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British Leyland (Hardback)

From Triumph to Tragedy. Petrol, Politics and Power

Colour Books P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century Photographic Books Transport > Cars

By Lance Cole
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 50 colour & 50 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526748232
Published: 9th November 2020



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What really happened at British Leyland (BL)? Was it ‘just’ the cars, or were other factors vital to the story? Who really was to blame for BL and MG Rover's death?

The 'truth' about BL is deeper than its cars – were ultra- Left-wing plots to topple BL and British society real? Did secret deals and political intrigue really exist? Was it Labour or Conservative powers who ‘killed’ BL, or was it BL itself? How was it that BL’s design genius was hobbled?

Author Lance Cole lifts the bonnet on BL and presents a forensic yet easy to read new analysis in a story of BL, its cars, and the era of their motoring as powers on the political Left and Right waged war, sometimes even with themselves.

Here is a book about cars and more, a conversation on all things BL: this is a new account of a classic British story told across a trail of evidence in a British industrial and political drama.

Many mistakes made BL, but some of the cars were superb, the designs of genius, the engineering excellent; it is just that we have either forgotten, or been brainwashed into believing the worst.

In a BL book like no other, written by a classic car fanatic with a background in industrial design, automotive, and wider journalism, this story lifts the lid on BL's cars and more. The author also adds inside knowledge from time working in the motor industry.

Lance Cole tells the deeper BL story across the era of its greatest successes and its biggest failures.

As featured in


“Well I didn’t know that!”… That’s what I found myself saying a lot while reading this book. I and my father have owned many BL cars, and I remember all the strikes as I was growing up. But I didn’t have any idea just how long BL had “issues” and the cause of them.

This book has a lot of political references, which I personally have no interest in. But that’s all part of the BL story. So, it’s very relevant for this book.

As an historical reference book of the largest British producer of cars in the history, and its ultimate downfall. This book is an absolute must.

Vintage Airfix

In conclusion, British Leyland – From Triumph to Tragedy is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand the grim realities of the destruction of British-owned volume car production, and the unlikely unity of forces which have contrived to make it an apparently permanent affair.

Read the full review here

Donna's Book Blog

The visual section is magnificent, with 109 images in color and 1 in black and white. Observations: A curious and interesting book for those who love stories based on real events.

Read the full review here

Miniaturas JM

This is an important and overdue book, well researched which will find a welcome place on the shelves of transport academics and motoring aficionados alike.

The Journal of the Road Transport History Association, March 2021

The BL story is one of complex highs and lows; this near-300-page, colourfully illustrated and well-researched book is an exhaustive, but very readable analysis of what went wrong, but what also went right.

Practical Classics, March 2020

I have read a few of this authors books and no less impressed with this one, probably biased due to the fact all the cars in here I remember when growing up. The book runs through the origins of MG to BMC and thence BL, the problems experienced but is not a ‘slating’ but an attempt to look at the better aspects of the companies along with the designs and reasons for subsequent failures. Lance Cole has put together another fascinating publications interspersed with colour photographs and much in depth detail.

Review by Andy Thomson

Review by Richard Gunn

The author is clearly a fan of BL, and so his admiration of the machines it made, and the times when it did do things brilliantly well, also shines through, adding a lot of positivity. Cole’s engaging and informal writing style makes things very readable and helps us untangle a lot of the more complex shenanigans that went on. With 50 colour and 50 monochrome pictures, it’s well-illustrated too. Thoroughly recommended for its astute insight whether you’re a BL fan or not.

Car Mechanics, January 2020

About Lance Cole

Lance Cole has been a motoring and aviation writer and PR for over 30 years. He is also an internationally published photographer, illustrator and designer. The author of over 20 books, he has a parallel career as a news correspondent and TV camera-journalist. But it is old cars and their design and driving that fascinates him. He has driven Saabs all over the world and contributed to Saab design when he was a young design student. Lance wrote Erik Carlsson’s obituary for the Daily Telegraph.
Lance currently lives in England but yearns for a return to the outback of Australia where old cars rule.

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