James May reveals the cars that turned post-war Germany and Japan into motoring powerhouses at the expense of Britain and the US. He also has an encounter with an Austin Allegro.
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The shape of the Boeing B29 Super Fortress is deeply
etched on the conscience of humankind,
being the only aircraft ever to have delivered an atomic weapon in anger.
And it bears little comparison with this -
a humble, mid-sized Japanese hatchback.
And yet you could argue that, long term, this has been the more
destructive weapon, one that lay waste to acres and acres of industry.
And it gives rise to a curious new maxim for the modern age -
to win at cars, first you must lose at war.
'This week, how conquered superpowers conquered all...'
'..how British classics...'
It is perfect!
'..became British clunkers...'
-You all right?
-No, I'm a loser.
'..and how American powerhouses got left in the dust.'
The Big Three, they were just so arrogant.
Also, I murder a tradesman.
Shoot the man in the plumbing van.
MUSIC: Back In Black by AC/DC
1945 - Britain had won the war.
Hip hip hooray!
We still had our empire, we still had our reputation
for engineering excellence, we were still the workshop of the world.
Thank God we won the war.
Once the war was over, our car factories could stop churning out
Spitfires and get back to cars.
Immediately post-war, Britain was the world's second-biggest car-maker,
and the world's biggest car exporter.
For many people in Britain, however, the end of the war
simply meant dusting off whatever was up on bricks in the garage,
and then going for a first spin in the new broad, sunlit uplands.
And for thousands of people, that car was this.
The Austin 7 had launched right back in 1922 and it was Britain's very first people's car.
It was like our Ford Model T, but a bit more modest,
and cheaper and easier to run, as you'd expect.
Was one of them Austin big 7s
That do 60 on top and no buts
Developing 25 horsepower
Not only got looks but got guts.
The Austin 7 was sold all over the world.
There were licensed built versions made in Germany, France, America.
Australia used its chassis. It was copied by Nissan in Japan.
And an Austin 7 formed the basis of the first car from the company we now know as Jaguar.
It was also the basis of the first Lotus.
This was one hell of a car.
America had also won the war. Victory had left her with
massive manufacturing capacity, loads of money, a lot of it
owed to America, in fact, and control of the vanquished nations.
Their Marshall Plan could dictate to the losers what
they had to do to get back into the global goodies gang.
America had not been bombed.
America could go back to making things like this.
This, I'm sure you know, is a 1937 Buick Special two-door sedan slope back.
This was the cheapest car in Buick's Series 40 range,
but even so it had a straight-eight engine giving 100 horsepower,
modern overhead valves, hydraulic brakes, a heater, a defroster
and even, if you paid a bit extra, a dash mounted radio.
There was just no stopping Buzz and Chuck and Hank.
During the war, Buick's factory was given over to making munitions,
usual sort of thing, but in 1946 the Special went back into production.
It would do for now.
Thank God we won the war.
Now imagine if you'd lived in Germany in that immediate post-war period.
Everything was bombed to bits, much worse than Britain.
Millions were dead. The Allies were in control of everything.
The great dream of the VW Beetle factory -
that was all smashed up and in the hands of the British.
But it could have been worse. You could have been Japanese.
Food was in woefully short supply.
Roads were largely unmade. There were virtually no materials.
The occupying powers had been charged with changing the Japanese system
from a military to an economic one. The Emperor had become a puppet.
But the production of passenger cars was virtually outlawed.
If you were lucky, you might get a bicycle.
If you were very lucky, it might have a small engine on it, but that was it.
And yet, a lifetime later, we buy more and more of the cars we covet
from the supposedly defeated nations, Germany and Japan.
So who really won?
It took only 30 years or so for Japan to transform itself
from a knackered nation of powered bicyclists
into a world-conquering, car-making superpower,
and that, despite being the world's first, and so far only, victims of atomic war.
It took only 20 years for Germany to transform itself
into a maker of great cars, and more to the point
the roots of this turnaround were happening just as the
old Allies thought their global position was completely unassailable.
So how did that happen?
Britain will launch a ship a day,
more than the rest of the world put together.
Britain now leads the world in aviation.
The problem wasn't that Britain and America didn't innovate.
Post-war, they led the world in aviation, electronics, machinery.
We had Nobel Prize winners.
We'd invented modern computer science and discovered DNA.
The slumps of pre-war years must never return.
I mean, cripes, by 1952 we had a new Queen, and America
still had its dream, which we could all see on the silver screen.
More to the point, it had Detroit which was a Mecca,
a city built on the automobile and the desire to possess it.
By the late '40s, Britain had moved on from the Austin 7 and was building new stuff.
Cars like Ford of Britain's V8 Pilot.
And Ford were so confident of it,
it was given its own cinema sing-along.
This was pre pah-pah-pah-pah, obviously.
And anyway, it was another hit from the late '40s that we remember today.
You will have spotted that this is a Morris Minor.
The Minor, though modest, was very middle class
and it's interesting to know that in this golden era of 1950s Britain,
any car worth its salt would be named after an establishment figure.
