The cars : BMC 1100/1300 development history

World beater

BMC 1100/1300 remained fresh-looking into the 1970s.

BMC 1100/1300 remained fresh-looking into the 1970s.

So the Mini was launched, and the world had showered BMC with the acclaim that it so richly deserved, but in the months following the car’s arrival on the market, things were not all sweetness and light. Quite simply, fuel crisis or not, the Mini was not the car that the dealers wanted; they made little profit on sales of the car, while their servicing departments found its complexity just a little disconcerting. To make a bad situation worse, the first few Minis off the line at Longbridge and Cowley had earned a reputation for below average reliability, and the warranty costs incurred were proving to be more than a little wearisome. Realizing that small cars meant small margins, the dealers felt that they needed something at the other end of the market to balance out the administrative nightmare that was the Mini.

None of this mattered at the time to Leonard Lord, because he had unshakeable faith in Alec Issigonis and his ability to produce cars that people wanted. Lord was pleased that BMC was seen as being right at the forefront of the design-led revolution in the car industry at the time. The Mini also expanded BMC’s range of cars, managing to generate big sales in a sector below that occupied by the company’s previous entry-level models – the Austin A35/A40 and Morris Minor 1000 – without affecting the sales of either.

Initial XC9002 (left) shows a striking similarity to the Mini, but is, in fact a scaled down version of the  XC9001, the forerunner of the ADO17 – this model dates back to 1958 and was adjudged to look too  similar to the Mini. The next version of the XC9002 (right) shows the beginnings of the ADO16 character  – especially towards the rear, displaying the cropped fins so loved at Longbridge at the time. Otherwise,  the dainty car looks rather appealing from this angle.

Initial XC9002 (left) shows a striking similarity to the Mini, but is, in fact a scaled down version of the XC9001, the forerunner of the ADO17 – this model dates back to 1958 and was adjudged to look too similar to the Mini. The next version of the XC9002 (right) shows the beginnings of the ADO16 character – especially towards the rear, displaying the cropped fins so loved at Longbridge at the time. Otherwise, the dainty car looks rather appealing from this angle.

Side view of the later car shows that the proportions and packaging were largely set by this stage in the  car's development.

Side view of the later car shows that the proportions and packaging were largely set by this stage in the car’s development.

The frontal aspect of the XC9002 shows the efforts that the company was going to in order to give the car  some much needed character (they still had some way to go) – but it is at the rear of the same car (right)  that one can see that the eventual ADO16 'look' was already set in the minds of the stylists (even if the  photograph appears to have been heavily airbrushed to achieve the effect).

The frontal aspect of the XC9002 shows the efforts that the company was going to in order to give the car some much needed character (they still had some way to go) – but it is at the rear of the same car (right) that one can see that the eventual ADO16 ‘look’ was already set in the minds of the stylists (even if the photograph appears to have been heavily airbrushed to achieve the effect).

The next step in the rejuvenation of the BMC range was to produce a larger model to plug the gap between the one-litre class cars (A40 and Minor) and the much larger 1.5-litre Farina saloons. Alec Issigonis turned his thoughts to engineering a stretched version of the Mini, and because the new car – initially known by the codename XC9002, but later renamed ADO16 – would use essentially the same engine and gearbox package, its development was a fairly straightforward process.

Developing the big Mini

Whereas the Mini had emerged pretty much unchanged from the original drawings produced by Alec Issigonis, Leonard Lord decided that he wanted ADO16 be a much more highly styled car, as it would be competing in a more expensive sector of the market. He further decided that this aim could best be achieved by entrusting the car’s styling to Pininfarina, following that firm’s successful work on the Austin A40. This proved to be another good decision on the part of Lord, because what emerged from the Italian styling house was a crisp and well-balanced design that when launched, proved to be exactly the right product at the right time. Issigonis did in fact make an attempt at styling the ADO16, but he told journalist Ronald Barker, ‘I couldn’t get
it right.’

Just like the Mini before it, ADO16 was developed in remarkably quick time, and when the first full-size prototype appeared in October 1958, it already had the recognisable 1100 profile. When Pininfarina worked their magic on the styling, the transformation from XC9002 of January 1959 to ADO16 of July that same year was quite remarkable. The Italian styling house had made no major changes to the structure of the car, but in terms of tidying the styling – giving the roofline a makeover and tidying up the front and sides – the overall effect was quite marked.

 Nearly there: In January 1959, Pininfarina were asked to develop the XC9002 – their initial effort (left)  was a rather bluff-fronted proposal and was rejected by BMC because it would prove needlessly complex  (look at the tops of the doorframes, for instance) and therefore, expensive to produce. On the right, the  second Pininfarina proposal of what is now known as the ADO16, which eventually was given the nod for  production by higher management. The front styling treatment was offered in two forms and it was this  version that would prove to offer the best final solution.

Nearly there: In January 1959, Pininfarina were asked to develop the XC9002 – their initial effort (left) was a rather bluff-fronted proposal and was rejected by BMC because it would prove needlessly complex (look at the tops of the doorframes, for instance) and therefore, expensive to produce. On the right, the second Pininfarina proposal of what is now known as the ADO16, which eventually was given the nod for production by higher management. The front styling treatment was offered in two forms and it was this version that would prove to offer the best final solution.

After the first Longbridge built prototype had been completed, detailed development was handed over to Morris Motors chief engineer, Charles Griffin who was heading a team including engineers such as Alan Webb, Bob Shirley, Reg Job and Alan Parker and was based at Cowley. It was Griffin who would successfully blend Issigonis’ functional engineering, Pininfarina’s style and attractive interior ergonomics. Alec Issigonis would maintain a watching brief, visiting Cowley every Thursday. It was Reg Job, project engineer for both the Morris Minor and ADO16, who designed the swan neck opening mechanism for the 1100’s boot.

The original prototype was fitted with the 948cc A-Series engine, then fitted longitudinally to the Morris Minor. Griffin was appalled with the lack of torque from the engine and other features of the car. He appealed directly to the vice chairman of BMC, George Harriman to get the authorisation to get things rectified. Griffin got the green light to use hydrolastic suspension and the development of an enlarged A-Series engine. By lengthening the stroke to 83.72 mm, the A-Series engine was enlarged to 1098cc and this was combined with a new cylinder head design, the 12G202, which had larger inlet valves, to boost power from 37bhp at 4750 rpm to 48bhp at 5100 rpm.

Torque went up from 50lb ft at 2500rpm to 60lb ft at 2500 rpm. Both the 12G202 cylinder head and the remote gear change that also featured on the ADO16, were previewed on the original 997cc Mini Cooper that was unveiled in the autumn of 1961. The ADO16 would also be the first BMC car in production with Alex Moulton’s Hydrolastic suspension, which had not been perfected in time for the launch of the Mini in 1959. According to Charles Griffin, Issigonis was not a supporter of Hydrolastic suspension at first. Interviewed by Graham Robson in the October 1997 issue of MINI magazine, Griffin said of the early stages of Hydrolastic development.

‘The first Hydrolastic types actually had a central fluid chamber – a ‘cheese’ we called it – under the seats, with pipes going in all directions. It was noisy and very harsh – a cat’s eye bump sounded much worse inside the cabin. The next version had displacers at each wheel, but it wasn’t until we put rubber in the suspension linkage that we got rid of the harshness.’

