Car of the Month : May 2007

We don’t do things by halves here at – and when it came to chosing a BMC 1800 to collect the monthly spotlight, what better car to select than one the genius himself, Sir Alec Issigonis, had been pictured with…

It’s another BMC>Rover car that never fulfilled its potential on the market, despite being light years ahead of its time dynamically and structurally – but we still love the Landcrab, especially early ones like this.

Pictures: Ian Seabrook, and BMIHT Words: Ian Seabrook

The original… and best

Unless you really know your Landcrabs, you’re not going to twig that this is a really special example…

MEETING this car for the very first time was something akin to an inspirational experience for a BMC fan – it might look pretty innocuous, with a number of trim inconsistencies that are obvious to any Landcrab aficionado would spot from a mile off – but we know different. Its owner, Michael Sanchez, knows this car’s significance, too – and takes great delight in telling us about the time his car met Sir Alec Issigonis.

Knowing that the great man himself, Sir Alec Issigonis, has spent time with this car is a double bonus – and as you can see from the picture below, he was obviously very proud of his creation. Originally, this particular Austin 1800 belonged to Arthur Price, who worked in the excitingly titled Experimental Department at BMC in Longbridge; a position that obviously helped when it came to relieving the factory of this car when its time in the development department had come to an end.

We can only hope that it didn’t need the cover of darkness or help from a hidden tunnel in its bid for freedom…

Being an ex-development car, its appearance is unconventional – and it’s marked by a hotch-potch of features exhibited by this car – most obviously the LHD spec wipers and the odd mix of mkI and mkII interior and exterior trim.

Yes, that’s Issigonis with an Car of The Month… He obviously approves.

As can be seen from the picture above, Michael’s Landcrab was part of the original BMC 1800 launch fleet, which was sent to Scotland in 1964. It’s a fair assumption to make that the car would have ‘enjoyed’ a hard life in the hands of the motoring press, who would have been keen to find out quite quickly what the limits of this car’s dynamic abilities were – and seeing as they were so much higher than the typical family car oppposition of the time, the novelty of being able to barrell into corners like a Mini owner would have been too good to resist.

In fact, there are plenty of tales told about the fate of these cars in Scotland, and how they were treated to emergency repairs on an almost daily basis during the launch. But that’s another story…

After duties in Scotland 531 NOF returned to Longbridge, where it was used as a rolling test bed for many new parts such as new seats, door locks, and a very fine element rear screen heater that found it’s way into the short-lived 3litre saloon. For these reasons alone, it’s a veritable treasure in the BMC>Rover scene, and one that we’re keen to highlight on this website.

Currently, it’s very much on Michael Sanchez’ active roster. He told us: “The car is used regularly and the next stage in the rolling restoration is to tackle the paintwork.”

If you know anything further about the history of this car – or have recollections of the BMC 1800 launch, we’d love to hear from you…

NB., to all the eagle-eyed readers who spotted the inconsistencies with the original image, Michael Sanchez has sent us the correct image of his car – not the Photoshopped version of 532NOF, which ended up being crashed in Scotland… Thanks to our loyal readers for picking up on that one.


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LOOK at these two cars or is it the same car (see below – Ed)?

532NOF is a scan I did, 531NOF is off the COTM page. In both cases 568MOJ is in the background.. 532NOF is scanned from the Gillian Bardsley Issigonis book.


[See the note about pictures, above – Ed]



Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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