British Motor Corporation
Fate Merged
Successor British Motor Holdings (BMH)
Founded 1952
Defunct 1966
Headquarters Longbridge, England, UK

The British Motor Corporation (BMC) was a UK vehicle company, formed by the merger of the Austin Motor Company and the Nuffield Organisation (parent of the Morris car company, MG, Riley and Wolseley) in 1952. Basically, it was the predecessor of British Leyland.


Scripophily BMC 1959

A BMC share certificate.

British Motor Corporation ambulance reg BPF 281 H

A BMC ambulance.

1963 MkI Mini

A 1963 Austin Mini Super-Deluxe
The Mini was BMC's all time best seller


A 1965 Riley 4/72

BMC was the largest British car company of its day, with (in 1952) 39 percent of British output, producing a wide range of cars under brand names including Austin, Morris, MG, Austin-Healey, Wolseley as well as commercial vehicles and agricultural tractors. The first chairman was Lord Nuffield (William Morris) but he was replaced in August 1952 by Austin's Leonard Lord who continued in that role until his 65th birthday in 1961 but handing over, in theory at least, the managing director responsibilities to his deputy George Harriman in 1956.

BMC's headquarters were at the Austin plant at Longbridge, near Birmingham and Austin was the dominant partner in the group mainly because of the chairman. The use of Morris engine designs was dropped within 3 years and all new car designs were coded ADO from "Austin Drawing Office". The Longbridge plant was up to date, having been thoroughly modernised in 1951, and compared very favourably with Nuffield's 16 different and often old fashioned factories scattered over the English Midlands. Austin's management systems however, especially cost control and marketing were not as good as Nuffield's and as the market changed from a shortage of cars to competition this was to tell. The biggest selling car, the Mini, was famously analysed by Ford Motor Company who concluded that BMC must be losing £30 on every one sold. The result was that although volumes held up well throughout the BMC era, market share fell as did profitability and hence investment in new models, triggering the 1966 government sponsored merger with Jaguar to form British Motor Holdings (BMH), and three years later leading to the merger of BMH with Leyland Motor Corporation.

At the time of the mergers, there was a well established dealership network for each of the marques. Among the car-buying British public there was a tendency of loyalty to a particular marque and marques appealed to different market segments. This meant that marques competed against each other in some areas, though some marques had a larger range than others. The Riley and Wolseley models were selling in very small numbers. Styling was also getting distinctly old fashioned and this caused Leonard Lord, in an unusual move for him, to call upon the services of an external stylist.

BMC FarinaEdit

In 1958, BMC hired Battista Farina to redesign its entire car line. This resulted in the creation of three "Farina" saloons, each of which was badge-engineered to fit the various BMC car lines:

The compact Farina model was launched in 1958 with the Austin A40 Farina. This is considered by many to be the first mass produced hatchback car: a small estate version was produced with a horizontally split tailgate, its size and configuration would today be considered that of a small hatchback. A Mark II A40 Farina appeared in 1961 and was produced through 1967. These small cars used the A-Series engine.

The mid-sized Farinas were launched in 1958 with the Wolseley 15/60. Other members of the group included the Riley 4/68, Austin A55 Cambridge Mk. II, MG Magnette Mk. III, and Morris Oxford V. Later, the design was licensed in Argentina and produced as the Di Tella 1500/Traveller/Argenta. The mid-size cars used the B-Series straight-4 engine.

Most of these cars lasted until 1961, though the Di Tellas remained until 1965. They were replaced with a new Farina body style and most were renamed. These were the Austin A60 Cambridge, MG Magnette Mk. IV, Morris Oxford VI, Riley 4/72, and Wolseley 16/60. These mostly remained in production until 1968, with no rear wheel drive replacement produced.

Farina also designed a large car. Launched in 1959 as the Austin A99 Westminster, Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre, and Wolseley 6/99, it used the large C-Series straight-6 engine. The large Farinas were updated in 1961 as the Austin A110 Westminster, Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre Mk. II, and Wolseley 6/110. These remained in production until 1968.

BMC CarsEdit

"Inherited" ModelsEdit

Austin A125 Sheerline 1947-1954
Austin A135 Princess 1947-1956
Austin A40 Sports 1950-1953
Austin A70 Hereford 1950-1954
Austin A30 1951-1956
Austin A40 Devon 1947-1952
MG TD 1949-1953
MG Y-type 1947-1953
Morris Minor 1948-1971
Morris Oxford (Series MO) 1948-1954
Morris Six MS 1948-1953
Riley RM series 1945-1955
Wolseley 4/50 1948-1953
Wolseley 6/80 1948-1954
Wolseley Oxford Taxi 1947-1955

BMC DesignsEdit






Vanden PlasEdit


BMC Project Numbers Edit

Morris Minor 1953 at Bristol (RCV 860)

