By 10 November 2013 28 Comments Read More →

Carrozzeria designs : Pininfarina 1100

What might have been

What make the two Pininfarina Aerodynamica studies so interesting is that they weren’t commissioned by the British company, but which caused huge interest at the time they were revealed in 1967 and ’68. The five door hatchbacks pre-dated the stampede towards two-box designs these designs in the 1970s, and had BL been brave enough to put them into production, it would have had those cutting edge cars that Donald Stokes and George Turnbull often referred to.

Of course, they would have been mightily expensive to develop, and production versions would have looked a whole lot simpler, but in light of the Allegro and Princess, it doesn’t stop one wondering today. Chances are they’d have sold no better – one only needs to see the Citroen CX and GS’s sales in the UK to see that. When the smaller ADO16-based BLMC 1100 car was unveiled in 1968, it was just as sensational as the previous year’s 1800.

An original Paolo Martin sketch for the BLMC 1100

An original Paolo Martin sketch for the BLMC 1100

Despite what you might read elsewhere, it was Paolo Martin who styled the 1800 and 1100, and he did a magnificent job with both. The earlier car, the 1800, was dramatically proportioned, and in many ways easier to style as a consequence. For the scaling down to work so successfully in the  1100 shows a mastery of touch by Martin. More tragically, looking at the dimensions of this car, it would have perfectly fitted in to the medium-sized hatchback market that would explode in popularity in the wake of the launch of the Volkswagen Golf in 1974.

Lorenzo Ramaciotti former General Manager of Pininfarina told AROnline in 2002: ‘When we are convinced we have a truly good idea, we strive to convince others, especially if the idea concerns a topic close to our hearts. In 1967, aerodynamics was still a rather exclusive topic, just for technical people and afficionados, while Pininfarina had always regarded it as a fundamental element in body design. Shortly thereafter, in fact, the firm began building its wind tunnel, the first in Italy for full-scale automobiles, inaugurated in 1973.

‘At the London Motor Show in 1967, it presented a prototype on BMC 1800 mechanics that achieved a number of ambitious results simultaneously: it radically improved aerodynamic performance, dropping Cd values from 0.45 to 0.35, and it updated the traditional three box shape of the sedan, transforming it into a tapered two-volume and expanding its versatility by increasing load space and applying a large cargo hatch.

Paolo Martin's schematics for the BLMC1100 - we can see that it has a 96in wheelbase - pretty much the same as a 1980 Ford Escort III.

Paolo Martin’s schematics for the BLMC1100 – we can see that it has a 96in wheelbase – pretty much the same as a 1980 Ford Escort III. This is a three-door version, which we never saw in concept form.

‘The following year, to demonstrate that the formula was also valid for smaller cars, it built a similar prototype on the chassis of the small BLMC 1100 for the Turin Show. These two cars represented the models for the two-volume sedans that were to become enormously popular in the decade to follow. But though they were the first attempts in this direction, they already displayed total formal maturity.

‘The car illustrated in the photos is still perfectly functional and has exactly the same dimension as the Citroën GS that appeared in 1971.

‘The design was simple and uniform, continuous. The nose clustered elements into specific functional groups without aesthetic forcing. The air intake concealed beneath the bumper was well-positioned aerodynamically, the rubber crush zone between the headlamps completed the transition between hoods and fenders, and the scalloped headlamps were the primary decorative element of the front end.

Paolo Martin’s 1100 Aerodynamica does not look like a car that was unveiled in 1968. Reflecting the change in the company’s name, it proudly wore BLMC on its nose – the only car to do so.

‘The slab sides were smooth, with flush fenders. Indicative of the close attentionto detail were the door handles hidden into the chromed window sill moulding. The tail cut was short and efficient, and the broad backlight doubled as a cargo hatch. The roofline recalled a wing profile, continuously curving, sustained by thin pillars that enhanced interior light and driver visibility.

‘Adding strength to all this, and avoiding a fragile look was a series of oriented louvres that lent the optical weight of a strong C-pillar without blocking the visibility of the driver.’

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk 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.

28 Comments on "Carrozzeria designs : Pininfarina 1100"

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  1. jools23 Julian Mildren says:

    Another missed opportunity – I know we like to live in the past here, and hindsight is such a wonderful planning aid for all of us now. But WHAT were they thinking of at BLMC when they rejected this and the 1800 – and come to that the P6B, the Lynx, the P6 replacement (I can never figure out if that was the P8 or P9) and so on. Seems Lyons had a had in much of it, protecting the Jaguar brand at the expense of Triumph, Rover/Alvis and the like. I need to visit the Theatre of Tears again for some solace 🙂

  2. Greg Kean says:

    Even today there is a futuristic, modern look about these designs. As a kid, my Matchbox ‘BMC 1800’in gold was my favourite model car.