There was never a Ford Flatcap or an Armstrong Sydney Jobcentre.
No, no, no. Things were called the Austin Cambridge,
the Austin Westminster.
The Ford Consul, the Ford Squire, the Viceroy,
the Standard Ensign, the Ford Prefect, the Princess,
the Cambridge, the Austin Cambridge, the Daimler Regency...
I think you get the idea here.
Bill Anderson tells me the Minor's the best car he ever had.
-Marvellous on corners.
-Gosh! Everyone's got a Minor.
But don't just take Bill Anderson's word for it.
Here's a woman's view.
Style and value interest me most.
That's why I like the new Morris car.
Rather in the way that the 2CV symbolises
everything about the condition of being French,
the Morris Minor has come to be regarded as everything that's good and proper about being British.
Let's imagine for a moment that overnight the Morris Minor
suddenly disappeared from the British conscience, would it matter?
I think we would struggle with it.
If you did a survey - should we get rid of the Morris Minor?
No! But actually, would we really notice?
Would it in fact give us a chance to move on?
It might be a little bit...
As if a very popular and very well-liked television programme
suddenly came to an end,
everybody would think it was a disaster but after a while,
well, they'd get over it,
probably find something else.
There must have been something good about the Minor as this was
the first British car to sell more than a million.
In the end, 1.6 million were made
right here at the Cowley factory near Oxford.
But the Morris Minor was not perfect.
In fact, it's something of a lasting monument to the sort
of timorousness and disorganisation
that would come to characterise so much of our motor industry.
When the designer Alec Issigonis had finished his prototype design,
he realised he'd made it a bit too narrow.
Now we have a model of it here.
This is an original one from the time and if you have a look at it
you can see he was dead right, he'd cocked it up a bit.
It was a bit too narrow.
So he took the full size prototype design
and he sawed it in half lengthways like that
and then he experimented adding different size strips
to see what would make it look right and, in the end,
he decided it needed an extra four inches down the middle.
Great! But the press shop, the people designing the tooling for this thing
had already made some of the tooling for the original narrow versions.
So in the final car they had to come up with this -
this strip that runs down the bonnet to there and then spreads out
nicely along there.
That is a fudge and I know we like to think of it as
an interesting Morris Minor design feature but I'm afraid it is, and
I know this is a bit like burping in the Queen's face, it's a bodge.
We will have to learn to live with that. OK?
And it gets worse under the bonnet.
THEME TUNE PLAYS: Open All Hours
The Minor was supposed to have a brand-new flat four engine
driving the front wheels.
But penny-pinching meant it was lumped with wheezy inline jobs,
driving the rear wheels.
A pity, isn't it?
Let's shut the bonnet on this travesty
and pretend it never happened.
Morris put quality first.
Look, I'm not being down on it, the Morris Minor was brilliant,
despite a bit of management myopia.
And let's not forget that because he couldn't realise
his front wheel dream of a Minor, Issigonis went on to design the Mini,
one of the most significant small cars ever.
And with the Minor and the Mini,
he is responsible for a sizeable slice
of our British sense of automotive identity.
That's not bad for a Greek.
-£100 million worth of cars
exported since the war ended.
So despite a slapdash motor here and a bodged bonnet there,
the UK motor industry post-war was booming.
And America's was too.
Before the war had even finished,
US car-makers, encouraged by the government and working in secret,
had already started creating a new era of cars.
By the 1950s, the American car was a gobsmacking monument
to the new culture of ownership.
Goodbye, three-speed manual transmissions and Art Deco fixings,
hello, the jet age, neon lights and the automatic.
Nothing could go wrong.
The first Japanese raiding party to the UK barely registered.
This is the 1964 Daihatsu Compagno.
It was overpriced, it was breathtakingly slow,
it was surely nothing to worry about.
This car, however, not just this model
but this actual car you're looking at now
was the very first Japanese import to the UK.
I was only one year old when the Compagno arrived
so I couldn't reach the pedals to try it out.
But even ten years later, I remember that we as British schoolboys
still thought that Japanese cars were a bit of a joke.
I have here the actual Top Trumps sports cars pack that
I was given for my 11th birthday back in 1974
and there is only two Japanese cars in the pack
and one of them is this.
It's the Toyota Celica GT.
Now you didn't want this card in a game of Top Trumps
because it's only got a 1600cc engine,
only makes 92 horsepower,
it's the second cheapest car in the pack.
And as 11-year-olds we weren't interested in or
worried by Japanese cars with their silly names.
We'd already been told by our elders and betters that the Japanese
would make cheap runabouts for people who weren't really interested in cars
but the British would continue to make the sort of stuff
that really mattered.
We were basically car racists.
On the other hand, if you wanted to win a game of Top Trumps,
the car you needed...
was this one -
the Jaguar E-Type.
Look at it!
No lesser man than Enzo Ferrari himself
said that this was the most beautiful car ever made.
In fact, there is nothing new for me to say about the E-Type Jaguar,
it's like trying to have an opinion on the weather
that you've never heard before.
So let's just... Well, I'll tell you what, I'll shut up
and you can just look at it for a bit.
