Beloved British Leyland stylist Harris Mann – famed for his work on the Triumph TR7 and Austin Allegro – passed away on 14 August aged 85

Words and main image: Jon Burgess

Having replaced Roy Haynes as chief stylist in 1970, Mann popularised the ‘wedge’ for everyman. Previously the domain of Italian design houses, Mann brought the profile to the high street, signing off on the Leyland Princess, Austin Allegro, the best-selling Triumph TR7, and Morris Ital. He left BL in 1983, returning to MG Rover as a freelancer under Peter Stevens, contributing to the firm’s ZR, ZS and ZT range of cars.

His earlier professional life saw him contribute to Philip K Dick’s Capri while at Ford (1962-1968), after an apprenticeship at coachbuilders, Duple before and after National Service.

Unfairly vilified by the media in the Nineties, Mann’s career was reappraised favourably in later years. Mild-mannered and adored by British Leyland fans, he was guest of honour at marque gatherings. Mann’s designs were disfigured by legislation, management and engineering; harried hacks, quick to point the blame, seized on him as an easy target.

In truth, the Allegro was a victim of design by committee: the car had to use the tall E-Series engine, and a Marina heater box, ruining its proportions. The Princess, designed as a hatchback, was never offered with one at launch; Torcars of Devon (and the later in-house Ambassador) rectified this slight.

Marque specific clubs paid tribute to his innovative legacy – one that left an indelible mark on British car design. In a statement, Allegro Club International said:

“He will be missed not just as the designer of British Leyland cars, including the Allegro but also for being a pleasant and generous person. We were fortunate to have his support over the years. Our thoughts are with Harris’s family and many friends.”