The cars : Austin Apache development story

The Austin Apache was designed by Michelotti in 1970, alongside the almost identical Authi Victoria, and was produced by Leyland South Africa at its Blackheath plant from 1971 until the mid-1970s.

Here’s what we know about it…


Austin Apache: booting the ADO16

Austin Apache

Following the merger of BMC into Leyland, and the creation of Leykor in South Africa, plans were devised to create a new mid-sized saloon in 1969. Given that the locally-produced BMC 1100/1300 was falling out of favour, but the car was still more than technically competitive, it made sense to use this car as a basis of the new saloon to beat the Japanese imports.

Making use of the recently-axed Austin ADO22 project as a basis, Leykor was offered the opportunity to take on the Michelotti-styled three-box   proposal as its own. The fully-finished prototype was sent to South Africa and developed into a production version using as many off-the-shelf parts as possible.

According to model expert Martin Williamson, standard Lucas head and tail lights were used, and the rear bumpers were modified to incorporate the side pieces from the Triumph 2500. The only other major change over the ADO22 prototype was the fitment of new air vents in the C-pillars.

The Apache was 85% locally-produced

Due to the need to be 85% locally-produced by weight, the Apache would end up with Leykor-cast engine blocks and a huge number of locally-sourced parts. The Apache’s 1275cc A-Series engine differed from UK versions thanks to a higher compression ratio, the use of a larger 1.5-inch SU carburettor, and an 11-stud cylinder head.

The Austin Apache was launched in December 1971 and built at Leyland South Africa’s factory at Blackheath, near Cape Town. A subsequent version of the Apache was offered in Spain as the Authi Victoria.

In reality, there was still vast amounts of commonality between the Austin Apache and the 1100/1300 it was based upon. The centre-section was largely unchanged, so it used the same glass, doors and subframes. Despite this, it was very much a local effort, and a South African twist on a very British theme. Production ended in 1977 to make way for the Austin Marina.

Austin Apache

Austin Apache

Austin Apache

Austin Apache


UK Apaches

This splendid Apache is owned by Jason Heaton, who lives in Salford, Manchester. These photographs were taken when the car belonged to previous owner Martin Williamson, who received it as a 21st birthday present while he was living in South Africa.

Martin later brought it with him when relocated to the UK, and sold it to Jason Heaton in 2002, as he wasn’t getting much opportunity to drive it.

Austin Apache

Austin Apache

Austin Apache

Austin Apache

Austin Apache


This Apache image was taken from Graham Robson’s book, and as can be seen, it has been the subject of a colour change since its appearance in print.

Austin Apache

Austin Apache


With thanks to Martin Williamson for the images of his former car. Written with reference to his website mginfo.co.uk.

Keith Adams

6 Comments

  1. Looks good on Rostyles! Wouldn’t mind one of those, and it would fit in my garage 🙂
    Interesting comparison with the Allegro in the bottom picture too…

  2. A red Austin Apache briefly appears in a recent British television commercial for LV (formerly Liverpool Victoria). LV film most of their commercials in South Africa, where film crews are cheaper and the weather is always sunnier. Like all cars in these ads, the Apache is bearing fake British plates. It gets side swiped by a grey Volvo in an ad for car insurance.

  3. Yet ANOTHER opportunity missed by BL, they could have sold this in the UK as a Triumph 1100/1300 below the Toledo/Dolomite for very little additional cost.
    [ Other missed opportunities… V12 Range Rover, Straight-Six 2500 in Stag below 3.0 V8. V6 from Jaguar V12 to be used in SD1… the list seems endless ]

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