The Worst of BL Advertising

In the 1970s and 1980s British Leyland were, as we all know, in a bad way.  The products were rubbish, the quality abysmal and the new Common Market was introducing us all to exotica like the Renault 14.  And yet it is when things look bleaker than bleak that The Marketing Men very often come into their own.  Think Hoover in the 1990s (free flights for all!).  Or, as it turned out, BL in the 70s.

Back in those simpler times BL’s marketing men were drunk on the new world of mass media and communications.  This was an era when it was far more important – and fun – to separate the facts from the joy of words and images. And so they did.  I grudgingly admire the BL marketing men for their ability to put a positive spin on such mediocrity. So here are their worst – or best efforts from that bygone era.

However bad some of these adverts were, it hasn’t stopped us putting BL products on our classic hire fleet.  Over the years we’ve had several of them and right now 70% of our fleet is BL-derived.  Not bad for a bad company.

1. Austin Allegro: It’s British

It’s hard to believe now but Allegro was initially pitched as a sophisticated car for Europe.  It wasn’t even a sophisticated car for Longbridge let alone Loret de Mar.

And so the marketing men set to work, seemingly oblivious to what everyone else in Europe knew, including the British – that even before the Allegro arrived British cars were woeful compared to their European counterparts.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this advert is that the marketeers decided the best way to show the car was actually in Europe was by setting it beside a fruit and veg market.  Fresh fruit and veg being anathema to most 70s British homes.  With good reason of course.

2. Austin Maestro: The Miracle 

By the time the Maestro arrived, British Leyland needed a miracle.  That the word was being in-canted around Grosvenor House and Longbridge in frenzied tones can be the only explanation for the bizarre launch of the Maestro. There was nothing miraculous about the Maestro, except that it seemed to have arrived from another era, specifically 1974. Dated, ugly and about as me-too a car as any manufacturer has dared to produce, it took Runner Up as its raison d’etre. 

3. Morris Marina: the workhorse

Instead of being honest and telling the world that the Marina was a simple, basic saloon with all the style of a Maris Piper potato, British Leyland tried to convince us that it was beautiful and durable. Hence this advert, which attempted to take the sting out of having to trawl Britain’s fledgling motorway network in pursuit of photocopier sales by suggesting that, from the wheel of a Morris Marina, this forlorn prospect looked much more enticing.  It didn’t.  It looked less enticing.  If that’s possible.

4. Jaguar E Type: the saloon car

Nine inches is not a lot.  It’s certainly a lot less space than the average person needs to sit down.  And yet, when Jaguar dropped an extra 9 inches into the wheelbase of the Jaguar E Type to create the 2+2 it seemed convince it was. Because the 2+2 E Type was meant to seat four in comfort.  The bench seat’s low back, narrow squab and non-existent legroom certainly stretched the concept of ‘comfort’. And yet it didn’t stop BL’s eagle-eyed marketeers spotting an opportunity and, as here, suggesting that the E Type was now a ‘sedan’.  

5. Triumph TR7: the budget Ferrari

For a time in the 70s and 80s car marketeers latched onto the idea that they could sell cheap cars more easily by pretending they were cut price versions of much more expensive ones.  Virtually every car maker south of Porsche tried it, but BL turned it into an art form. As here, where the not-so-subtle implication is that a red sports car with the 4 cylinder engine out of a Triumph Dolomite, is comparable in all but price to a low volume V12 Ferrari, which is also red. This ploy of course cleverly avoided having to compare cars like the TR7 against their actual rivals.  Which might not have played quite so well.


You can hire our 20-strong classic car fleet by the hour or day or on one of our classic road trips.  Find out more at or call 01527 893733. 

#britishleylandadvertising #greatescapecars #classiccarhire #hirejaguaretype #morrismarina #classiccarrental #midlands #triumphtr7 #allegro

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