The Leyland P76 Targa Florio

For most people the Leyland P76 was one very forgettable car and even though it somehow managed to win the Wheels Car of the Year award in 1973 it was not much of a car really.

Sure the design fitted right in during the early 1970s and it was built here in Australia to compete with the Kingswoods, Valiants and Falcons of the time but for most people it was a dog that really suffered from poor quality control.

Despite all of its problems there were still people who thought that the Leyland P76 was the greatest thing since sliced bread and one of my mates at the time thought that it was the most wonderful car he had ever purchased … but then he always was a little crazy.

Another guy I know takes great delight in pointing out that the P76 was the only sedan that you could fit  a 44 gallon drums in the boot and still close the lid.

Yes it was a strange car that attracted strange people and its one moment of fame came during the 1974 Word Cup Rally when Evan Green drove a Rover V8 powered P76 to a win in the Targa Florio stage in Sicily.

It was only one stage but that was enough for Leyland and to celebrate they produced the limited edition P76 Targa Florio sedan. Each Targa Florio came with a 4.4-litre all alloy V8 complete with automatic transmission, power steering and a limited slip diff and it seems that’s enough to qualify it as a muscle car.

900 of the P76 Targa Florio were built but very few of them remain today and one of those that have survived just happens to be coming up for auction in Sydney at Shannons Spring Auction on October 10.

This particular Targa Florio has been owned since new by just one person … it’s always been garaged … it’s done around 71,450km since new … and if you have somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000 it could be yours.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Leyland P76 then follow this link … they even have a photo of a very rare P76 station wagon.

Update: You will find another person’s view of the P76 here and I thank James for taking the time to write the piece and supply some more photos.

And here is a short video with some interesting background on the P76 courtesy of one of the people who took the time to add their comments below.

The Leyland P76 Targa Florio

16 thoughts on “The Leyland P76 Targa Florio

  1. Hi Stuart, I would have thought a website called Aussie Motoring would have at least known it’s facts before writing an article like this.

    Please share with me why the P76 was “not much of a car”? Being a better vehicle than it’s competitors (a view shared by the motoring press at the time) would have made it a bit more than “not much of a car”. Unless of course Holden, Ford and Chrysler were building cars that were nothing at all.
    You make mention that the P76 winning one stage of the World Cup Rally in 1974 was enough for Leyland to make a special model, however the P76 won more than one stage in that particular rally. In fact it was leading the rally for well over half the event until errors in the pace notes leading into the Sahara scuttled it’s chances of winning. Maybe you could read the book “A Boot of Right Arms” written by Evan Green who drove the car in the event. I am sure you would have heard of Evan, he like you was a motoring journalist and was a massive fan of the P76. The only difference though between you and Evan was that he researched his material.
    Speaking of research, and your complete lack of it, 480 Targa Florio’s were built in total by Leyland – not the 900 you or Shannons claim. A simple search on the internet (oops, that means research) would have provided the facts. One last question, you claim “very few remain today” of the Targa Florio, where do get this fact from?
    Just a guess, but I think you made it up. I very seriously doubt you reseached (there is that word again) the actual figures for how many Targa’s survive. However, I will do you your job for you and provide that actual figure. Of the 480 that were built, 360 still survive, and over 70% of that 360 are still on the road. I guess your quip about “very
    few remain today” was a bit wide of the mark, just like the rest of this little article.
    Do your readership a favour Stuart, when writing one of your poorly reaseached articles, please steer clear of great cars like the P76.
    Cheers, James Mentiplay

  2. Hello James

    Thanks for your comments … it’s always good to hear from someone who is enthusiastic about the vehicle in question and from your email address it is clear that you’re a fan of the P76.

    You’re also comment reminded me that I needed to add the link at the end of the piece to a site that has more information about the P76.

    While my comment that the P76 “wasn’t much of a car” obviously upset you I don’t make any apologies for it. That comment was based on chats I had with P76 owners back when the vehicle was new … and my own observations at the time (yes I am that old).

    Sure those people I talked with loved the car but they didn’t like the fact that body panels fitted poorly … dash trim began to peel early in the car’s life … and the car leaked in numerous places.

    To be fair the P76 could have been a much better car if Leyland had kept it in production and sorted out those problems … but they didn’t and we’re left with a car that is what it is. To an enthusiast like they’re a great car … to less enthusiastic people like me they’re no more than an interesting footnote in automotive history.


