The cars : Austin 3 Litre development story

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Celebrated as one of BMC’s greatest white elephants, the Austin 3 Litre emerged the way it did because circumstance was not on its side. The Austin 3 Litre development story is one that’s packed with bad decisions, and even worse luck.

Here, AROnline tells you why…


Austin 3 Litre: Misunderstood luxury

The cars : Austin 3 Litre development history

The Austin 3 Litre was a commercial disaster. There is no other way of putting it. The thinking and ideology behind the creation of the 3 Litre was straightforward and worthy enough – there had been a continuing need for BMC to have a representative in the 3-litre class.

This was a marketing requirement for the company and in the UK, this market was split five ways between the Austin Westminster (and its badge engineered derivatives), the Vauxhall Cresta, Ford Executive, Rover P5/P5B and Humber Super Snipe. It was quite simply (Rover aside), a totally unremarkable bunch of cars built in order to satisfy a demand.

BMC’s offerings in the class were the C-Series engined Austin A110 Westminster, the Wolseley 6/99 and the Vanden Plas 3 Litre. Basically, they were 3-litre versions of the Farina saloons and as they were based on a saloon that had never covered itself in glory, it went as read that these cars were not the most inspiring cars on the market.

When BMC and Rolls-Royce collided…

Bentley Java prototype was developed using the Vanden Plas 3-litre as a basis – when the project was scrapped in 1962, its engine was used in the Vanden Plas 4-litre R, and its suspension founds its way into the ADO61.
Bentley Java prototype was developed using the Vanden Plas 3 Litre as a basis – when the project was scrapped in 1962, its engine was used in the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R, and its suspension founds its way into the ADO61.

However, during the early-to-mid 1960s, Rolls-Royce began to investigate the idea of moving downmarket into the market sector just above this, and began talks with BMC. The idea was that they could use the Vanden Plas 3 Litre as the basis for its own smaller car, thereby providing Rolls-Royce with the suitable basis for a downsized luxury car; BMC would also benefit from this work, because they would be able to call on much of Rolls-Royce’s work to benefit themselves and strengthen their own executive car offerings.

In 1961, work began in Crewe on the Bentley Java – an idea conceived through the need to develop a luxury saloon on a shoestring. Rolls-Royce used the Vanden Plas 3 Litre as a basis, but in place of the C-Series engine, they used the 4.0-litre 6-cylinder F-60 engine – a power unit derived from a previous Rolls-Royce and at one time earmarked for the aborted Bentley Burma.

Rolls-Royce management were still concerned about the effect on the marque’s prestigious reputation, by this move downmarket, and so, as a result, the Java was conceived as purely a Bentley model. Work on the Java continued apace, and by March 1962, the first running prototype hit the roads – basically a ‘cut and shut’ Vanden Plas 3 Litre with the F-60 engine now fitted (and it was this car that BMC later used as a test bed for the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R).

Giving the Java a little Crewe panache

Prototype of the Vanden Plas 4-litre R – the car that George Harriman insisted that BMC could sell 200-per-week of: the concept of the car was fundamentally sound, as was the Kingsbury developed interior and exterior restyle. Despite this, it failed to live up to Harriman's ambitious sales targets.
Prototype of the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R – the car that George Harriman insisted that BMC could sell 200-per-week of: the concept of the car was fundamentally sound, as was the Kingsbury developed interior and exterior restyle. Despite this, it failed to live up to Harriman’s ambitious sales targets.

The styling of the Java showed some variance from the Farina based Vanden Plas, but not nearly enough to disguise its origins completely. It has to be said that the styling was reasonably successful effort, with an imposing frontal treatment that reminded commentators of the Facel Vega FV from 1954.

By November 1962, the Java had been subject to second thoughts at Crewe and the project was cancelled. Once the Java was officially dead, the company released the F-60 engine to BMC, and the work undertaken on the Java would go on to benefit BMC. George Harriman was very keen on the concept – and pushed ahead with the development of the Vanden Plas version, the 4 Litre R, which would subsequently appear in 1964.

In fact, with the Vanden Plas 4 Litre R, BMC learned a lesson in humility because it was created specifically to fall into the company director part of the car market, but was priced just below the important £2000 purchase price tax break point.

Designing the tax-breaking luxury saloon

Any company car purchased that cost over this price was subject to a swingeing increase in taxable duty – and so, BMC thought they had pulled off a marketing masterstroke when they secured a supply of 3.9-litre Rolls Royce F-60 engines (called FB60 in the BMC application) for use in the car. Equipment levels were hiked massively and this car was expected to sell in comparatively large numbers – the Rolls-Royce link being seen by BMC is being a positive selling point.

Unfortunately, this plan was scuppered on one major point that overshadowed the upmarket image the car was supposed to convey. The problem with the 4 Litre R was that its all-alloy engine, was well known for having its roots in the military field – and although it was lighter than the C-Series engine, its origins were a subject that could not be shaken off.

Like its 3 Litre cousins, the relatively heavy engine made the balance of the car somewhat nose heavy, and as such, made its handling understeer-biased and steering cumbersome – acceptable perhaps in lower priced versions, but not so much in the range topping Vanden Plas.

Engine origins put off buyers

The driving experience was considered underwhelming by the press and the image of the car was completely undermined by the fact that most prospective buyers were all too well aware of the engine’s origins – in fact; a B40 version of the engine was used in the Austin Champ!

Sales were resultantly dismal and one would have thought that maybe the company would have learned an important lesson from this car.

But they did not. The psychological need for BMC to remain in the ‘director’s car’ market was such that they continued to press ahead with a new model in the sector, codenamed the ADO61. By the early sixties, the BMC Design Department was becoming increasingly dictated to by the accountants of the company and so, soon imposed their influence on the new car.

Using the Landcrab as the basis for a luxury car

The Bentley Bengal clay model: The doors from the ADO61 are clearly visible. The car would have used the suspension and 6-cylinder engine from the aborted Java proposal, but in fact did not get beyond the quarter-scale model seen here. However, that suspension system did eventually see the light of day – in the Austin 3-Litre.
The Bentley Bengal clay model: the doors from the ADO61 are clearly visible. The car would have used the suspension and 6-cylinder engine from the aborted Java proposal, but in fact did not get beyond the quarter-scale model seen here. However, that suspension system did eventually see the light of day – in the Austin 3 Litre

When BMC was in the early stages of the planning for the new car, the decision was made to use the entire centre section of the yet-to-be-launched ADO17, but with unique and elongated front and rear ends, styled with help from Farina.

