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The British Motor Corporation Limited (BMC) was a UK-based vehicle manufacturer, formed in early 1952 to give effect to an agreed merger of the Morris and Austin businesses. BMC acquired the shares in Morris Motors and the Austin Motor Company. Morris Motors, the holding company of the productive businesses of the Nuffield Organisation, owned MG, Riley, and Wolseley. The agreed exchange of shares in Morris or Austin for shares in the new holding company, BMC, became effective in mid-April 1952.

BMC was the largest British car company of its day, with 39% of British output, producing a wide range of cars under brand names including Austin, Morris, MG, Austin-Healey, Riley, and Wolseley, as well as commercial vehicles and agricultural tractors. The biggest-selling car, the Mini, was famously analysed by Ford Motor Company, which 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 merger with Jaguar Cars to form British Motor Holdings (BMH), and the government-sponsored merger of BMH with Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. At the time of the mergers, a well established dealership network was in place for each of the marques. Among the car-buying British public 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.

In 1958, BMC hired Battista Farina, an Italian automobile designer and founder of the Carrozzeria Pininfarina coachbuilding company, 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 bowed in 1958 with the Austin A40 Farina, a small estate version. 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. Most of these cars lasted until 1961. 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 and in 1964 the Siam Magnette 1622 alongside the Siam Di Tella in Argentina. 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.

Most BMC projects followed the earlier Austin practice of describing vehicles with an ‘ADO’ number (which stood for ‘Austin Design Office’ but after the merger ‘Amalgamated Drawing Office’). Hence, cars that had more than one marque name (e.g. Morris Mini Minor and Austin Mini) 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 which were a single design (for example, saying ‘The ADO15 entered production in 1959’- this encompasses the fact that when launched, the ADO15 was marketed as the Morris Mini Minor and, later, the Austin Seven—soon replaced with Austin Mini). The ADO numbering system did continue for some time after the creation of British Leyland – notable models being the Austin Allegro (ADO67) and the prototype version of the Austin Metro (ADO88).

Most BMC-era commercial vehicles were sold as Morris, but there were sometimes Austin equivalents. Radiator badges on the larger vehicles were often BMC. With the merger of the Nuffield and Austin interests, the Nuffield Organisation’s tractor range, the Nuffield Universal, was incorporated into BMC.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, BMC set up 21 plants overseas, some as subsidiaries, and some as joint ventures, to assemble their vehicles. In September 1966, BMC merged with Jaguar Cars Limited. On 14 December 1966, BMC changed its name to British Motor Holdings Limited or BMH because it had taken over major UK motor industry supplier Pressed Steel in 1965, acquiring Jaguar’s body supplier in the process. In 1968, BMH merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), which made trucks and buses and were owners of Standard-Triumph International to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). In August 1975 BLMC was partly nationalised and renamed British Leyland Limited which became defunct in 1986.



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