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Leyland P76

The Leyland P76 was a large car produced by Leyland Australia, the Australian subsidiary of British Leyland. It was a uniquely Australian design, intended to provide the company with a rival to large local models like the Ford Falcon, the Holden Kingswood, and the Chrysler Valiant.

Launched in 1973, it was nicknamed the 'cheese wedge', on account of its shape, with a large boot (trunk), able to easily hold a 44-gallon drum. Although station wagon and 'Force 7' coupé versions were designed, these never went into mass production.

The name was apparently the platoon number of British Leyland head Donald Stokes. It started with 'P76'.

The shape was penned by Giovanni Michelotti. The entry-level P76 featured an enlarged 2623 cm³ OHC engine from the smaller Austin Kimberley and Morris Tasman. The top-of-the-line aluminium alloy 4416 cm³ V8 unit was unique to the P76, and was a development of the ex-Buick V8 that was powering the Rover 3500. Safety equipment preempted the forthcoming Australian Design Rules, and featured recessed door handles and full-length side intrusion reinforcements on all doors.

Despite the V8 model winning Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1973–4, sales of the P76 were adversely affected by problems at Leyland Australia's plant in Zetland, near Sydney, beset by stikes, power cuts and steel shortages. This meant that although press and public reaction to the car was favourable, Leyland were unable to meet demand. Also, while there had been plans to sell the P76 in the UK, parent company British Leyland's management had questioned the viability of the car, at a time of rising fuel prices in the early 1970s.

The Force 7 coupé was announced in 1975 but never sold. There was to have been a base six-cylinder Force 7, a more powerful Force 7V with the V8 unit, and a range-topping Tour de Force. It was unique in that it had a large rear hatchback. It shared few body panels with the sedan.

The Leyland plant at Zetland closed in October 1974, and production of the P76 ceased, although assembly continued in New Zealand, where it was sold successfully in V8 form, until 1976.

Leyland Australia sold off eight Force 7 coupé prototypes to the public in an auction. Two other Force 7Vs are in the hands of a UK collector and at the Birdwood Mill Museum in South Australia.

A smaller sister car, the P82, also designed by Michelotti and intended to replace the Morris Marina in Australia, was never produced.

 

Copyright 2008 - Leyland P76 Owners Club Incorporated of New Zealand