In fact, during the development of the Java, Rolls-Royce also looked at developing a version of the ADO61 for their own use – the car, called the Bentley Bengal and Rolls-Royce Rangoon was quickly quashed by the company, but only after the decision was made to use the Java’s suspension and engine in it – something that BMC, again, found rather appealing. At this stage of development, this may have looked like a pleasing economy for both companies, but a questionable decision when one looks at the styling of the donor car.

Styling aside, the ADO61 was developed in a logical and predictable way. Unlike the previous three BMC-designed cars (Mini, ADO16 and ADO17), the new car would be entirely conventional in its engineering – there would be no room for unconventionally engineered cars in this most conservative of markets.

The C-Series engine plan<

Initially, the plan was for the C-Series unit to be used in the new car as it had already seen service in the Westminster/Wolseley 6/99, but in the interests of increased refinement, it was deemed necessary to redesign the power unit’s bottom-end internals – as it was also being planned to use the engine in the MGC (ADO52). Where a four-bearing crankshaft sufficed before, a new seven-bearing crank was installed.

The transmission of the ADO61 was four-speed and the driven wheels were the rear wheels, which was a retrograde step for BMC. By the time the car had reached an advanced stage in development and its design was set, the cost cutting measures that the accountants had put in place may as well have not been undertaken: commonality with other cars in the range was minimal apart from the most obvious sheet metal and so, economies of scale through component sharing were minimal.

Unlike the engine/gearbox set-up of the ADO61, the suspension system adopted for the car was rather less than conventional: Like the ADO16 and ADO17, Hydrolastic was the springing medium, used all round. However, unlike its smaller brothers, the rubber springs at the rear were separated from the Hydrolastic displacer units.

The Austin 3 Litre’s suspension system

The idea of this was to smooth the ride even further, which BMC managed with some aplomb – which partially explains its excellent ride quality, along with the ADO61’s much greater weight – but also because a change in the pickup-point of the connecting pipes into the displacer-chamber reduced the typical bounce to near zero (it should also be noted that this modification was later incorporated into the Austin Maxi‘s suspension setup).

The rear suspension used the now-familiar Hydrolastic spring and damper units, supplemented by a self-levelling facility. This height adjusting rear end was a system that was completely independent of the car’s main suspension set-up and in a nutshell, the height was, regulated via a set of hydraulic rams. The pressure output by these rams was regulated via valves that sensed the level of the car – lowering it if it is too high, raising it if it is too low.

An engine driven-pump powered the system, but as the system was regulating the ride height whether the engine was running or not – as long as there was residual pressure in the hydraulics. This was seen as a ‘must have’ by BMC, which saw that this small splash of ingenuity would set the car apart from its domestic rivals. It must be said that this philosophy of trying to offer something more advanced in the chassis department did result in a car blessed with superb ride quality.

An in-house development – 3 Litre Hydrolastic

Unlike the previous three BMC new cars, Alec Issigonis had no hand in the development of this car – in fact, Issigonis positively wanted nothing to do with the car. Ron Nicholls would head-up work on this car, but he had no involvement in the concept of the car. Whereas ADO15, 16 and 17 were the product of Issigonis more or less single-handedly, the ADO61 was the brainchild of George Harriman, himself – and the finer points of the design were hammered-out by the BMC Board and Rolls-Royce. Such muddled conception was the father of a rather confused big car.

Alex Moulton would be closely involved with the suspension, though. He bought one of the earliest cars – A 3 Litre de Luxe Automatic, registered MAM222F – evaluating Hydragas suspension set-up. The two images below, from Guy Vincent of The Dr Alex Moulton Archive, show the car under development.

The first is on Moulton’s test rig in October 1968 undergoing body shake tests as part of a project investigating body boom and harshness at 90mph. The second image is at Keevil Airfield, Wiltshire, showing the car undergoing ‘Clotoide’ tests with a fifth wheel attached to the back of the vehicle.

Austin 3 Litre De Luxe MAM222F Moulton Developments Sept 1968 GV Austin 3 Litre Auto MAM222F Moulton Developments Testing at Keevil c1970-72 GV

1963: The Austin 3 Litre takes shape

It would appear that the first full-size prototype of the ADO61 was produced in 1963 (before even the ADO17 was launched) and what is very striking about this was that it looked almost identical to the Austin 3 Litre in its final production form.

The styling even at this early stage could only be described as imposing, but the obvious question of how the car would compare with the Austin 1800 was, it appears, left unuttered. As events transpired, it actually took four years from the appearance of the first prototype (below) to the car being unveiled to the world – events in the wider world of BMC had obviously overtaken the ill-fated ADO61.

Development appeared to drag on through the 1960s and, like all products from BMC before and afterwards, the press were well aware of the car’s existence long before any official announcement had been made. Interestingly, the launch of the car to the public was a long and drawn-out affair because its announcement to the press took place almost a year before the car actually went on sale – something Triumph were also guilty of with the 2000 in 1963.

Prototype from 1963 shows BMC's big-car thinking of that time. The shape is remarkably similar to the final version, launched five years later.
Prototype from 1963 shows BMC’s big-car thinking of that time. The shape is remarkably similar to the final version, launched five years later

Launching the Austin 3 Litre

The press launch took place at Longbridge in the lead-up to the 1967 Motor Show and, in a professional presentation given by Raymond Baxter (the then BMC/BMH Public Relations Officer), the event was set-up so that the new car would be presented at the end of the show, to be the climax of the event. Raymond Baxter did his utmost to build up an air of anticipation in the assembled journalists, but when the Austin 3 Litre was wheeled onto the stage, it was met with a ripple of polite applause followed by an embarrassed silence.

The trouble was, of course, that the Austin 3 Litre was so obviously ADO17-based that it practically begged for the inevitable question to be asked: what advantages did this car offer over its smaller counterpart?

It was not until the following year that the press would find out – an,d of course, the news was not good. The main trouble was that the obvious ugliness of the car was (for many) an insurmountable problem and those who could get past its looks found that the Austin 3 Litre had so many dynamic shortcomings that it was impossible to think of anything positive to say about the car.

What the papers said about the Austin 3 Litre

For a start, the testers knew that the new incarnation of the C-Series engine was not going to be a sparkler, when they found that in the MGC, it was lugubrious in the extreme. This was the case in the 3 Litre, only more so – because of the vast weight of the new car, it meant that the car suffered from the same engine maladies, such as its unwillingness to rev, but it also had an astonishing thirst for petrol, too.

