The Authi Victoria – or Austin Victoria as it was originally marketed as – was a three-box BMC 1100/1300, as restyled by Michelotti.
It shared its basic body structure with the South African Austin Apache. But would it have been a success in the UK 1972? Sadly, we’ll never know.
Authi Victoria: suited and booted in Spain
In October 1972, Authi replaced its Morris and MG ADO16 models with the Victoria (Spanish for victory, so not named after a girl, queen, place or station). The bodyshell was borrowed from the Austin Apache produced in South Africa – and that was one of the aborted ADO22 proposals to facelift the bestselling ADO16 model range.
Considering the original ADO16 was designed by Pininfarina and the front and rear sections were down to Michelotti, the styling of the Victoria gels – possibly even more successfully than the Austin Apache. The decision to go with Michelotti is simply explained – this was the Italian Carrozzeria that Leyland favoured at the time.
Michelotti lengthened the front and the rear, creating an interesting cab-forward saloon, with a decently-sized boot. At the front, the look was much more contemporary than the BMC 1100/1300, being bang on trend for the early 1970s. The standard Victoria featured rectangular headlights, while the upmarket TC and Deluxe versions gained quad-round units.
Authi Victoria: to launch in 1972
So, the Victoria emerged in 1972 – a year after the Austin Apache – as a new Austin to replace the ADO16s it had been building, and although the Pamplona factory from where they emerged had a better industrial record than its equivalents in the UK and Italy, production was slow, and sales were correspondingly disappointing.
The Victoria was a failure, as was Authi itself, and it ceased production at the end of 1974. A Mk2 version was developed and a handful of examples were built before fire swept the Pamplona factory, and the Authi adventure came to an end…
As for why it was called the Victoria, there was a rumour that the name was a chosen as a sardonic comment on the similarity of Michelotti’s styling job to his previous Triumph 1500 design, particularly evident from the rear.
Could the Mk2 version have saved Authi?
For some time now there has been evidence that Mk2 versions of the Austin Victoria were being prepared for launch just months before a disastrous fire engulfed part of the Authi factory in Landaben on 9 October 1974. It seems that this fire was one of the causes of the disappearance of Authi.
However, it also seems that some examples of Mk2 Victorias had already been sold on the Spanish market some years before the model’s impending launch was reported in the Spanish motoring press. Another twist in the fate of the Austin Victoria? Read…
The story starts with the discovery of an article published in the July 1975 issue of the monthly Spanish car magazine Quatroruedas announcing that Mk2 versions of the Austin Victoria had been readied for sale, but that the version had got no further than the pre-production stage.
What makes a Mk2 Victoria a Mk2?
The text was accompanied by photographs of the front and rear of what was supposed to be a prototype version of the car and in which Mk2 badges could clearly been seen fixed to the radiator grille and bootlid. The article goes on to say that apart from the badges, the main differences between this Mk2 version and the previous (let’s say, Mk1) versions were a front-mounted radiator instead of a normal side-mounted one, together with an electric fan, plus newly-designed seats incorporating headrests and a completely different dashboard which, it was rumoured, might have been a copy of the Austin Apache one.
It finishes by saying that two or three examples of this model were built before the disastrous fire destroyed many valuable components of this version, and that the Mk2 never went into production due to the subsequent closure of the Authi factory. It seems that these Mk2 versions were in no way connected with the Authi MG Victoria (below) which was displayed on the Authi stand at the Feria del Automâ in Barcelona in April 1973.
However, the story takes on another twist, as several 1973-74 Victoria Mk2s have now come to light. A regular contributor to an Authi chat forum owns a red Victoria Mk2, while a green one (pictured above) appeared in the ‘For Sale’ section of the December 2002 issue of the Spanish classic car magazine Motor Classico.
Victoria Mk2: sighted in the wild
When the owner of the red Mk2 approached the former Authi (now Rover) dealer in the northern Spanish city of Burgos to enquire about the possibility of the existence of Mk2 versions, he was told that one of their clients also has a Mk2.
When the son of an ex-Authi design office employee was asked about these mysterious Mk2 versions, he said that they had been factory test cars. Some had been built incorporating new seats with headrests, while some had tinted glass, and others came with an electrical radiator fan.
What is not known is whether these Mk2 versions of the Victoria now extant are in fact these ex-factory works cars which had been sold on at a later date, and whether there were also examples of Mk2s which had been sold through Authi dealerships. This last point is interesting as it has also been suggested that the reason why so few Mk2s were ever sold in Spain (whether ex-factory or via dealerships) was that they were not actually built in Spain at all, but brought in from abroad. As an aside to the story, a forum member has also stated that some South African Austin Apaches were in fact imported into Spain!