While Morris Motors at Cowley was responsible for the body and mechanicals, the interior was designed by the Longbridge Styling Department headed by Dick Burzi, the Argentinean born exile from Mussolini’s Italy. According to Jonathan Wood’s excellent book , Alec Issigonis: The Man Who Made The Mini, the fitment of disc brakes to the ADO16 was opposed by Issigonis.

Issigonis was quoted as regarding disc brakes as: ‘…fashionable: the things to have. I was not particularly in favour of them.’

The instigation for the disc brakes had according to Issigonis, come from, ‘…the management, even though it was the more expensive thing to do.’ One presumes the management were acting on a request from Charles Griffin. Anybody working on an ADO16, then and now will notice there is much more room in the engine bay than both the Mini and the later ADO17. This may have aided servicing, but it was not intentional. BMC had been working on a new generation of engine designs, a V4 and a V6 derivative intended to replace all the companies engine designs in one swoop. And the ADO16 was one of those new cars in development that V4 was intended for. Since the late 1950’s BMC had been working on a Lancia inspired 18 degree V4. The V4 used a toothed rubber belt to drive a centrally mounted camshaft and was experimentally produced in both 1100cc and 2-litre variants.

When questioned why the V4 project was abandoned, Alec Issigonis stated that they had been, ‘thrown away because it didn’t fit in with our design philosophy… Cars must be smaller but the ‘living room’ increased. When we started work on the V4 we were using north-south engines but since we have switched to east-west in our small cars the V4 no longer fits in with our concept because an inline engine takes up less room fitted in that way.’

Senior Longbridge engineer Eric Bareham later confirmed that the V4 was for inline installation only, and that for front wheel drive it would have required a transmission layout similar to that of the later Triumph 1300 FWD car. When the A-Series engine proved capable of enlargement to 1098cc, the V4 idea was dropped.

In marketing the car, BMC’s policy of badge engineering would be taken to its logical conclusion. This may have been to Leonard Lord’s liking, but it also highlighted a political situation that had been brewing between the competing dealer networks since the practice had re-started in earnest in the late Fifties. Lord entered semi-retirement, to be replaced by George Harriman, just before the launch of ADO16 in the autumn of 1962.

In marketing the car, BMC’s policy of badge engineering would be taken to its logical conclusion. This may have been to Leonard Lord’s liking, but it also highlighted a political situation that had been brewing between the competing dealer networks since the practice had re-started in earnest in the late Fifties. Lord entered semi-retirement, to be replaced by George Harriman, just before the launch of ADO16 in the autumn of 1962.

By this time, the marketing situation had descended into a slanging match between the competing networks of Austin and the former Nuffield Group (Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley). The situation was getting worse rather than better because the Nuffield Group dealer principals were looking at what Austin’s dealers had to offer, and could see that the latter had a more complete range of cars to sell.

Rather than tackling these issues head-on – something that really should have been done years previously – Harriman acceded to the wishes of the Nuffield dealers, and agreed to release ADO16 just as a Morris model initially. An Austin version would appear only after a sufficiently long delay. This sop to the dealers may have seemed like a good idea at the time as a way of pacifying any dissenting voices, but it undoubtedly cost BMC sales and therefore meant that ADO16 had a slower start in life than would otherwise have been the case. On the production side of things – there was a side-benefit to this, in that a completely new model was fed onto the market in one basic form, from one factory, thus helping the ‘running in’ process a bit, and simplifying the handling of initial teething troubles.

In the days before Scoop photographs would become a part of everyday motoring Journalism, Motor Sport  magazine published these photographs in October 1960, as sent in by a reader. It is obviously an early  fully-engineered ADO16 prototype. Differences between this and the final version are abundant: Fuel filler  location is on the offside of the car, rear lamp clusters resemble earlier prototypes - and the frontal  treatment is slightly different, particularly resembling the ADO16 prototype (above).

In the days before Scoop photographs would become a part of everyday motoring Journalism, Motor Sport magazine published these photographs in October 1960, as sent in by a reader. It is obviously an early fully-engineered ADO16 prototype. Differences between this and the final version are abundant: Fuel filler location is on the offside of the car, rear lamp clusters resemble earlier prototypes – and the frontal treatment is slightly different, particularly resembling the ADO16 prototype (above).

The first semi-official acknowledgement that something new from BMC was on the way came on 8 January 1962. To offset rumours to the contrary, BMC announced that the Morris Minor 1000 was to continue in production for some time to come. The rumours had been current for best part of a year that first that the Morris Minor was to be restyled and renamed the Major, and more recently that it would appear with transversely mounted engine and front-wheel drive, as a larger version of the Mini.

The Minor was a profitable car for BMC and management was reluctant to see it go. It would not be the only BMC car to remain in production after a successor had been introduced. Its presentation only served to take volume away from ADO16 production. Production of the Morris 1100 began in March 1962 at Cowley, perhaps the most militant plant in the BMC empire.

The 1100 is launched

So, on 15 August 1962, a mere three years after the appearance of the Mini, the Morris 1100 was launched. The location for the launch was Worcester College during the summer break, where the foreign press stayed – and Alec Issigonis was in attendance. BMC claimed that 10,000 ADO16s had already been built and that every Morris dealer in the world had an example. A photograph of Lord Nuffield himself posing with a Morris 1100 was issued to the press. He was to die the following year.

Alec Issigonis told Basil Cardew of the Daily Express: ‘We have tried to produce a good looking, functional car – while cutting out as far as possible the risk of things going wrong. My main plan was to design a motorcar to travel as efficiently as possible from A to B, with full comfort over really rough roads. The world will decide whether we have succeeded’

The American Time magazine also quoted Mr Issigonis as saying: ‘My job is not to design fashion accessories or status symbols, but motorcars—things that travel as efficiently as possible from A to B. A car should take its shape from the engineering that goes into it.’

If the trade and the public had treated Mini with a certain amount of suspicion, they had no such reservations about the 1100 and immediately took the car to their hearts, despite the fact that, like the Mini, it was not the most reliable car in its class; not by a long chalk. In the years following the Suez Crisis, the British car market had changed dramatically, with demand for small cars increasing hugely. This had the effect of shifting the centre point of the market downwards. Through a combination of luck and good judgment, the Morris 1100 hit this sector of the market square on.

On 7 September 1962 CAB2 at Longbridge came into operation. The first car off the line was an Austin A40, the kind of car that BMC should have axed when the ADO16 came on stream, but was allowed to linger on. CAB2 was part of BMC’s expansion programme to increase its theoretical production capacity from 750,000 to 1 million vehicles a year. Later in the month saw the launch of the Ford Cortina, which was Dagenham’s impeccably costed car aimed at the all important fleet market. Even its steering wheel had been redesigned four times to bring it in under budget.

Whereas the ADO16 was initially available only with an 1100cc engine, take it or leave it, the Cortina came with 1200cc or 1500cc options. These two cars, which would battle for sales supremacy for the rest of the decade, represented two opposing camps. The ADO16 employed advanced technology to attract buyers, the Cortina employed market research and simple mechanicals to aid reliability and servicing. And because it was costed so perfectly, it was profitable enough for its makers to fund its replacement. These cars were considered direct rivals, offering similar accommodation and performance.

The badge engineered versions followed thick and fast in good BMC tradition, but it is probably fair to say that along with the 1958 Farina saloons, the practice reached its peak with the ADO16.

The badge engineered versions followed thick and fast in good BMC tradition, but it is probably fair to say that along with the 1958 Farina saloons, the practice reached its peak with the ADO16.

