Home » Who The Hell Parked Here?: Cold Start

Who The Hell Parked Here?: Cold Start

Cs Leylandp76

It’s not often you encounter a car brochure image that places the car in a context where it seems to be genuinely unwanted, but it looks like the Australian arm of British Leyland, Leyland Australia, managed to pull it off, somehow. This is from a mid-’70s brochure for the P76, a huge, kind of odd-looking sedan that appears to be parked right in the way of that…is that a shepherd? He looks like what I picture when I think of a cowboy, but my potent biological and zoological skills have noted that those are not cows in that picture, they’re sheep, or perhaps some kind of wooly goat. Is this guy a sheepboy? Whatever he wants to call his vocation, he sure looks pissed about his way blocked by like 16 feet of butterscotch-colored sedan.

I mean, look at this picture; the car is squarely in the way of all those sheep, in the middle of some field, no actual road in easy sight. The sheepboy is turning to his friend, and you can almost imagine him calling out “Who the hell’s car is this? What this thing doing here? Crikey, Yahoo Serious, shrimp on barbie” or whatever the hell Aussies say when inconvenienced by a big-ass car. I’ll have to ask David’s friend Lawrence. 

Despite being parked in ways that inconvenience scores of sheep and their handlers, I actually quite like these massive P76s. The styling somehow feels like a cartoon car, like Homer Simpson’s car, a crude rendering of the concept of a car more than of a specific car itself:

Simpsoncar

Plus, the P76 was known for being able to swallow a 44 gallon drum in its cavernous trunk.

44galtrunk

Was this something 1970s Australians were demanding? Is this the only form that, say, dogfood was sold in 1977 Sydney or something? This sure makes the usual American golf bag standard of trunk sizing seem pretty candy-assed, right?

 

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37 Responses

      1. In one newer episode they referred to it as a 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla, but everything made in the past 20ish years shouldn’t be considered canon. That would have made it nearly new when the series started, and Homer and Marge were explicitly supposed to be driving 15-20 year old beaters to show how tight the family’s finances were (before the premise changed over time to the Simpsons just having whatever amount of money is needed to suit the plot of the current episode, no matter how inconsistent)

        1. Yeah, they’re going to have to retcon the car soon (maybe to a jellybean early ’00s model) just like they’ve done with Homer and Marge’s ages.

          Originally they were teenagers in the ’70s, now they’re shown as having been teenagers in the ’90s. The worst part is we now lose all of Abe Simpson’s bizarre WWII experience and his ’50s jobs.

            1. I hear that wearing an onion on your belt is coming back in style in two-thousand-dickety-three. Or would that be “dickety-dickety-three”?

  1. You know, a sheep is probably about the size of a 44-gallon drum, right? Leyland thought they were on to something, making room for the beloved Australian family’s sheep, failing to account for how sheep tend to come in, you know, flocks, and moving one at a time doesn’t help much. We see here initial testing where they realized the flaw in their plan, and they had to pivot to the story about making room for the giant barrel.

  2. You know how old Australian GMs, Fords and Chryslers look like mild alternative-universe versions of their American counterparts? This could fill the AMC niche: Slightly unconventional proportions and details, like that face with the headlights pushed a bit inward. It all makes sense now.

  3. Yes, this was truly a car that was built to what Australians said they wanted, but once produced no-one wanted to buy it, aluminium V8 and all. There a few 2 doors getting around as well. Would have thought they would have been Lawrence’s holy grail!

    1. That’s what makes it’s failure so sad, British Leyland was constantly criticized (justifiably) for their failures in export markets due to their total refusal to understand local consumer preferences and needs and just dumping British market products with no major changes. The P76 was an honest, seriously committed effort to truly understand Australia and built a totally new car from the ground up specifically tailored to what buyers there wanted, it was what everyone had been wanting BL and their predecessors to do for ages, and when they finally did it, it didn’t perform any better on the marketplace. On paper, it was a good package, I think the only reason it didn’t sell was the recognition that BL was circling the drain and customers didn’t want the uncertainty of buying from someone that might not be around much longer, plus they didn’t have a strong enough dealer network or a big enough marketing budget

      1. Due to rushed production, they weren’t that reliable. This reputation was “enhanced(?)” by the general reputation that British Leyland had at the time, both here in Oz as well as worldwide.