  3. This article is poorly researched and yet another myth perpetuating travesty. Im glad Mr Mentiplay has pointed out your factual errors. The P76 was a clean sheet engineering exercise and far superior to its Australian contemporaries. I dont know if you ever looked at the quality control of other Australian built cars of the era, but the P76 was no worse than the others. By 1974 most f these problems had been resolved.

    So you are a motoring journalist – I suggest that you go and drive one. Its that simple. Find a P76 and take it for a drive. How can you honestly review something, negatively, without actually driving it ?

    I own two 1974 cars – one is a P76 Super V8 4 speed, the other a Falcon GS 351C 4 spd Coupe. Both cars have their good points but in simple driving terms the P76 is superior to the Falcon in handling, ride, ergonomics and even instrument placement.

    Instead of research based on chats with your mates, why dont you do some hands on research. Its called credibility.

  4. Hello Damien

    Thanks for your comments … seriously. It’s great to see that some people are still passionate about their cars … as I said to someone just a moment ago … when it comes to modern cars there’s not much to be passionate about.

    It was also interesting to hear from someone who has two different cars from that era and can objectively compare them.

    It’s possible that I may have something to publish soon from a P76 owner and if I do then I hope that you’ll join in the conversation again and share your experiences too.


  5. Interesting article Mr Livesey. Pity it’s full of inaccuracies. I bought my first P76 in 1981 when nobody wanted them and they were cheap compared to similar V8 cars. After getting a fair ribbing from my mates who all owned Holdens, Falcons or Valiants, they soon changed their attitude after taking my car for a drive. Today, in my 50s, I own 2 P76s and thoroughly enjoy the driving experience. After having been associated with the P76 in one way or another for 30 years I think I can tell the difference between a well researched story of the P76 and one writtten by either a lazy or poorly researched journalist. I have had stories published in various magazines over the last 25 or 30 years so I know a little about research. I would have been embarrassed to submit an article such as yours with so many inaccuracies. It’s a pity that some journalists fall into the habit of writing about urban myths and try to pass them off as facts. Research your facts, talk to people who own them and take one for a drive then write a review from an informed standpoint.This comment is not intended as a personal attack but a review on your article.

  6. Hi the evan green rally car was powered by the p76 alloy V8, related to rover of course. This engine was so far ahead of the competition that it wasnt until the early 90’s that another one appeared in an australian built vehicle.
    The secret to the P76 outstanding performance was not engine size but power to weight ratio, it weighs the same as a cast iron six but is 4.4 litres and generates 140kw and loads of torque from the 3.5 inch bore and stroke.
    The p76 body while looking bulky was significantly lighter than the holden and ford competition, the car boasted rack and pinion steering,macpherson strut front suspension and 50/50 front to rear weight distribution.
    No wonder it the p76 has a wonderful history in rally sport. It is undisputed that the p76 won the targa florio section of the world cup rally, and most significantly this was the most narrow, twisty and torturous of stages where only the finest handling cars could compete.
    That the p76 won this section and still lives on and is loved today is a tribute to the brilliant engineers who designed the leyland p76.

  7. Stuart,

    Interestingly your comments were not shared by most of the motoring press in 1973 to the point that one Magazine made the P76 V8 the Car of the Year. Our family also owned a P76 in 1974 from new and I cannot remember any comments by owners at the time that amounted to anyone saying it was not much of a car. In fact, we stepped from a VH Valiant into one and instantly recognised we had stepped into a completely new car type with dynamics, which appeared to be European unlike the beached whale feel of the US influenced Big Three. Maybe you should try and steer a VJ Valiant or XA Falcon or even the holy grail of the car fleet at the time a HQ Holden around a corner and then try an stop them. Don’t go the fancy models just the base model in each…. remember though that it was only the P76 that came standard with a sway bar and front disk brakes so be careful!

  8. What can I add to this article that already hasn’t been said? Ridiculously poor research and multiple inaccuracies are already well noted and a definite bias against the car is frightenly quite clear.

    I will add my experiences with other manufactures and maybe this will put some thing into perspective. Coming from a “traditional” Ford family, my parents brought a 1972 XA falcon 500 wagon that was a dealer demonstrator and was 6 weeks old at the time – it was a piece of rubbish.

    The XA spent more time at the dealers trying to fix its constant problems of electrical issues, water leaking (inside) and overheating then it ever spent on the road. Most of the front end was replaced within the year.

