The Leyland P76 occupies a special place in Aussie motoring folklore.

It was Leyland Australia’s attempt to build a big family car to rival those from the big three — Ford, Holden and Chrysler.

The P76 was magnificent — and it was a flop.

Just over 18,000 cars were produced before Leyland closed its Sydney factory in October, 1974.

Forty six years later , however, it still enjoys a strong following, with plenty of support available from clubs and specialists.

What’s more, own one of these cars could be yours, when a 1973 Leyland P76 Executive V8 Sedan with a bit of history crosses the blocks at Shannons Sydney auction on February 17.

Finished in factory Crystal White with contrasting Casino Blue cloth upholstery, this beautifully preserved car has benefited from one enthusiastic owner who acquired the car when it was almost new.

Purchased directly from the Leyland Motor Corporation in March/April 1974 when it was just 10 months old, this is reportedly the only Press Fleet test car remaining from the 1973 release.

It was the cherished possession of former British Leyland employee and P76 devotee Tony De Luca until his recent passing.

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The car is presents in lovely, unrestored condition and is being offered for sale by his family.

The P76 has benefited from uprated front and rear springs while the speedo was converted from miles to kilometres per hour with the introduction of the metric system.

The recorded mileage was added so the reading of 101,872km accurately reflects the true reading.

Optioned with air conditioning, the interior is showing very little wear, while the exterior duco has just a few touch ups here and there.

Widely photographed for BMC promotions and in publications like Classic Cars Weekly in the UK, the owner believes this would have to be the most photographed and publicised P76 to leave the Zetland factory.

Currently registered on non-transferable historic plates, the car comes with a history file and spare set of keys and will be sold unregistered with No Reserve.

It is expected to fetch between $18,000 and $24,000.

 

Designed from the ground up in the early 1970s, the P76 owed little to existing models, with styling by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti.

Billed as “Anything But Average”, the P76 boasted class-leading features like power-assisted front disc brakes on all models, rack and pinion steering, MacPherson strut front suspension and a bonded windscreen with concealed wipers.

Designed around the new ADRs, the P76 also came with advanced safety features such as side intrusion bars on all four doors and recessed door handles.

Under the bonnet Leyland offered a choice of two engines: an enlarged 2623cc version of the straight six found in the Austin Kimberley and Tasman, plus the alloy V8 displacing 4416cc.

Three trim levels were offered, the Deluxe (distinguished by two headlamps instead of four), Super and Executive.

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Taking out Wheels magazine’s coveted Car of the Year award, the P76 won praise for its class-leading boot, remarkably rigid body and performance but a combination of the Oil Crisis and early reliability issues hampered sales.

Alongside the Deluxe and Super models, Leyland introduced the more luxurious Executive model, loaded with many extra features.

Standard equipment included the T-bar auto, power steering, reclining cloth bucket seats, better ‘cut-pile’ carpet (including the boot), rear map lights and additional sound-proofing, while factory air conditioning remained an option.

Leyland turned to motor sport in an effort to boost sales, entering the P76 in the 1974 World Cup Rally and it won the Targa Florio stage, finishing a creditable 13th overall, resulting in a limited edition model named after the Sicilian mountain.

Leyland tried building a two-door fastback version named the Force 7 and even a station wagon was trialled, although it never reached the production stage.

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P76 part of Aussie folklore

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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