November 2018

This month’s document is chosen by Gillian Bardsley, the BMIHT Archivist.

It’s that time of year again, when we start to ponder on Christmas past, present and future, and what better way than by taking a trawl through our splendid collection of corporate Christmas cards which used to be sent out to customers and dealers to thank them for their support during the year.

We have now begun our one-year project, supported by Archives Revealed, to sort and catalogue our Collection of British Leyland Sales & Press material. So our Project Archivist, Katie Finn, has been busy uncovering lots of exciting things, including this colourful Christmas Greetings card from December 1987.

Why This Document?

It's always fascinating to look at the company's efforts to promote itself and try to unravel their thinking at a particular point in time. In this case we are looking at the department in Austin Rover which was responsible for fleet sales, in other words selling cars to companies rather than individuals.

Austin Rover was originally the Division of British Leyland Ltd which concentrated on volume production, but the parent company had recently changed its name to Rover Group Ltd in 1986 in an attempt to improve its image. The vehicles featured on our Christmas card are naturally part of the current model-range. The two cars approaching the stand are the early fruits of the Rover-Honda collaboration. The blue one is a Rover 800 (developed as the XX) which had been launched in 1986. In green is the smaller Rover 200 (codenamed Ballade) launched in 1984. The red car passing through the tunnel is an Austin Montego, which had no Japanese involvement, having been designed in the Longbridge Styling Studio and also launched in 1984.

This card reflects Austin Rover's enthusiasm for impressing fleet buyers by giving them the opportunity to try their cars on a racing track. This may have been as much to offer the buyer a nice perk as to demonstrate the capabilities of the car, since road-holding conditions and speed don't seem an obvious requirement for the company car driver. As well as the cars we have a spectator stand emblazoned with Austin Rover flags, and a Dunlop 'bridge' which was a common sight at racetracks, serving as a sponsorship opportunity for Dunlop, who were the lead supplier of safer metric tyres for many products.

Strangely, Santa and his reindeer seem to be as fast as the cars, and are being urged to slow down by the trackside mechanic. I'm not sure what kind of message this is giving to the potential buyer of a fleet of Austin Rover group cars!

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