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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars


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on 11 September 2012
This is a well informed and well written book. Knowing people who worked for Triumph and the stories they told confirms the author did his homework. It is a tale of woe from pretty much beginning to end, poor management who seemed to be only interested in their small part of the empire, militant unions hell bent on destruction and polititions trying to run an industry they knew nothing about and everybody seeming to only listen to what they wanted to hear.
The book is well laid out a year at a time and model by model and is full of facts and figures which can be hard going especially if reading late at night. As someone with a big interest in the British car industry I found the content of this book excellent if somewhat depressing and a lesson to all those in the industry and how not to run it.
I only have one criticism and that is the production quality. This book was obviously produced down to a price which I can understand as it is of limited interest however the few photographs in the book are quite poor quality which as they are incidental doesn't really matter but the cover is very poor being on thin card and laminated which makes it curl. By the time I was halfway through the book the laminate was starting to peel off which does spoil it.

This book ought to be publicised through the classic car magazines and the owners club of the various BL marques and I am sure it would sell very well, I came across it by accident while looking for another title, but please put a better cover on it even if you have to put the price up a bit.
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on 1 September 2012
I downloaded this as a Kindle freebie and whilst I might have otherwise passed it by, with hindsight I would definitely pay for this book.
The author has managed to cover a wide-ranging topic in a well structured way. In general it is presented chronologically; detailing the internal and external decisions that impacted on the company that was formed by the merger of BMC and Leyland Motors. There are also additional sections giving more information about specific, and now iconic, models such as the Allegro and Marina. He has also include quotes from the media at the time of the launches; the Marina being 'What happens when Britain's best engineers set out to build a beautiful car'.
The view presented appears to be completely objective with regards to the reasons for the failure and eventual collapse of BL. The disruption caused by the strikes prevalent in the 70s is quantified, the decisions made by management relating to the design and production of the models as well as the quality control is critically analysed and the role of the various governments and their stance on interference in industry discussed. The fortunes of BL are also compared and contrasted with those of other major car makers of the time.
The conclusion that is drawn seems to indicate that the collapse may have been avoidable, but there were so many contributing factors that it was unlikely to remain afloat.
I have to qualify this review by stating that I am not a car nut; I have a passing interest in Wheeler Dealers and I found a trip to the Coventry Transport Museum fascinating, but, although it was heavy going in places, I loved this book. I never realised how many strands and inter-relationships there were in the British motor industry, but they were all pulled together brilliantly in this book. I now know so much more.
My only criticisms are that the book is quite long, but then it is a hefty subject and I found some of the model numbers quoted (e.g. ADO28) a little confusing, as were some of the changes to the management team, especially considering the number of divisions in BL for the majority of its life. Perhaps a BLMC family tree or a timeline might have helped.
All in all I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the history of the car industry.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2014
This book is almost an allegory of the British car industry itself. Its large format, glossy cover, which looks great at first glance, belies some pretty poor editing and dreadful page formatting within. Paragraph spacing is denoted by a blank line; the page numbers have no mirroring, and I dread to think what they've done with the margins. I see this is published by Amazon, and they are going to have to do better than this if they are going to become a force within publishing, as is clearly their intention.
This being said, the text itself is simply amazing in parts and mostly it's a wonderful read with an array of information that is informative, impactful and at times distressing for those, like me, who have always bought British cars - until they disappeared. I would have liked more pictures, in colour if possible, and certainly much larger than the postage-stamp-sized ones that one has to squint at in order to recognise. There is quite a lot of repetition and at times the text duplicates what has already been discussed either a bit further along, or in another section.
All in all, however, people like me, of a certain age who grew up with what I considered to be amazing cars will be able to see the wonder contained within the book's pages. For sure, many errors were made by management, by politicians and by bloody-minded unions; who must have surely assumed that the business was too big to fail. Notwithstanding all this, though, were some simply amazing engineers creating world-beating ideas and products that had they had the resources and the investment and more co-operation would still be leading the field today.
The irony is that their worth has now been unequivocally recognised by the Indians and the Japanese and even the Germans who have harnessed England's workers' creativity - after no doubt stripping many of our ideas out and surpassing them - to once again build world-beating cars. It's a good read; with proper formatting, editing, decent pictures - it could even have been a great one !
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on 26 April 2017
Good book.very sad but inevitable decline of what could have been a great company if not for strikes and government
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on 22 July 2013
The author describes in detail the decline of the once world's fifth largest vehicle producer from its formation in 1968 to the end in 1978 when the assumptions of the infamous Ryder report turned out to be incorrect. In summary form the aftermath until the demise of Rover in 2005 is also described. The focus of the book is on the cars. It is a detailed study and explains the external factors, the significant internal failings and the strategic errors.
Regrettable the paperpack book is poorly produced and the very few tiny photographs are of poor quality.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 July 2013
Christopher Cowin has produced an excellent summary of British Leyland, from formation in 1968 to the eventual demise of Rover in 2005 (events past 1978 are covered, only not in as much detail). This is a book primarily for those interested in industry analysis, and the intricacies in running a large conglomerate, and less so for people primarily looking for details of cars or for the smell of petrol emanating from every page (for British Leyland products British Leyland - The history, the engineering, the people (illustrated) is closer to the latter brief). As such it is not overly long but very dense as a result - with lots to capture over the primary 10 year period, as well as lots of an aftermath to cover.

