Unlike the US car industry, who had come through the Second World War with their production facilities unscathed and had reach unprecedented levels of production and efficinecy, UK car makers had to cope with significant infrastructure reconstruction before they could get back into full production- a process that took several years.

Despite these difficulties, by the early Fifties, the UK car industry were beginning to back on their feet- just in time to meet a rise in demand from the domestic market.

This was a situation that appealed to the typical UK motorist, who in a wave of national pride, were happy to support local industry.

Ironically two of the largest and most dynamic UK car manufacturers during the Fifties were Ford UK and Vauxhall, both of them wholly owned subsidiaries of the US auto giants.

The only manufacturers that could reasonably compete with them in the mass market were Standard/ Triumph, who like Rover and and Jaguar, were eventually swallowed up by British Leyland.

Hillman, a major part of the Rootes Group, were always in the running during the Fifties to take their share of the medium sized family salloon sector.

Unfortunately,like many of their rivals, Rootes would become seriously unstuck in the Sixties, largely as a result of their ill fated move into the the compact with the Imp.

AC Motors

The massive plant that the Rootes Group built near Glasgow, was to prove to be the largest white elephant in the history of the UK car industry.

Unable to continue due to the massive losses they had incurred, Rootes had no option but to allow themselves to be taken over by US industry giant, Chrysler.

In 1952, the UK car industry was shocked to discover that its two largest independant car manunufacturing combines, Austin Motors and Morris had agreed to combine to become the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

With the massive production capabilities that they had at their disposable,BMC were expected to become the largest force in the UK car indusrty for the coming decades.

These predictions were soon found to be unreasonably optimistic.

As a result of ungoing industrial unrest and bad management,by the Seventies, these two pioneers of the UK car industry, as well as their many satellites and offshoots, had dissapeared from the map.

Also feeling the effects of winds of change blowing through the industry, were a number of independant, who instead of raising their game to compete with the big players, were lagging behind.

These largely family owned enterprises began to lose their relevance , either being gratefully swallowed up by the big players, or closing their doors completely.

On the upside, some smaller companies sprung to prominence during the Fifties, notably Lotus and Jensen, who went on to play a significant part in the style and performance revolution in UK auto industry during the Sixties.

Although the UK car industry began the Fifties in a period of austerity, by the second half of the decade, major advances had been made in terms of production efficiency and design innovation.

The public had money to spend during this decade of renaissance for the UK industry, creating a major upturn in demand for the future.

Take me back to the home page