A timeline of Britain's motoring heritage

After the Second World War the British car industry was important to Britain's recovery from wartime. The industry would go on to play an important part in increasing exports and bringing money into the economy. As Britain returned to peacetime the motor industry underwent great changes. New models were produced and car ownership grew rapidly. Despite producing some of the most celebrated cars in the world the British motoring industry went into decline. This timeline records the key events occuring between the 1940s and 1980s and lists some of the most iconic cars Britain has produced.


The Second World War had a high cost, in lives and money. Britain's finances were in a poor state after huge spending on wartime production. Raw materials were in short supply. Britain desparately needed to export goods to bring in foreign money.

During the Second World War many turned to military production. Vehicle production gave way to aircraft, military vehicles and weapons. Companies desparately needed to introduce new models to replace old pre-war designs.


The country became more prosperous again as war damage was repaired and lives were rebuilt. Across the country towns and cities were rebuilt and new suburbs sprang up. As urban populations grew public transport expanded to meet people's travel needs.

Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley merged in 1952 to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). At the time BMC accounted for 40 per cent of British car production. Commerical vehicle production grew rapidly to meet urban transport needs.


The economy struggles to grow. Faced with competition from abroad, British companies are unable to compete. Foreign companies produced cheaper, more attractive products. British manufacturing companies failed to adapt and modernise.

In 1966 British Motor Holdings Ltd (BMHL) was formed by the merger of BMC and Jaguar Cars. BMHL merged in 1968 with commercial vehicles manufacturer Leyland to form British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). Leyland already owned Triumph and Rover.


The country fell into recession. Inflation soared and unemployed grew rapidly. Industrial relations between the unions and the Government went from bad to worse. Britain becomes the "sick man of Europe".

New models and mergers had little effect. The British Government intervened and BLMC was partly nationalised in 1975. The fortunes of British Leyland continued to decline.


The 1980s marked the beginning of the end of British-owned mass car production. Stated owned businesses, from water and electricity companies to shipyards and steel producers are sold off.

Jaguar Cars was sold in 1984. British Leyland was renamed Rover Group in 1986. Rover was privatised in 1988 following its sale to British Aerospace. Rolls-Royce was privatised in 1987.