The book covers the genesis of British Leyland, the political and economic environment leading to it (as well as the thinking that produced it), the operation of the company in an annual format, six key vehicles laucnhed during the British Leyland time, the international divisions and then includes an extensive aftermath section, an analysis of factors leading to BLs demise (as well as a final executive summary of the book) and a bibliography / further reading section.

The author does not take the easy route of blaming either worker unrest, or poor quality, or political meddling on their own for the eventual downfall but really manages to bring across the whole intricate network of factors at play. At the same time he shows a very balanced understanding of why certain factors of 1960s and 1970s industrial Britain functioned the way they did and how they affected the automotive sector generally and BL in particular.

If you want an elevator pitch of why BL failed, the book is most certainly not it; still it does an excellent job of building understanding of the complexity of an automotive multinational and is in my opinion well worth the time to read and digest. While it is unlikely that there will be another company that is subject to the same pressures and demands any time soon, there is an extreme richness of insight, which can very well be transfered to related cases.

I would definitely recommend this book for both people generally interested in the automotive industry / manufacturing, as well as people interested in management more broadly. In my opinion this forms an excellent complement to My Years with General Motors and should be a component in any library on the automotive sector.
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on 1 August 2014
This book is incredibly well written, if you wonder why our car industry failed, the answers are in this. The writers knowledge is probably unrivalled, so sad as BMC/BL had so many near misses, things could have been very different, but hard to see it at the time as the animal seemed so big. With proper QC, a great management structure, awareness of cost control, less blinkered vision and crucially much more r+d the Allegro could have been a competitor to the Golf, the TR7 could have been good and the deserved humour would have been misguided.
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on 3 February 2014
This is a very good book it tells the story of the failure of a once great British car manufacturer. When looking back it is easy to blame management for the decline of Leyland, but when you look at the lunacy of Union Leaders you get an insight into the pressures these people had to deal with. An explanation of social history that has effected most people. A book that is wonderful to read if ultimately very sad.
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on 1 February 2013
The author clearly knows his subject, and has researched well, and included many useful snippets of interviews and first hand accounts; for that, it's a useful book.
Sadly, the layout, erratic timeline and sometimes I suspect, poor editing, let the side down. It is a complicated subject being covered here, but even so, the unfocussed nature of much of the book, makes it harder to read than it should be.
Still a good book, for the library of anyone interested in the subject, and ultimately worth its' modest price.
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on 15 July 2013
What an interesting read. I couldn't put it down. Quite a few of the facts were known to me, but when you see them all together, one realises how militant unions, poor management and a business where investment seems to have been squandered, was on the road to ruin over many years.
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