Choice is a wonderful thing. The start of ‘70s was great for the consumer but it was the long-drawn demise of the homegrown manufacturers. Complacencies and a lack of finance, combined with industrial unrest and infighting cemented the fate of the British car industry. However, things were still looking relatively positive in 1971 as we briefly scan a selection of the fiercely contested family saloon sector.
The Vauxhall Victor was a 4-year-old design but was at least all new when launched. In some respects better than the MK2 Cortina but they suffered from quality glitches.
The Hillman Hunter was even older, having been launched a year before the Victor. Despite being owned by the global Chrysler, it seems curious how the company neglected so many of their British made cars.
The Cortina was the car to beat or at least match. Dogged by industrial strikes and a cheap-looking interior, it soon shrugged off the teething issues and became a huge success.
BL was competitive in the family saloon car range, with several designs competing with each other even before they left the showroom. The 1500 series by Triumph is considered the best of the batch but confusingly was later re-engineered to become RWD, to accommodate the Dolomite line.
Also part of the BL empire was the Morris Marina. Conventional in every sense, it became the companies best-selling saloon throughout the decade.
GM’s Opel Ascona was an all-new design directly hitting Ford for sales in its home country, but also contributed to Opel’s increasing success in the UK.
Several Japanese brands had sprung up in the ‘60s, but it took a few years for them to establish a meaningful presence. The last three cars represent how far they’d come in such a short time. The Mazda 1800 was a Bertone styled car, created to give the brand a presence in export markets.
The Toyota Corona was the latest version of the ‘shovelnose’ version. Bigger than previous versions, it neatly allowed the brand to introduce smaller models to fill in the gap.
Datsun were the best known Japanese car company in the UK thanks to an exceptionally shrewd marketing plan. The 510 Bluebird was among one of the first models to arrive, but it was the next generation of cars that gave the company success here.