BMC 1100/1300 : North American variations
MG Sports Sedan / MG Princess
Within a month or so of the model’s UK launch, the MG1100 was being exported to the US to be sold as the MG Sports Sedan (perhaps providing inspiration to the Rootes Group, who later lauched the Hillman Imp in America as the Sunbeam Imp Sportsedan). Launched in the autumn (perhaps we should say fall) of 1962, the MG Sports Sedan initially used the 2-door bodyshell that would not become available in the UK until 1968; four-door models were also available, but in rather lesser numbers. The launch came at a time when BMC had decided to rationalise its US range, and the 1100 was intended to provide the dealers with a car to compete with the ever-popular VW Beetle. However, with sales of less than 35,000 over its five-year life, the MG Sports Sedan was never really up to this challenge.
In 1964, the Sports Sedan briefly shared its showroom space with the MG Princess, basically a Vanden Plas Princess 1100 with some rather incongruous MG badges added to its grille, hubcaps and bootlid; only 154 of these models were built before BMC decided to concentrate efforts on the Sports Sedan.
The MG Sports Sedan was phased out in summer of 1967, when production of the Mk1 bodystyle ended. The model was showing its age by this time, and moreover, it would not have been able to meet the new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which were looming on the horizon. BMC has also decided to reserve the MG marque in America for use on sports cars, but the US dealers, still keen to steal sales from the Beetle, started lobbying for a replacement for the Sports Sedan. This led to BMC shipping a small quantity of Austin 1100s to the US during late 1967, while they readied a new version of the car aimed specifically at this market.
Launched in the summer of 1967 as a stop-gap model following the withdrawal of the MG Sports Sedan, the US-spec Austin 1100 differed from its UK counterpart in several respects. From the front, it can clearly be seen that it lacked the usual MkI over-riders and grille-mounted “Austin” badge, while the clear-lensed indicators also mark it out. Unlike the MG it replaced, this car was available only in 2-door form (as was its main rival, the VW Beetle), reflecting its main role as a second or third car in the US market. Colour availability was limited to White, Tartan Red and Connaught Green.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the car, however, was the fact that it used the central instrument pod that would not make its debut on home-market cars until the introduction of the MkII 1100 a few months later. This, combined with the export-only 2-door MkI bodyshell, makes this model something of a hybrid, looking rather curious to British eyes.
It is not currently known how many of these models were built, or when production was halted, but it seems that it was partly devised as a means of using up excess 2-door MkI bodyshells, so production is likely to have continued alongside that of the MkII cars for a time. It is also thought that the model remained on sale in the US until the introduction of the Austin America the following year. If you have any further reliable information on production numbers and/or build dates, please get in touch.
Pictures for this section supplied by Graham Arnold
Introduced in March 1968, the Austin America was essentially a 2-door Austin 1300 fitted with a de-toxed, 60bhp version of the familiar 1275cc engine. In October that year the car gained front seat head restraints, while later modifications included body-side running lights and rubber inserts on the overriders.
The America was also offered in Canada and Switzerland, and sold steadily, if not in large numbers, until its withdrawal in 1972. It was replaced in the American markets by the Austin Marina, a federalized version of the UK’s Morris Marina.
This page was contributed by Declan Berridge