However, the 3 Litre was also an extremely comfortable car to drive – and, if you could look beyond the breathless engine and thirst for fuel, there was little to touch it on ride quality. On that score alone, BMC did gain something from working with Rolls-Royce.

By the time the car was released in 1967, it would only be to a select few trusted customers (one hundred of them), who were chosen to run the car for the company on an extended trial. Between the time of the initial launch and this first tentative step towards a full launch, BMH had been taken over by Leyland – and there was a real feeling within the new management to proceed with the launch of the new car, if only to demonstrate very graphically just how much BMH had lost its way.

From launch to sale: one whole year

ADO61 version as presented to the press in 1967: Versions like these were run in small numbers before the official public launch in order to gauge public reaction. The headlights were described as 'television shaped headlamp units', but these unsightly items were dropped in favour of the original arrangement for the final production models.
ADO61 version as presented to the press in 1967: versions like these were run in small numbers before the official public launch in order to gauge public reaction. The headlights were described as ‘television shaped headlamp units’, but these unsightly items were dropped in favour of the original arrangement for the final production models

When the Austin 3 Litre finally went on full sale to the public in 1968, it was already an embarrassment to the company. As it was, customers avoided it in huge numbers – and those that did not and chose to go into their local Austin showroom, were practically obliged to ask those same embarrassing questions of the car as the press had done over a year before.

As for the car itself, the interior had a nice, traditional wood and leather feel to it, but because it shared the ADO17 centre section and had a large transmission tunnel, it actually offered less space than the smaller car. However, in terms of ride quality, the ADO61 did set new standards of compliancy in its class – all the development work, which had been undertaken on the French Routes Nationale, had paid off handsomely.

The family resemblance between the two cars is most evident in this shot. Identical centre sections give the game away, although the 3-litre's proportions are quite a bit more conventional than its smaller cousin. Only the overly-long bonnet really counts against the ADO61 - the boot treatment looks as though it always should have been there.
The family resemblance between the two cars is most evident in this shot. Identical centre sections give the game away, although the 3 Litre’s proportions are quite a bit more conventional than its smaller cousin. Only the overly-long bonnet really counts against the ADO61 – the boot treatment looks as though it always should have been there
The interior of the 3-Litre was a nice place to sit, and although the on-paper figures suggested that it was more cramped than the 1800, it offered different qualities at the front, thanks to its much improved driving position. Extensive use of wood and high quality furnishings were abound...
The interior of the 3 Litre was a nice place to sit and, although the on-paper figures suggested that it was more cramped than the 1800, it offered different qualities at the front, thanks to its much improved driving position. Extensive use of wood and high quality furnishings were abound…

Unfortunately, there were ergonomic problems as well, not least the dashboard, which offered up a rather mean looking strip speedometer which appeared to have been lifted straight from the ADO16 – not exactly the thing that someone spending over £1500 would be looking for as a desirable feature (to put it another way, in those pre-inflationary times, the Austin 3 Litre actually cost nearly 50 per cent more than the twin-carburettor Austin 1800S – a vastly better car).

After BLMC: a tale of disaster and strife

Of course, the Austin 3 Litre was an outmoded dinosaur – BMH knew that, Leyland certainly knew that – as did the customers. The car was a victim of its own ugliness, for sure, but not only that, but the 3-litre class as a whole was suffering under the two-pronged assault from the Leyland-produced Rover and Triumph 2000s.

Customers in a position to buy such cars as the ADO61 quite rightly looked at the vastly superior new 2-litre competition and drew the conclusion that this new breed of smaller ‘executive car’ would provide them with all their needs, without the extravagance of a 3-litre car.

After the merger, of 1968, BLMC quite rightly allowed the car to go into full-scale production – the tooling costs had to be justified, for a start. This is so, because they could justifiably say that the Austin 3 Litre is a prime example of why BMH so needed to be taken over by Leyland.

A car of uneven charms

As part of the ADO61 development programme, Vanden Plas produced their own version for presentation to the company's management in 1966. Styling was suitably modified (although the wrap-around rear window is a mixed success), but the project was axed following the 1968 merger with Leyland.
As part of the ADO61 development programme, Vanden Plas produced their own version for presentation to the company’s management in 1966. Styling was suitably modified (although the wrap-around rear window is a mixed success), but the project was axed following the 1968 merger with Leyland
Wolseley 3Litre: "...the best car we never made", according to BMC test drivers. This double-sided prototype demonstrates two different styling schemes, which could have clothed the Rover V8 engine - it looked interesting and would have made an interesting flagship for the BMC range. However, the existence of Jaguar, and then Rover and Triumph would make its production a luxury for the company. The return would not have justified the investment.
Wolseley 3 Litre: “…the best car we never made”, according to BMC test drivers. This double-sided prototype demonstrates two different styling schemes, which could have clothed the Rover V8 engine – it looked interesting and would have made an interesting flagship for the BMC range. However, the existence of Jaguar, and then Rover and Triumph, would make its production a luxury for the company. The return would not have justified the investment

Be that as it may, the 3 Litre was a car of uneven ability and, as a result, it possessed a great deal of character, a sentiment borne out by one former manager, who put it in these terms: ‘the 3 Litre had a lot of charm.’

He added: ‘Senior management at Longbridge (including one George Turnbull) hung on to theirs as long as they possibly could, to the despair of the Transport Manager. I loved driving them and all who rode in them liked them too. The V8-engined Wolseley was regarded by the test drivers as one of the best cars we never made, as it had better performance, economy and handling.’

…and added disaster

Once, the Austin 3 Litre slipped onto the market in late 1968, it sold disastrously – it never even reached the financial break-even point of 50 cars per week. In its three-year production run, a total of 9992 were produced and, such was the magnitude of its failure, that the planned Wolseley version was dropped because it would have sold in negligible numbers.

Some thought was given to the car’s development though, because plans were drawn up to install the ‘Rover’ V8 engine under the huge bonnet, but they were quickly shelved – the only prototype of note surviving was the V8-powered ADO61 that Harry Webster himself used.

Apparently, it would become a familiar sight in the Longbridge workshops, due to its propensity to break down on a regular basis. British Leyland never even contemplated replacing the car, but with Rover, Triumph and Jaguar in the stable following the merger, why would they need to?


Thanks to Alexander Boucke, Declan Berridge and “an insider” for their contributions to this story.


Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up 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 Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

85 Comments

  1. Despite finding the 3-litre attractive I don’t understand why I do! The Wolseley or VP versions may have been the better option and leave Austin to the middle ground.

    As stated Rover, Triumph and Jaguar had seen the way forward by chasing the more dynamic executives, big Austins were too stuffy and “old hat”.

  2. love these items, SO interesting.
    Also surprised that wolseley and VdP versions would be quite so different(the 1100/1300 were just rebadged/new grill)
    Also does one remember the stick the company got for rebadging cars and have brands competing against each other and should be rationalised ? – seems to work with VAG these days

  3. I think this statement is very true:
    “…the boot treatment looks as though it always should have been there”

    In fact, I can’t help feeling that the 1800/2200 would have been improved by sticking the 3 litre’s boot on the back, which presumably wouldn’t have been too difficult, considering the middle sections were the same!

  4. Looks good from the back, but is completely ugly from the front. Also by 1968 the Austin badge was synonymous with small and medium cars and a luxury Austin was doomed to fail, especially, as for the money, there were vastly better cars from Rover and Triumph with better equipment, performance and economy. However, my one abiding memory of the 3 Litre is of a tatty example being involved in a crash in an episode of Some Mothers Do Ave Em.

    • The 3litre was the first car I ever remember that featured in its press adverts, photos of the BACK of the car, so “challenging” was the styling of the front. A great pity they did not “borrow” the front style of the proposed Bentley version when it was abandoned. That was so attractive it would not matter what it was “branded” as, Austin, Wolseley,or Vanden Plas !!

  5. Hi, Very sad the comment’s on this great looking car, wished more people liked them!!. My father had two back then and i loved them as a lad [ still do ]. I have managed to find one for myself now to add to my collection. It funny but if you,or any [petrol head’s] saw one now you would still smile and be happy to see an example of BRITISH engineering out and about.
    There are it’s said,only two hundred or so left now? how true this is i do not know.
    I have a corniche as well and the rear of either car is not that far apart as far as the design.
    great article, many thanks.

  6. Hi, Ken, I used to love the 3.3 litre version of the Vauxhall Victor FD, the Ventora, but none of my classic car friends from the early 90s were delighted when I spotted one on the drive of a detached house in Coventry. To them it was a vulgar Americanised car and were even less pleased when I saw a 1968 Vauxhall Viscount a week later, regarding late 60s Vauxhalls with the same contempt many people have for the Austin 3 Litre.
    Yet both types of car are unique as they are rare classics, in the case of the big Vauxhalls rust killed more of them early on than the big Austin.

  7. The same old British Motor Corporation/Leyland story; for every stroke of blinding brilliance, there was a complete cow-pat of a car. And here we have another example of the latter, a car with no discernable place in the market!

  8. Interesting article and i find these 1960s luxo barges fascinating ,My dad had a 3 litre Austin after owning a couple of Farina westminsters and Vauxhall Crestas and while it was a comfy old beastie the suspension leaked on the drive and he was disapointed by the enormous fuel consumption even compared to its thirsty predecessors .He then moved onto a Ventora which he loved .But when he bought a Rover 3.5 P6 it showed what the Austin 3 litre / Cresta /Zodiacs to be , old fashioned and dated .

  9. Certainly in hindsight we can look at some of the decisions made as being wrong,but was it such a bad car.l am led to believe that they were going to develop a much better square engine that would rev more freely but alas used the 7 bearing 3litre instead,even worse in the MGC.The 3.5 litre v8 of course would have transformed the car had it been available earlier but l am sure the Rover boys would rather have wanted to keep that for themselves.Also the lack of leather seats in a luxury car effects the appeal.As to the front end styling,l used to find it ugly but it has grown on me.They could have spent more time on that one,from the rear 3/4 it looks very classy.So if l had one now l would fit the 3.9 litre v8 AKA Range rover and leather seats.And that Gentlemen with it’s second to none ride qualities would make an exellent car.

  10. I can remember these cars as my parents were in their own ways involved in the transport industry, my mother worked for Rootes group as a manageress. Looking back it is easy to see why these cars were not a success given the tinkering that had forced Rover into the BL fold in 1967 and it is worth bearing in mind that P5B was techinically another car that should not have been built. BL were to find themselves in a position not dissimilar from Ford when it intorduced the sierra. It felt held back by a conservative clientelle hence the A60 when the marina should have been introduced. Also the effects of Horsepower tax were catching up with British engine design when American and Europeans where already dealing with square and oversquare designs. The British motor industry were thus in a no win situation from which they were destined never to recover. My own view is that SD1 given the correct backing could really have made a name for itself. It was a brilliantly simple design ruined by the fact that it had to be made on a shoe string

  11. Why is it that the old big farina cars get so little respect they were big comfortable and surprisingly fast and for there time had good roadholding and brakes, BL should have used the wolesley and vanden plas names on the three liter and gone up market building on the good reputation these cars had back then. i have great memories of our old mkii wolesley, four adults towing a caravan up the m6 at a steady 70mph relaxed almost silent and 18mpg.

  12. The 3 litre. I do’nt understand why everyone says the car is so ugly. I find the back even very beautifull. Maybe just the double headlamps give disharmony. I would have preferred the very first shape that was shown. I saw a 3litre for sale with less then 10000 miles from new. What a nice classic car to have now. Very special! Who cares about some petrol more and less acceleration in a classic car you have for fun and drive only for some special events in a year?

  13. I think Glen has a good point about the big old Vauxhalls versus these offerings from BL. I had a Vauxhall 3.3ltr Cresta 1967 ish. Of the 80 or so cars I have owned it is high on the list of cars I wish I had never sold! My dear father had a Rover 3ltr Saloon at the same time and there was only one thing that car did better than my Cresta – and that was giving you the feeling of utter luxury (like sitting in your lounge). The Cresta was definitely a luxury car but nothing compared to the big R. (I did have the full leather and walnut dash version). Everything else, including economy, road holding, ride, handling, top speed, accelleration, braking – the Cresta would run rings round the Rover!
    We did have some fun with both of them though – my dad and I. Wonderful days!

  14. @ Martin… That sounds like a Cresta Deluxe PC series to me. When it was launched in 66, I was aged 11 and remember examining it with my Mother at a local Vauxhall dealer. My Dad owned a VX4-90 at the time.

