When Kevin Smith was growing up, the family car was a Country Cream P76 six-cylinder Super. In fact, his dad Leo drove the car daily right up until his retirement in 1990.
“I had only just turned four when Leyland closed in ’75”, Kevin recalls. “I always loved the car and couldn’t understand why, being a little kid, other little kids were bagging it, because they would have heard from their parents the clichés about it being a lemon and it’s a dud and it’s a flop.”
“Sometimes I’d wish we didn’t have it and we’d been driving around in a Falcon or a Kingswood, or something like that, like everyone else. But then I thought to hell with them, it’s a good car and they don’t really know what they’re talking about.”
Kevin always knew there was something special about the car, and he knew his dad had worked in the Experimental Department at Leyland in Waterloo, but it wasn’t until he decided to restore the car in 2005 that the significance really became apparent.
“Dad was diagnosed with prostate Cancer in 2005. The family decided they would get the P76 back on the road for him, while he could still drive it. It had been sat under a carport for six or so years, with a bale of hay in the back for the horses to eat out of. Subsequently they chewed a few corners of the car.”
Kevin’s brother-in-law, Scott Reynolds, is also a P76 enthusiast and he did almost all the work on the car.
“Condition overall was pretty good”, Kevin explains. “No rust at all. The paintwork had faded, a few shopping centre carpark door dings, the usual sort of stuff, and a bit of a scrape on the front left-hand corner, from when dad had lent it to someone.”
Leo maintained the car himself and mechanically it was very good, despite sitting idle for many years. That’s not really surprising, given his history.
After enlisting in the Australian Army and serving in the Korean War with 3 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), he transferred to Royal Australian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) at Bandiana and trained as a mechanic. He left the Army and took a job at BMC on 11 February 1957, as Inspector Quality Control. In 1960 he was transferred to the Experimental Department.
By 1967 he was foreman and in 1970 became Senior Technical Officer – a position he held until after the closure of the plant in January 1975.
“Speaking to Alan Nicholson, Roger Foy, Tony De Luca, Barry Anderson and other people that were still around that worked with dad, they all said he was a top class foreman and very professional”, Kevin reveals.
Leo then worked for a couple of years for the Department of Consumer Affairs as a Motor Trade Act inspector, before moving the family to the Wodonga district in Victoria. “That was probably the longest trip I ever did in the car”, Kevin admits, “although we would have gone back to Sydney in it a few times to visit friends and relatives.”
After a few years’ at the local Sanyo factory, Leo got a position as a civilian mechanic for the Army, on the Leopard tanks at Bandiana just out of Wodonga: a position he held until his retirement.
Leo bought the P76 direct from the factory, as a used vehicle in 1974. Interestingly, while the registration papers were transferred over in June, delivery didn’t officially take place until September, according to the paperwork Kevin still has.
The chassis number of the car gives some clue as to its significance, being chassis number 1002 – numbers having begun at 1001. While it is certainly a very early production car, it is important to note that it was not a prototype.
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The BMC Experience Issue 9. Apr-Jun 2014 Magazine
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