# Tell me all the things that I wanna hear
# Cos that's true
# That's what I like about you
# What I like about you... #
Over half a century has passed
but I still think that is the best down the bonnet view
that the motor car has ever provided for us,
it has that lovely bulge in the middle, that's very feminine,
the wings rise very slightly, at each side,
but it's those louvres that really do it for me.
Look at that, that is the machine aesthetic
and it comes with a reflection of heaven.
It is perfect!
# That's what I like about you... #
The E-Type being long, lascivious and affordable
became the perfect statement of the British male machismo
and it remains it.
This, by the way, is a Series 1, 4.2 Jaguar E-Type.
The trouble is within ten years of its launch in 1961,
the E-Type had been...
well, improved into...
the Series 3.
The Jaguar Series 3 E-Type has become a bit of a fatty.
It's 20% heavier than the original car,
it's a bit bigger all round, the styling has become fussier
and it's actually slightly slower,
especially in the case of this one which was
a three-speed automatic.
It isn't the pure, lissom sports car it once was,
it's become a bit middle-aged.
It has become, heaven forefend,
Meanwhile there was a second Japanese car in my Top Trumps deck.
And here it is -
the Datsun 260Z.
And here it is for real.
Definitely not a cheap economical runabout for people who don't
really care, very definitely and obviously a sports car.
Another clue we blissfully ignored.
The Datsun had done a better job than
the E-Type of maintaining its figure through the years.
It arrived in 1969 and by the time I was Trumping in the school cloakroom
in 1974 the engine had grown a bit
but its weight had hardly increased.
But how does the Datsun compare with the Jag in the real world,
rather than in a subversive card-swapping exercise
in a schoolboys' lavatory in Rotherham?
Time to find out. I mean, I quite fancy the Datsun myself
but maybe I should ask someone who knows better.
This man's lineage has almost as much E-Type provenance as the car itself.
His dad was the first man ever to race an E-Type
right here at Oulton Park in 1961.
That man was Graham Hill,
so this must be...
Damon Hill, and here he is. Good morning.
-James, how are you?
-Very, very well, thank you.
E-Type Jags, does it resonate?
Well, I think they just mean speed, don't they?
E-Type - there was all these kind of jokes about E-Type
this, that and the other. E-Type bananas and things like that.
When we were growing up it meant fast, didn't it? E-Type.
I'd forgotten the E-Type banana joke. What's yellow?
-What's fast and yellow?
-Fast and yellow, that's it.
-An E-Type banana.
-And what's white and wears tartan trousers,
-No, that was Rupert the fridge.
-Yeah. I don't know that one.
But the E-Type, this is svelte, this is curvaceous and it was our...
It was like suddenly this was a Ferrari and we didn't have a Ferrari,
we had English cars and then suddenly this thing arrived and
I think it gave everyone a bit of a sense that, hey, we can be sexy too.
Come and have a look at, erm,
this, which is what it became.
So this is a decade later -
that's all it took for it to become...
..just not as nice
but it's got a V12 now.
It's a bit swollen here, there's some bigger bits,
some of this is to do with American legislation.
I mean, the grille is totally different. What a swizz.
Yeah, total. If I could just turn your attention to the
Datsun 260Z which is...
Now this is the second generation of this car so the engine has become
bigger but it's otherwise pretty much unchanged
and, yeah, we were a bit dismissive of this when I was a teenager
because we thought, "Well, it's Japanese they can't...
"The E-Type is brilliant, it's the best thing in the world.
£The Japanese can't possibly know," but it's a got straight six,
it's light, it's simple, it's sort of...it's like the E-Type philosophy
was and that had happened to the E-Type and this was still like this.
This has definitely got the '70s lines to it and that -
that is almost starting to look old-fashioned now.
'So after a quick Trump to decide who drove what...'
240 kilometres an hour.
'..we decide to have a race.
'The classic Series 3 E-Type versus the Japanese upstart Datsun.
'I'd drive the Datsun and then Damon the E-Type for one lap
'and then we'd swap to cancel out his advantage from,
'um, knowing the track.'
And they're off.
Well, we left him behind.
He's buggered off already.
The Datsun has 150 horsepower against 272 for the Jag.
Bit of a slow acceleration there.
But the Jag weighs 450-something kilograms more.
Oh, it's very soft, it's a very soft, floaty feel to the handling.
And it's almost like I'm on a flying mattress.
I can't feel any bumps at all.
Going over the start and finish line now,
I'm looking in my mirror and I can't see James at all.
Brake, you bastard.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Let's just edit that bit out.
Time to swap.
This time I would have the upper hand.
Spoiler alert. Damon Hill is a faster driver than me.
But what we now need to do now is add the pro Damon Hill lap
for each car to my average doddering man on the street lap
to find out which car was truly better.
Do you want to know the lap times?
Erm, go on.
In the Jag...
Damon Hill - 1:29:06.
James May 1:... Really?
1:49:97. In the Datsun...
-Wait a minute, that's, that's 20 seconds slower?
-Yes, it is.
-That's an awful lot.