        On the other hand
        * Wheels magazine made it their car of the year in 1973.
        * A P76 won the Targa Florio secion of 74

        HTH

  4. The P76 was a decent car once you sorted the production line issues out…sort of a 70’s Jeep Wrangler if you will.

    My P76 story comes from a schoolmate of Croatian background back in the late 80s. Fancied himself as cool, suave and in control and then bought a big, blue V8 P76. Naturally, anything out in the wild in Australia that long and still running had be fiddled with. So it turned out this thing had a turn of speed its dynamics couldn’t support.

    As a result of some foolish schoolboy goading and some equally foolish schoolboy heroics…a certain P76 full of idiots managed to pin a landing in the middle of a set of traffic lights (#green) after a rather unexpected 20 foot flight off a suburban Sydney railway bridge one quiet Saturday morning in 1986…

    1. A friend had a P76 Targa Florio that he did an auto-to-manual swap on and had the engine rebuilt with a few extra goodies – one night after getting it running again we were cruising around the suburbs, found a long deserted stretch of road and proceeded to test out its top end – when we went past the police car hiding in a side street we were doing 245km/h (calculated afterwards, as it was wound well past the end of the speedometer scale) in a 60 km/h zone. They didn’t even bother to try to chase us!

  5. I’ve owned and thrashed several P76s, and the actual engineering and design was far superior to the local competition at the time, but build quality let it down. Although all the ones I have had were surprisingly bulletproof.
    Being able to fit a 44 gallon drum was of no real value – how would you lift a full drum into the boot (and why would you need to transport an empty one?) But it allowed the spare to sit upright in the side of the boot, which also meant a full set of spare wheels could also be carried, which was good for random burnouts………
    I still have several P76 V8s and a 4 speed box (relatively rare as most V8s were auto), plus a turbo kit from a Terrier truck motor (these engines were also used in Leyland terrier trucks at the time) but can’t quite make them fit in my Valiant ute as the steering box gets in the way.

    1. “But it allowed the spare to sit upright in the side of the boot, which also meant a full set of spare wheels could also be carried, which was good for random burnouts………”

      This was also a party trick of all but early-model Volvo 240s. Next time you see one, check out the ‘buttcheeks’, a bit more than a tire wide, one behind (and parallel to) each rear wheel.

  6. Somebody had too many Werther’s Originals on paint-the-car day. Also, that drum in the trunk is an optional auxiliary fuel tank: do you know how far it is between fuel stops in the Outback?

  7. There’s much I could write about the P76, and much that has been written about this vehicle which is often Australian writers using the car as a punching bag much like the Yugo is in the US.

    There’s many reasons for the failure of BL in Australia, not all of them are on the P76 and a good portion of blame is directly on UK management.

    My dad actually worked at the Zetland plant in Sydney from the late 60s until the close of BL. He passed away when I was 8 so we never got to discuss those times.

    Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to talk with some people involved and clear up some things around this car and BL Australia.

  8. I always see cars parked next to swimming pools in old car ads. That always struck me as being completely socially unacceptable to just drive your car right up next to someone’s swimming pool. I mean, what kind of jerk does that? And what kind of person sees that ad and says “Yup, I’m gonna get me a 1959 Mercury Country Cruiser”.

  9. Jason, I’m surprised you don’t know the international standard unit of measure for trunks is dead hookers. Or, in the case of Australia, dead hookahrz.

    What do you think is in that barrel anyway?

      1. I wasn’t making a gender specific reference, but I totally accept your response. I bow my head in shame for making fun of sexual (or any violence) and apologize. My participation in this meme will end here.

  10. I’ve always wanted a Leyland P76. No idea why. I’ve been subjected to enough domestic market BL woes in the past, but I still have a soft spot for all the weird old beasts in BL’s stable

  11. I do love the way they matched the “meh” car’s color to its environment, as if to camouflage it. I’m not sure why you’d try to hide a mustard yellow car in the middle of an Australian field, but hey, that didn’t stop them from trying!

    Also, I find it odd that they didn’t go full 55 gallon drum in the trunk. The cylinder is only 5 3/4 inches taller than a 44 gallon, and it looks like they have enough space for it. Maybe it’s this kind of half-assery that prevented them from selling enough to stay in business.

    1. Um, arent they the same thing?
      Genuine question as australia never had 55gal drums, and i see the wikipedia article seems to be saying they’re the same.
      At least i think that’s what they said.Somehow most of the page consists of a REALLY long winded argument about which name to use

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