The first to follow on from the Morris version was the twin-carburettor MG 1100, launched on 2nd October 1962, which was more good news for the Nuffield group dealers. The MG 1100 used a new design of cylinder head, the 12G295, the first fruit of BMC’s relationship with Downton Engineering of Wiltshire, whose boss Daniel Richmond had become a consultant to BMC.

The 12G295 had more open combustion chambers than previous designs. This was enough to boost peak power to 55bhp at 5500 rpm. A short stroke 998cc version of this engine would go into the Mini Cooper in 1964. Such was the demand for the Morris 1100, that a waiting list soon built up, despite Cowley having a relatively strike free run in late 1962.

MG 11oo

MG 11oo

At the BMC annual general meeting in December 1962 one share holder was vocal in his criticism. Mr Osborn Bartram, of Corsham, Wiltshire, told the board: ‘I suppose you are satisfied with progress during the past year. But many of us who are ordinary shareholders are not satisfied. For one of the primary industries in the country, the service one gets as a customer is extremely poor.

I inquire about the new Morris 1100 and am given a vague delivery promise of three months. I am not interested in that. I want the car now, otherwise I go and get a Ford.’

Mr Bartram may have had good cause to feel angry as it was not until February 1963 that a night shift started at Cowley to produce an extra 800 ADO16s a week. This was achieved by ending the Morris Minor night shift. This had first been mooted in November the previous year, but negotiations with the trade unions delayed the introduction of an ADO16 nightshift until February 1963. Also that month the first Morris 1100 was produced in New Zealand. On 18 April 1963 Alec Issigonis, BMC’s technical director was appointed to the companies board, the same day as it was announced that Innocenti of Milan would build the ADO16 as the IM3.

Issigonis was quoted as saying: ‘They were, enthusiastic about the car and all told me it will do very well in ltaly.’

On 7 May 1963, The Times reported: ‘Production of the Morris 1100 saloon at the British Motor Corporation’s Cowley plant has reached 3750 a week, and is expected to be 4500 a week by mid-summer, but some customers have been waiting for nine months and demand at home and abroad is still mounting, a spokesman of the corporation said yesterday.

‘About 40% of the cars are being exported, assembly has begun at the Innocenti works in Italy, and nearly 70,000 models have been produced since their introduction last August. Output of the Mini is running at 5500 a week, out of a total car production figure by the corporation of 15,000. This is the full capacity rate for the firm at present, but by the end of 1963, when its £49m expansion programme is complete, total vehicle output will have reached 20,000 a week, or one million a year.’

In July 1963, the Daily Express reported that BMC’s Cowley factory had suffered 134 strikes in the first five months of that year. No wonder customers were waiting for their Morris 1100s. By August, BMC’s chairman George Harriman was stating to the press that the ADO16 would be in production for at least ten years. This, he said, would give the additional advantage that the customer’s investment was not swept away by a new version coming out within a year or so of his purchase. This was a script that could have been written by the technical director himself and shows how much influence Issigonis had over the BMC chairman. Harriman added that in the year since the introduction of the ADO16, production of Morris and MG 1100s had passed the 110,000 mark and was running at 4000 a week. Of these, 44% were being exported. Demand still greatly exceeded supply, but by November they would be producing 6000 a week in their different versions.

Harriman repeated the Issigonis mantra to The Guardian newspaper, saying: ‘People want a functional car with the smallest overall package but the largest space inside. Not to big, but it must be the latest in line and in mechanics.’

By August 1963 CAB2 at Longbridge was in full operation with a capacity of 2500 cars a week. It increased the capacity of the factory from 8000 to 10,500 vehicles a week. The new building, which was for paint, trim, finishing, and final assembly, was one of the biggest single contributions to BMC’s expansion plans under which productive capacity was planned to rise to one million vehicles a year. Initial production began in the glass sided, 960ft long building earlier that year and a proportion of Morris 1100s had been produced there to supplement output at Cowley. Full production on both assembly conveyors each capable of dealing with 1250 cars a week, was now within reach.

Bodies were brought into the building after going through a preliminary rust-proofing process, automatically lifted to the body storage balcony, and were not man-handled again until the car was driven off the end of the assembly line. In the intervening time they were moved automatically on conveyors or slung on overhead conveyors on which a total of £750,000 had been spent. After assembly the cars were subjected to a wind and water test, equivalent to driving down a motorway at 40mph in a heavy storm. When the car was driven on rollers, water was directed on to it from all angles, driven by an artificial gale. This was in addition to the various inspections carried out at stations along the conveyor.

Mr WH Cross, superintendent of the car assembly planning department, said at the time: ‘We think this new building will apply the most searching quality checks that have ever been known in motor vehicle manufacture.’

The Austin version of the ADO16 was launched a year after the original Morris 1100, on 6 September 1963. Production of the BMC 1100 was now running at 5500 a week, and coupled with a weekly output of 6000 Minis. Although the two Issigonis designed cars were related, only 10% of parts were common to both vehicles. An upwards move came in October that year with the announcement of the Vanden Plas Princess version. In 1962, Fred Connolly (of Connolly leather) had privately commissioned Vanden Plas to produce an upmarket 1100, and BMC recognized the potential for cashing in on the fad for plush small cars, started by companies like Wood & Pickett and Radford with their over-the-top converted Minis.

BMC figured that the ADO16 was a far more realistic starting point for the wood and leather treatment than the Mini was, and so the luxury version was born. The concept of a more luxurious small family car proved popular with the car-buying public, and a couple of years later, the middle class Wolseley 1100 and Riley Kestrel versions appeared in quick succession. Eventually, no fewer than six variations on the ADO16 theme appeared, all sharing the basic body shell and only differing in front-end styling and trim – badge engineering gone mad, perhaps, but it did not hinder sales one bit.

Demand for the ADO16 continued to grow, and so did its worldwide appeal. On 17 February 1964, the Morris 1100 was launched in Australia. By 20 February, BMC was boasting that it had built 1 million front wheel drive cars, consisting of 782,838 Minis and 219,291 ADO16 cars. Of the total, 325,441, or 32.5%, were exported. The combined weekly production of both vehicles was 11,350 with demand still exceeding production.

In March 1964, BMC announced the Mini Cooper 1275S with its specialised 76bhp 1275cc engine which produced 79lb ft of torque at 3000 rpm. The 1275S engine used a completely redesigned block in comparison with the earlier A-Series units, had a larger bore and used expensive materials. Any hopes by BMC salesmen that this engine would find its way into the ADO16 were dashed, although Speedwell did market the 1300GT in 1965, an ADO16 fitted with a 1275S engine tweaked to deliver 90bhp at 6500rpm.

In trying to satisfy demand for the ADO16, BMC was plagued by stoppages, the causes both internal and external. In the 12 months to September 1964 the Cowley plant alone experienced 254 unofficial strikes which caused 750,000 lost man-hours. On 19 October, BMC stated that it intended to continue manufacturing both the Morris Minor and Austin A40, which had weekly production figures of 1100 and 820 respectively. By now total Mini and ADO16 production was more than half BMC’s weekly output, but the Corporation was reluctant to free up more production capacity by axing two models that now seemed like cars from a bygone era.

In September 1965, the Wolseley 1100 and Riley Kestrel appeared. As well as the upmarket wood trim they were fitted with the 55bhp 1098cc MG 1100 engine. This was followed the following month by the announcement that automatic transmission would be available for the ADO16 and Mini. The all-British system was designed by the Automotive Products Group and developed with BMC over the previous 18 months – the joint investment amounting to £3m. It was the first marriage of an automatic transmission to a transverse engine – achieved by putting it in the sump-and the world’s smallest automatic with a torque converter replacing the clutch.