-Yes, I know.
In the Datsun - Damon Hill 1:30:05.
-James May - 1:47:81.
So if you, if you aggregate the whole thing,
you kind of take us as a cross section of the driving community.
Very well put, yes.
Then, erm, then which comes out on top?
Well, hang on a minute, if we add together...
No, it actually goes to the Datsun...
The Datsun has just squeaked it by less than a second.
Actually, there's a third thing that this demonstrates other than that
the Datsun was a better sports car and you're a better racing driver than me,
Top Trumps is not real life and we believed that game -
that meant everything to us when I was 10, 11 years old.
The E-Type Jag was a great car for winning that game therefore
-it was a better car but that's not true.
-They sold us a lie but that's...
-You'll be all right.
-But that's something I'll have to come to terms with.
-It's only Top Trumps.
I spent years stuck with misconceptions about Japanese cars,
the greatness of Britain, commando war stories
and pictures, all sorts of things.
They promised us the world and they gave us tinsel.
The bastards, I knew there was something wrong with my life
and I've lost at that and I've lost at Top Trumps.
-Are you all right?
-No, I'm a loser, goodbye.
So the Japanese invasion had begun in earnest
and America had it even worse than the UK.
I suggest we don't be fuelish.
The world's great gift to the Japanese car industry was
the oil crisis of 1973.
Suddenly the USA's "bigger is better" philosophy
wasn't looking too big or clever.
The Mustang, you may remember from series one, was the gas-guzzling
powerhouse that democratised style and performance in the US.
But the market was changing,
economy and size were the buzz words,
so Ford came up...
The Mustang 2 was designed to meet boring everyday concerns,
gas mileage mainly, absolutely head on and it looked a bit rubbish.
And there was worse because the original Mustang was based
on an everyday family car, the Ford Falcon, this was also based on
an everyday family car but this time it was the rather unloved Ford Pinto.
Built to run and run and run.
Japan, on the other hand, had no oil of its own
and so small, efficient engines were their bread and butter.
Would Detroit and the US rise to the challenge?
Only one way to find out. Time for a real world test.
When the Mustang 2 was launched, it came with a V6 engine,
but after a year or so, they gave it the big five litre V8,
which is of course the one that the vast majority of Americans
bought because if you didn't have a V8,
you were fundamentally a goddamned Communist.
Now, I have one US gallon of gas with which to drive around Detroit
and whilst I'm doing that, these fine gentlemen are going to tell me
everything they know about the city, the motor industry,
the culture, all the rest of it.
They are Ralph, who used to work on the Ford production line,
Steve, who is a local historian with a particular
interest in the motor industry, and Jerome, who was a steel supplier
to the motor industry in that vital 1970s, 1980s period.
Let's burn rubber.
While I'm doing that, I am also in Japan with this,
the original Toyota Celica GT 1600,
straight from the Top Trumps pack of lies, same colour and everything.
How about that? However, in the interest of fairness
and because we have the larger engine Mustang, I'm going
to be driving this version of the Celica, which is
the more popular and more powerful 2000 GT lift back.
As before, I'll have exactly one US gallon of gas
and my passengers for this trip are
Mr Kuroyonami, who was one of the designers of the Celica,
Mr Furuichi, who maintained the Celica production line,
and Mr Sugisaki, who worked in prototyping for Toyota
for a massive 53 years.
Gentlemen, thank you very much. Shall we go?
Now, I'm not actually going to put just one gallon in each car
and then run them dry cos there could be all sorts of genuine '70s
rubbish in the bottom of the tank, like Boston's More Than A Feeling.
No, we did an earlier economy run, so I know when my gallon's gone.
We're making a right here and going to go onto these train tracks.
While in America, I'm getting a tour of Detroit.
Over in Japan, I'm driving around Detroit's sister city, Toyota.
Yes, Toyota City,
an entire city that was created just to manufacture Toyota cars.
Everything you can see here, from houses to fields to stadiums,
is designed to serve that one purpose alone.
Just to make everything absolutely clear,
I have an earpiece in on this side
and there is a translator in our film car, which is coming with us,
and he can also talk to my guests through an open radio down here
in the door, so my questions will be translated to them.
Their answers will be briefly translated to me.
So, translator man, could you please ask them
what it was like to work in Toyota in the 1970s?
TRANSLATES INTO JAPANESE
I can't really hear what Christian's saying, I'm afraid.
It sounds very muffled in this little Walkman earpiece.
Could you say to them, "I like the Celica very much.
"It's a very fine car." TRANSLATES INTO JAPANESE
'If you think this seems like a phenomenally overcomplicated
'set-up just to see how much fuel these cars burn, you're right.
'When I conceived this plan, I thought
'I'd neatly sidestep the problem of not being able to speak Japanese.
'I was wrong.'
I worked at the Dearborn Assembly Plant
from 1977 to 1985, I think.
So, did you build this?
Chances are that I worked on the engine in this car.
Back in Japan, my translator is now speaking
Japanese into my earpiece, rather than out to the rest of the car.
JAPANESE IN JAMES' EARPIECE Wrong channel.
