The Austin Maxi ADO14 is one of few cars that received a substantial facelift before it went into production. In this case, the work followed the arrival of a new Design Director months before its launch.
Here are a number of prototype images of the ADO14 project before and after it received its final Roy Haynes-penned front and rear ends.
Austin Maxi: a troubled gestation
The Austin Maxi emerged in 1969 as a substantially different car to the one that Alec Issigonis had conceived late in 1964 following the introduction of the BMC 1800 mid-sized saloon. As discussed in the BMC 1800 development story, that car had grown away from its ideal size as a Ford Cortina fighter to replace the ageing Austin Cambridge/Morris Oxford, thanks to the fitment of a larger 1.8-litre version of the B-Series engine.
It could be argued that, if the BMC 1800 had stuck to its original brief, the Austin Maxi would never have been needed at all. However, be that as it may, it soon emerged that a smaller car to plug the gap between the 1100 and 1800 was going to be needed – and ADO14 was its codename. It was developed to sit on a new platform, be powered by an all-new engine, but use the passenger doors of the recently-launched 1800. That would mean that the new mid-sized saloon would sit on an unusually long wheelbase for its class.
Interestingly, while Jeff Daniels confirms that consideration was given to fitting a hatchback to the BMC 1800 and marketing the model as a stylish alternative to a more conventional estate car in his 1980 book British Leyland: The Truth About The Cars (as shown in the image below), that thinking was not adopted when work began on the ADO14 project in early 1965.
The idea of creating the Maxi as a hatchback would come later, in response to the launch of the Autobianchi Primula and the Renault 16 – new cars that combined the practicality of an estate without losing any of the visual appeal of posher saloon models – which led to it becoming one of Europe’s more forward-thinking models when launched in 1969.
1965: ADO14: styling sketches
ADO14: scale model in clay
ADO14: full-sized design mock-up
ADO14: full-sized design mock-up with interior
Post-Roy Haynes facelift in 1967
This is when the Maxi story gets interesting, because within months of its launch and shortly after the appointment of Roy Haynes as Design Director during the BMH years, a freeze was put on the ADO14 programme. Firstly, the firm ended up with two independent Design Studios during this time – the existing one under Dick Burzi in Longbridge and a new one under Haynes in Cowley.
Haynes was so horrified by what he saw with the ADO14 project that responsibility for the Maxi’s styling was transferred to the new Cowley Design Studio. Cowley was rapidly emerging as the dominant Design Studio and a number of projects, such as the Mini Clubman and ADO22 redesign of the BMC 1100/1300, were already underway there.
Secondly, at this point, the ADO14 project was redesigned to incorporate new front-end styling and a hatchback rear as first devised for the BMC 1800 (above). The front-end redesign was often cited as an emergency facelift in response to the dislike that Lord Stokes’ management team had for the car in the aftermath of the creation of BLMC in January 1968. However, the timeline for this doesn’t stack – this work was clearly instigated following the appointment of the brilliant Roy Haynes after the formation of BMH in 1966.
Obviously, Stokes’ team had some influence over the Maxi in its final months before its launch. And truth be told, they wanted to stop it – but it was far too advanced. Some further changes were made, not least in its interior, but most of those engineering and styling updates would have to wait until the launch of the Maxi 1750 in 1970.
The four-door Morris Maxi
Once the hatchback rear was engineered into the Maxi in 1967, the original saloon idea was developed into a more traditionally-shaped three-box model that would have been sold as a Morris to complement the hatchback Austin. However, rather late in the day – towards the end of 1968 in fact – this model was dropped, leaving the way for the hatchback Austin to fly the ADO14 flag. Morris dealers were told that this car was to be replaced in the model line-up by the Morris Marina (ADO28) and they would have to wait until late 1970 at the earliest for that.
One suspects that, with the benefit of hindsight, the former Nuffield dealers weren’t too unhappy with the decision.
Thanks to Ian Nicholls and Nigel Garton for the pictures