By this time both Issigonis cars were also being assembled in Portugal. Weekly British output of Mini and ADO16 was now reported as being between 11,000 to 12,000.

A case of limited development

Estate version was just as stylish as the saloon: Practical and compact, it made a very appealing  package. According to Dr Alex Moulton's own records from the time period, electrical self-levelling  suspension was always intended for this model...

Estate version was just as stylish as the saloon: Practical and compact, it made a very appealing package. According to Dr Alex Moulton’s own records from the time period, electrical self-levelling suspension was always intended for this model…

The estate version of the 1100 appeared in March 1966, marking the end of any serious development of the car. This version was just as stylish and compact as the saloon, but was also a practical load carrier, making it a very appealing package. It carved itself a nice little niche in the market, but was saddled with one significant design flaw: a propensity for the tail to droop markedly under any loading. Unlike Citroën’s more complex fluid suspension system, the Moulton Hydrolastic design with its front/rear interconnection had no self-levelling capability, and this compromised the car’s competence as a serious load carrier. Way back in 1962, Moulton has been asked to devise self-levelling for the hydrolastic system, and came up with an electrically controlled system for the ADO61 – Moulton’s notes show that he thought this would be a good proposition for the ADO16 Traveller. Unfortunately, it was never incorporated in the small car.

Whatever the disadvantages of BMC’s marketing-led development programme for ADO16, it certainly did not hinder the car’s sales. The ADO16 in all its six incarnations was soon being built in larger numbers than any other BMC car, either before or afterwards. By 1965 – the year that all variations of the car were put on sale, and when it was at the absolute zenith of its career – the ADO16 took an exceptional 14.3% of the UK car market and was firmly established as the country’s best selling car.

On 9 June 1966, Joe Edwards became BMC’s managing director, relieving Sir George Harriman of some of his day to day responsibilities. The following month, it was announced that BMC was to increase output of the ADO16 range at Cowley by 480 a week to a total at Cowley and Longbridge of more than 7000 a week. About 200 extra workers were to be engaged. Unfortunately for BMC the government shortly afterwards decided to introduce some deflationary measures into the economy and inflict a credit squeeze, which was to drastically but demand for new cars, and the plan was cancelled.

Very soon 30,000 BMC workers were on short time working and by the autumn of 1966 the company announced that it was to make 10,000 employees redundant as part of Joe Edwards rationalisation plan. However a drivers strike resulted in completed cars being stockpiled at BMC’s plants until there was no longer room for any more vehicles, resulting in the car giant having no alternative but to shut down all car manufacturing until the dispute was resolved. BMC received considerable negative publicity during this period. From this point selling the ADO16 became harder.

Introduction of the larger Cortina Mk2 saw the end of the direct Ford/BMC rivalry in the middle-market.

Introduction of the larger Cortina Mk2 saw the end of the direct Ford/BMC rivalry in the middle-market.

In October 1966 the Ford Cortina Mk2 was announced, marking the end of the direct competition with ADO16: not only was this Cortina a physically larger package, but also the entry-level engine was now 1.3-litres as opposed to the 1.2-litres of its predecessor. Hindsight would suggest that Ford had read the market better, correctly predicting the trend for larger, better-performing cars, whereas BMC had not.

The Mk2 Cortina impacted on ADO16 sales in the next year, becoming Britain’s best selling car in 1967, toppling the ADO16 from its perch. The industrial disputes in the autumn of 1966 and sales success of the Cortina Mk2 saw ADO16 production slump alarmingly from 238,359 in 1965/66 to 160,097 in 1966/67, while Mini production held up well, suggesting that the ADO16 was now in decline.

On 19 October 1966, BMC announced the Mk3 MG Midget/Mk4 Austin Healey Sprite. These new sports car variants introduced at long last a productionised 1275cc engine using cheaper materials although the block was different from the ‘S’ engine. The new engine featured the 12G940 cylinder head designed by Daniel Richmond of Downton Engineering.

Morris 1100 Mk2

Morris 1100 Mk2

In March 1967, the ADO16 passed the one million production mark, about the same time that BMC decided to facelift both the Mini and ADO16 and introduce MK2 versions of their bestsellers at the October London Motor Show. Unfortunately BMC had left it rather late in the day and it was to result in more embarrassment for the beleaguered corporation. In April 1967 British Motor Holdings announced a disastrous £7.5 million half year loss to the end of January 1967

. BMH had evidently been hit far worse than was feared by a seemingly continuous round of strikes, and the strong measures of the July 1966 freeze-and-squeeze measures enforced by the government. The measures were introduced, as the company pointed out, just nine days before the start of its financial year. BMC was heavily hit in the last quarter of 1966 by strikes. In the first six months of its financial year to the end of January 1967, BMC produced 23% fewer cars, compared with a decline in home registrations of 15%.

It claimed to have raised its penetration of the home market from 35% to 39% in August and September, though this slipped from 39% to 27% in the final three months. Both the Mini and ADO16 were cars heavily dependent on high production volumes to pay their way and BMC were missing their production targets by quite a margin. Only a fortnight after BMH announced their poor financial performance, Sir Donald Stokes Leyland Motor Corporation were reporting record business. This set minds in Whitehall thinking…

BMC struggled through 1967, and during the summer, offered the 1275cc engine in the upmarket ADO16 models, MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas. The new engine was available initially only in single carburettor form, producing 58bhp at 5250rpm and 69lb ft at 3000rpm. On 17 October, BMC announced Mk2 ADO16, complete with standard Austin and Morris 1300s joining the existing 1100 range.

Braking was improved to cope with the extra power by fitting larger diameter single caliper discs. On the 1300 and automatic 1100, these reduced pedal effort by 15%, but increased brake lining life by 70%. Other comfort and safety aids included a new combination switch for direction indicators, headlamp flasher, dipper and horn. The 11 Austin and Morris models were available in two- or four-door, de luxe and super de luxe form or as estates. Wolseley, Riley Kestrel, MG. and Vanden Plas Princess models were all four-door saloons. Styling changes on the ADO16 range included a much bolder grille, vented wheels, and neater rear lights to meet new international regulations. There were side repeaters for the indicators, while inside they had new seating (with reclining seats optional on all models), better door trim, window winders, catches and carpets and redesigned dashboard.

Unfortunately, BMC even managed to sour this experience, because although this engine upgrade was desperately needed across the range, it was initially offered only to the upmarket models – it was almost a year before Austin and Morris were able to offer the up gunned engine option.

 Austin 1100 Traveller interior demonstrates perfectly the minimalist approach favoured by Alec Issigonis.  This was a continuation of the philosophy behind the Mini and, before that, the Morris Minor. The strip  speedometer found in the Austin versions was a favourite of Issigonis, although he would have been  keener on an even slimmer version, as found in the 1800 and 9X.

Austin 1100 Traveller interior demonstrates perfectly the minimalist approach favoured by Alec Issigonis. This was a continuation of the philosophy behind the Mini and, before that, the Morris Minor. The strip speedometer found in the Austin versions was a favourite of Issigonis, although he would have been keener on an even slimmer version, as found in the 1800 and 9X.