  3. Paul Taylor Paul Taylor says:

    Had a bit of a senior moment there – the Volvo ad beneath the first pic suggested this was £20k on the road! Who puts those damn things there – is this the price we pay to keep the site going???

  4. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Sorry, Paul – this brings revenue to fund future investment and growth in AROnline, keeping ALL site content free.

  5. Paul says:

    Certainly nicer than an Allegro and would have fitted the Morris-Conventional, Austin-Innovative mantra of the time. There would have been far less overlap between this car and the Marina. Its interesting to look at the BL film produced about the Marina development. With the collection of pipe smoking, horn rimmed, leather patched idiots who where responsible for BL development at the time its no wonder cars like this where passed over in favour of the Allegro/Marina.

  6. JagBoy says:

    I agree, yet ANOTHER missed opportunity, it seems very strange that a company that builds cars seem to do everything in its power to bring the company to its knees.

  7. Stuart says:

    My first close look at this car. Has anyone else seen the hints towards the SD1? Those tail lights with their fluting? The hint of a midriff scallop?

    It also looks like a far more sorted version of the experimental car of ’82 if memory serves. The one based on a Metro.

    And being a past owner of an Alfasud Sprint, the Kamm tail & general rear proportions certainly show a great similarity.

  8. Chris Baglin says:

    It almost hurts to look at this- how BMC practically lead Citroen by the hand towards an open goal…

  9. Landyboy says:

    I too a gold Matchbox “BMC 1800”, people used to try telling me it was a Citroen. It’s a shame Citroen managed to get themselves taken over by Peugeot in the early ’70s.

  10. Simon_H says:

    Yes, both ground-breaking designs for their time, and clearly influential – both the Citroen GS & CX have visual links to both of these cars, as does the SD1, and to a lesser degree the Lancia Gamma Berlina and Beta Berlina. So much better than a Maxi or Allegro…..but here’s the problem, would BLMC really have had the guts to put 2 futuristic, and no doubt complex to manufacture Italian designs, when it had it’s own largely ex-Ford design and engineering team? And although both of these cars still look great today, was Joe Public ready for such forward-thinking in the early 70s? Especially judging by the reception given to the Citroen GS & CX in the UK.

  11. Chris Baglin says:

    @10, Simon_H,

    Both the GS and the CX sold in respectable numbers and were a common sight in the ’70s- and didn’t have the advantage of being ‘British’- at that time, many people ‘bought British’ out of a sense of patriotic duty.

    Both the Maxi and the 1800 put buyers off because of their awkward and unappealing styling- Issigonis ought to have been taken in hand and made to accept the fact that his anti-styling stance was badly affecting sales.

    I think the alternative styling proposals would have done much to shore up the company. For a start, the Allegro would not have been needed as the 1100-based Pininfarini concept could easily have served up until the early ’80s, as the GS did- especially if converted to a hatch.

    And would these designs have been harder to productionise than those that actually did get the green light?

  12. Simon_H says:

    “Both the GS and the CX sold in respectable numbers and were a common sight in the ’70s” Really? Not in the West Midlands! It was all Vivas, Avengers, Cortinas, Escorts and BL tin. If you were lucky you caught site of one of those exotic new fangled Datsun things……

  13. Chris Baglin says:

    @12, Simon_H,

    Fair point, I spent the 70s and most of the 80s in Bath and Cheltenham where both were plentiful.

  14. jools23 Julian Mildren says:

    Didn’t know about the Matchbox models – ebay have a pile of them for sale!

  15. Funny innit, that even Matchbox had more vision then BLMC and productionised this. It also as a hint of Lancia about it.

  16. Simon_H says:

    ,,,,BTW, I had the orange matchbox model…..

  17. Peter says:

    I actually get a sick feeling in my stomach when I read articles like this. How could it all be thrown away? Short termism and self interest. Tragic.

  18. Rob H says:

    The sad truth is that BMC just did not have the money to develop these cars. This would have been a truly worthy and logical successor to the ADO16, continuing with the Pinifarina styling that had made the 1962 car such a sales success in the 1960’s. However, BMC appear to have lost all concept of effective marketing, product life cycles and product profitability during the 1960’s.

