The cars : Authi Victoria development story

The Authi Victoria – or Austin Victoria as it was originally marketed as – was a three-box BMC 1100/1300, as restyled by Michelotti.

Here’s everything you need to know about it…


Authi Victoria: suited and booted in Spain

Authi Victoria

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 best-selling 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

Authi Victoria

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?

Authi Victoria

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 on…

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 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 near the facilities of Nueva Monta Quijano (under Nissan today) and a retired employee 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 how 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 cooling 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 a 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.

Authi Victoria
This MG-badged Victoria (above), with a tuned, twin-carb (83bhp) version of the 1275cc engine, twin headlamps and a revised interior, was shown at the Barcelona Motor Show in April 1973, but never entered production. (Picture: MG: The Untold Story, by David Knowles)

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

Authi Victoria


Authi Victoria gallery

A small selection of Mk1 Victoria images culled from brochures, adverts and magazines.

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria

Authi Victoria pictured in the wild in 2008. (Picture: Rob Cawley)
Authi Victoria pictured in the wild in 2008. (Picture: Rob Cawley)

Thanks to Declan Berridge, Graham Arnold and Agustin Calvo Ingelmo


Reviews, blogs and news stories

Keith Adams

33 Comments

  1. I will never understand why, in 1974, these did not come to the UK and carry the Austin/Morris brand, the revisions of 1500 and 1750 engine, and provide a distinct, small, FWD saloon competitor to the Chevette, Escort etc.

    There’s a hint of 1970’s Audi in the designs, that looks clean and modern.

  2. I totally agree Richard, these would have also sold really well in New Zealand up against the escort. Leyland had managed to stuff the 1500 engine and sell them into the proper ADO16s in Australia, so it had already been done successfully.
    They could have had a range that went from 1300 A series to 1500 and 1750 variants.
    This paired with the interesting Morris Kimberley / Tasman 1800 replacements would have gone a long way toward filling the void in sales that the Allegro / Maxi / Princess created.

    • It was the Austin Kimberley and Tasman in Australia, Morris in NZ! I know one of each in top condition for sale soon.

    • Having owned several Morris 1500 (ADO16)I would hardly use the word “successfully” to describe how they were “done”. BMC/BLMC used the Australian public as test engineers. There are three different head gaskets for the 1500, to change a clutch you have to pull out the motor, the things overheated…….

      • I had a rear main replaced in the Ausi Morris 1500, Nz Austin 1500 I owned many years ago by a Leyland workshop I had the vehicle back in less than 8 hours I would be very surprised if that was an engine out job

        • I don’t know if it was a deliberate design strategy in anticipation of the constant need to remove and install engines but those things (1500/1300/1100 motors)can be taken out quite quickly with the right tools (sockets with universal joints) and a bit of practice…….

          You only need to remove the battery holder (four bolts accessible from the wheel arch) unbolt the four engine mounts (at least one of which is usually in need of replacement), undo the four bolts holding each of the CV shafts to the diff output shaft flange, undo the two nuts on the exhaust/manifold flange and drop the gear shift lever (two bolts or screws, can’t remember, under the floor)and disconnect the fuel line.

          Then you’re ready to hoist the gearbox/engine lump to the height necessary to get to the clutch housing retaining bolts…..With luck the electrical cabling (little that there is of it)will have enough slack.

          Reverse the process when you’re done.

          If the workshop had two skilled people working together (one under the car, one under the bonnet) they could have it ready by lunchtime……assuming you had the correct rear main, there were three different ones, one of which was quite rare by the late 70s, so engine serial numbers were very important when ordering parts….

          Ah, they don’t make them like that anymore……..

          • Oh, and remove the radiator which is probably the worst part due to the location of the bolts and the sharp edges of the fan cowling…….don’t loose that 1/2-9/16 ring spanner

  3. Another Missed Opportunity…. Despite all the in house competition i.e. Rover/Triumph 2000, spitfire/MG Midget, GT6/MGB etc (although they all appealed to different Buyers) BL condemned any more in house rivalry, Allegro/Princess got head clouting Boot Lids rather than steal sales from the Maxi which wasnt selling that well anyway, whilst I can only guess the Victoria/Apache would have stolen sales from the Toledo/Dolomite.

    Back in the 70s I’m pretty sure this would of sold very well against Escorts, Cortina’s, Avengers, Hunters etc, It probably could have even killed off the Marina? Then again the 1100/1300 was an old design by then and costing a few £££ keeping it in production, so you can see why the Allegro came along complete with cost cutting improvements in every area…. Perhaps if the Agro became a hit a saloon booted style could been pushed forward?

