tuned it; We fitted a Discovery swaybar up front and
Bilstein shocks were fitted, with four in the rear when heavy loads were the
order of the day. In more extreme cases, like when an ARB Bumper and Warn
winch was added we'd re-spring them with Old Man Emu road springs. Over the
years I've modified/up-dated a number of Defender 110 and 90's with this
suspension system (we don't fit 4 shocks on the rear of a D90, but we've
modified a number of original Range Rover's this way - the idea came from
the Range Rover Rally preparation booklet). Under the bonnet we replace the
3.9L with anything from a standard 4.6L, a WCBR 4.6L, to 5.0L TVR Rover V8.
The TVR version is plain awesome to drive, period.
In 1994/95 and '97 Solihull
sent Defender-90's, and though not as limited as the '93 110, it wasn't
enough to fill the need. Today Defender's in North America can fetch
anywhere from their original retail price to six digits some twenty years
later. Great is you already own one!
Zagato aka 2000S (pictured, photo by Andries Griede) with its fuel injection
and 5-speed ZF gearbox... Lovely. Would have been even better with a V8...
My next chose, would have been
the mid-engine V8 sports car. Richard drove one on the test track in England
and said..."It goes like a house on fire!" Instead of putting it into
production Sir Williams Lyons screamed bloody murder to Stokes that "It
would compete against the E-type!" What utter nonsense, as it would have
been aimed at another market sector and in the end the money ended up in the
same account. Total madness, thus the Rover was vetoed.
xxxxxxxx we are editing
MG: This is easy, The
MGB GT V8. Again, why on earth this car never made it to American shores is
beyond me. All those built should have come to the USA, it would have cemented MGB
in America for a forever! Or at least a few more years, even more so once the 1800c version was smogged to death. They could have sold V8s and 1800cc side-by-side and made
Triumph: The Triumph Dolomite Sprint! The TR7 complied with US regs, so
could to Dolomite, it was a great little sedan, so much so BL used it to win
the British Touring Car series and numerous Rally's! Mum & Dad had one for a
month in England one summer, dad had a ball in it. The Marina was another
one, they came here in 1973 & 74, some left overs sold in '75, but BL
continued to build them right up to the very last days. The station wagon
(Estate car in UK) and the pickup both should have come here... the pickup
with the Rover V8 that is! We thought it was coming, dad had driven one in
the UK, but alas not. The 1800cc MGB engine in the Marinas should have been
"B" spec for '73/74 with twin carbs (thus boosting performance), an MGB
gearbox (w/OD as an option), and the
handling tweaked. Other than that it was an ok crackerbox. But
looking at BLs mentality, cars such as the Austin Princess and Allegro, they
were totally off their rockers! They could have been punching out V8 powered
Land Rovers since 1967, instead it took until Feb 1979 before the first V8
rolled off the line, and that was a 109" only, not an 88" like Golden Rod
and the couple of other test cars built in Solihull. Then there was
the Range Rover, ahead of its time in 1970, by far, but always too little
too late. It never came to America when it should had, in 1971, but it
wasn't until 1987 that in finally arrived. I could write pages....
and the stories of law suits that dad was involved in would curl your hair!
Many were just garbage suits, others even outlandish, and even those they
had no liability for they would lose many times because of the mentality of
the Jury, bleeding hearts. Even when I was at Land Rover I reviewed and
looked at crashed cars of owners pointing fingers at the
company. A number of these I concluded were driver error and thus proved
that out. Even at WCB I've been asked to be an expert witness against the
manufacturer a time or two, but in every case I saw that the responsibility
lie with the owner, thus declined their offer. Amazing isn't it? That
Just look at the British
car industry now... even the British don't own what's left, I think Morgan
is the only true British car company left. The largest sports car industry
in the world (and they had the largest motorcycle industry too) and it's all
gone. There are no more Leyland buses or trucks, no Alvis (which merged with
Rover in '65 I think), no Scammell, no Triumph, no MG, no Austin, no Morris,
no Woolsey, no Rover (cars), no nothing. Only Land Rover & Jaguar survive
today, but no longer British owned. On that note...
In 1982 West Coast British became an
authorized Parts & Service dealer for all BL vehicles... (thanks dad!), thus MG's and Triumph's became our bread & butter for some years. Today most of
those cars have long vanished, but for those who still have one or just
bought one, we at West Coast British can still handle the job. This cars,
which at one time were primary vehicles, and all but vanished from the
roads, are now coming out of the woodwork. Though Land Rover's are our
mainstay these days, we can and do squeeze in the odd job into our schedule
now and again. If you have a car needing service work, restorations or race
car work... Please call us with your requirements.
End has come.... April 2016; No more LAND-ROVER's!
stay tuned for more on this
In the meantime here are some great photos from the past. Please respect
the Copyright on theses. Thanks
Above: Fidelity English Motors of
Berkeley, CA 196?
Above: John Hopping (left) with
"Helper". Service Week at Peter Satori's, Pasadena, CA. Richard Green in
white shopcoat, 1960.
Above: Rover Motor Company of North
America Ltd, 373 Shaw Rd, South San Francisco, CA. 1960
Inside Rover Motor Co office on Shaw Rd, 1960.
Above: Parts Dept; Rover Motor Co office on Shaw