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Motoring: BMC/Morris 1100 - 1963

This little car should be listed among the best, most innovative cars of the 1960s, but instead is relegated by many as a dud because of it being a great design with flaws that were never addressed on its way from the drawing board to production line. When British Motor Corporation (BMC) released the Mini in 1959, it replaced the Morris Minor which, both inside and out, was a bigger car and left a large gap in the model range between the mini and the A60. Following his success with the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, who designed the Mini, set out to design a more sophisticated car which incorporated even more advanced features and innovations.

The ADO16 (Austin Drawing Office project number 16) had much in common with the Mini. It was designed around the BMC A-Series engine, mounted transversely and driving the front wheels. As well as disc brakes at the front, which were not common on mass produced cars in the early 1960s, the suspension system used was the Hydrolastic interconnected fluid system designed by Alex Moulton. Pininfarina, the Italian styling studio which had worked with BMC before on the Austin A40 Farina, were asked to do the styling. It was a masterpiece of packaging having comparable interior space to the much larger Ford Cortina. BMini designer Sir Alec Issigonis was therefore commissioned to come up with an intermediate car based on the Mini (a wheel at each corner) but with more room. The result was the 1100 series, codenamed ADO16earing a close resemblance to the A40 Farina which it replaced in its Austin guise, the 1100 became Britain's best selling motor car ever. In 1964 the 1100 was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year.

The original Mark I models were distinctive for their use of a Hydrolastic suspension. Marketing material majored on the spacious cabin when compared to competitor models which in the UK by 1964 included the more conservatively configured Ford Anglia, Vauxhall Viva HA and BMC's own still popular Morris Minor. Throughout the early and mid 1960s, the ADO16 was consistently the UK's best-selling car. Sadly, within a few years of its introduction, it became Britain's most unloved car as tales emerged of self-destructing gearboxes and driveshafts, high engine oil consumption, rear suspension arm failures and rusting subframes and bulkheads. Thousands of examples of the car around the world began disintegrating before their owner's eyes. The 1100 was brilliant on paper, but Issigonis had refused to consult with others, especially those in production who anticipated many of the problems before the car's release, like the bodyshell's rust traps. Issigonis ignored their warnings and customers paid dearly.

Vanden Plas Princess

BMC, which by now was realising it had underpriced the Mini and was struggling to recoup its investment, took the cheaper option and covered warranty claim costs rather than fix the problems on the assembly line. A plethora of models were released with Austin, Morris, MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas badges, all with different trim and features - like Rolls Royce style grills and fold down picnic tables for the Vanden Plas Princess and the two-tone paintwork for the MG - but all attempts to save the brilliant but flawed automobile were only partially successful.

The Mark II versions of the Austin and Morris models were announced in 1967, with a larger engine and a number of the problems of the first series having been addressed. The Mark III models were introduced in September 1971 as a further attempt to arrest sliding sales. The range was gradually reduced, with the MG 1300 dropped in 1971 and the Wolseley 1300 in 1973 so as to minimise losses. Sadly, the upgrades were too little too late and the car's reputation eventually brought production to an early end.

The vehicle was in production from August 15, 1962 to June 1974. The range was expanded to include several rebadged versions, including the twin-carburetted MG 1100, the Vanden Plas Princess (from October 1962), the Austin 1100 (August 1963), and finally the Wolseley 1100 and Riley Kestrel. In Australia, the ADO16 formed the basis of the Australian Morris 1500 sedan, Morris 1300 sedan and Morris Nomad five door, which were developed from the 1100 but with modifications to make the car better suited to Australian driving conditions.

Morris Nomad
Morris 1500/Nomad

The Morris 1500 series was devised by the British Motor Corporation of Australia as the replacement for the locally built Morris 1100 range. The somewhat conservative character of the 1100 underwent subtle changes which gave a more aggressive, rugged appearance. Up front, there was a new, bolder grille flanked on either side by gargantuan parking light/turn indicators. And for those still struggling to find any differences, there was a prominent bonnet bulge designed to clear the extra height of the new overhead camshaft engine. At the rear, tail lights were altered to follow the slope of the boot lid.

Introduced in June 1969, approximately 21,000 sedans and 8,000 Nomads, a five door variant, were produced before production ceased at the end of 1971 and the production line was converted to build the "Australianised" Morris Marina. For Australia at least, the 1500 was a better car in every respect - and answered practically every criticism aimed at the 1100 series. At release the list price was A$2150  which was only about $20 above the 1275 cc "S".

Austin 1100 Countryman

Morris 1500

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