JAPANESE TRANSLATION CONTINUES Wrong...
No, you're doing that in my ear.
I don't understand any of it.
Let's just stick to America for a bit.
What went wrong with Detroit?
There were a combination of things that really came about to
bring a demise to Detroit.
One was the automotive industry had had 25 or 30 years of zero
competition. The cars had developed style and charisma
and had gotten away from reliable and durable and economical.
-So they weren't reliable?
-Oh, no. The cars were disposable.
In a lot of ways,
the cars were designed to make you buy one every...
as soon as you had it paid off.
So the oil crisis - what was the main immediate impact of that?
Fuel price, I suppose?
-You couldn't buy fuel on a Tuesday.
-Lines at gas stations...
And all of a sudden, you had the rest of the world that had
been building reliable, practical, efficient vehicles...
So, you know, a 4,000 pound, 500 cubic inch Chevrolet Monte Carlo
became a completely undesirable car when you could...
It got five miles to the gallon.
Meanwhile, in Japan, we finally stopped getting lost in translation.
-I guess for people overseas having Japanese cars
imported to their countries must be, you know, a little
defeating for their national pride, but for us,
it was a sense of, you know, excitement and pride.
-I went to Detroit in the '70s
and the downtown was dangerous back then.
There were places where you couldn't park a Japanese car.
They wouldn't let you park it at Ford in the parking lot.
Especially like during the downturn,
when folks started getting laid off and...
You guys remember Vincent Chan?
Yeah, Vincent Chan was killed at a McDonald's. They thought he...
He was actually Korean.
I think he was Chinese and he was getting married the next day.
He was out at a bar
and some out-of-work autoworkers
assumed that he was Japanese
and part of the reason why they were laid off.
And they confronted him. I guess there was alcohol involved.
Bottom line is, they murdered Vincent Chan.
And they actually got away with it,
until the federal government prosecuted the people for, erm...
-Violating civil rights.
-Violating civil rights.
-So they thought he was Japanese...
-They assumed he was Japanese...
The entire Asian population was afraid to go out at night.
They had a parade on... The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday...
What is it? Mardi Gras.
And they had a truck, flatbed truck with a Japanese car on the back
and a bunch of big strong guys beating it with a sledgehammer...
-I remember that.
-..you know, in the parade.
What started out as a simple fuel economy test has
turned into a genuinely eye-opening experience.
-Being just Japanese, we're hardworking people,
you know, we do what we're told to do.
We do more than we're told to do.
I guess that's in our blood, so to speak.
These racist things you're talking about,
this was all sparked by the Japanese car because that was...
Yes. A loss of lifestyle.
The Japanese imports, they were actually making the better product.
It was perceived to be inferior because it was smaller,
but the finish was better and it was more refined.
-I didn't feel any blue collar,
white collar difference when I worked at Toyota.
I felt like I was surrounded by experts.
Wherever I went, I felt like there were masters,
great masters around me, creating these things.
It was a joke when I was a kid, you know, "Where did that come from?"
"Made in Japan." I mean, no matter what it was.
The big three, they were just so arrogant, you know.
Too big to fail.
-Too big to fail.
-Yeah, yeah, exactly.
And less than a mile later...
That's 13.6 miles. That's one US gallon.
So, that's as far as I can take you, I'm afraid.
Sorry it couldn't have finished somewhere a bit more picturesque.
-What up, do'.
-What up, do'.
-What up, do'.
Thanks for your help. It's been tremendous.
Well, that was tremendous.
I've learned a lot of interesting things about the American
motor industry, about Detroit, about the teenage lives of those guys.
I've learned to say, "What up, do'".
I wonder how I'm getting on in Toyota City.
Like a battery-powered rabbit, the Celica just keeps going
and going and going.
The Mustang lasted just 13.5 miles.
The Celica keeps going for almost 26.
Ford Mustang, mmm or hmm?
Yes? Down? Oh, OK.
Incredible when you realise that a Mustang 2 would have cost you
over a third more than a Celica.
'When you add it up, a Toyota really gives you your money's worth.'
Well, I think what we've learned from that is that the Japanese were
taking the whole business of conquering the world with
the motor car very seriously indeed, whilst the Americans believed they'd
already done that and they were just dipsticking about,
having a laugh and doing stuff on the backseat of the Mustang 2,
without realising that its engine was too big, the car was too big,
it was too heavy, the factory was too old and all the rest of it.
But really, that was a very convoluted way of saying
the taut, efficient Japanese engine was more economical
than the old American iron, but fuel economy is boring on the television.
I hope that was useful.
So, bad news for the Mustang. But for the city of Detroit...
..it was devastating.
The post-war Mecca of US car making had fallen further
and further into ruin.
This is Detroit's once great Packard car factory, as it stands today.
# When the road gets dark
# And you can no longer see
# Just let my love grow a spark
# And have a little faith in me... #
It wasn't just Toyota and the Celica.
Datsun and Mazda and all the rest of them, they too were ready,
and then there was Honda, a name that Americans knew for having
changed the face of motorcycling with the all-conquering Super Cub.