    I also was given the Cresta’s launch brochure which had maroon suede finish to the outer cover. I vowed I would keep it forever but sadly down the years it disappeared! Shame

  15. Would the 3 litre have done better with better front end styling, the engine being uprated to offer better performance and economy, more equipment and a Vanden Plas badge? I’m sure the 3 litre’s good points such as its excellent ride, huge passenger and luggage space and quiet engine could have made this car a success if it didn’t look like a Ford Edsel from the front and have an engine that had no go and guzzled a gallon of petrol every 16 miles.

    • Glenn, see above me response to your earlier post of 20OCT2011. A better front end, and more prestigious brand (Oh! how I hate that word!) name, would have sorted two of the problems. To quote “two out a’ three aint bad” !!

  16. The last big Austin also reminds me of another spectacular failure, the last big British Vauxhall, the FE Ventora, basically a luxury version of the less than successful FE Victor( a bit like the BMC 1800/ Austin 3 Litre story). While the FE Victor wasn’t a particularly bad car, and in VX 4/90 form looked good and went well, the reputation for premature rust, indifferent quality and being too big to take on the Cortina and too small to take on the Granada had pushed the Victor way down the sales chart.
    However, while the VX 4/9O would have made a capable flagship with its 2.3 litre engine and Chevy looks, someone decided to go one better and reintroduce the Ventora name for the range topper, with a 3.3 litre engine similar to those found on Bedford trucks. Basically this made the car even slower than the VX 4/90, it could barely crack 100 mph, with a massive thirst for petrol as the unrevvable engine struggled at speed. Also the usual slack Vauxhall build quality of the era, loads of cheap plastic and rust meant buyers stayed away in bigger numbers than the 3 Litre. Maybe this should be featured in the best forgotten feature.

  17. @16 – Yes please!! I’d love there to be some FE/VX action on this website – my favourite 70s British cars……

  18. Simon, the VX 4/90, a Chevy lookalike in FE form, is a seriously underrated motor and should have been Vauxhall’s range topper as the 2.3 is a good engine capable of 105 mph, very good 40 years ago. If you look past the rust and rather slack build quality, here was quite a good car with a decent turn of speed and quieter than a two litre Cortina. The last incarnation really is worth a look, as it came with a five speed Gertrag gearbox and a bit more power, Durham Constabulary traffic division were still using theirs as late as 1982.
    However, of the FEs. the 1800 isn’t up to much performance wise, it is basic with no trim variations( which probably really hurt sales against the L/XL/GXL Cortinas), and isn’t much more economical than the VX 4/90, which is a far nicer car

  19. Too posh for the Austin name, would have been a ready made (BT the time of the merger) replacement for the then nine year old P5 with the Rover V8 engine. Could have sold until the introduction of the SD1 helping prevent the likes of BMW & Mercedes taking sales from Rover following the discontinuing of the P5 three years earlier.

  20. There was in fact looked into making a Rover from the 3litre. I know of a drawing showing it with a full Rover grille and very Mercedes like headlamps and a slightly squared off roof-line – it would have stood well next to a Mercedes 280E of the time. But this did did not get beyond a drawn out idea I think,

  21. Phil @ 19, the Rover P5 was still a big seller to the establishment and a far better car the Austin 3 Litre in 1969. I think British Leyland would have been mad to axe the Rover flagship esp as V8 power had made it a very capable car again and it had tons of class, unlike the 3 Litre with its cheap dashboard, cost cutting in places and awful looking front end. Also who would swap 115 mph and 18 mpg for 98 mph and 16 mpg?

  22. I think its only the front end styling which makes it unattractive, the side looks like its got those shared doors, The slopey rear is kind enough to the cars overall stlying.Perhaps it was simply brand confusion which let it down one badge – mid to upper market would have been enough. and then add an after sale trim pack to get around the tax issue.

  23. If only I had the room I’d have a 3ltr – for its sheer presence – and a Talbot Tagora for its speed (relative to alternatives of the day) and its wiredness.
    For those who have not actually sat in a 3ltr it is like sitting in your living room at 70 mph. Extraordinary machine! At the time of its production there were rumours of an Alvis version. Probably were just rumours. Could have been awful!

  24. Here’s the link to 3-Litres that might have been as alluded to by Alexander in post number 20 (you will need to scroll down about a quarter of the page):

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/blogs/blogs-april-2008/

    On another forum I did wonder if the 3-Litre might have had another life Down Under. In other words, if BMC Australia really wanted a large, RWD saloon why start from scratch with the P76? Why not simply adopt the 3-Litre? The Aussies were building the bit in the middle already.

    For the nerds…

    …compared to the P76, the 3-Litre had a 3″ longer wheelbase, was narrower in front and rear tracks by 3″, was 3″ taller, the thick-end of 5″ shorter, and about 9″ narrower (it does seem that the P76 was a bit broad of beam.)

    )

    • Us Aussie’s do like our wide simple rugged cars, British designed and built cars were and are too fragile and unreliable for our roads and I feel the 3 litre would be no exception

      • Well, the 3 litre turned out to be a very rugged and robust car – high mileages without much trouble were the norm. But it also was a rather complex car (except for the engine itself), probably rendering it unsuitable for the Australian market.

  25. The front of the 3 litre is the ugly bit. Those headlamps are too high, but the grille does no favours at all. It looks far better with the Wolseley grille, but even that has a sort of Edsel-look to the front.

    Btw, what is so wrong with ‘those doors’?

  26. Don’t care a jot for the interior, despite all the walnut etc. It looks like lipstick on a pig. Rover and others showed how to do it.

  27. Interesting reading all the ‘ugly’ comments.. Remembering them in the ’70s, I always thought these were the only car that actually suited the famous doors.. The 1800 and Maxi having too short a bonnet and door to front wheel gap for them. Likewise the width… The 3 Litre’s twin lamps made the wide-mouth grille look much better than the 1800 Mk1 it was shared with.

  28. To my eyes the old barge has decent proportions. A local insurance broker had an example in Damask Red really suited it.
    Perhaps Downton could have sorted the engine. Surprised and pleased 200 still exist.

  29. The 3 Litre couldn’t win as it was up against far better equipped offerings from Rover, Ford and Vauxhall for similar money. I think this was a BMC vanity project that should never have gone ahead.

    • The problem was that it was BMC strategy of replacing what they had had before and not understanding how the market was evolving. The market use to buy these old barges like the Austin Westminster so lets do the same again and not understanding how the market had changed with the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000.

      They made a similar mistake with the Allegro, ADO16 had been a saloon and the estate only had two doors so why should we make it a hatchback or a five door estate.

