The controversial Leyland P76 was introduced in Australia in 1973 but ceased production in 1975 after less than two years on the market. Most Australians turned their back on the Leyland P76. Even for the period, the lines were really blocky and uncomfortable.
The P76 was BMC-Leyland’s first and only attempt to break into the lucrative Australian “big car” market. The company had enjoyed substantial success for several decades with its smaller cars, including the Austin and Morris small sedans and especially with its legendary Mini Minor and Mini Cooper.
But all these had been designed with the British and European markets in mind, and the P76 was the first Leyland car designed specifically for Australian consumers and Australian conditions. The advertisements boasted that you could fit a 44-gallon drum in the boot – hmm . . . how useful is that?
One particularly amusing feature of the P76 was the colours offered. Typical of the bold colours in vogue at that time, they were apparently based on standard Dulux colour codes, but someone at Leyland decided to get creative and gave them idiosyncratic new names such as “Home On Th’Orange”, “Am Eye Blue”, “Bold As Brass”, “Peel Me A Grape” (a metallic purple), “Hairy Lime” and “Plum Loco”.
One thing that Leyland did not anticipate when producing the now infamous P76, was the 1970s fuel crisis. The big, costly P76s were massive petrol guzzlers and suddenly found themselves competing with the new, smaller Japanese cars.
In all, approximately 18,000 P76 sedans were made. The saddest outcome was that the P76’s failure effectively bankrupted Leyland’s operations in Australia. Leyland lost $50 million on the car and the failure of the P76 battered the rest of the British car industry in Australia and it never fully recovered.
The Zetland (Sydney) plant closed down soon after the P76 was cancelled and Leyland withdrew from car production in Australasia for good.
Today the P76 has a small but loyal and enthusiastic club following.