History of the Archive
The origins of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Archive Collections go back to the creation of British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968, a merger which brought together most of the surviving British motor manufacturers who were themselves results of earlier mergers and therefore encompassed a large variety of firms. These included not just car, bus and truck manufacturers but also some very obscure products indeed – bridges, construction equipment, refrigerators, milk floats, castings, asphalt and tarmacadam plants, scaffolding, concrete mixers . As a result, the records in the archives encompass a total of 97 different companies!
In 1975 ‘Leyland Historic Vehicles’ was set up to bring the collections together. The core collection began to attract all sorts of other material and an associated archive collection began to accumulate. By 1983 the collections had grown to the point where it was decided to establish the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (a charitable trust) to safeguard them and this was the origin of the organisation which exists today. In 1986, British Leyland – having shed most of its non-car related businesses as well as its bus and truck operations – changed its name to Rover Group. The new Rover Group agreed to fund a purpose-built Centre to house the collections which opened in 1993 and this building and its grounds passed to Land Rover Ltd in 2001.
In 1990 a major initiative began to sort, box and catalogue the mass of archive material which had been accumulated in the previous 15 years of collecting activity. Computer databases were compiled to document the backlog and at the same time keep up to date with incoming material. As a result around 70% of the archive collection is now catalogued on computer. As databases have grown it has been possible to open up more of our collections to the public, our latest initiative is a programme to digitise the photographic collections. Over the years, British Leyland records have been joined by Lucas Industries and Aston Martin to widen the scope of the collection to encompass the British motor industry in its widest sense.