  30. The statement:

    it never even reached the financial break-even point of 50 cars per week. In its three-year production run, a total of 9992 were produced

    Well, 9992 cars over 156 weeks = 64 vehicles on average per week.

    Over 4 years (208 weeks) would be 48 cars per week.

    So it must have reached its financial break even point and some more.

  31. hey there ..
    can anyone help me im going to do the conversion 3litre to 3.5 rover V8 .. has anyone done it? look forward to hearing from you

  32. I never understood why BMC Australia did not use this as the basis for their Holden Ford basher than just facelifting the 1800?

    • The 1800 had been built there from 1965 so it was the most logical choice to facelift it into the Tasman/Kimberley as despite looking very similar the 3 litre had not much in common with the landcrab therefore prohibitely and needlessly expensive

  33. Have to agree that gas consumption was something else again… I’ve had mine (auto) for 40 odd years but when used to commute into town I reckon it was getting all of 13 mpg -and that was 30 years ago when traffic wasn’t quite so bad!

    Not helped by a wildly under-recording odometer (Source: AA road test) of around 10%. But, even adjusting for this I never saw more than 19 to 21 mpg on a run. Mind you gas was cheaper in those days!!

    However, cross country on A or B roads, you’d be hard pushed to keep up in your Rover 3 litre…

  34. Interesting article! Very well researched and well written. Was BLC afraid to design new things? A good example is the redesign of the bottom end of this motor……changed from four main bearings to seven! Why not just design a new engine?

    • It’s the usual “long short cut”, bit like the O series engines having to use B series parts as the tooling had only recently been renewed, even though the O series was already in the pipeline.

  35. Had ADO61 been successful under another brand (such as Wolseley, Vanden Plas and Bentley), it would have been fascinating for an early-70s Austin variant to instead be clothed in a radically-styled body inspired by both the Pininfarina 1800 and Maxi-based Aquila concepts, essentially a new Austin Sheerline with British Citroen-themed styling.

    • Ah, the Sheerline . For me , the most beautiful Austin ever produced , and far more handsome than the Mark 6 Bentley of which it was said ( probably wrongly ) to be a copy

  36. It was Britain’s Volkswagen Phaeton, which has had an article published on this site. Badge snobbery was just as big in the late sixties, witness the relative lack of success of the 3 Litre against its stablemates from Rover and Jaguar, just big German cars were quite rare then. Also it wasn’t quite the done thing for professional men to go for a Ford Zodiac or a Vauxhall Cresta, even if these outsold the 3 Litre big time, one had to buy a Rover V8 or a Jaguar.

    • You can get them via the Dr Alex Moulton Archive in Bradford on Avon. I worked a bit with Dr Moulton before he died, and the Archive stayed in touch with me since then.

  37. The Austin 3 Litre was killed off in 1971 due to poor sales and rationalisation following the creation of British Leyland in 1968. One of my colleagues told me about the time British Leyland was run by a bunch of loonies.

  38. In retrospect BMC should have acquired Rover before Leyland Motors had the chance, once it realized the failure of the Vanden Plas 4-litre instead of developing the Austin 3-litre.

    If BMC remained stubbornly insistent in developing ADO61 / Austin 3-litre even after acquiring Rover, they would have been better off selling it as a low-volume Vanden Plas with styling resembling both the Vanden Plas 3-litre ADO61 and Wolseley ADO61 proposals.

    Assume Rover even under BMC would be reluctant to have ADO61 use the Rover V8 though they would either look the other way given the low-volumes or another engine option would be considered (e.g. 2.7-3.0 B-Series 6-cylinder, early-long stroke 2.6-2.7 E6, P6-derived 6-cylinder, etc).

    Actually heard of plans for ADO61 to receive a 3.8-4.0 4-cylinder BMC commercial diesel engine at one point though not sure why such a proposal was even considered by management at BMC given the segment.

    • “After the merger, of 1968, BLMC quite rightly allowed the car to go into full-scale production – the tooling costs had to be justified, for a start.”
      What a pity the same line of reasoning couldn’t have been used on the vastly superior and much more marketable Rover P8. The write-off of such a huge amount of money at the time from the very profitable Rover Car Co, (undoubtedly the most profitable car company in the UK at the time), dealt Rover a blow it never recovered from. Although one part of it,Range Rover allowed to proceed at the time, is tellingly, the more profitable part of the rump left from the miasma that was British Leyland.

      • Elsewhere on this site you can read about P8’s terrible crash test results. A very clear picture shows a completely deformed passenger compartment. After those results (and failed attempts to improve this poor perfomance), it wasn’t a matter of (not) allowing P8 to enter into production (by Jaguar’s Bill Lyons or anyone else), it simply was no option anymore.

        How this could happen to the same people who brought us such great cars such as P6, Range Rover, almost P9 and eventually even SD1, is a very intriguing question in my opinion…

        • It might have something to do with Rover experimenting with lighter gauge steel, which Alvis was apparently involved in and was tested on a lightweight Rover P6 featuring a lighter-gauge steel body.

      • When I wrote the 3 Litre book I found some internal documents muting the idea of the diesel engine option, i have spoken to people who were involved in the development of the car and even they were not aware of that option being thought of, to the point they questioned my findings but I read it with my own eyes so i know its accurate.

  39. A couple of, presumably, directors or owners of a scrapyard near Waltham Abbey both had one of them. That’s where two went.
    I agree it’s no oil painting but I never minded the appearance, it was better than the 1800.
    I can’t really understand the praise for Crestas. I had two – they were cheap. The PB admittedly I really liked but the PC was probably the worst handling car I ever had, despite them being pretty well identical under the outer panels. FD Victors came close… They were cheap too so I had two of them as well. The reputation for rust was unfounded. Vauxhall were better than most due to living down the problems with the original Victor. Of the four I had, one I sold on, one died through a mate’s stupidity and the other two died for mechanical reasons. The Vauxhall/Bedford/Chevrolet 3.3 litre lorry engine was rubbish too.

  40. Some interesting comments from Ken’s experiences. Although I think the Cresta / Viscount PC was a better looking car than the PB. My father’s FC VX4/90 remained rust free through its 7 year ownership, though my later Viva HC was already rusting through the front wings within 4 years. I suspect BL products were still better in the anti corrosion dept. but have no personal experience on that score.

