The Carchive now has a new time slot on Hooniverse; wherever there’s a spare gap in the schedule and I’ve actually cobbled something together to fill it. I like it this way, anyway; it ensures that Carchive articles have a suitably ad-hoc, thrown together feeling to them, and if I happen to be describing a product from British Leyland that’s all the more appropriate.
Australian car fans rejoice! Today’s relic from the vaults of obscurity concerns that most bizzare of British badge-engineering projects, the short-lived Lonsdale YD series.
(All images may be made all big with suitable attention from a cursor and a click)
“The new Lonsdales from Australia, cars that have really come a long way!”
I submit to you that there has never, ever been a better advertising slogan than that, and probably never will be.
I’ve known for years that these things existed, but I never knew anything about them, apart from that the Lonsdale was, in fact, a fourth-generation Mitsubishi Galant sedan. I also knew that the brand didn’t derive its name from a brand of boxing equipment and associated sportswear. In fact, Londsdale is a suburb of Adelaide, Australia, where Mitsubishi had a production facility. The Galant was sold in Australia as the Sigma, and this was the GJ series.
In order to circumvent British import restrictions that applied to Mitsubishi at the time, the “independent” Lonsdale brand was introduced purely as a way of getting the Galant selling in greater numbers in the UK. Sadly, it didn’t really work.
“For all its tough character and up-bringing, inside a Lonsdale car it’s as cosy as a Kangaroo’s pouch”
A somewhat less successful metaphor, but I see what they were trying to achieve. The Australian version of the Sigma was a rather simplified machine over the JDM version, and I believe I’m right in saying this relationship continued all the way through the life of that model name. The Lonsdale was still a relatively plush looking car on the inside, though, with deep velour trim on some models and a seriously impressive array of interior light sources. It stopped short of the reclining rear seats you got with the Galant Sapporo, though.
You has a choice of 1.6, 2.0 or 2.6-litre petrol engines; the smallest of which provided only 75bhp (the same figure as the equivalent Ford Cortina) and presumably didn’t provide exactly breathtaking performance. The others were from the legendary and long-running oversquare Astron engine series, as seen in thousands of Chrysler products of the 80s. The 2.6 was the lusty 4G54 unit, only squeezing out 102bhp, but loads of stump-pulling torque.
“… to give you the kind of motoring that will meet your most testing requirements”
With recirculating ball steering, MacPhersion struts up front and a four-link suspension system out back, the Lonsdale wasn’t exactly a driver’s car, though it probably had its devotees for the practicality of the YD45 estate versions.
Alas, aside from individuality, the Lonsdale didn’t really offer anything much that its rivals didn’t; and when you realise that the Ford Sierra hatchback and estate models had gone on sale while these ’82 and ’83 brochures were current, you can see why the Lonsdale was pretty well doomed from the start.
The “ever reliable” Howmanyleft.co.uk tells us that there are five remaining Lonsdales registered for use on UK roads, and another that’s recorded as off-road. That’s about a hundred more than I thought would have survived; I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one in my life – even the regular Mitsubishi Sigma was a relatively rare sight on British roads.
Today they suddenly look rather handsome, and I’d never before realised just how like an E24 6 Series those rear lights are. That’s a good thing.
(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of a bloke called Trevor who lives at 39 Greenberry Parade, Cleft Mogridge, Plumpshire. Or possibly Mitsubishi.)