We covered the phenomenal Super Cub in the last series.
Nothing can stop the noodles!
But in '72, Honda launched the Civic, and then, four years later,
Both were compact, economical, good to drive, cheap,
and could be used to stalk blonde female joggers.
What more could you ask for?
# Who built the road, who was the foolish one... #
And then something unthinkable to the older generation happened.
In 1982, Honda opened a factory in the US, in Marysville, Ohio,
to build the Accord in America's backyard.
By the time we arrive at this Accord, the fourth generation in 1990,
something truly remarkable has occurred.
The Accord, from a maker of cheap runabouts
and step-through scooters for preppy kids and moms,
has become the best-selling car in the United States.
Honda had taken over the American market, but in Britain,
we had a different problem altogether.
We were a small island with a small market.
To thrive as we had done before the war, we needed to export.
So, in 1973, Britain joined a free trade zone.
Two years later, a referendum confirmed it. We were in.
April 1975, we joined the Common Market,
and that meant we were free to sell our cars in places like Germany.
Germany were also free to sell their cars in places like England.
And theirs were better.
Nothing symbolises the might of the German car-making machine
quite like BMW's 3 Series.
This is the first of seven generations of the 3 Series.
The Germans launched this one on us in 1975,
literally three weeks after we'd voted to be part of Europe
to try to sell to them.
To be honest, the first 3 Series were a little bit po-faced
and not really that exciting to drive, but they did seem different.
The instrumentation and all the controls,
they're all very clear and logical and...German, yes,
This is industrial design. It's modern.
But UK car-makers weren't about to lie down without a fight.
We were ready. We had the Triumph Dolomite.
Especially this version, the Sprint.
I've always loved the Dolomite Sprint, ever since I was a kid.
And it was genuinely quick.
0-60, 8.7 seconds, top speed, 116 mph.
It was a little bit old school, but you got overdrive on third
So effectively, you've got six gears. This would give Hans a bloody nose!
Triumph should have had the upper hand.
The company had existed since before cars were even a thing,
having started off as an importer of bicycles and sewing machines.
They had a string of successful sports cars
and saloons to their name.
BMW, on the other hand, had their whole factory in Eissenach
nicked by the Russians after the war and had to start again.
BMW's first masterstroke in the '50s was a decision not to bother
with affordable runabouts or any of that rubbish.
They were going to make sports cars and nice, expensive,
well made saloons.
Big profit margins.
Their second masterstroke came in 1960 when they decided
on the complete modernisation programme known as the Neue Klasse.
This demanded that all of their cars had unitary bodies,
new engines and modern independent suspension.
So, this looks like a pretty fair fight.
We have two companies, each with a sporting pedigree and an engineering
bent, and they're both making essentially posh mid-size cars.
Let's give these two some tap and see what's what.
Yes! That is a victory for Triumph and Great Britain!
But we all know how this really ends, don't we?
The Triumph might outperform the BMW when you're racing round a circuit,
but it was unreliable, it felt coarser,
the brakes were more wooden, and the wind noise was dreadful.
And it just got worse from there.
You see, this car was part of their Project Ajax range,
which began in 1965 with the 1300.
And then there was the 1500
and the Toledo and various versions of our car.
This range of supposedly related mid-sized cars came in two
different lengths and with front wheel drive and rear wheel drive.
It was completely baffling.
The 3 Series, meanwhile, slotted neatly into a growing range
of clearly related cars and that continues to this day, of course.
You have the 5 and the 3 Series, and also the 4 Series,
the 1 Series, the 2 Series, and so it goes on.
Even outside of the cars themselves,
the whole landscape of British car-marking was becoming apocalyptic.
'Right now, the five week old dispute at Triumph has robbed
'the firm of £20 million worth of turnover.'
We'd have preferred not to have gone on strike. We had no alternative.
The British Motor Corporation, who made Austins, Morris Minors,
and Jaguar E-Types, and the Leyland Motor Corporation,
who made buses and trucks, had merged and then gone bust
and ended up being bought by the British government.
The trade union strikes of the 1970s made everything even worse.
Successive models of the Triumph would be delayed by two years
because of industrial action.
Well, we all know how it ends. BMW triumph and Triumph faded away.
By 1984, it had gone, disappeared and gone.
And the next Triumph after the Dolomite was the Acclaim,
which was really just a licence-built Honda.
And that can be considered a bit of a defeat.
The UK just couldn't keep up.
The troubled British Leyland desperately flailed for a last
great hope. It would be a car of the future.
'A new concept in vehicle engineering.'
It would revitalise our expert business.
'The car will appeal to European tastes.'
It would show Germany and Japan what Britain was really made of.
'Five years' hard work, an enormous investment in money and skill.
'And throughout its development, nothing was left to chance.'
It's the Allegro.
The Allegro is one of the most reviled cars
in British automotive history.
The people who built it nicknamed it the Flying Pig because it was
supposed to be the car that saved British Leyland,
but I think that was just the British workers'
cruel Midlands humour cutting through the management's rousing rhetoric.
