Harris Mann 1938-2023: Goodbye to a Longbridge legend
The MG Car Club was sad to learn of the passing, aged 85, of one of the legends of Longbridge – Harris Mann.
Harris Mann was born in London in 1938. He worked at Duple, the (American) Loewy Consultancy. Then after some time out of the country for National Service, Mann worked for Commer and then Ford, where he was involved in the first Escort and Capri. His boss at Ford, Roy Haynes then persuaded Harris to follow him to BMC in 1967, where he moved to lead the design studio at Cowley. Roy Haynes’ brief was to rejuvenate the design team and part of his solution would include Harris Mann.
Once he moved to Longbridge, he shaped the beautiful BMC ‘Zanda’ concept car and put forward acceptable original shapes for the Austin Allegro before these were changed by the British Leyland (BL) planners. Harris was responsible for the wedge-style BL Princess which would be launched immediately after Triumph’s TR7 which was originally intended to be the replacement for the MGB.
The Austin Princess was a large and attractive package which would have done him more credit if it had not been put on sale when BL was in the depths of its nationalisation crisis.
It was his work on the possible MGB replacement, which would later emerge as the Triumph TR7, where he offered up the shapely wedge-styled shape, which was accepted ahead of Michelotti, Pininfarina and other proposals in a kind of ‘internal’ styling competition at BL.
Spending time with Harris was to appreciate what professionalism and talent he had, but also what an agreeable and pleasant personality he was. He was so very friendly and easy to get along with. A conversation over lunch though might often be disrupted by him grabbing a beer mat or menu card to draw up some styling detail to explain why things were as they ended up on a particular model.
In the late 1970s, he worked on updates to the Marina style, then the Metro and Maestro projects and the still-born Triumph SD2 saloon project. The entire motor industry recognised his talents, so after he left BL in 1983, to set up on his own, he was never short of work. He shaped several Suzuki motorcycles and worked for BMW on four-wheeler and two-wheeler shapes. Then there was work on big railway locomotives, Lotus and Lola models, and much more.
Harris found himself back at Longbridge during the early-2000s working with the team headed by Peter Stevens on the MG Zeds (ZR, ZS and ZT) and even the MG SV X-Power monster.
For the fans and enthusiasts, the delight of meeting Harris was always special, and he always took time to answer in detail even the most naive of questions and explain the reasoning behind designs or share an anecdote from his times at British Leyland or Longbridge.
He was often seen out and about at classic car events and he never seemed to tire of seeing the cars he designed being loved and appreciated by enthusiasts, always willing to stop by for a photograph, a ceremonial cake cutting or to sign someone’s boot lid!
Harris Mann, a stylist, a talent, a part of history, a lovely Mann.