A 1953 Morris Minor RCV 860 on a classic car rally


A 1966 MGB

Most BMC projects followed the earlier Austin practice of describing vehicles with an 'ADO' number (which stands for 'Austin Design Office', but also sometimes known as the 'Amalgamated Drawing Office'). Hence cars that had more than one marque name (e.g. Austin Se7en and Morris Mini Minor) would have the same ADO number. Given the often complex badge-engineering that BMC undertook, it is common amongst enthusiasts to use the ADO number when referring to vehicles as a single design (for example, saying 'The ADO15 entered production in 1959'- this encompasses the fact that when launched, the ADO15 was marketed as both the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven). The ADO numbers used were as follows:

BMC Commercial VehiclesEdit

Most BMC era commercial vehicles were sold as Morris but there were sometimes Austin equivalents. Radiator badges on the larger vehicles were often the BMC baddge.

Car based light vansEdit

Morris Oxford van

A Morris Cowley MCV Van

Light VansEdit

Morris Commercial JB 1957

A 1957 Morris JB Van

Light lorriesEdit

BMC agricultural vehiclesEdit

With the merge of the Nuffield and Austin interests, the Nuffield Organisation's tractors became part of BMC.

BMC abroadEdit

In the 1950s and the 1960s, BMC set-up twenty-one plants overseas, some as subsidiaries, and some as joint ventures, to assemble their vehicles. One was British Motor Corporation (Australia) which was established in 1953 at the Nuffield Australia site on the one time Victoria Park horse racetrack in Sydney.[2] This facility went from a marshalling area for fully imported Morris cars (Austins were up until then being assembled in Melbourne, Victoria from an earlier Austin Motors establishment), to a facility for making CKD cars, to the total local fabrication and construction of vehicles, engines, and mechanicals.[3]

Denmark was a particularly strong market for BMC products in Europe. In the post-war period, the Danish government closely regulated exports and imports to maintain the country's balance of trade. High-value imports such as cars were heavily taxed. Britain bought large amounts of agricultural and meat produce from Denmark, and in response British cars were subject to a much lower import tax than cars from other countries, making BMC products very popular in the country until the 1970s, when these regulations were relaxed.

The end of BMCEdit

In 1966 BMC and Pressed Steel merged with Jaguar Cars to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). In 1968 there was a further wave of mergers in the British car industry, (under pressure from the then Labour British Government and Minister of Technology Tony Benn) and BMH merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC) to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC), the original BMC mass-production, and MG sports car products being brought together into the Austin Morris division of the new organisation. In 1975 BLMC was nationalised and became British Leyland Limited.

Post MortemEdit

Following the "merger" with Leyland, the new company's board bore an uncanny resemblance to the senior management team that had hitherto headed up the Leyland half of the partnership, so comments of the management team on the profitability of the former BMC elements need to be viewed with caution.[clarification needed] However, following a review of company records undertaken with the support of the new board, author Graham Turner stated that at the time of the merger there were 16 versions of the Mini being produced, yielding an average profit of just £16 per car, while every Morris Minor sold lost the group £9 and every Austin Westminster sold lost £17.[4] This helps to explain why the Westminster and Minor were among the early casualties of the merger, as well as the introduction of the Mini Clubman, capable of being built for less but sold for more than a standard Mini thanks to simplified ("modernised") front panels. Even the UK's best seller, the Austin/Morris 1100 had to be subjected to an emergency cost reduction programme which removed approximately £10 from the cost of each car, applying changes that included the omission of lead sealing from body joints (£2.40 per car), removing provision for optional reversing lamps (£0.10) and "changes in body finish" (£0.75).[4] Rebuilding the Cowley plant to include "new automated body building facilities" saved £2.00 in transport costs per car for bodies that no longer needed to be transported from the corporation's Swindon body plant and in the longer term further transport costs were saved by concentrating assembly of the model at a single plant, rather than splitting it between plants at Cowley and Longbridge.[4] Because of the high proportion of auto-production costs represented by fixed costs that needed to be allocated over a planned production volume, and the use in the 1960s of investment appraisal criteria that were ill-suited to accounting for volume fluctuations and the rapidly changing value of the UK currency in the 1960s, the precise figures quoted may be open to challenge, but the new management's diagnosis that BMC's profitability was insufficient to fund support and new model investment to cover its disparate range of brands and models was hard to refute.

Life after deathEdit

In 2002, BMC (Turkey), a Turkish commercial vehicle builder, originally set up by the British Motor Corporation to build their designs under licence in the 1950s, began exporting its vehicles to Britain. This saw the return of the BMC brand to British roads for the first time in over 40 years.[citation (source) needed]

See alsoEdit

References / sourcesEdit

  1. "New Dormobiles", Autocar 127 (nbr 3739): pages 91–92. date 12 October 1967. 
  2. The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 62
  3. Timothy R. Whisler (1999). The British Motor Industry 1945-1994. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829074-8. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "The cars then and now", Autocar: Page 57. 28 October 1971. 

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