If that sounds like harsh treatment of the UK customer base by an arrogant company, one could be forgiven for thinking that, but this was not entirely the case: There were supply problems with the 1275cc A-Series engine to begin with, because its engine block was different to the 1100cc version, it was machined on different production lines. The entire period would prove to be chaotic for the company because of the need to phase in the 1275cc in different states of tune and the all-synchomesh gearbox, while still maintaining high production levels to meet the high demand. Full details of the changes to the ADO16 range below.

Also in October 1967, BMC hired from Ford as their new director of styling, Roy Haynes, who was also a product planner. Hired by Joe Edwards, this was a sign that senior management were no longer prepared to accept that Alec Issigonis’s viewpoint was gospel and that design and engineering staff would have more latitude in their work.

1966 Morris advertisement picture showing the benefits of interconnected suspension: look at the rear  wheels in relation to the front - 'The front wheel is tucked well up; the rear wheel is down. The car stays  level. That goes for you too'. So the copy went, anyway...... For once, the benefits of interconnection had  not been lost on the car buying public, who took the ADO16 to their collective hearts in huge numbers.

1966 Morris advertisement picture showing the benefits of interconnected suspension: look at the rear wheels in relation to the front – ‘The front wheel is tucked well up; the rear wheel is down. The car stays level. That goes for you too’. So the copy went, anyway…… For once, the benefits of interconnection had not been lost on the car buying public, who took the ADO16 to their collective hearts in huge numbers. Perhaps, the flat ride, keen handling and accurate steering seduced buyers, who up to this point had been used to much more primitive systems.

Upgrading the range to 1.3-litres – how not to do it…

Summer 1967: Single-carb, 58bhp 1275cc engine speculatively fitted to the four up-market models (MG, Wolseley, Riley, VP) but still with original body-style; these cars were badged ‘1275’.

October 1967: ‘Mark II’ bodywork (with cropped rear fins) introduced on all ADO16s except the estates, which always retained the original rear design. At the same time, the 1300 version was formally introduced (still with the 58bhp 1275cc engine) in all six marques (so at this time, the MG version was no faster than any other – probably slightly slower due to its extra metalwork). All 1100 models, which were produced with the revised bodywork, were known as 1100 MkIIs, but with the 1300s, the Austin and Morris versions were called MkII (even though there had never been a previous 1300 version) while the four upmarket models did without the mark designation at this stage.

March 1968: Austin America introduced, for sale only in US, Canada and Switzerland. Fitted with a de-toxed 60bhp version of the 1275cc engine and 4-speed auto transmission. According to one insider, BMH deliberately lost money on this derivative in order to maintain the UK’s balance of payments!

April 1968: Twin-carb, 68bhp 1275cc engine fitted to the MG and Riley models; Wolseley gets twin-carb, 65bhp unit, while VP retains single-carb, 58bhp unit; still no mark designation applied

October 1968: The four upmarket models officially become MkIIs (!), with the MG and Riley models getting a 70bhp version of the 1275cc engine, while the Wolseley kept its 65bhp version; VP now got 65bhp version too (or 60bhp with auto transmission).

Autumn 1969: Austin and Morris 1300GT models introduced, also getting the 70bhp engine.

This slow build-up of the 1300 versions was another sign of the malaise within BMC at the time, and when dealers could not supply cars for buyers, it all smacked of arrogance and mismanagement within the company – of course the management would have loved to have supplied demand for their products, but were unable to. Unfortunately getting hold of a MK2 1100 was also proving difficult.

On 2 November 1967 the Times reported: ‘Because of a shortage of components, production of the British Motor Corporation’s 1100 models at Longbridge. Birmingham. will come to a halt today. About 3000 workers will be affected. Yesterday afternoon 1500 on the day shift were laid off until tomorrow morning and another 1500 were due to be sent home at the end of the night shift until Monday night.’

Clifford Webb in the Times reported in more detail the next day: ‘With 3000 men laid off and the Austin 1100 and 1300 lines brought to a standstill by a shortage of components, union officials and men at BMC’s Longbridge plant reacted strongly yesterday to what one union spokesman described as, ‘yet another example of bad production planning by BMC.’ A token force of the men laid off staged a walk-in yesterday morning. Some of them carried banners proclaiming, ‘Harriman Out… The Lads In’. It was the second demonstration this week by men laid off. The men were especially critical of management for allowing production to be held up by a shortage of components.

‘Where is all this so-called new management approach we have been hearing so much about lately,’ they demanded, a cry echoed by George Evans, district organizer of the National Union of Vehicle Builders. ‘He told me bluntly: ‘It’s the old, old story at BMC. Yet another example of bad production planning’.’

In reply a BMC spokesman said: ‘On the contrary this has been one of the best new model changeover periods we have had for some time and certainly better than some of our competitors, have managed. Changing over to new models is always a delicately balanced and extremely complex affair. The present trouble has been blown up out of all proportion. When the last of the men laid off returned to work on Monday they will have lost in all less than three shifts.’

Webb continued: ‘My own inquiries into the causes of the latest stoppage reveal two main causes of delay, radiator grilles and engine blocks. Hundreds of new cars are being stockpiled at Longbridge without grilles. These were redesigned as part of the facelift for the Minis and 1100s and are largely supplied by one of BMC’s own companies, Morris Radiators. The engine block problem was far more serious. In recent weeks about 800 blocks have been rejected because they did not reach required standards of quality. I understand the great majority were rejected because of blow holes in the castings. The castings are supplied partly from within the group and partly from outside. The remarkable thing is however that rejects from both sources rose alarmingly at the same time. But last night there was news of an even more serious threat to production caused this time by a strike at one of BMC’s major suppliers, Birmingham Aluminium Casting at Smethwick.’

Hiss enquiries were correct. BMC had decided too late in the day to facelift both the Mini and ADO16. Unfortunately this was insufficient time for its suppliers to tool up and produce adequate quantities of components in order to meet demand for the revised models. Also in short supply were tail lamps. During November 1967 there were also disputes at Longbridge and Pressed Steel Fisher and some 7000 workers were laid off. While all this was going on, merger negotiations were now becoming serious between BMH and the Leyland Motor Corporation, overseen by an interested party, Harold Wilson’s government. It must have seemed to those in government circles at the time that BMH could do nothing right and Leyland could do no wrong, and indeed BMC’s stockpile of incomplete cars would get a lot bigger before the component bottleneck was resolved.

What’s more, BMC failed to deliver the kind of upgraded version of the car that the market so desperately wanted. A hatchback version, dubbed YDO15, had been running as a prototype by mid-1966, but the company decided, for whatever reason, that it was not a car for the UK market and so – criminally – ignored this opportunity for expansion.

Of course we don’t know if BMC ever tried installing the larger B-Series powertrain to the ADO16, it surely would have fitted?

It appears that BMC’s preferred solution to fill the gap between the ADO16 and ADO17 1800, and take on Ford’s Cortina, was the car known to the press as the BMC 1500 and internally as the ADO14, later produced as the Austin Maxi. Instead of up gunning the ADO16, the factories response was to spend millions on an entirely new car. On 20 November 1967, the axe finally came down on the Austin A40, as part of Joe Edwards’ rationalisation, freeing up some more production capacity at Longbridge.

YDO15 development prototype based on the ADO16 showed that the BMC 1100 was an ideal recipient  for sensible upward expansion. Production versions were built in Australia (known as the Morris Nomad);  but for some inexplicable reason (styling, perhaps, which was not as happy as the saloon or Traveller),  it was not deemed suitable for the domestic market.