    Our neighbors, being ”traditional” Holden people had been unlucky enough to purchase a 1971 HQ nearly immediately after they were released – we constant laughed at them as they spent most of their time under the bonnet of what was a one year old car trying to fix it as Holden couldn’t. Within 18 months – the HQ would suffer complete engine failure and 6 months later the transmission.

    The HQ also leaked internally and it severely heated up the rear floor with its exhaust if you drove it a long distance but at least the electricals were better than the Ford. Holden’s build quality was defiantly not up the same standard of our ford and handling was an option that wasn’t available on the HQ.

    Finally my aunt around the same time had brought a Valiant station wagon (which she still owns – smoky, rusty and completely unroadworthy but it still goes). The Valiant wagon made the XA wagon nearly feel nimble. The 245 hemi 6 was noisy and the distributor was constant source of trouble – but it kept going.

    The front shocks failed very quickly and the clutch shuddered violently eventually taking an engine mount with it. The diff whined and had nearly ¼ turn play in it before being replaced in mid ’74. The seat springs burst thru the vinyl within the year and that series of Valliant’s “coined” the term “PANIC stop”. Hit the brakes hard and the car would finally stop in a reasonable distance, but it would be sideways (and don’t use the brakes hard in the wet).

    Magically – It was only the P76’s teething problems that were reported and NONE of our cars made the papers for their constant and ongoing problems. We accepted the failings of our car as “good Ford people” should – we never told our neighbor that our car was as big a piece of rubbish as his was and we still laughed at my aunt for being silly enough to buy a lowly Valiant.

    I purchased my first P76 in 1978 after studying it while working for GMH in the final death bells of the Kingswood. When the commodore was released – they were just more rubbish and they continue the tradition today. I have a friend that has an 8 month old “omega” platform commodore that seems like our XA – it spends more time at the dealer fixing electrical problems than she does trying to drive it.

  9. I do not think I can add much to the comments that have made the point about inaccurate and unreasearched lazy journalisim. Having owned a P76 and at the same time had access to cars that were supposed to be so much better as work cars, XD Falcons, Commodores of the early variety, EA Falcons up to and including EL’s and Toyota Camry’s I can not tell you what a privelege it was to come home having been away on the road with work for a week to ditch them and return to my own car. Thank heavens my boss let me use my car when I did not have to take others with me. Oh and we even bought one as a family car not long after they were releases, second hand because the HQ Holden could not do the job.

    Experience rather than hearsay is harbringer of fact not uninformed predjudice.

    Mark Ellery

  10. The old story of the only car that a 205 litre (44 gal)drum would fit in the boot. This was wonderful marketing ploy by Leyland as they said a 205 litre drum could fit in the boot of a P76 but not the only car. The drum would also fit in a Holden and Falcon and you could close the lid. Leyland marketing had won the day.
    Hal Moloney

  11. I have owned my P76 V8 Super since 1981, and for most of that time it has been a daily driver. It still goes extremely well. It gets a lot of attention from other drivers and almost all are complimentary about how well the car looks and goes. I’ve even been complimented by passing police vehicles – but never been booked.

    The car handles well, breakes extremely well is easy and cheap to maintain (no computers or fancy sensors like Commodores), is one of the most comfortable cars I have driven. I have also owned Commodores – they have all gone, but the P76 keeps on going.

  12. i have owned a leyland P76 since 1974 and throughly enjoy and being seen driving Targa Florio .My car was ran into by a f100 it took a long time to fix so i bought a commodore.Today the Targa Florio stays in the garage and is used for long journes. Happy motoring.roger

  13. Like Roger Patten-Williams, I’ve owned Leylands for a long time and had the misfortune of other drivers on 3 occasions causing serious damage to mine through no fault of my own. The safety of the P76 in a crash is really one of it’s most praiseworthy features. The engine was designed to move under the car rather than into the cabin, and the fuel tank was protected by a metre of body rather than sitting just in front of the bumper bar. With a bonnet that would fold up and not spear into the cabin and a progressive crumple rate in the front panels, I’m glad for myself and my family that I wasn’t in one of the other brands in the unfortunate incidents where the car died but we survived without injury.

    Apart from secondary safety, the Leyland’s good handling and even weight distribution made it a very stable car. When I had a tyre blow out at highway speed, I was able to drive the car to a safe stop with no drama even though I was overtaking a semi trailer at the time. And that is why I’m still enthusiastic about the P. Not much of a car, you’ve got to be kidding. As far as I’m concerned, it richly deserved the Car of the Year Award.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top