  41. Yes the Austin 3 Litre was regarded as a failure, but closer examination puts more blame on BMC management than the vehicle. Firstly, when you have a BMC 1100 and 1800, what do you expect from a designation of 3 Litre – more of the same! The name 3 Litre was a gross mistake. BMC had already established success and market position with the Austin Westminster- why not continue this name? The car wad indeed more of a limousine and should have been promoted as a worthy new series to the earlier Westminster. This name exuded the class the vehicle should have been aimed at. If you get the opportunity to study the Austin 3 Litre sales brochure, you can see that BMC were unsure and confused about the target market for this car. It’s a shocking brochure! There is no selling job just a telling job. No promise of prestige or luxury. For some reason Austin loved the powder blue colour and many of their car brochures showed this colour. It was certainly a popular 1100 colour for Austin. Alas the powder blue looks terrible on the 3 Litre. And in the sales brochure they show it as powder blue! If they had promoted the car as a luxury “limousine” and featured navy blue or burgundy colour, it would look a million pounds better- and with a cream or gold coach line. The 3 Litre looks awful in white or powder blue but I have seen both a burgundy and a black colour scheme, both with a gold coach line, and they look impressive and worthy. As an Austin Westminster it may have had a chance of success. Now for the interior: that awful truck-like manual gear stick would immediately put off any proposed purchaser! What a disaster. However the auto selector model looked very nice and had a convenient tray on the tunnel for keys or coins. Another failure was Austin’s love affair with strip speedometers. Luxury cars always featured round dials in the instrument cluster ( apart from the clock). If BMC had installed quality elegant circular instruments these would have added to and enhanced the atmosphere of prestige and quality. Engine: whilst the “new” C series was a failure in the MGC for its inability to rev that was not an issue in the 3 Litre as the car was not intended to be a sports saloon. Yes, this engine was a failure on the part of Morris Engines Branch as they were given the sole charge of updating their original design. They failed to met their planned weight reduction program (alloy ancilaries etc.)and failed to improve on output and economy. There is a review in ArOnline covering a Downton Engineering workover of the 3 Litre engine and it easily and probably cheaply delivers significant performance increase and economy! As an Austin “Westminster” it would stand alone and should never have been compared with the 1800, despite the obvious family resemblance. It should have clearly stated prestige and luxury. A Wolesley vesion should have been introduced at the same time, thus giving creedance and further prestige to the vehicle via the Wolesley nameplate, which had been fully established in the past with the 6/110. Wolesley enjoyeda reputation for quality and prestige above the Austin name, as well as virtually doubling the distribution outlets. Further release of a Vanden Plas version would have given a 3-prong springboard that had already proven successful in the old Farina body.
    The proof of driving one (as part of this AR article commentary) and my own experience indicates this was a car that had potential, but was yet again stuffed up by BMC.
    If you consider carefully the negative elements: similarity to 1800, name as model number (3 Litre) instead of Westminster, truck-like stick shift, cheap and poorly designed instrument panel, powder blue promotional colour, limited performance and economy, uninspiring Sales Brochure and lack of Wolesley and Vanden Plas models. Much could have been addressed at acceptable cost. Offering the car in Auto-only would have eliminated the ugly stick shift and is becoming of a luxury car. It would have rationalized production too. The paint colour is critical for prestige vehicles. Most P5/B Rovers were all produced in dark colours. It transforms the 3 Litre and belies its 1800 heritage! The 3 Litre wheels look exactly like the 1800 and here again, BMC failed to choose a design that inspired luxury. Look no further for success on luxury than the Vanden Plas Princess 1100. It immediately conveyed luxury in an 1100 package but with perfect execution of trim and design. Even the wheels were superb and harmonised with the dark coloured exterior.
    I personally don’t believe the competition from Jaguar or Rover is relative. The 3 Litre could have occupied it’s own much in the lower prestige stakes vs the Super Snipe and Viscount. The 3 Litre ride and self-levelling was exceptional and the cabin was spacious. With better instruments and it’s Wolesley and Vanden Plas siblings it should have enjoyed a limited niche but instead was virtually stillborn.

  42. Excellent comments/resume by Frank Curulli . . .

    I would only add, that the Austin variant – with the Wolesley and Vanden Plas siblings – should ALL have had the gorgeous, prestigious, front end “face” as seen on the “Bentley Bengal” with its twin headlights. The Austin with possibly horizontal radiator grill “vanes”. The Wolseley with possibly a mesh grill covering the radiator. The Vanden Plas as illustrated with vertical radiator grill “vanes”.

  43. Frank Curulli makes a point about the strip speedometers, which I agree weren’t good, but I wonder if they were thought of as the modern way with dials being old-fashioned. The PB Cresta certainly had one and I suspect the PC did too but I honestly can’t remember after 40 years.
    The other reason could be the usual – BMC bean counters. The 1800 had one so no money to re-design that bit.
    I’ve never been in any of the Austin 3 Litre, the Super Snipe or the Viscount but I had an 1800 briefly, I know Crestas and my dad a had a Hawk so loosely – very in the case of the 1800 – the next model down. From those experiences a Snipe would win hands-down to me.
    Incidentally, in its day the PC Cresta was reckoned to be enormous. A colleague used to refer to mine as my aircraft carrier.
    The latest Mondeo, nominally a size down and a Cortina/Sierra equivalent is both longer and wider…

    • It is incorrect to say that strip speedometers were never used in “luxury” vehicles , assuming , that is, that the Mercedes 220 and 300SE from 1960-1967 are regarded as such. The Mercedes , it is true, had its strip running vertically rather than horizontally, but there was nothing wrong with strip speedos – that in the Rover 2000 looked well on the car , as did that on the PB Cresta ( yes it was a strip speedo ) and they were regarded as modern and fashionable in the 1960s . As far as the cars you mention are concerned, the Austin was very comfortable but not very exciting , the Viscount was truly dire in almost every way, and the Snipe was in a class way above either, with its rather superior cross pushrod hemi engine which whilst not ultra powerful was ultra refined

      • The Viscount’s main selling point was its lavishly appointed interior, which included electric windows, reading lamps, very comfortable leather seats and a walnut dashboard, and was seen as a bit of a poor man’s Rolls Royce at the time. Also it rode well, was quiet at speed and its Americanised styling stood out, but the Viscount was let down by ponderous handling and wasn’t durable in the way a Rover of that era was.