YDO15 development prototype based on the ADO16 showed that the BMC 1100 was an ideal recipient for sensible upward expansion. Production versions were built in Australia (known as the Morris Nomad); but for some inexplicable reason (styling, perhaps, which was not as happy as the saloon or Traveller), it was not deemed suitable for the domestic market.

In January 1968 the formation of BLMC was announced, although the deal was far from settled. By the following month, the stockpile of incomplete BMC cars had reached the staggering figure of 51,000, mainly Minis and ADO16s. When Leyland Finance director John Barber travelled to Longbridge on the 14 February, he noticed incomplete cars were being stored on every spare piece of ground. By the 4 May, the stockpile had been reduced to 26,000 vehicles, but to the men from Leyland and the government, the whole episode of the MK2 Mini and ADO16 launch that never was, was a prime example of BMC incompetence – and demonstrated why a clean sweep of management was desirable.

When production and sales of the 1275cc versions of the car were finally up to speed, the lift in sales of the range as a whole was apparent for all to see. In 1967/68 production increased to a record 249,500 and 1968/1969 production of 247,138 was only slightly down on that. In 1968 the ADO16 reclaimed the number one spot as Britain’s best selling car. 1969 (the first full year of Leyland management at Longbridge) was a year of generally poor sales in the UK, yet ADO16 managed to maintain its domination of the sales charts, grabbing 13.8% of the market.

After five years in production and scant running development, work finally got underway on a replacement for the ADO16. Or rather, the more appealing idea of refining the product and bringing its style up to date: initially this development work, headed by Charles Griffin, centred on updating the Hydrolastic suspension set-up to give a smoother ride, and so improved subframes and mountings were developed, which also incorporated lessons learned from the ill-fated ADO61 project. The new car was dubbed the ADO22 and the project moved along quickly once it had been defined – road going mules were built and the results of the revisions to the suspension system were a vast improvement over the existing car.

By the beginning of 1968, BMH had the mechanical revisions fully tooled-up for production, but the style of the body was still to be signed off. In the meantime, British Leyland had been created, and Joe Edwards was the first casualty – in April 1968. On 22nd May 1968, Roy Haynes wrote to John Barber, one of the new Leyland senior managers, with his ideas for a simple rear wheel saloon to take on the Ford Cortina, which evolved into the Morris Marina. When Harry Webster arrived at Longbridge, heralding the arrival of Leyland, he asked Michelotti to produce a face-lifted version of the ADO16, which would have incorporated Charles Griffin’s technical changes. The results certainly looked promising, but the entire ADO22 project was shelved on the grounds of costs – and the fact that the basic design was now six years old, and in the mind of Webster, this was far too old a design to base a new car on.

There was also a feeling within Austin-Morris, that the new regime wanted to disassociate itself with the past – and as a result, Webster moved whole scale towards a new, cheaper to produce car, the Austin Allegro

Proposal for the ADO22 shows an evolution of the ADO16 look: would it have remained competitive  during the hard-fought '70s? This is a question that we are unable to answer, but one thing is for  sure: it would probably not have encountered the buyer-resistance that the Allegro encountered in 1973.

Proposal for the ADO22 shows an evolution of the ADO16 look: would it have remained competitive during the hard-fought ’70s? This is a question that we are unable to answer, but one thing is for sure: it would probably not have encountered the buyer-resistance that the Allegro encountered in 1973.

From September 1968, it was all change, as Sir George Harriman bowed out as chairman of British Leyland, to be replaced by Sir Donald Stokes. The rump of the old BMC became the Austin Morris division of BLMC, under managing director George Turnbull, who like Harry Webster was a Standard-Triumph import. These were the men who would now preside over the ADO16’s future.

On 30 September 1968 the ADO16 became available with an all synchromesh gearbox, something the Ford Cortina had had from launch. In October 1968, at the Turin motor show, Pininfarina exhibited a stylish car based on ADO16 mechanicals, similar to the previous year’s 1800 Aerodynamica. Unfortunately Pininfarina’s close relationship with BMC was now over and the new men at British Leyland was not so receptive to his ideas.

Too little, too late?

In June 1969, antipodean car buyers got the kind of car denied to European car buyers, the YDO9 Morris Nomad and the YDO15 Morris 1500. The Morris Nomad was an ADO16 style five-door hatchback designed at Longbridge in conjunction with Australian engineers. Fitted with the E-Series 1485cc engine with a manual four speed gearbox or A-Series 1275cc engine with automatic transmission. The Morris 1500 was simply the saloon version of the Nomad. Both the 1500 versions had a bonnet bulge to accommodate the tall E-Series engine. Presumably it was not sold in Europe to avoid harming sales of the newly launched Austin Maxi..

By this time, total ADO16 production had reached 1.5 million and it held 14.6% of the UK new car market. In July 1969, BLMC announced that it was axing the Riley marque, which meant the end of the road for the Riley Kestrel; although the last Riley of all was in fact produced in October. Austin Morris Managing Director George Turnbull was quoted as saying: ‘We are not contemplating taking action with any other marques in the foreseeable future… The decision to drop the Riley marque has not been taken lightly and is based on sound economic and business considerations. Very few Riley cars are exported and the substitution of export marques will help our overall effort, and assist us to achieve maximum effectiveness as a car-producer.’

Events were now moving fast, on 19 September 1969, the BLMC board approved the styling of the ADO67. At the same time BLMC were announcing the modernisation of the Cowley plant in preparation for the arrival of their Cortina beater, the Morris Marina.

Austin 1300GT

October 1969 saw the announcement of the Austin and Morris 1300GT. This was basically an Austin/Morris saloon fitted with a 70bhp MG 1300 engine and designed to appeal to younger, sportier buyers. It also retailed cheaper than an MG 1300 which also helped. The MG 1300/1300GT engine used the big valve 12G940 cylinder head also found on the Mini Cooper S for an extra 5bhp over the Wolseley 1300 and the Spridget sports car.

One of the factors that made the ADO16 so appealing was its uniqueness on the market, it looked attractive and was both enjoyable and easy to drive, a benefit of front wheel drive, with near Mini-like handling combined with a Tardis like interior, which made it a far more viable family car than the Mini. In short, it was user friendly. While Ford concentrated on sewing the profitable seam of the fleet market, continental manufacturers looked on enviously at the ADO16’s success in selling to European buyers, who before the Mini had been offered a diet of mechanical stodge from BMC.

The first major player to respond to the BMC was Fiat with the 128. Like the Mini and ADO16, the 128 had a transverse-mounted engine, however, the significant breakthrough with the 128 was the use of unequal length driveshafts which allowed the engine and gearbox to be located side by side, a layout which has since become ubiquitous for small cars. The 128 was voted European Car of the Year for 1970. The 128 was available with 1116cc and 1290cc engines, the same choice offered to ADO16 buyers; it was also the first car to feature the all-new Fiat SOHC engine, a design which was considerably advanced for its time, featuring an aluminium alloy cylinder head with a direct overhead camshaft driven by a rubber toothed belt. Mainstream production was to last a decade.

In January 1970, George Turnbull announced production of the ADO16 was to be stepped up with an extra 900 cars a week emerging from the company’s plants. Unfortunately, 1970 was a year plagued with industrial disputes, both internal and external. Then in September 1970 the Australian only Morris Nomad 1.5-litre and 1500 became available with a five speed gearbox.

The 27 April 1971 was launch day for the ADO28 Morris Marina and as BLMC’s policy was to market the Morris brand as conventional rear wheel drive cars and Austin as advanced technology, production of the Morris badged ADO16 saloons ceased ceased except for export. The Morris Traveller continued in production, but from now on all ADO16 production would be at the old Austin plant at Longbridge. At the time of the Marina’s launch the ADO16 was still holding an impressive 12% of the UK market. BLMC admitted they expected the Marina to take sales away from ADO16.

