Around the world : Malta

Malta: that beautiful enclave in the Mediterranean is a favourite for tourists all over Europe.

Unbeknown to many, it was also host to an assembly operation that saw the construction of Triumphs and Morrises among others. Christopher Camilleri takes up the story, with new images from Andreas Lampka…


Carmaking was late coming to Malta: The Mizzi Organization set up their automotive division known as Car Assembly Ltd in 1960, and located a new, purpose-built plant in Marsa. The first car to be assembled in this new plant was the Triumph Herald, which proved to be a big seller in Malta (as it was in other territories that possessed a Herald CKD operation). As time passed, the demand for new cars in Malta increased and, therefore, the production was ramped up in order to meet burgeoning demand.

Not only that, but consumers wanted better choice, and so it was through this increased demand for cars that widened range of cars was gradually rolled-out.

Thus, a variety of different models was soon being produced in the Car assembly Ltd. In fact, after a year that the Car Assembly Ltd was opened, a further two new models were rolling off the Marsa production line; the Dodge and the Hillman Hunter/Minx (Arrows range).

The Car Assembly Ltd remained operational until 1981, when during this time, the cars produced were the Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Mini and Morris Marina. As well as these mainstays, Car Assembly also played host to the production of, a local version of the ubiquitous Commer Van, Rover P6 2000 and Austin-Morris 1100/1300.

Another interesting fact is that Car Assembly Ltd also exported models to other countries such as Tunisia and Jamaica. For example, the Maltese Morris Marina was exported to Jamaica, and the Triumph Herald was exported to Israel and Greece. Car Assembly Ltd was a great success in Malta where the company held a whopping 55 per cent of the Maltese car market.

As Christopher Camilleri quite rightly surmises, ‘It is such a pity that it has closed due to political reasons.’

This Morris Marina, as owned by Christopher Camilleri was produced in Malta by Car Assembly Ltd in their plant at Marsa. This particular Marina is a real rarity, as it is powered by a 1.5-litre B-Series diesel engine, and is described by Camilleri: "It has never been resprayed and it is in unrestored condition. Right now, I am using the car as an every day driver which gives me plenty of joy and happiness. "

This Morris Marina, as owned by Christopher Camilleri was produced in Malta by Car Assembly Ltd in their plant at Marsa. This particular Marina is a real rarity, as it is powered by a 1.5-litre B-Series diesel engine, and is described by Camilleri: ‘It has never been resprayed and it is in unrestored condition. Right now, I am using the car as an every day driver which gives me plenty of joy and happiness.’

Gallery


With thanks to Christopher Camilleri for contributing this article, and Andreas Lampka for the gallery images

Posted in: Around the world
Keith Adams

About the Author:

AROnlineholic between 2001 and 2014 - editor of Classic Car Weekly, and all round car nut...

21 Comments on "Around the world : Malta"

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  1. Joseph says:

    Hi,
    if you have any more photos of the Malta Car Assembly, can you please send them? Also, do you have any other relevant information regarding the Mini production, where was the factory situated?
    Thanks
    Joseph

  2. Marinast says:

    I visited Malta back in 2003 and it was an old car spotters paradise. How many of those old Marinas, Itals, Escorts and Hunters remain is anyone’s guess, no doubt replaced by tinny modern cars. I even spotted a few Allegros.

  3. David Walker says:

    Sadly, even the traditional Malta buses have gone the way of all things! From past holidays I remember that that the “1.5D” version of the Marina was very popular, and its limited performance not really a problem on a small island. The neighbouring island of Gozo is even more of a car spotters paradise, there is a lunatic there with dozens of series 1 Land Rovers!

  4. Richard16378 says:

    When I was there it was fairly easy to spot older cars, though mostly 1970s – 80s. There seemed to be an early Metro or Mk3 Escort on every side street.

  5. Chris Baglin says:

    I’d love to know how good the Maltese AlfaSud was- it could hardly be built more poorly than the Italian original, and if it was built from better tin with improved rustproofing, there may well be some survivors. And RHD too!

    Great article Mr Camilliari, and your Marina looks to be in superb condition.

  6. eezee says:

    My Maltese ex-girlfriend had a triumph herald and the had it restored to it’s original state although she did say it was more about tidying it up rather than replacing panels and powertrain.

    As for taking cars off the island, I don’t think you can. I can’t remember if it’s Cyprus or Malta but cars that live on the island must die on the island, hence the reason why there are so many old cars still here… Otherwise they’d have been snapped up ages ago.