        • Glenn, I remember the Viscount well. It also was one of the first cars (I think) to have a vinyl roof. Most people remember the Cresta deluxe PC with twin headlamps, there was also a cheaper version just called Cresta, with single headlamps (effectively a renamed Velox)

          • The PC Cresta seemed to be usurped by the Ventora FD, which used the same engines. Apart from looking better and having a similar level of equipment, the lighter body meant the Ventora could accelerate faster and was more economical, as well as costing £ 200 less. I think unless you wanted a bigger car and electric windows, there wasn’t much point in the Vicount and Cresta after 1969 and sales fell.

    • The market has changed completely, but the latest Mondeo (and indeed the Insignia or 508) are very much in the mould of the 3 Litre, Cresta and Zodiac, being a “volume” badged flagship model, and hence relatively niche when compared to the Cortina/Sierra/Cavalier which were the big sellers.

      • That’s my point although not really relevant to the Austin 3 litre.
        The Mondeo was introduced as a direct replacement for the Sierra. The Scorpio, about which the less said the better, was the flagship model.
        Generally speaking car models expand over time (except, despite what several people have said on this site – Cortinas. From the first Mk1 to the last ‘MkV’ they were all the same length, give or take 1/2″ or so) and a new smaller range is produced.
        My current elderly 2003 model Astra, temporarily inconvenienced mechanically, is only 2″ shorter than a Cortina. It was an Escort competitor. The corresponding Focus is the same size as a Cortina and a Mk2 was 8″ longer and 5″ wider! The Astras are much the same although narrower I think.
        That’s more than getting a bit bigger…
        If the Austin 3 Litre was still made it would be the size of a bus by now.

  44. Thinking again, I think the PB Cresta might have had a very wide shallow dial, not a strip speedo. That’s 44 years ago so I plead senility.

    • My HC Viva also had the horizontal narrow speedo with orange needle. In run out models they fitted round dial instruments as on Magnum’s, (1976)

  45. Amazing to read the drawn out development cycle for a car that nobody seemed to want to buy in the first place! Clearly a pet project which was dragged kicking & screaming into production….to a very different world. Have to echo the P8 comments but looking elsewhere in the empire there was the XJ6 which was launched in the same timeframe…and the revamped ‘big’ Jag saloons. Hard to believe that it was the same decade really….so out of step & the styling (which is always subjective) serves to underline the age of the design at launch. I’m sure there must have been a better use of the time & resources elsewhere within the range.

  46. I think the 3-Litre would have been a rather different car had the BMH and later the Leyland merger not taken place. It was obviously designed to provide an alternative to the Rover 3-Litre and smaller Jags (as well as Ford Rootes and Vauxhall competitors). I get the feeling that after Jag and BMC merged in 1966 – when the car must have been almost production ready- they just gave up on it- or did William Lyons insist it was spec’d and marketed in a manner that avoided any direct competition with Jaguar. You get the feeling that it was only produced because it was to far down the line not to get launched. There is no doubt that as a stand alone company BMC would not have ignored Wolseley and Vanden Plas versions of their flagship product.

    Once Rover joined the party with their now Buick engined P5 and the XJ6 had been launched any hopes of further development or funds allocated to marketing were gone.

  47. The 3 Litre seemed to be quite a mixture of the plain & upmarket, but often of the wrong type for the market.

    About the best feature was the extended rear end, did BL consider putting it on the 2200 to make distinct from the 1800.

    • I guess the issue was the Hydrolastic Suspension, which pitched its nose up when loaded outside its wheelbase. I recall my father used to complain of being blinded at night by the oncoming headlights of hydrolastic cars pulling caravans during the holiday season.

  48. I’d happily have bought the Wolseley version – or the tv headlight one. Have vaguely considered modding a small dual headlight setup on the Wolseley (the standard ones are surprisingly good). Didn’t Downton or someone have a go at the 3 litre? Coaxed it into a 0-60 of something like 9 seconds while improving mpg by about 20%. But of course nothing came of it.

  49. The 3 litre would have been a bigger success if the front end styling was a lot better( it was OK from the back), the engine was more powerful and economical, and the interior was better equipped( I’m sure some versions had vinyl seats). It’s a shame it turned out as it did, as the top of the range Farina cars looked the part and weren’t as sluggish.

  50. Curiously if you look at acceleration times the Farina and 3 Litre are near identical. It’s a myth they are slower, everybody expected the new car to be quicker but it wasn’t, hence people incorrectly labelled them sluggish

  51. The annoying thing is while Downton did belatedly improve the C-Series for both the Austin 3-litre and MGC, BMC or more specifically the Morris Engine’s design team / Morris Motors plant were never able to fully unleash the engine’s true potential.

    One wonders what the C-Series could have become in the 3-litre and MGC had another design team at BMC been tasked with improving the engine including the planned weight reduction, Gerald Palmer with the Twin-Cam C-Series, Harry Weslake’s redesign of the engine, the potential involvement of Edward Turner as well as Downton (early on). Even the Healeys suggested reducing the stroke while increasing the bore to make the C-Series into a shorter lighter more sportier sweet revving engine.

    Even without the 3-litre, at least a fully unleashed C-Series would have been useful in other cars.

    That is on top of unconfirmed suspicions larger displacements were originally envisaged for the C-Series or at least a post-war precursor via the proposed 3.2-4.0-litre inline-6 for the shelved Sheerline / Princess rivalling Viceroy / Imperial project (intended for Morris and Wolseley).

    Though the narrow-angle V4/V6 project was eventually cancelled, perhaps a W8 engine could have been developed from a pair of narrow-angle V4 units decades before Volkswagen.

    Would have also suggested BMC develop a smaller RWD model in place of the 3-litre yet ADO17 actually had some potential in X6 Vanden Plas prototype form with 2-litre B-Series (even B-OHC) and 2.4 E6 engines, given it would be in the same class as the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500 yet managing to be FWD while the latter two only experimented with FWD at best early on.

  52. The C series was a big letdown in both the MGC and the 3 Litre, it didn’t rev and had massive fuel consumption, and no one was interested. It’s a shame as Ford’s Essex V6 was a sprightly and refined engine that saw service in top of the range Ford cars for 15 years, and could power its cars to 110-120 mph, with the V6 Capri being a particularly powerful car when it was launched. Also Vauxhall’s six was more powerful, particularly when put into an FD body and made the Ventora into a real Q car.

  53. Didn’t rev? Manual one’s were pulling 60mph in second gear when being raced. I get 22 mpg on a decent run which for its day was ok, far better than the 14mpg if you are lucky of a 4 Litre R

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