BMC 1100/1300 : Specialist conversions
The 1100/1300 was the only BMC/BL model to be offered as both an estate and convertible by Crayford (although these models were not marketed concurrently). You can also find out below about a couple of other attempts to give the 1100 a hatchback and soft-top…
Crayford 1100 Estate
Hitting the market a couple of years before BMC’s own Traveller and Countryman estates, Crayford’s version was based on the standard saloon bodywork, giving it the advantage of having four passenger doors. While the split-tailgate arrangement might look somwehat odd, it should be remembered that at the time of its launch, both BMC’s existing Countryman models – the A40 and the A60 – had a similar set-up. Having said that, the retention of the 1100’s bootlid to form the lower part of the taigate must have severly hampered access to the newly expanded load area.
On the plus side, the simplicity of the conversion, requiring only a new aluminium rear-window surround, boot-lid handle, hinges and struts, kept the cost down to just £79. Finishing touches included the adaptation of the standard rear seat to allow it to fold in traditional estate-car style, a pair of lining panels and rubber floor matting for the boot area, and vinyl-covered C-pillar in a contrasting colour to the car’s bodywork, carrying a centrally-mounted Crayford badge. For £115, Crayford offered a “de luxe” conversion, which included body-colour rear window surround, a carpeted load area with longitudinal protective strips and an automatically-operated load-bay light.
The conversion work took just eight days, and was carried out under contract to Crayford by either FLM Panelcraft in London, or Methven & Thomas in Fife. The car could be ordered through any of the 30 BMC dealers who already handled Crayford’s convertible Minis. Crayford’s press car was based on an MG 1100, but it is likely that the conversion could have been applied to any of the 1100 variants – possibly with the exception of the Vanden Plas Princess, whose more substantial rear seat might have been presented difficulties when it came to incorporating the folding mechanism.
It is not known either how many cars were actually converted, nor how many have survived, but a Wolseley version is known to have been in the hands of an enthusiast in Sussex, as a rolling restoration, in 1995, while an MG version surfaced in Portugal, in fair condition, that same year.
The little-known Mystique demonstrates an alternative (and somewhat neater) approach to giving the 1100 a rear hatch. Developed and produced by Gerald Fry, owner of Somerset-based BL dealers Creech Motors, the conversion made ingenious use of an MGB GT tailgate, which was neatly integrated into the 1100’s sloping rear end. The fuel filler was relocated from the bodyside onto the rear panel, giving the car a cleaner overall appearance. Delivery time was 6-8 weeks, and the cost of the conversion was just £145. It is not known how many Mystiques were built, and sadly, none are thought to have survived.
Not a Crayford, but the lesser-known Mystique, which utilised an MGB GT rear hatch to good effect.
Jensen 1100 convertible
A couple of years before the better-known Crayford convertibles emerged (see below), the Midlands-based car manufacturer Jensen developed a prototype 1100-based convertible. The aim was to interest BMC in a production run, but for one reason or another, this never transpired. Some sources report that up to three models were converted, but reliable information currently only exists for the one pictured here:
Jensen historian Richard Calver has kindly provided the following information about this car:
“An Austin 1100 Countryman (chassis number A/AW10/16279A) was purchased by Jensen in June 1967, modified to convertible form and finished in Alaskan Blue with Blue Grey trim. The car appeared on the Jensen stand at the 1967 London Motor Show (registered LEA 765E), and was sold off the stand to Jensen dealership AC Bulpin & Co. of Newton Abbott for £725. It was subsequently taxed for road use and sold on to a customer. It is not known whether this car has survived.”
So, why use an estate model as the base car? Well, the main reason would have been that at the time, this was the only readily available 1100 model with a 2-door bodyshell, as the Mk1 saloons were only sold in 4-door form in the UK. The extra boot space afforded by the near-vertical tailgate would also have come in useful, bearing in mind the space that would have been occupied by the folding mechanism and the hood itself when folded. In fact, it’s quite likely that this car would have had an electro-hydraulically-operated hood, as a one-off Austin A40 Farina convertible converted by Jensen in the early 1960s was thus equipped.
Thanks to Richard Calver for his contribution to this article.
Crayford 1300 convertible
The launch of the MkII version of the ADO16 in Autumn 1967 marked the first official availability of the two-door body style in the UK market. This lent itself to a drop-top conversion, and sure enough, Crayford came up with the goods within a couple of years, announcing their Convertible in February 1969.
Taking either the Morris or MG variant as its base, the Crayford conversion involved strengthening the sills and the bodywork around the door openings, while dispensing with all pillars aft of the quarterlight frames to provide an entirely open environment with the roof down. One can only wonder, however, what effect this might have had on passenger protection in the event of a roll-over accident, particularly as no extra strengthening was applied to the screen surround.
Production capacity was predicted at seven cars per week, although only six examples of each marque were ever completed; while five of the Morrises are still around at the time of writing, it is believed that only one MG – that pictured below – survives..
|Prices (including new base car) £ s d|
|Morris 1100 de Luxe||1466||16||5|
|Morris 1300 Super de Luxe||1519||0||10|
|MG 1300 MkII||1683||10||10|
|Morris 1300, currently owned by Peter Williams||MG 1300, currently owned by Rolf Mobius|
Thanks to Michael Turner and Alexander Boucke for the Crayford Convertible photos
If you have any further information about the Mystique and/or the Jensen 1100 convertible – especially photos of these cars – please contact us. All information used will, of course, be duly credited.