It's a car which we think will appeal not only to the sophisticated
British public, but to the sophisticated European public,
which, of course,
is very much greater now that we're in the Common Market.
It is not funky or modern. It is blobby, rounded and conservative.
It should very obviously have been a hatchback
because hatchbacks were all the rage in 1973 when this was launched,
but the management decided that the Allegro would have a boot,
like a proper car.
'From the essentially practical to the unashamedly glamorous.'
I sit in here, looking at this door fit and this bit of welding, this
bit of plastic, and I honestly think, "I could make it this well...
"in my shed."
Everything about the Allegro was wrong,
from the lack of a hatchback to the ghastly giant square steering wheel.
The German and Japanese cars felt like harbingers of a new
technical age. This car, like the Triumph before it,
felt like a shelf full of Grandma's knick-knacks.
The weird thing is the management at British Leyland at the time
must have actually believed that this car
was a winner, that this would save them, would save Britain effectively.
There must have come a point when it was all ready and they stood
back and looked at this shape in this baby poo colour and said, "Yeah!
"We've done it, chaps!"
'Lord Stokes has no doubt about its future.
'I'm absolutely convinced that they've got a car
'here which is quite outstanding in its class and its type.'
Something just doesn't make sense,
so I've agreed to meet the original designer of the Allegro, Harris Mann,
in a secret location, where no-one can throw things at him.
This had a rather unfortunate birth...
-..in that it was supposed to be an 1100 replacement.
The Austin 1100.
The Austin 1100 replacement, but as it got developed,
it had various requests from engineering, in that...
Interfering is the word you're looking for, is it,
-Always. Always interfering.
So they wanted to put a much more robust heater into the car
and they wanted to also accommodate a 1500cc engine in here.
By the time you stuffed the carburettors on the side,
it started to gain height.
It should have looked like this.
It's much better!
Well, I think it was.
But it just went through so many engineering disasters.
Why couldn't they just design a new heater that allowed you
-to build your nice funky Allegro?
-Unfortunately, it cost millions.
So it had to come out of the parts bin.
So... This was the car that was supposed to save British Leyland.
That was its job.
Are you saying that the fortunes of this car
and therefore of a very large chunk of the British motor industry,
were all changed by the heater and a tall engine?
-I suppose you could say that, yes.
-Whose fault was it?
I think it was engineering management.
I was party to sitting in some meetings
and they couldn't talk to each other.
One party was...
Like the union side were talking union speak
and the managers were talking management speak and between them,
it was like, you know, two computers that couldn't talk to each other.
Right. Well, that's a very, very sad... It's a very sorry tale.
Well, it is, to me, anyway, as somebody who likes cars,
to think that your vision was never realised, that it was
spoilt by interference and that it slightly spoiled your life as well.
So I'm going to give you back your artwork, for that is what it is.
-The best I can offer you, to be honest, is...
Well, would you like a lift?
No, thanks. I'd rather walk.
-Fine, thanks very much for coming.
Maybe he's in a hurry.
I thought as much.
It was the bloody class system, something which my Japanese friends
back in the Celica said they didn't have to deal with.
'£20 million went into the new Allegro,
'but production has never hit the target of 4,000 a week.'
'It's stoppages like these that forced
'Leyland into near bankruptcy.'
The communication breakdown between management
and workers meant that despite the protests of people
like Harris Mann, Germany gave us a thorough spanking.
And for proof that class mucked this up,
you only have to look at what happened to the Allegro next.
British Leyland decided that the secret weapon that would turn their
great hope around would not be the quality or aesthetics of German
cars or the clever features and dependability of Japanese cars.
Oh, no. What would, without question,
save the Allegro would be a posh radiator grille.
This, yes, it's the Vanden Plas.
The Vanden Plas was just an Allegro
but with even more Victorian trimmings
and a whopping great radiator grille stuck on the front -
like it had come last in a Rolls-Royce fancy dress competition.
I'm not sure how it's possible for a car to actually look embarrassed,
but this somehow manages it.
Just imagine you're German, you've just seen the Neue Klasse BMW
and then you see this.
GERMAN ACCENT: Gott, vot are zese people doing?
There's also a really strange whirring sound going on in this car,
which I would like to be able to say
is probably the sound of Harris Mann
rotating rapidly in his grave -
except I've just met him and he's very much still alive.
I'm imagining a scene in sort of mid-1970s suburban Britain,
a Terry-and-June-type couple looking out of the window
and Terry, perhaps, saying,
"Oh, have you seen the neighbours have got a new car?
"Something dead posh and it's got a big radiator grille on the front,
"is it a Bentley?"
And June will say "Oh, I don't think so,
"it looks a bit like an Allegro to me."
"But it can't be an Allegro," says Terry,
"it's got a radiator grille on it, look at it.
"It must be a Rolls-Royce."
Nobody would have been fooled.
VAN HORN TOOTS
Yeah, I know, mate, it's ridiculous.
God, I hope he doesn't think it's my car.
What if he does a tweet that says,
"I saw James May today out in his Vanden Plas."
basically the end of me, isn't it?
Oh, no, he's taking a picture.