  4. Not so much a car that could have continued the sales of ADO16 but one that could have addressed the criticism of BLMC for not developing the car if it had been launched in 1972.

    It could however had soldiered on in saloon form as a conservative Morris allowing the Austin badge to be used on a hatchback version of the Allegro, preferably with B instead of E series engines allowing a less bulbous front.

  5. I was on holiday in Asturias, northern Spain in the early 1970s when these cars arrived on the beach for a photo shoot..the beach was a small but stunning location called La Franca. This was still the time of Fascism and you could only buy vehicles built in Spain or face huge import duties and everyone drove a SEAT ( old FIAT ) or an enormous Dodge…these vehicles caused quite a stir and made a lasting impression on me as my Mother drove a Wolseley 1300 auto..brilliant car …..my Father was driving a 2.5 Triumph PI…which created a crowd wherever we went. The red one is clearly on said beach and the poor woman on the car roof is in full Asturian national costume….poor soul.
    Lovely looking car..happy memories…brilliant site, thanks to all who make iy happen…john

  6. We should have had this body style in Australia rather than the re-hashed Morris 1100 that became the Morris 1500 sedan, also the Nomad could have shared the same front end as well. It certainly would have been a more modern and attractive vehicle than what we actually had, maybe sales would have been higher too.

  7. I’m afraid this was Michelotti trying to turn an Austin into a Triumph. It never worked, thankfully the Pininfarina styling was far better, crisper and better balanced. It’s a shame the replacement 1100/1800 ranges didn’t go with the Aerodynamica styling Farina came up with for those models, even Harris Mann said in hinesight they should have gone down that path expect Harry Webster was a fan of Michelotti and probably killed it off. No doubt if the Aerodynamica styling had come from Michelotti, Webster would have gone with it!

  8. Is it just me or are the front bumpers really that much askew in the promotional photos? For heaven’s sake…

  9. It looks like they couldn’t be bothered speccing new wiring to put the indicators further away from their original location then had no more sense than to design & fit large lights which caused the maligned bumper to be even more exaggerated.

  10. The Austin Apache has a different front end, with single square headlights, and the indicators next to them, instead of being separate.

    Thus, the bumper is at the correct angle!

  11. They missed a trick by not producing a more powerful MG-badged version of the Victoria (and ADO16 in general) with 83-90 hp with the Twin-Carb 1275cc A-Series (and possibly an earlier 100+ hp 1.6/1750 Twin-Carb E-Series) instead of the 70 hp in the real-life MG 1300, which is far less then one would expect from a car its size compared to the smaller 76 hp 1275cc Mini Cooper S.

    For the UK, perhaps the Single Headlamp front could have been restricted to the 4-door Victoria under the Morris badged (Morris Manx?) to differentiate it a bit from the Triumph Dolomite, while restricting the Twin Headlamp front for the 3/5-door hatchback (with a neat Mystique-inspired rear hatch) Victoria variant under the Austin badge.

  12. Sure that with a 3 box body, ADO16 was a bigger car, certainly in line with the high end Escort and lower Cortina market, the Eseries allowed it to do so . As for the hatchback version, it was a crime not to introduce it, even more so than the (too?) expensive Pininfarina Aerodynamica. Although based on an old design, they would have updated one of the darlings of the 60’s and maybe kept production lines running, they were worth a premium, which Allegro didn’t seem to justify to the very few customers…AAAh, the luxury of hindsight. A shame though

  13. Certainly better looking than a Marina. I agree wholeheartedly with comments about the Aussie Morris 1500. This is the front sheet metal that we should have had, combined with the E series and 5 speed gearbox and hatchback (similar to Maxi) this car could have taken the fight up to the Corolla and Datsun 1200/1500s that swamped this class in the 1970s down-under.

  14. Indeed, BLMC Australia didn’t get the styling right with the Morris 1500. The curse of the E series showed how things were to come when it came to the Allegro’s podgy front end & high waist line.

    • It seems to be a recurring theme around here “the Allegro’s podgy/dumpy styling, high waistline etc”. Look around you people that describes every new car on the road today (Jag F type excepted).
      The Allegro was 40 years ahead of the styling trend.