  7. Hilton D says:

    Very interesting article and photos. I never knew that cars were assembled in Malta all those years ago. The Rover P6 2000 production was particularly interesting. In 1975 I visited the Peykan factory in Iran where Hunters were assembled – never realised that they were in Malta too.

  8. Glenn A says:

    Anyone considered an article on Ireland’s car industry? In the seventies they made CKD versions of Ford Cortinas and the last version of the Hillman Hunter, even exporting some back to Britain. It is, like Malta, a little known car industry.

  9. Will101 says:

    The Delorean story is well covered from northern Ireland and I think the Ford motor factory in Cork made Transits and other cars up on till 1984 and the same site today is the City’s Marina.

  10. Chris Price says:

    Isn’t picture # 9 a Dolomite/Toledo?

  11. pablo says:

    Joseph the factory was in Marsa, next to it there is Schembri battery service.part of the factory nowadays belongs to the government printing press and another part of it its a private factory.

  12. Phil Simpson says:

    The 1.5 diesel Marina & Ital was also the mainstay of the Portuguese automotive industry.

    Shame they didn’t put the 1.8 version of the engine in as per the Sherpa.

    Would have been a logical improvement for minimal expenditure which is how the best BL cars came about.

  13. Glenn Aylett says:

    Will @ 9, I meant the Republic where a CKD industry survived until 1984. Actually the Ford plant in Cork was one of the biggest factories in Eire, but the fact it was on the periphery of Europe, it was cheaper to import complete cars and the productivity was terrible meant it had to close. I did read the productivity at Cork was 95 per cent lower than Dagenham, hardly the most productive factory in Europe, and it was bedevilled by absenteeism, strikes and apathy. Now who said this was a purely British problem.

  14. Yorkie says:

    I remember seeing quite a few Marinas when I visited Malta in the early 90s, and there was a burgundy 1.5 D seen regularly in Buggiba near my hotel. It was the first time I had actually seen an oil burning example. It does make you think that BL may have missed a trick, like Phil Simpson says, as there is a chance the 1.8D would have made a reasonable taxi

  15. Yorkie says:

    @6 Maltese vehicles can be easily exported, same goes for Cyprus. Loads of ex Malta stuff has come to the UK very recently, and a good friend just brought his mk1 Ford Granada 2.5 and Austin Metro 310 van back from Cyprus. Both of which were new on the Island, and both are completely immaculate

  16. The_Saint_ST1 says:

    @16. Malta only joined the EU relatively recently (2004) so that may have led to barriers coming down – It’s probably the reason why the old buses have been replaced so easily lately. Wasn’t sure of Cyprus but the recent flood of Maltese classics would make a lot of sense.

  17. Hubert Farrugia says:

    Dear AR Readers,

    Today was probably the best day of my life.

    In Birkirkara (Malta), a court case ensued regarding a car garage (rental car one probably) and its assets were confiscated.

    35 years later, the case has been closed and thus the assets including the cars can be sold. These include 2 Austin Allegros with 3000 miles, 9000 respectively, one’s a 1300 and another’s a made-in-malta 1300 super with a vinyl sunroof. In the blue one, the vinyl is still shiney and there is just light rust on top of paint due to disuse but nothing major at all. No ‘rot’ even in the most sensitive of places. They even have their 70s factory batteries still connected!

    I visited them today, as well as many other cars which have been abandoned in a garage for all these years. I’d love to buy them but there are 2 problems

    1. the seller’s being unreasonable changing the price every 5 minutes
    2. as they’ve been off the road for 35 years, the registration has been nulled so tax has to be paid on them

    I don’t know what to do. Contact me at niktelmu@gmail.com for some consolation…

  18. lorenzo axisa says:

    i have a morris marina MK2 that i buy it from mizzi motors in 1977. i want to buy 2 doors front, and 2 doors back. if someone have thoose doors, can you please send me a mail or phone me.

    mail axisabros@onvol.net
    mobile 99862906
    Thanks

  19. arash says:

    Hi,do you have any information and photos about “arrow” or “hilman hunter”or “roots group”in 1960-1980?Do you recognize designers of them? I am very plesure if you poblish or send email abot this cars or history of “roots group”.
    thanks.

  20. arash says:

    Hi,do you have any information and photos about “arrow” or “hilman hunter”or “roots group”in 1960-1980?Do you recognize designers of them? I am very plesure if you poblish or send email abot this cars or history of “roots group”.
    thanks.
    My email is:arash_ruhi@yahoo.com

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