In July 1971 BLMC announced that ADO16 production had surpassed two million vehicles. Rather conveniently the corporation also claimed that it had produced its five millionth front wheel drive vehicle the same week. What was telling was the fact that at least 4.7 million of these were the Mini and ADO16, on which the profit margins were slim. George Turnbull, Harry Webster and Sir Alec Issigonis posed for the cameras.

On 31 August 1971, the MG 1300 was withdrawn from the UK market, although CKD kits were still exported until 1973. September 1971 came around, and with it the MK3 ADO16, now a much starker car. Featuring a revised matt Black grille. 1100 two door de luxe were models fitted with a single chrome bar, 1100 super de luxe and 1300 models were fitted with a cluster of three bars. A revised mock wood dashboard featuring two round dials was also fitted. The Austin America was discontinued. Like the contemporary MK3 Minis, the bean counters had been at work.

On 26 November 1971, the Austin Apache was launched in South Africa. This was a booted ADO16 complete with Michelotti makeover. During 1970/71 ADO16 production was 218,322, however in 1971/72 it slumped to 144,347, prompting motoring historians to observe that the apparent collapse in demand was due to BLMC’s inability to update the car. Of course, that does not take into account the fact that the UK ADO16 production was now only concentrated at Longbridge, which could not produce as many units as when it was in partnership with Cowley.

This effectively amounted to a deliberate cut in production. The Morris Marina had quite clearly impacted on ADO16 sales, as loyal Morris buyers could no longer purchase a new ADO16 saloon; but did have the opportunity to buy a shiny new Marina with both 1300 and 1800 engine options. In 1971/73 Marina production was 155,817 and the combined ADO16/Marina total is 300,164 revealing that in terms of volume, BLMC was overall gaining ground. And the Marina was probably more profitable. This seemed to have some effect.

In the 1969/70 financial year, Austin-Morris lost £16m; in 1971/72 it made a profit of £9m.

In April 1972 the Australian ADO16 Morris 1500 and Nomad were discontinued. However, large stockpiles meant that the cars were sold until mid 1972. Later that year, BLMC was forced to deny persistent reports that they were to replace the long-running 1100/1300 Austin range with a new car to be launched in the spring of 1973. Mr Filmer Paradise, director of sales for the Austin-Morris group, said: ‘I can tell you this is completely untrue. They will continue in production for a number of years from next spring whatever additional new models we may be introducing around that time.’

Austin-Morris was already known to be in the pre-production stage at its Longbridge, Birmingham, plant the ADO67, which would be sold through the Austin dealer network. The Morris Marina, introduced 16 months previously, was now the group’s best seller, replacing the 1100/1300 whose sales had dropped. Austin dealers unable to share in the Marina’s success were described as being in urgent need of a new model.

The Authi Victoria was a pleasant, if late, development of the ADO16.

The Authi Victoria was a pleasant, if late, development of the ADO16.

In October 1972, just to prove there was life in the old dog yet, the Austin Victoria was launched in Spain. Based around the Austin Apache, the frontal styling was given more attention and the car was fitted with twin headlamps. With the Allegro on the way, UK production of the ADO16 began to run down in 1973. In April 1973 the Wolseley 1300, Morris 1300 Traveller and MG 1300 CKD kits ceased production. Paradoxically while the ADO16 was fading away in the UK, at the same time Authi who built the car in Spain, was investigating yet another development of the existing car. At the Barcelona Motor Show of April 1973 Authi displayed an MG badged Victoria saloon complete with Downton tuned 83bhp 1275cc engine and all the contemporary mod cons. However problems within Authi and BLMC stopped the car from reaching production.

17 May 1973 was the day BLMC launched the Allegro. Clifford Webb wrote in the Times edition published that day: ‘One of the two 1100/1300 assembly tracks at Longbridge has been converted to Allegro production. When this reaches 2500 a week the second line will be changed over. By early next year the company hope to be producing in excess of 4000 Allegros a week. It is impossible to over emphasize the importance of Allegro to the fortunes of British Leyland. The C class sector now accounts for something like one million sales a year in Britain. ‘Two years ago Austin-Morris was taking up to 30% of this class. By March, 1972, they were down to 23% and in the first three months of this year had fallen to only 18%. This decline was due largely to falling demand for the 1100/1300 although inability to produce sufficient cars in boom conditions was a considerable contributing factor. Since the early 1960s the older model has been the backbone of Austin-Morris. Worldwide sales have exceeded 2.3m of which 1.3m were sold in the United Kingdom.

‘It has been United Kingdom market leader for seven of the 10 years since it was launched and for eight consecutive years held more than 10 per cent penetration. But during the past two years demand has become more concentrated on the top end of the C class sector with motorists insisting on 1500cc engines and above. At the same time they want higher standards of trim, increased passenger and luggage space, improved driving position and reduced noise levels. Despite umpteen facelifts the 10-year-old 1100/1300 was unable to meet these changing fashions.’

While attention now focused on the Allegro, overseas yet another ADO16 variant appeared. In South Africa the Austin Apache TC was launched with a twin carburettor 75bhp A-Series engine. It also had a vinyl roof, chrome side trims and was fitted with a three dial dashboard.

Another personality associated with the ADO16 departed the BLMC scene on 30 August 1973, when Austin Morris Sales director, Filmer Paradise, quit and was succeeded by his deputy, Bernard Bates. This was followed by George Turnbull’s resignation, from both the BLMC board and as managing director of Austin-Morris. It was no secret in the industry that he and fellow board member John Barber were rivals, and the latter now appeared as heir apparent to Lord Stokes. At Austin Morris, Turnbull was replaced by ex-BMC man, Richard Perry.

October 1973 brought the Yom Kippur war and a steep rise in oil prices, which was to affect the car market.

In January 1974 Charles Griffin, now director of advanced engineering at Austin Morris, instigated the ADO88 supermini project, later to evolve into the Metro. He stated to Graham Robson in 1997: ‘If you look at the Metro, you’ll see it has the same interior volume as the 1100, but it was only a few inches longer and very little wider than the Mini.’

However there is no record that BLMC ever investigated using the ADO16 platform as the basis for the corporations new supermini, as many pundits have suggested they should have. In February 1974, as Britain was plunged into the bleak darkness that was the three day week, the ADO16 Austin De Luxe was launched in Spain. Fitted with a 998cc 55bhp A-Series engine and a grille similar to that fitted to the Austin 1300. The state of tune of the engine suggest it was a Mini Cooper type unit, out of production in the UK since the end of 1969.

In April 1974 BLMC announced it was pruning the Austin Allegro range after disappointing sales. They were the two-door versions of the 1300 de luxe, the 1500 super de luxe and the 1750 sport. The company expected the greatest demand for the bigger engined Allegros, but this was not the case. In the first three months of 1974 it came seventh in the list of best-selling cars in Britain, a modest performance compared with its predecessor, the ADO16. Production at the time was recorded at running at only just over half the weekly capacity of 4500 to 5000 units. Clearly the Allegro had not clicked with car buyers, although BLMC put on a brave face. In mid June 1974, it was announced that Austin Morris Technical Director Harry Webster was leaving at the end of the month to join Automotive Products. It was claimed that he was unhappy after the departure of George Turnbull, but with the Allegro stuttering in the sales charts, maybe there was another reason?