  15. An interesting car which yes, does look like a Dolomite / Toledo at first sight, which maybe shows how limited Michelotti was with his designs. Certainly an interesting and (presubaly) cost-effective way of updating the ADO 16 and giving significantly more luggage space.
    I would be interested to see an underbonnet picture to see what use if any was made of the extra space around the engine (did they use commin sense & go for a front-mounted coolant radiator?). Plus seeing the grilles on the C pillars, did the car have some sort of throughflow ventilation, or are they just dummies?

  16. Allgro or restyled updated 1300, which is better?
    Only one way to find out.

    How about road testing a Victoria against a mark 1 Allegro and dolomite?

  17. In Australia the only Dolomite we saw was the Sprint so the Victoria would have slotted in nicely below that and made a good bridge between that and the Mini which had a squared off frontal treatment by then.

    The range (my dream team) then would have been:

    “LEYLAND” MOKE (to align it with the trucks)
    MINI (Just Mini, not Austin OR Morris)
    TRIUMPH VICTORIA (Sedan and Hatch/Nomad)
    DOLOMITE SPRINT
    P76 (just the V8, no six) but called “TRIUMPH 4400”
    JAGUAR XJ6/12
    and
    LANDROVER(s)
    TRIUMPH TR7

    Note: NO MARINA or E series. Thanks, but, no thanks. This would have saved a lot of effort developing short lived cars that cost so much in warranty claims, (Kimberly, Marina, 1500).

    Chrysler Australia’s Valiant survived for 20 years over here and only used two, basically similar, platforms.

    How about adding a Ford or Vauxhall model into the road test mix?

  18. These AutHI (AutoHispanoIngleses/SpaniardBritishCar), were built in Pamplina. Today, us the same place where VW,built the Polo for Europe.
    Those Victorias, were really good cars. Well finished, and Fast.
    The niche of owners, were in the medim/up of social status (medicals, advocates, profesionnals…), particullarly the Victoria Súper ( round lights, Rostyles, vinyl roof, 1275GT engines…. And British green, of course, exterior paint!)

  19. BMC/BL were basically finished because of a perfect storm that always brewed their way. In the 60s and into the 70s it was work stoppages, strikes that extended to transporters and the dock workers so that even with a demand for cars in the US, the cars sat built and unable to move. Warranty claims and government monetary policy made things difficult for BMC as interest rates and taxes conspired against the home market. In the US, car dealers moved on to other brands such as Nissan et el. Eventually it was the Japanese who ate BL’s lunch.

  20. One question that comes to mind is why BMC did not consider a three box 2/4-door saloon variant earlier on? They did after all build such a variant (albeit 2-door) in the case of the Mini-based Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet.

    It would have also allowed both the existing Mini and ADO16 variants to become hatchbacks from the outset, even without Michelotti styling the three box saloon variant could have still been styled by Pininfarina (minus the large tailfins).

  21. Despite their visual similarities as a result of both being designed by Michelotti, his work on Victoria IMHO looks a lot fresher in most respects at least with regards to being better suited for the 70s whereas the Dolomite and later 1300/1500 look rougher in comparison.

    The only plausible explanation as to why Triumph did not allow Michelotti to give Ajax a more extensive facelift or rebody as proposed for ADO22 for the early 1970s (never mind the later Dolomite facelift) like he did with ADO16 for what became the Apache / Victoria, would likely be because Triumph’s original intention was to develop Toledo/Dolomite (and lightly facelift 1300/1500) as a stop-gap before replacing them all with the Bullet/Lynx-derived Bobcat Project (see Giovanni Michelotti – a free stylist for image of Bobcat) followed later the SD2 and TM1 Projects.

  22. it has just occurred to me that I neally need to know what this front end on the estate would lookmlike

  23. I can see a two door quad headlamp version of this, with a maximally tuned 1275 lump (10:1 compression, twin carbs, high lift camshaft, long centre branch manifold and free flowing straight through Silencer) being introduced as a replacement for the Midget/Sprite.

    Should have been good for 80BHP and 100MPH. Maybe if they could have sorted the gearchange out it could have also had a close ratio version of the five speed gearbox to give both better acceleration and relaxed top speed cruising.

    • Actually, keep the AD016 two door, fit the MGB GT hatchdoor as per the Mystique specials, with the front of the Apache and sell that as the MG midget replacement, you would have a cheap two door coupe.

  24. That was kinda like what I was thinking of, either a coupe or a hatchback, MGB or Triumph GT6 style.

    It could also have been a successor to the Spitfire and Herald as well as the bottom end of the Dolomite/Toledo range.

    Consolidation of platforms!! So obvious but it would never happen at Leyland. . .

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