The Danes had an independent streak when it came to car names, never more so than with the Mini, which went by the name of ‘Morris Mascot’ until 1981.
Chris Cowin takes a look at the history and then focuses on some special Mascots from the late-1970s.
Denmark: when’s a Mini not a Mini?
The Morris Mini Minor was initially advertised in Denmark as the ‘Morris 850’ but, within a short space of time, importer DOMI had adopted the ‘Mascot’ name. This slotted into its ‘M car’ strategy which applied to the whole Morris range, with the 1100 being christened ‘Morris Marina’ from launch in 1962, and the Morris 1800 being named ‘Morris Monaco’. Vans were also given the treatment being Morris Meteor 1 (J4) and Morris Meteor 2 (J2), though the hugely popular Minor was usually referred to as ‘Morris 1000’ in the 1960s.
As in many countries around the world, Morris vehicles (and other former Nuffield marques) were still handled by a different importer from Austin, and marketed in friendly competition during the 1960s. So adopting the Morris Mascot name helped differentiate the DOMI version of the Mini from the Austin, which was imported by De Forenede Automobilfabriker, and initially baptised the ‘Austin Partner’.
In later years this would become simply ‘Austin Mini’ until, in 1972, DOMI gained control of all British Leyland imports to Denmark, at which point the Austin Mini disappeared and all Minis were sold as Morris Mascots. This retention of Morris branding for the Mini through the 1970s was in marked contrast to the UK and most other continental European markets and involved supplementary “Morris” badges as well as the “Mascot” badges which usually appeared on the boot lid at bottom right.
A multitude of Mascots
If you were thinking the Danish market was a footnote in the history of BMC and later British Leyland in Europe, think again. In the early 1960s, Denmark had the distinction of being BMC’s largest export market on the continent, taking 13,200 cars in 1964. It was later overtaken in volume terms by Italy thanks to the partnership between BMC and Innocenti, and subsequently France.
But Denmark for long topped the table of continental “penetration” as marketing men like to call it. In 1969, British Leyland could boast a market share of 19.3% in Denmark, a level maintained through the early Seventies, meaning British Leyland was selling more cars annually (around 20,000) in tiny Denmark than in the vast German market next door.
Only Ireland and New Zealand, among major export markets, bought such a high proportion of their new cars from British Leyland in that era. It helped that both the UK and Denmark were members of the EFTA trading bloc in the 1960s (which gave British cars tariff advantages) and, of course, though Denmark assembled some cars from kits, it lacked a homegrown car industry so all cars were essentially imports.
The Morris Mascot (and until 1972 the Austin Mini) had helped build this strong position in Denmark, as had the “ADO16” 1100/1300 which was a hit, alone accounting for 8.7% of the market in 1969. And as the Mini range proliferated, so did the range of Mascots, with models like the Morris Mascot Cooper ‘S’ making their appearance.
When the Mk3 Minis arrived in 1969, including the Clubman, they were given the Mascot treatment, resulting in a range of six Mascots as seen below. It would appear that for a period the Clubman was called simply “Morris Clubman” but, by the mid-1970s this had evolved into Morris Mascot Clubman and the Estate went by the delightful name of Morris Mascot Clubman Stationcar. Like all cars sold in Denmark, they featured side repeater indicators long before these appeared on British Minis, in line with Danish law, though (unlike Sweden) they were never required to have headlight wipers.
By the late-1970s British Leyland’s position in Denmark was crumbling, due not least to surging Japanese imports, but the Morris Mascot remained a firm favourite. The 1275GT had disappeared leaving the Mascot 850, Mascot 1000, Mascot Clubman and Mascot Clubman Stationcar (estate) .
Mascots of distinction
The bulk of Morris Mascots supplied to Denmark were assembled at British Leyland’s Belgian Seneffe plant and, in the late Seventies, several rather special Mascots appeared. Seneffe was adept at producing such special editions, with the principal models for Denmark listed below.
The Mini van and pick-up had also always been branded Morris Mascot in Denmark by importer DOMI, and remained available alongside the cars until the end of the Seventies. As seen below, the official range included ‘window vans’ which were popular in Denmark for tax reasons.
However, by 1979, BL was incurring heavy losses in Scandinavian markets, and the writing was clearly on the wall for the Morris Mascot. British Leyland could claim to lead the Danish market at the start of the 1970s, supplying one in five of all new cars, but in the early 1980s Denmark had been essentially abandoned (though there would be a comeback). Morris Mascot sales ended in 1981 and the Mini would not be officially marketed in Denmark for many years to come, although there were many private imports. For much of the 1980s there was an assumption the Mini was soon to be chopped from production, and that would have discouraged a formal re-introduction in Denmark. It was finally re-introduced by Rover in the Nineties, but on that occasion the Mascot name was left firmly on the shelf.
As ever, all comments and additional information are very welcome. Illustrations in this piece are original marketing images, mostly found on the excellent Danish sites www.Youngtimer.dk and www.autoarkiv.dk