Somebody shoot him, he's taking a picture of me in it.
My life's over.
Production, shoot the man in the plumbing van.
I think the idea was to provide the social impact
and the on-the-road presence
of something like a Bentley,
but in a car for everyman -
but of course that doesn't really quite work,
because the body shape is too bulbous to appear truly imperious
and the radiator grille serves only to remind you, in fact,
of your relatively lowly status in life.
And more to the point, the Vanden Plas was around 26%
more expensive than a standard Allegro
with the same size engine -
an extra £534 to advertise to the world
exactly what was wrong with Britain.
In fact, the only good thing about the Vanden Plas
is that it makes the standard car look relatively good -
even in executive dysentery,
or whatever they called that.
But did it make Britain a player again in the export business?
Well, around 670,000 Allegros
were produced in total.
Only 25,000 or so ever left Britain.
More to the point of this film,
its direct Japanese rival
is a perfect example of a petrol phoenix
rising from the ashes of war.
It's the fourth generation Mazda 323, launched in 1980.
J-POP MUSIC PLAYS
Suddenly, the Mazda 323 was a modern front-drive hatchback.
Take that, Allegro.
You'll be amazed.
Mazda had been formed in 1920
as a cork-making company
and only turned to cars in the difficult post-war years.
Do you remember what we were saying earlier on about Japanese engines
being small, revvy and efficient because they were forced to be?
It's still true in this car.
This is now 1980, but it's zippy,
it's quite refined,
it's got a bit of get-up-and-go
and it's got up and gone.
And the honest truth is,
the Mazda 323 is not really a particularly remarkable car.
It looks ordinary,
it's only 1.3 litres,
it's just a universal Japanese small hatchback,
but it's such a relief to be in,
compared with being in the dowdy, old Allegro -
even now, when it's 35 years old.
J-POP MUSIC PLAYS
It may be humble, but therein lies its strength.
The Japanese started out with a proper plan
and gradually improved and finessed it,
rather than trying to go bigger or better, like the US,
or just panicking and covering the thing in wood, like the UK.
This is taut and...
Well, it feels positively contemporary.
This car is alive,
By 1982, two years into its life,
this generation of the Mazda 323
had sold one million units.
That actually made it the fastest car in history,
where fastest means first from 0 to one million.
1982 was also, coincidentally,
the last year that an Allegro
rolled off the production line.
It was also the beginnings of the global car
because the basis of this car
also formed the basis of two American Fords.
The Austin Allegro was just a local car for local people.
So, there you have it -
because of, not despite, their limited resources,
Japan's Mazda 323 was the sort of people's car
that we could only dream of exporting.
And I'm also guessing, but it is just a guess,
that the equivalent of Harris Mann at Mazda,
probably ended up with the car he drew in the first place.
By this point, it was all over.
Germany and Japan had cemented their lead
as the world's biggest car exporters
and the once-great British institutions
fell like dominoes.
Triumph and Rolls-Royce are now owned
by a different company altogether.
And that car company is...
Remember the giant Morris and Mini factory back in Oxford?
This is now owned by BMW.
And then there's Bentley,
now also owned by Germany - through VW.
Soon, everyone was feasting
on the carcass of what were the war victors.
MG and Austin, now owned by China.
Jaguar and Rover, owned by India.
The US might be just behind Japan and Germany in terms of production,
but its car factories have only survived
by adopting modern Japanese techniques.
They transformed the old Detroit methods.
We could blame the fuel crisis or poor management,
or even the class system for this,
but it's also worth considering that
while our brightest minds were occupied elsewhere
on things like defence,
Japan and Germany were barred - by treaty - from rearming.
So, what else could their brightest minds do
than move onto developing cars?
Indeed, we unwittingly sowed the seeds of our own downfall.
Remember when I said that Britain used to be
the world's biggest car exporter?
In Forbes' list of the largest auto manufacturers in the world for 2015,
Japan and Germany occupy every single one of the top five places.
From the devastation of war
had risen two automotive giants -
something even more incredible
when you consider where a car like the Mazda 323 had come from.
This is Mazda's home town, Hiroshima,
but it's more famous, of course,
for being the site of the world's first atomic attack.
Now, Mazda emerged from the rubble of the old city
and has now become a cornerstone of what is,
very obviously, a completely modern one.
Mazda, perhaps more than any other car-maker,
proves that to win at cars,
first you must lose...
# Speeding along
# The rolling highway
# Singing a song
# To the rhythm of the road
# The sun's in the sky
# A heaven of blue
# The world flashes by
# You feel so happy
# When you're sweeping along
# A leafy byway
# Singing a song
# To the rhythm of the road
# You'll never be late
# If it's a V8
# When you're speeding along
# To the rhythm of the road
# The rhythm of the road! #
James reveals the cars that turned post-war Germany and Japan into motoring powerhouses at the expense of Britain and the US.
On his travels he encounters classic E-Types, Mustangs and the German and Japanese upstarts that were to conquer the world.
He also has an unfortunate encounter with an Austin Allegro - the car that helped destroy the British car industry.