A STYLE FOR THE SEVENTIES
Copied from the original Press release for the 18-22 Series.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED BEFORE 26 MARCH 1975
Harris Mann talks about the 18-22 Series.
When you were asked to style this new saloon, what briefing were you given?
“The brief was to design a spacious family saloon with styling advanced enough to last right through the 1970’s and beyond. I was to exploit the full unique advantages of British Leyland’s front–wheel drive, transverse–engined concept.”
“Despite its advanced styling, it was to have as much space inside as its predecessor. It was to be easy to enter and leave and to possess a structure fit for every foreseeable safety and impact regulation. Finally, the aerodynamics were to be good, for reduced noise, good high speed stability and low fuel consumption.”
What was the starting point when you set out to design these cars?
“I saw it as the third stage in a programme to get away from the sedate image of our quantity production cars. The 1300 and old 1800/2200 were all based on the same Mini concept and blown up in size accordingly, like a photo enlargement. Despite their practical merits, and their purposeful character, they were not particularly attractive.”
“What we wanted to do in breaking away from the old image was to take it in easy stages; not to hit the public between the eyes with it.”
“The Marina’s styling was clean and simple, just to get the ball rolling, the Allegro was more advanced, this new saloon even more. We’re not trying to be transatlantic or European. The Americans are big and ornate and the proportions are wrong for what we are trying to do. We’re not trying to be Europeans. There’s a sharp edge to European styling that I try to avoid. The object was to be international in appeal, but to retain or own identity.”
What influenced you most when you came to choose this shape?
“The car is not a crib of anyone else’s, but I am glad we appear to be moving forward on lines other successful makers are travelling. Certainly, we’re all influenced by the things we see on international automobile salons – the dream cars, I suppose. In this case the start for me, as I think it was for other designers today, was the sports – racing body.”
Question: Surely, waist - high sports – racers, with the driver lying almost horizontal, are too impractical for everyday driving?
“But sports – racers are pure function vehicles and if there is a particular shape on them that can be adapted to practical production models, then it must be a good thing.”
“We started thinking that way with the Allegro, pulling in all the corners, cutting the air traps and pockets, trying to curve it in.”
“People knock the stylist, but he’s there to knock off the unnecessary bits and pieces. He can make a car far more efficient at piercing the air as well as giving it the character he wants, whether it be eager or sedate.”
“The effect that I wanted to get was that the car was firm and eager. Built with its wheels out to the full width of the body, sitting firmly on the ground rather than pouring over the wheels as American cars do.”
How much work went into aerodynamic research on this car?
“We went into the wind tunnel with quarter-scale and full-size fibre glass models. There was originally a deep spoiler on the rear roof lip, but it was too successful, creating too much down-force. Of course that creates extra drag we can do without. So we smoothed the lip out, leaving just enough to give us the down-force we needed for stability.”
“I don’t know a great deal about experimental aerodynamics but have enough grasp of the essentials to interpret what the aerodynamicists tell us.”
“There was a lot of detail attention at the front end. We had tried to find a compromise between the sloping front we wanted for the nose and the requirement to pass enough air through the radiator to meet all engine cooling needs.”
“So the shape beneath the front bumper and the shape of the top bumper surfaces itself were modified as a result of wind tunnel testing.”
“Models suggested that the car would be very clean, with 0.350 co-efficient, but the actual car was just over 0.404, which places it amongst the better larger saloons. It’ll be economical and stable.”