Leyland P76

Leyland P76

Infobox Automobile
name=Leyland P76

manufacturer=Leyland of Australia
18,007 produced
class=Fullsize car
body_style=4-door saloon
3-door coupe (Force 7V - eight built)
5-door station wagon (one built)
engine=2.6 L "E-Series" I6
" 4.4 L "Rover" V8
predecessor=Austin Kimberley/Tasman
designer=Giovanni Michelotti
similar=Holden Kingswood
Ford Falcon
The Leyland P76 was a large car produced by Leyland Australia, the Australian subsidiary of British Leyland. It was intended to provide the company with a genuine rival to large local models like the Ford Falcon, the Holden Kingswood, and the Chrysler Valiant.

Prior to P76, Leyland Australia and its antecedent BMC (Australia) had not fielded a direct competitor in this market sector, which dominated the Australian car market. P76 was intended to provide that competitor.

Previously, BMC and Leyland had tried to compete in this market segment with a variety of cars: the 1958 Morris Marshall (a rebadged Austin A95); the 1962 Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80 (the Freeway was an Austin A60 with Riley 4/72 tail lights, a unique full width grille and a 2.4 litre 6-cylinder version of the 1622 cc B-series engine; the Wolseley was a 6-cylinder version of the Wolseley 16/60); and the 1971 Austin "X6" Tasman and Kimberley (facelifted Austin 1800s with the 6-cylinder 2.2 litre E-series engine.)

Each of these cars was a compromise, and the motoring public ignored these cars as challengers to the dominant local models. Nonetheless, the Freeway, 24/80 and the X6s each developed a loyal following.

Launched in 1973, it was nicknamed "the wedge", on account of its shape, with a large boot (trunk), able to easily hold a 44 gallon drum. Although station wagon and "Force 7" coupé versions were designed, these never went into mass production.

Naming the P76

The name of the P76 derived from the car's codename while in development. Speculation surrounds the naming and parentage of the P76. One story says the name was apparently the platoon number of British Leyland head Donald Stokes. Another story is that the P76 was based on a Rover design, and that the "P" coding signified that it emanated from Rover. Rover's coding for its models included the P4, P5, P6 and P8 (although the P8 never reached mass production).

The official line was that the P76 was an original Australian design with no overseas counterpart. The Rover SD1 (released in 1976) shared several engineering features with P76 — including MacPherson strut front suspension, the aluminium V8 engine and a live rear axle.

Design and engineering

The shape was penned by Giovanni Michelotti. The entry-level P76 featured an enlarged 2623 cc OHC engine from the smaller Austin Kimberley and Austin Tasman. The top-of-the-line aluminium alloy 4416 cc V8 unit was unique to the P76, and was a development of the ex-Buick V8 that was powering the Rover 3500. Safety equipment preceded the forthcoming Australian Design Rules, and featured recessed door handles and full-length side intrusion reinforcements on all doors.

Notwithstanding the advertising slogan ("Anything but average") the P76s engineering followed conventional lines.

It did offer a combination of features which were novel in this category in Australia at the time: rack and pinion steering, McPherson strut front suspension, front hinged bonnet and concealed windscreen wipers; as well as the familiar: Australian made Borg Warner gearboxes (including 3 speed column shift) and a live rear axle.

Particular attention was paid to structural rigidity, a British Leyland engineering strength. This goal was aided by a conscious effort to reduce the number of panels needed to build the car's body — a remarkably low 215.

Performance in the marketplace

Despite the V8 model winning "Wheels" magazine's Car of the Year for 1973, sales of the P76 were adversely affected by a variety of issues: production problems at Leyland Australia's plant in Zetland restricted supply of the car; a variety of teething troubles, such as engine overheating; the release of P76 coincided with the first Oil Crisis, when fuel prices increased dramatically. As a result, demand for all larger cars subsided.

Hence, notwithstanding generally favourable press and public reaction to the car, sales did not reach expectations.

British Leyland announced plans to sell P76 in the UK. However, production ceased before these plans could come to fruition.

The car achieved success in the 1974 World Cup Rally- winning the Targa Florio trophy. Leyland Australia celebrated this victory by releasing a limited edition Targa Florio model: the V8 Super with sports wheels and steering wheel, as well as special paintwork, including side stripes.

Unreleased P76 derivatives

The Force 7 coupé was announced in 1974 but never offered for sale. There was to have been a base six-cylinder Force 7, a more powerful Force 7V with the V8 unit, and a range-topping Tour de Force. It was unusual in that it had a large rear hatchback. It shared few body panels with the sedan. At least one station wagon (estate car) prototype, which shared much of the sedan's structure and body panels but with more upright rear door frames, was also built.

The end of the line

The Leyland plant at Zetland closed in October 1974, and production of the P76 ceased, although assembly continued in New Zealand, where it was sold successfully in V8 form, until 1976.

Leyland Australia sold off eight Force 7 coupé prototypes to the public in an auction. Two other Force 7Vs have passed through the hands of a UK collector (one of which may have been sent to New Zealand), and one is at the National Motor Museum at Birdwood Mill in South Australia.

A smaller sister car, the P82, also designed by Michelotti and intended to replace the Morris Marina in Australia, was never produced.

P76 today

P76 continues to have a small but loyal following of owners who have great enthusiasm for the car.

After production of the P76 ceased, Leyland Australia limited its local production to the Mini produced at Enfield and commercial vehicles and buses.

Total P76 production numbers

Model, Version, (Model Code), Production

Deluxe, Column Auto 6, (2C26) - 2118

Deluxe, Column Manual 6, (2N26) - 2342

Deluxe, 4 Speed Manual 6, (2M26) - 516

Deluxe, Column Auto V8, (2C44) - 1532

Deluxe, Column Manual V8, (2N44) - 1281

Deluxe, 4 Speed Manual V8, (2M44) - 380

Deluxe Total - 8169

Super, Column Auto 6, (3C26) - 1132

Super, T-Bar Auto 6, (3A26) - 380

Super, 4 Speed Manual 6, (3M26) - 719

Super, Column Auto V8, (3C44) - 1928

Super, T-Bar Auto V8, (3A44) - 2256 (including Targa Florio model)

Super, 4 Speed Manual V8, (3M44) - 1047

Super Total - 7462

Executive, T-Bar Auto V8, (4A44) - 2376

Executive Total - 2376

External links

* [http://www.leylandp76.com National Web site for P76 Owners]
* [http://www.webtrade.com.au/p76/ Stuart Brown's P76 Website]
* [http://www.milesago.com/Features/p76.htm Milesago feature on the Leyland P76]
* [http://www.roversd1.com/engine_capacity.htm Discussion on the differences between the standard Rover V8 and the P76's]
* [http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?p7682p82f.htm Leyland P82 history on Austin-Rover.co.uk]



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