Skip to content

Harris Mann 1938 – 2023: The classic car world bids fond farewell to a styling hero

16 August 2023

The automotive world has lost one of its most pivotal designers – Harris Mann, who has passed away at the age of 85. 

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. 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 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. It would be the TR that would outsell all the models that came before and despite a troubled start due to factors out of Harris Mann’s control, would be loved by its dedicated band of enthusiasts for generations.

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 and even the MG SV.

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 those troubled times at British Leyland. 

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.

Latest in the Blog

Meet Josh – the lucky lad who got loaned a Triumph Herald

Peter James Insurance is proud to sponsor the Classic Car Loan project and help inspire and enthuse tomorrow’s classic vehicle owners. Over the coming weeks and months, we aim...

The AJS 1954 500cc Grand Prix racer

Our motorcycling legend, Bruce Cox, returns with another fascinating story from the world of historic bikes.  A “Porcupine” Without the Spikes! The original AJS 500cc Grand Prix contender made...

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.