Back in December 1971, Leyland South Africa launched the Apache. Built at Blackheath, near Cape Town, with a very high percentage of local content, it was based on the Farina designed 1100/1300 (ADO16), but was re-styled by Michelotti, and produced for the South African market, with a subsequent version being offered in Spain. The Michelotti link with Triumph is very evident in the Apache's styling, with the tail-light units actually being the same as the Triumph 2000/2500. However, the chassis remained largely ADO16, using the same glass, doors and sub-frames, all on the same floor-pan. This car is a credit to Leykor in Blackheath, being a unique model, and encompassing much local content and engineering skill.
Following the merger of BMC into Leyland, Peter Ray, the Sales Director in Johannesburg, started a review of the then current Leyland South Africa range. Sales of the ADO16 (1100/1300) range were dropping and action was needed to turn this around. South Africa had the uniquely badged Austin 11/55 from 1968, however, from 1963 the ADO16 been locally assembled in CKD kit form as the Austin, MG, Wolseley and Morris 1100.
So a trip to the UK was undertaken in late 1969, and, a proto-type was found that was thought to be a suitable candidate to update the ADO16 range for the South African market. This was a project by Michelotti based on the existing ADO16, but had been set to one side, no doubt in favour of the work taking place on the Allegro.
The proto-type was flown out to Blackheath, whereupon, Ralph Clarke, with the assistance of a body engineering expert from the UK, John Haywood, began the process of setting up for production. A number of changes were incorporated to make production easier and cheaper, amongst these being the use of standard Lucas items for the headlights and tail lamps (these being from the Triumph 2500), and as a result of dust ingression testing, the incorporation of air vents in the C-posts. The rear bumpers were also changed to incorporate the side pieces of the Triumph 2500 along with a new centre section with a joint at each end.
During the 1960s, in order to comply with the government requirement of >85% by weight of local production, Leykor were already casting their own engine blocks and sourcing many other heavier components locally. Under the guidance of Ralph Clarke, the A series 1100 engine was unique in specification to meet local conditions. Ralph had followed a path of extracting more power through the use of a higher compression ratio, a bigger 1.5" SU carb, along with an 11 stud cylinder head, amongst other small changes. For the new Apache, the engine was increased to a 1275cc specification, again with dimensions and components unique to South African needs. The various components were cast by companies such as Gearings Foundries, Guestro and Karl Schimdt.
As much of the bodyshell was still ADO16, assembly was fairly straight forward using existing jigs. Sub-frames were locally produced and, Datsun (now Nissan) in Rosslyn near Pretoria were contracted to manufacture the dies and to produce the body panels for the car. Panels were then shipped down to Blackheath for assembly.
During the latter part of 1971, dust ingression testing took place. This was important for South African conditions where many of the country roads were dirt surfaced. Sadly during this test period, one of the engineers, Owen Keown, was killed whilst following a lead car and he struck a culvert near the small town of Calvinia in the Cape. The photo below shows a test car under evaluation after dust testing, with two further assembled test cars visible behind.
More photos of the proto-type are in the gallery here.
Why the name Apache? According to Ryno Verster's conversation with Ralph Clarke, Engineering Manager at Blackheath, I quote from the email:
"I also checked with him (Ralph Clarke) where the name Apache came from (just like the Mini Panda, not a very South African name!) In the official BMC/Leykor production figures since 1955 that I got from Ralph a while ago, in the financial year July 1970 to June 1971 the Apache was first mentioned but not as the Apache but as Leykor I manual and Leykor 1 Auto. Ralph explained to me that Leykor actually wanted to do away with all the marques and just number their models. Thankfully this didn't happen and Ralph cannot even recall that a Leykor II saw the light. Once this decision was recalled, Apache was chosen after a brand survey was done by an outside agency which came up with three preferred names from their survey. Of the three suggested, the name Apache sounded the "strongest" and was chosen. By the way, according to the Leykor records 38 Leykor I manual and 3 Leykor I automatic units were produced in that financial year, probably in June 1971. (as Murphy's Law would have it, that is where my copy of the factory production figures stop!!)"
The car was officially launched to the motoring press in December 1971 and more literature on the launch can be found here. The photos below show the final production specification models.
Whilst the 1971 models were largely identical to the original spec ADO16s with the strip speedometer, rubber drive joints and remote gear change, a revision in 1973 saw the Hardy Spicer CV joints, rod linkage and Smiths round instrument dials. On the 1973> models, the dash had two instruments; a speedometer and a combi-unit featuring temperature and fuel, with warning lights for the generator and oil pressure. Depending on the spec, a Tachometer was also included similar to the 1300 GT. Production ended in 1978.
Unlike the safety laws in Australia that forced changes to the door furniture on their ADO16s, the Apache retained the push button exterior door handle as well as the internal lever door handles. The interior was again local manufacture, with the vinyl withstanding the rigours of the African sun very well. Generally, the interior colour was a typical black, brown, red or more unusually an off-white. Sporting versions usually had a black interior. Colour choice was the usual Leyland fare with white, blue, yellow, brown, orange, Cabernet (maroon), green or black.
A development that came to light recently was this photo below. At first Ryno Verster suggested to me this was an Authi Victoria, but it was only on closer inspection that it was noted that the front had a different look entirely to the Authi. It must be remembered that the Authi Victoria was a result of the Apache development work and so presumably at some point this particlular car was assembled for evaluation. The sharp eyed will have noted the Triumph 2500 headlights and of course the rear lights of the Apache were always the same as the 2500. Ralph Clarke has also confirmed that 13" rims were tried on this model, too. The photo does show what appear to be the standard 12" rims, though.
Another unique South African requirement were the reflectors. White at the front and red at the rear, these had to be to SABS (SA Bureau of Standards) compliant and were normally stuck to either the bodywork or bumpers with double sided tape. Presumably the reflectors in the tail light units were not acceptable despite being "E" marked.
There were no such luxuries as a cigar lighter, heated rear windows, radios or rear seat-belts, but an ashtray and glovebox were standard, and a useful feature was the full-length tray under the dashboard. Heating was standard, and a unique feature of the Apache were the vents on each C-post for through flow ventilation. The fuel filler was also recessed with a hinged filler flap, presumably in light of the safety laws minimising exposure of the fuel filler in an accident.
Mechanically, the car was powered by a South African derivative of the A series in 1275cc form, and from 1973, the fuel pump changed to a mechanical type although a blanking plate remained in the boot where the original electric pump was mounted. The oil filter was directly mounted to the block, and no oil cooler was fitted. With the side mounted standard radiator, and the slightly heavier bodyshell, the engine was prone to overheating and running-on. In hindsight, either a modification to a front mounted radiator, or the 1500cc OHC engine as used in the later Australian ADO16s would have been appropriate. The head was a standard 11-stud item and the by-pass hose was a common problem on these as on Minis, being prone to failure. Mostly, the auxiliary components were Lucas, but manufactured in SA and stamped accordingly as Lucas SA, and most of the cars had a generator and 25D4 distributor, with 1.5" SU single HS carb. Whilst the standard 4 speed manual was more popular, an automatic version was also available. Originally, tyres were cross-plies in 145 width with standard 12" ADO16 steel rims, although later most owners fitted 155/12 radials.
Production ended in 1977 to make way for the Leyland Marina. Some cars were still selling into 1978 according to the records.