ADO74 – the first attempt by British Leyland at replacing the Mini never saw the light of day. It was one project, but had many faces: a wide variety of styling exercises were produced before the programme was cancelled in 1973, as British Leyland could not raise the £130m needed to produce it.
Would it have worked had it been launched in 1976/’77? We can only speculate now.
The project suffered from having indecisive leadership – it was led by Harry Webster, but because he had worked previously at Triumph, he had little experience of packaging a small car. As a result, the project drifted, directionless – in a short time, ADO74 grew from being a Mini replacement into something rather larger. Indecisiveness over the styling also resulted in many proposals being produced, none of which BLMC management were entirely happy with.
This gallery demonstrates this more graphically than mere words ever could – and the car’s unprecedented growth is most evident when one compares the first packaging diagram with Harris Mann’s final incarnation.
These outline drawings date from the very early stages of the project. The configuration of the K-Series engine and its 72 degree backwards slant is very obvious in the lower diagram, although it has to be said that the passenger accommodation looks decidedly suspect
It is important to produce a stylish car when competing in the image-conscious supermini market. This frontal proposal might have been quite bold-looking, but was certainly neither stylish nor aerodynamic. Note the hint of Leyland P76 about the shape of the indicators
One of several ADO74 prototypes that were evaluated at Longbridge during 1972: this smooth looking proposal was not at all derivative of the contemporary opposition. The most noteworthy point of this design is the skillfully integrated bumpers – whether these would have made it into production on such an inexpensive car, mooted for launch in the mid-Seventies, is open to debate. In the version of this car shown below, its bumpers appear to have been painted to match the body colour – an even more expensive option in production terms
Another effort from the dipped window-line, bulbous school of thought, with more than a hint of the later Fiat Ritmo about the front. One possible indicator of “project drift” is the plethora of wildly differing styling sketches on the wall behind
Arguably the best in-house effort, being rather reminiscent of the Princess
Harry Webster commissioned Michelotti to produce a version of the car – this smart and stylish proposal was the result
Smooth and rather utilitarian in style – did it have the character to succeed on the marketplace? It is now obvious that there were two schools of thought – the bulbous, rather featureless look incorporating a dipped window-line, and the later Harris Mann “Wedge” look (see pictures below)
This Harris Mann sketch looks rather better than the full-size models which resulted (see below), providing an interesting parallel with the Allegro’s transition from paper to clay. The smoothly-integrated detailing on this car would probably have been too expensive to achieve in production
This version is fairly close to Mann’s sketch, but those round headlamps only serve to empahsise the car’s passing resemblance to American Motors’ AMC Pacer Wagon.
Possibly the worst-looking ADO74 proposal, one has to wonder what Harris Mann was thinking of to allow this monstrosity to make it to full-size. Next!
Classic Harris Mann – look at the side feature line, which plunged from high at the rear to lower at the front. This styling trick had already been used on the yet-to-be-launched ADO71 with some success
A little more work on the “Wedge” theme resulted in this, the three-door hatchback version of the Triumph TR7. In all seriousness, this Harris Mann creation is rather stylish, although the car’s desirability in the marketplace would have been rather dependent on that of the TR7. (The badge on the side of this car reads “Mini 1300”)
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
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