It was Car of The Year in 1973, the Leyland P76. Motoring writers gushed with unbounded exuberance about the latest dream family car, available as it was with either six cylinder or powerful V8. The P76 was to be the new benchmark, the Aussie designed car that others were sure to follow.
The seventies never apologised for outlandish style. Men wore tight, purple flairs and equally tight-fitting floral body shirts. Women teased their hair and pulled on boots and short, short minnies. Kitchens overflowed with lime green and mission brown and burnt orange. The same burnt orange as our shiny new P76.
Ours was the Deluxe model. Its thumping 4.4 litre v8 motor could pull 60 miles per hour in a first gear. That’s what Dad said and he was proud of it! The big saloon could fit four across the vinyl bench seat in the front and even more in the back. This was a car designed in a big country, for big families.
The motoring writers got one thing right. The P76 had a big boot, so big in fact it could hold a 44-gallon drum with room to spare. We never tried that, but it was good for a few dogs, a sheep or two or even a couple of kids playing dare devil. It was our little game, to lock ourselves in the blackness of the P76 cave and feel our way to the release latch. Pop, and we were free.
While the motoring writers were being kind we were kind of cool. Car of The Year remember! But our status as cool was to be short-lived. Soon the writers turned, embarrassed by their poor judgement and over exuberance, branding the P76 a lemon.
I too jumped off the bandwagon, into an XP Falcon that had been rolled but still drove ok.
But Dad, a proud man, stubborn even, drove on, and on, and on. For 277 000 miles – that’s miles, not kilometres – he drove, proud behind the wheel of a burnt orange lemon.
Image source: The Official APANA blog