So, how many Mk2 versions of the Austin Victoria were there, either in production, being imported or being readied for production? We’re yet to find that one out.
Update: 8 January 2013
Reader Agustin Calvo Ingelmo adds more Mk2 information to the Authi Victoria Here’s what he said.
About 20 years ago, I saw in my the village a ‘strange’ dark green Victoria that could be a survivor of two or three prototypes. I live in Los Corrales de Buelna, a small town that still exists (under Nissan today) the facilities of Nueva Monta Quijano and, as an retired employed of the firm told me that mysterious Victoria was occasionally driven from Madrid by the son of an executive of the old factory.
Apart of that time I never saw again the car, and I couldn’t confirm my friend’s story. Moreover, here is an approximate translation to english of this report published in the issue of July of 1975 by the magazine Cuatro Ruedas:
Victoria, the last breath of Authi
Virtues: Front radiator/new clutch/70hp engine with single carburettor/CV joints/electric screenwasher/new dashboard/new seats/rear heated screen/warning lights
From its launch, two and a half years ago, the Victoria received no modification except the gearbox, that in last series was replaced by a new type with direct command and smoother feel. Everything else remained without major modifications.
The car that never was
However Authi worked long time ago in a new version of this model to include many improvements, some of them – as the new clutch announced by Fraymon in the last show car- had been unveiled. But the financial situation of the make, with shadows of doubt about the purchase by General Motors, didn’t make way to this new car and its projected launch was delayed.
Finally, when it seemed that the Mk2 could be manufactured, the tremendous fire suffered in the facilities of Pamplona last October finally cancelled the project because the majority of parts destined to the model was destroyed. Only two or three units remained as a demonstration of this Victoria Mk2 could have been: a car deeply improved in comparison with previous versions, as we can appreciate in this prototype that we localised in central services of Authi in Madrid.
Mechanics totally updated
The most obvious change when we open the bonnet is the new frontal radiator with electric cooling fan commanded by thermostat. The engine coooling is now as good as in more developed models in the market, improving the smoothness because in road use the fan normally remains switch-off and improves the mechanical security too due the better capacity to refrigerate the engine.
The engine presents a pair of remarkable improvements, the first one is the substitution of twin carburation of De Luxe version by a single carb, SU type too, of greater model HS6. The second one is the head, with smaller chambers, passing its compression ratio from 8,8 to 9,5. A new inlet manifold, a redesigned exhaust and a new distributor with different curves complete the engine modification.
The max power now reaches 70bhp at 5750rpm with all these changes, 2bhp more than previous Victoria De Luxe, not much certainly, but the engine is smoother and more useable and presents a consumption similar of better than twin carb version. Other important progress is the clutch, changed by a new diaphragm type more developed and much more progressive and gentle. The transmission was improved too, with new CV joints instead of rubber type ones. Not so new but interesting are other changes as a new alternator, a engine bay light, etc.
Comfort, above all
In the interior the new dashboard personalises unquestionably the car. Very complete and with several gauges well distributed and perfectly readable trough the new steering wheel and all of this forms and attractive set. All instruments are new but with a style very similar to Victoria De Luxe ones.
The fuel, oil pressure and water temp indicators now aren ´t joined in a triple gauge but are independent, as in Mini Cooper. The rev counter is similar to previous type, as the odometer with an interesting partial counter.
Moreover we can see interesting changes in switches of the dashboard. Three modifications attract our attention: the warning lights switch, the electric screen washer and the heated rear screen. But the comfort is, maybe, the most important achievement. the new corduroy seats with headrest are really comfortable, even more than previous. The improvements in other areas as the soundproofing are remarkable thanks to the front radiator, CV joints and a new noise insulation.
In the exterior of the car there are few changes and the Mk2 only can be distinguished by the vinyl roof, a slightly different matt black grille and an additional rear mirror in right door.
In the rear view highlights the black matt finish, as in the SEAT 1430/1600, the before mentioned rear heated screen and, naturally, the Mk2 emblems and the letter S in C-post instead of the ‘V’ characteristic of the Victoria De Luxe. The rest of mechanical features remains unchanged. Its road manners, brakes and steering are remarkably good, as the Hydrolastic suspension, and in the field of performances we can refer a maximum speed near of 93mph (150km/h) – but we can’t verify this figure due the low mileage of our model – and similar acceleration to Victoria De Luxe.
UK Authi Victorias
There’s at least one in the UK. At the 2012 BMC/BL Rally in Peterborough, an Austin Victoria was compared with its Michelotti-styled contemporary, the Triumph Dolomite. There are some striking similarities.
Authi Victoria gallery
A small selection of Mk1 Victoria images culled from brochures, adverts and magazines
Thanks to Declan Berridge, Graham Arnold and Agustin Calvo Ingelmo