Background of the Australian automobile industry
Following the Second World War, the Australian Government embarked on a programme to develop a local manufacturing base. Hefty import duties were placed on imported manufactured goods., often of the order of 80%. In the case of motor vehicles, considerable tariff reductions were applied where a specified and significant local content was achieved. For this reason, many large international motor vehicle manufacturers established local Australian manufacturing facilities. Over the years, local outposts were established by BMC, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi and others. A large component supply industry grew up to support these local manufacturers.
In the case of MG, it proved cost-effective for BMC to locally assemble the MGA and thereafter the MGB, as, by achieving a 45% local content a considerably lower tariff was applicable. This was achieved by using local tyre, trim, electrical component and paint suppliers, in addition to the labour cost component afforded by local assembly. CKD ("completely knocked down") kits were dispatched from the UK for local assembly. The MGB actually had no connection with the Abingdon MG factory itself, with components being supplied by "Pressed Steel", BMC "Tractors and Transmissions Branch" etc. etc. Ultimately approximately 10,000 MGB's were built in Australia between 1963 and 1972.
A pallet at Abingdon, loaded with four MGA chassis and ancillary components, quite likely for export to Australia.
The MGB "platform" as it emerged from Pressed SteelIt was in this form that the MGB was exported to Australia, with the outer panels fitted in Australia.
Australian Hardtop Manufacturers
Despite Australia's relatively benign climate, with local assembly of MG's (A, B, Midget), Triumph TR4's and Spitfires, in addition to fully imported Datsun Fairlady's and Honda S600/S800's, the local sportscar market was large enough to support its own aftermarket hardtop supply businesses. These included "International Body Styling" and "Peter Manton Motors" in Melbourne. The most prolific by far of these however was "J & S" based in the western Sydney suburb of Ashfield.
J & S was established in 1956 by John Jennens and Jeff Simmonds. Initially building complete sports cars with bought in mechanical components, the "green Monster" was quickly shelved to be replaced by the "Buchanan" sports car. (Design: Nat Buchanan)
Buchanan Sports car
Thereafter followed another complete car, again available in kit-form, the "Hunter" sports car, designed by Len Moya, who had meanwhile joined the J & S concern. The Hunter however was not a great success with only 14 completed before the project ended by 1961.
Hunter Sports Car
1961 also brought with it a severe "credit squeeze" (these days termed a "recession") which nearly drove J & S to the wall. The manufacture of fibreglass industrial tanks kept things ticking over however till the national financial situation began to ease, and J & S looked for new automobile ventures to explore. They acquired the body moulds for the Buchanan Cobra sports car from "Pressed Metal" (who coincidentally assembled the MGA and thereafter the Mk1 MGB's in the Sydney suburb of Enfield).
It became clear however that the manufacture of complete motor cars and related kits was not the solution to J & S's survival. The introduction of the locally assembled MGB in 1963 however brought with it the realisation of the potential for after-market sports car hard tops, and J & S set out to fill this niche with great success.
The first of these tops were styled by Len Moya and the style continually evolved on a trial and error basis, in full size (never on the drawing board.)
J & S MGB hardtop, as sold in 1964
With the MGB GT never locally assembled, there was a marketing opportunity for after-market fixed hardtops in Australia. A gifted stylist from Melbourne, Anthony Pusteria had already had two of his designs produced. The first was sold by Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne. as the "MGB Gran Turismo."
Tony Pusteria, having accepted a position with Chrysler in Detroit in "Styling", sold his business, "International Styling" and under the new owners, the hardtop was remodeled with a Kamm tail and the opening rear hatch was eliminated, necessitating luggage access through the cabin. This revised design was marketed across Australia as the "MGB Fastback" by International Body Styling.
Peter Manton Motors: MGB Gran Turismo
MGB Fastback by International Body Styling.
Tony Pusteria sketch of the Peter Manton Gran Turimo and the International Body Styling MGB Fastback
En route to Chrysler, Detroit, Tony Pusteria made contact with J & S in Sydney, ultimately contributing at least one design to J & S , subsequently marketed as the "MGB GTB" fixed hardtop.
Tony Pusteria's initial sketch for the J & S "GTB"
The GTB was remodeled in 1970 with a more curved roof profile and a larger boot-lid which afforded better headroom and greater convenience, possibly at the cost of a less dramatic appearance.
The finish on J & S hardtops was always far more elaborate than that offered on most alternative hardtop producers' products, with a car-style interior lining suspended on metal bows as was normal practice in large volume production sedans. In the case of the GTB, proper "flow-through" arrangements were also included.
While this J & S hardtop has been fitted with a non-original interior light, the quality of the interior fit-out in a J & S product is obvious.
The majority of J & S production and sales however always remained the detachable style of hardtop, in particular for the MGB, which was by far the commonest sports car on Australian roads. Despite Australia's mild climate, the fitting of such a top became very popular, probably due to the stylish lines of the J & S products; in today's terminology, they were simply "cool". A number of different styles of detachable hardtops for the MGB were produced, with at times, up to three different styles of detachable styles available at any one time.
In 1972, the Australian Federal Government announced that the structure of import duties applying to motor vehicles was to be varied, necessitating a larger domestic input for a favorable import duty. The sales of MGB's , MG Midgets, and sports cars generally were falling at this time as local tastes shifted more towards high powered locally produced sedans such as the Holden Torana GTR and XU1, the Ford Falcon GT and the Valiant Charger. (These were the Australian home-grown equivalent to the North-American "Muscle Car") As a result, with dwindling sales of MG's, altering import duty concessions and the need to free up production space for the imminent Leyland P76 (Ultimately a sales disaster). the decision was taken by Leyland Australia to cease local MG production and to not bother with importation of sports car. Consequently, J & S's market progressively disappeared. The company tried to produce alternative products, including a quite successful "dune buggy", but the end finally came when J & S went into voluntary liquidation in 1980.
And a period advertisement for J and S hardtops on a Bugeye Sprite: