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Motoring: Austin 1800 - 1964

Luxury car standards of roominess and riding comfort within an overall length of under 4.2 metres were just two of the outstanding characteristics of the revolutionary Austin 1800 promoted on its release by the British Motor Corporation in October 1964. The Austin 1800 offered silent, high speed cruising, unsurpassed road holding and cornering powers, excellent luggage space, and built in safety and longevity from what at the time was probably the strongest body shell ever planned for quantity production.

Designed by Alec lssigonis, the new 1800 followed the basic design conception of the BMC Mini and '1100' models with transversely mounted engine and transmission unit, front wheel drive and Hydrolastic suspension with "a wheel at each corner". However, this world renowned design was now translated to a medium sized family car. The biggest single factor in achieving such roominess was the 'east-west' engine location, which gave 70% of the car's length as passenger and luggage accommodation, resulting in rear passenger room being larger than the current Holden and Ford Falcon models. The Austin 1800 was released in Australia in December 1965. The Mark II, a much improved car, was released in November 1968, with a price tag of $2,476.

1964 Austin 1800

All the 1800s built by BMC Australia were badged as Austins - no Morris or Wolseley versions were built, though a few have been privately imported. The last year of production saw a healthy 10,249 sales. All up, a total of 56,918 Austin 1800 saloons over 5 years of Australian production.

Marketed quite correctly as "the car of the century", the Austin 1800 was built way ahead of its time and built to last. The body shell is extremely strong and still outclasses simulated crash testing involving Mercedes Benz and Volvo. Production of the Austin 1800 began at the BMC factory in Zetland NSW and continued until late 1970 when it was relpaced by the Australian engineered Austin Kimberley and Tasman series.

1971 Austin Kimberley

The Austin Kimberley and Tasman, which were based on the Austin 1800 but with an extended boot, were developed to make the car look more 'normal', the 1800's unusual elongated shape having earned it the nickname of landcrab. The new models went on sale late in 1970 and clocked up just over 15,000 sales in their short production run of less than 3 years. Sales of the Mk1 topped 900 per month but sunk to only 250 per month once its reputation became tarnished. Production ceased

in late 1972 and the manufacturer had to sell of a stockpile of several thousand unsold cars at below cost.

Austin 1800 Mk II utility

The Replacement
That Never Was

When BMC began thinking about a major upgrade for the Austin 1800 in 1967, they asked Italian car design studio Pininfarina for a follow-up design based on the Austin 1100. They created a prototype which was called the Pininfarina Berlina Aerodynamica. The Mini designer Issigonis who was in charge of BMC's development department loved it, but the third-rater who ran BMC dismissed it as, "not for us. Perhaps it's good for Jaguar."

Leonardo Fioravanti, the Pininfarina designer who put it together, was disappointed by the knockback, but that was nothing compared to how he felt when Citroen launched the remarkably similar-looking GS in 1970. Pininfarina was so annoyed that they parked their Pininfarina Berlina Aerodynamica concept car outside the launch party to demonstrate where the idea had come from. To this day, the Pininfarina website still points out the similarity - and to this day, Citroen say the similarity between the shape of the Pininfarina Berlina Aerodynamica and their GS and its big brother, the CX, is pure coincidence.

Pininfarina Berlina Aerodynamica

Pininfarina Berlina Aerodynamica

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