  19. ian says:

    I inherited that Matchbox or Lesney model car from my sister, but it was never a favourite. But now I like it!

    If BMC had productionised this in the early 70s, the bonnet would have been raised to accommodate the b-series, a-la Allegro, and very soon it would not have looked like this thoroughly modern shape!

    I’d like to think that the vibrant car industry that has returned to the Midlands of late will raise the profile of the NEC as a location for the motorshow, and designs like this can debut once again in Birmingham!

  20. John Ruffle says:

    The idea of Austin=innovative, Morris=conventional was an ill-conceived idea, although it did have a certain logic to it, because Ford was such a formidable foe.

    It was as if BLMC did a second take; had a crisis of confidence over its commitment to FWD/transverse and Hydrolastic layout. At the time, how were they to know that the FWD would take the entire global motor industry by storm in a few short years: at the time, the idea of Ford producing a FWD/transverse engined car was laughable. So, seeing the Cortina go from strength to strength, it is understandable why they sunk money to create a competitor to their own innovative range!

    The other big mistake was letting anyone from the ex-Ford design studios anywhere near Longbridge. The Marina should never have even reached the drawing board, let along leave it signed-off; even at launch it looked uncomfortable on its small wheels; compromised, and they were bland to drive, only slightly better than the Allegro.

    So, to summerise, far too many competing projects draining the money box, and losing the amazing focus that birthed the ADO15 and ado16, and to a lesser extent, the 1800 meant that BMC simply FAILED to see the amazing potential of these Italian studio designs. These SHOULD have been the new replacement models for ADO16 and 17 respectively. Instead we go Marinas, Allegros, Wedges (-a good idea, but too little too late) Montegos and other cars so forgettable their names escape me! (Note: We DID get the Metro, which actually ended up to be quite a good British-born car.)

    Most importantly, signing off these two Italian beauties would have given the company time, resources and focus to fully develop them to be right first time. And over Lord Stokes grave, YES, badge engineer them to get the varies trim levels to market and preserve our heritage. (OK, that LAST idea is very much in hindsight; it is only recently that the MERITS of BMC “badge engineering” have been fully appreciated.)

  21. Graham says:

    @9 My Matchbox 1800 was yellow, could not understand why my SD1 was called a BMC1800 though.

  22. Paul Stigter says:

    I have to say that my Matchbox 1800 has lasted well. The paint work is still shiny, and no sign of rust anywhere. Pity that Matchbox didn’t make them in 12 inch to the foot scale……………..

  23. Will M says:

    @Paul Stigter

    Would likely weigh about 4 tonnes given the relative metal thickness, with only front opening doors with no window, boot or bonnet and a one piece moulded interior. No steering, no engine, no running gear. Though it can freewheel about the place if you could borrow an empty multistorey car park…

  24. Pedro the parrot says:

    These cars are indeed pretty but the Alegro was pretty on paper- look at Harris Mann’s original drawings. It appears that continental companies were better at productionising designs. That and they made the investments needed to produce them.
    Designers and design itself has never been widely accepted by the very conservative and mistrustful British public. I am a designer, I know! Industrial design is near dead in the UK. In France, Italy and Japan it is respected.

  25. Pedro the parrot says:

    Suggesting BMC didn’t have the money to invest in these cars is nonsense. Lotus produced the wonderful Esprit…They didnt have the leadership and freedom from government and union interference.

  26. Dave Dawson says:

    Both the Pininfarina 1100 & 1800 are both quite amazing – talk about ahead of their time!
    Would they have perhaps been too futuristic for the market at that time? As Francis points out, however, tame the nose and you were talking more “appealingly advanced”.

  27. The Wolseley Man says:

    We had a really good Citroen dealer in this part of Wiltshire at the time – the CX was really popular and GS’s were quite common too.
    I’m not putting my colours one way or the other but we have to admit that BMC/BL were brave – the Mini, 1100, 1800 and Maxi were nothing if not revolutionary – and the 3ltr was extraordinary. One must remember that everyone else’s cars looked like the Mk2 or 3 Cortina. I think there were lots of other factors mentioned here that stopped BL from going the Pininfarina route – but lack bravery was not one of them. Lack of appreciation for what the public wanted their cars to look like – might be a more likely problem. Perceived (or real) lack of development money might be another. Even a dogged desire to keep styling (relatively) in house rather than openly going back to Farina?

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