The Ford Cortina, now in Mk3 guise, may have left the ADO16 behind in both size and sales, but it could be argued that the success of the ADO16 had created its own class, which the Fiat 128 joined in 1969. In May 1974, it was joined by another major player, twice the size of BLMC and also in financial trouble. Like the ADO16, it would have Italian styling and like the Allegro it was a make or break car for its manufacturer – the company was Volkswagen and the car was the Golf. Replacing the Beetle was a vital goal for Volkswagen’s continued survival.

By the early 1970s, the company had fallen into financial woe. The novelty of the Beetle had worn thin. Sales were in terminal decline. A new approach using front wheel drive was needed.

The Golf was styled by Italian automobile architect and designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, of the Ital Design design studio and also featured a hatchback. Giugiaro had also designed the AlfaSud and the Lotus Esprit, and unlike the Allegro, it looked just right. As well as 1100 and 1300cc engines, the Golf also featured 1500 and 1600cc engines mounted transversely with an end on gearbox. This was the car European buyers really wanted to replace their BLMC 1100/1300, not the Austin Allegro, and by mid 1975 Volkswagen were producing the Golf at a reported rate of 10,000 a week.

The end for UK production of the ADO16 came on 19 June 1974, when a Vanden Plas Princess 1300 left the Kingsbury plant, the last of a long line. This model had continued to sell well despite the end of mainstream 1100/1300 production. The final years of the ADO16 in the UK were not happy ones, British Leyland and its component suppliers were now hopelessly strike ridden and the economic abyss could not now be long delayed. In 1973 the corporation had announced a massive expansion plan, but it could not get its existing plants to work normally and to capacity.

While British Leyland hit the rocks in 1974, Authi in Spain discontinued production of the Austin Victoria, and in July 1975, SEAT took over the factory at Landaben. In May 1976, the Austin Apache 35 Automatic was launched in South Africa, but was discontinued in 1977, and that really was the end of the line for the ADO16, the last of at least 2,250,757 cars, making it second only to the Mini in terms of production numbers.

In Britain, the 1100/1300 series was Britain’s best selling car every year from 1963 to 1966, and 1968 to 1971. The exceptions being 1967 when the Ford Cortina Mk2 narrowly beat it, and then from 1972 onwards when production of the car was cut by the decision to concentrate assembly at Longbridge. The ADO16 was the nearest Britain got to producing a world car and in company with the Mini, it represented the high tide of the British motor industry.

But where BMC went wrong with ADO16 was that the car was not developed in order to meet the changing tastes of its customers. Both the Mini and the 1100 were being priced so competitively that there was little margin for profit in these cars, and so ADO16 remained largely unaltered throughout its long and successful life. John Barber certainly thought the ADO16 was underpriced, and Austin Morris only returned to profit once the Morris Marina was fully on stream in 1973. As the ’60s drew on and the country began to become more affluent, the little car was left behind through a lack of development.

In conclusion

So, BMC had committed the sin of not developing its best selling car soon enough, but more by luck than judgment, sales held up well during its production life. The car’s basic flaws were numerous, but because its packaging was so effective and its styling so likeable, it engendered an immense amount of goodwill on the part of its customers. From a modern perspective, however, the fact that ADO16 sales managed to hold up as well as they did cannot be attributed simply to the car’s popularity: in its life, it stopped being a middle market car – the Cortina represented that sector perfectly – and became a well-established small car. As a result, it was always going to find a ready market.

When Donald Stokes took the reins of the newly-formed BLMC in 1968, the desire was to cut the confusing array of badge-engineered models, but the rationalization did not go anyway near far enough: initially, only the Riley models were killed off, leaving the Wolseley, MG, Vanden Plas, Austin and Morris models to soldier on. A more significant change came in 1971, when the launch of the Marina signalled the end for the Morris and MG-badged ADO16s (apart from the Traveller and some export models).

The question of why things went wrong for BLMC after ADO16 was finally dropped in 1974 can be answered by reference to predecessor BMC’s marketing and (lack of) development strategies. Any illusions that ADO16 still represented the desires of the middle-market car buyer were shattered by the appearance of the larger Mk2 Cortina in 1966, and were finally buried by the arrival of the altogether larger Mk3 Cortina in 1971.

So by the early 1970s, ADO16 had been well and truly left behind by what was once its adversary. However, this did not sound its death knell, because in its size and proportions it perfectly epitomised the small family car, a breed that would become so popular just a few years hence. The sad thing here is that no-one in the company seemed to recognize this shift in the market: the car was perfectly sized to form the basis for a supermini in the modern idiom, being of similar dimensions to the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo of 1976. Had BLMC ordered a weight-reduction programme and developed a hatchback body for ADO16, the company could have had the ideal car with which to compete during the crisis-riddled ’70s.

Of all the missed opportunities catalogued within this website, this failure must stand as an important milestone in the downward slide of BMC and then British Leyland. With the benefit of hindsight, a logical course of action would have been for ADO16 to become an early supermini, and for a re-bodied Maxi to occupy the slot further up-market that the Allegro was eventually designed to fill. In short, the money spent on the ADO67, ADO74 and ADO88 programmes could have been more wisely spent elsewhere. Immediately following the 1968 merger, Donald Stokes stumbled towards a rational model policy, but the tragedy was that the path he followed led to the Allegro and Marina, and all the inactivity of the ’60s was to be replaced by a misguided wholesale model replacement during the following decade.

Posted in: 1100/1300
Keith Adams

About the Author:

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

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  14. LeMons Houston: 280ZX Gets Most Laps, Zombie Austin Americas Get Stitched Together - Jason Embleton – Fredericton Used Cars | October 2, 2013
  15. LeMons Houston: 280ZX Gets Most Laps, Zombie Austin Americas Get Stitched Together – | October 2, 2013
  16. LeMons Houston: 280ZX Gets Most Laps, Zombie Austin Americas Get Stitched Together » JeremySaysYes.com | October 2, 2013
  17. LeMons Sears Pointless Inspections: Diesel Porsche 911 Set To Battle The Homer | Car News HQ | March 22, 2014
  18. Car News » LeMons Sears Pointless Inspections: Diesel Porsche 911 Set To Battle The Homer | March 22, 2014
  19. LeMons Sears Pointless Inspections: Diesel Porsche 911 Set To Battle The Homer | Clarks Web Reviews | March 22, 2014
  20. LeMons Sears Pointless Inspections: Diesel Porsche 911 Set To Battle The Homer | Auto | March 23, 2014
  1. Rob says:

    Photo of Initial XC9002,

    Now we know where BMW found their inspiration for their larger new mini…..

  2. Garfield Calliste says:

    Wonderful collection,that sort the mysteries of British cars.I always wondered of a collection. Good work guys!

  3. peter says:

    Thank you for info no matter how much i read there is always some new info on morris/austins to read i have keeped two going ,morris 1300gt/ austin america 1300.

  4. Ian Nicholls says:

    The cancellation of the ADO22 was in hindsight a big loss to the British motor industry. An ADO22 with the addition of the E-series engine would surely have sold better than the ADO67 Allegro.
    All those analysts, politicians and Leyland executives who claimed BMC was going bust seemed to forget it was still the producer of Britain’s favourite cars and tried to fix things in the company that weren’t broke and discarding winning formulas.

  5. Nate says:

    Does anyone have info on an Issigonis-designed Hydrolastic 1100 featuring RWD and a B-Series engine?

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