The British motor industry has had a rather checkered history since it began in the late 19th century. At its zenith there were between 150 and 200 motor companies, as early as the first part of the 1920s. During the Great Depression, in the latter years of that decade, between two-thirds and three-quarters of those companies disappeared, either through bankruptcy or amalgamation. Obviously, the war years produced a national effort directed toward saving a nation, and car production literally took a back seat to military defense. Post-war, as the country and the car industry returned to a somewhat normal service, the British motor industry once again became lively and prosperous. As the early 1950s dawned, the UK was the second biggest manufacturer of automobiles in the world—only the U.S. produced more—and the biggest exporter of cars in the world. Enjoying this latest boom, on reflection, it was rather naive to think the industry would continue to flourish, or even sustain the then current trend.
By the late 1960s, national and world events had brought a severe decline in the industry to the point where amalgamation and government nationalization were thrown at it as life buoys. Despite this, however, the erosion continued with emerging markets from Europe and far eastern countries such as Japan taking trade away from the UK. The 1970s found British Leyland bankrupt and needing government funding to survive. Poor management decisions, quality control issues and mediocre models, together with the oil crisis and a certain trade unionist (Derek Robinson, colloquially known as “Red Robbo” and described by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a “notorious agitator”), collectively took the industry to a nadir from which it has never really recovered. However, against this background, cars were still being produced to try and inject new life into an ailing patient. This included the road model of our profile car the Rover SD1—something of a major step forward in terms of styling for an executive car.
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