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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 all...     

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 Europe markets.

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 (sales) 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 Rover V8.

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!

Rover: The 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... just think.

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.

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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 money.

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 said...

 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.

Michael Green.   October 2013


 The End has come.... April 2016;    No more LAND-ROVER's!

stay tuned for more on this subject...


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

Above: Inside Rover Motor Co office on Shaw Rd, 1960.

Above: Above: Parts Dept; Rover Motor Co office on Shaw Rd, 1960.