Document of the Month July 2018

This month's document is chosen by Archive Assistant Mollie Horne who has recently been working on events to mark the 50th anniversary of British Leyland.

A 50th birthday is a landmark which deserves celebration; and what can be more of a celebration than metallic silver cardboard and polystyrene? Which is why I wanted to share this Morris Marina dealer pack produced in 1971. It is something of beauty and it caught my eye immediately given that I'm a magpie and love anything tacky with a bit of sparkle.

Why this Document?

I chose this document as it went down a storm during the Archive sessions which were held during the recent BMC / British Leyland show held at the British Motor Museum in July and I thought it was only fair that those unable to attend could take a look at the document – if only virtually!

The pack is enclosed in a metallic cardboard sleeve which has sustained some small dents and scrapes but is in relatively good condition. Despite its depth, the main document is only 20 pages long. This is because about 90% of the pack is made up of a large polystyrene slab, making the document deceptively light. Although this is an interesting novelty, it is a massive problem for conservation. There is very little anyone can do to slow down the process of polystyrene decomposition other than storing it in correct archival conditions. Removing the polystyrene would destroy the integrity of the document as the colour chart, brochure and advertising guidelines are hidden in a panel at the back and as the two cut-out Marinas at the bottom of the book are carved into the polystyrene. It would also take away the unique and odd quality that makes the document so special and such a product of its time. It is perhaps because of these problems that few examples survive, which is what created the excitement among enthusiasts at our event.

The material inside was designed to create some hype around the new vehicle as well as explaining to the Dealer network how it would be launched and marketed; an important task as they claimed that the launch of the Marina was 'the biggest event on the British motoring scene for ten years or more'. It covered product features, national and local advertising, promotions and sales training.

British Leyland wanted to make the point that the Marina was different from the contemporary fleet car competition – namely the Ford Cortina and the Hillman Hunter. They boasted about the 'style that won't go out of style', the 'sensible' under bonnet layout and the addition of seatbelts. This push on style and suitability was neatly summed up by the car's tagline – 'The new Morris Marina, beauty with brains behind it'.

One of my favourite parts of the pack can be quite easily missed. It resides on the 'promotions' page as a suggestion to dealers on how to encourage sales and create some excitement about the new product. Alongside reasonable suggestions such as advertising in department stores and running competitions, they also suggest that dealers should 'give people rides home from the station at night, women home from the shops'. I'm not entirely sure how well that would have gone down.

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