The cars : Austin de Luxe

Austin de Luxe: The 1.0-litre ADO16

In 1974, just as the BMC 1100/1300 (ADO16) was preparing to face its final curtain in the UK, Authi introduced a new 998cc version of the standard-bodied car, known simply as the Austin de Luxe. The specifications make interesting reading – with 55bhp on tap, it would have been likely to outperform a standard 48bhp 1100 model, although it had to make do with slightly less torque (56.4lb ft, against 60lb ft for the 1100).

Its A-Series engine could have been sourced from Innocenti in Italy – the power output and torque figures are identical to those for the engine used in the contemporary Innocenti Mini 1000 and 1001.

More likely, though, is that the engine was produced at the Authi factory at Los Conrales. According to BL Denmark employee Erik Loye, the engines used in the Austin de Luxe were identical to the Cooper 998 except for having only one  SU carburettor (and Femsa ignition and electrics). He stated that: ‘The engine performed well in the heavier ADO16 body, but needed to be revved somewhat more.’

What was it like to drive and own?

In service, Loye added that the Austin de Luxe was overall a reliable car (as well it should have been after being in production for over a decade): ‘The only real problem with the de Luxe was the plastic heater elements, which did not produce enough heat, I believe all of these had their element changed to a brass one.’

This weakness probably belied the car’s Spanish origins, where heater output was somewhat less important than it would be in more temperate Northern European climes. Barely a year later, BL’s decision to withdraw from manufacture in Spain (see below) saw the axe fall on the Authi operation. However, there must have been considerable stockpiles of this model, as it remained on sale in some far-flung markets.

The 1000-or-so examples of the Austin de Luxe offered for sale in Denmark were sold alongside the remaining 1100/1300s during January and February 1975. However, according to Loye, it could well be that these were sold right through until February 1976, when stocks were finally exhausted.

Meanwhile, in Greece, where the arrival of the new Allegro had done little to dent the ADO16’s popularity, sales continued into 1977.

Thanks to Henrik Thostrup, Erik Loye and Demetris Bouras for the information on sales in Denmark and Greece respectively.



This page was contributed by Declan Berridge

8 Comments

  1. Note that the catalogue text criticizes the lack of power and the older, three support cranckase design which may be useful to identify the engine type and origins. Also criticized is the lack of radial tyres.

  2. While the originally projected 948cc engine was criticized for being too underpowered during the ADO16’s development entailing enlargement to 1098cc..As ADO16 was intended to be sold in continental Europe, would it have benefited from using the 998cc engine as an entry-level tax special of sorts in some markets albeit not quite as potent as the 55 hp 998cc De Luxe in order to better challenge the 45 hp 944cc Simca 1100?

    Find it rather perplexing an ADO16 1000 below the 1100 would have been viewed as underpowered yet that did not stop the company from later making use of an updated 44 hp 998cc engine in the heavier Austin Allegro.

    • @ nate, the 1 litre Allegro was a slug and offered little in economy over the improved 1.3. I suppose it was offered as a cheap entry level model for people who were trading in 1.1 Allegros, themselves lethargic cars. This was part of a trend where manufacturers offered no frills cars with small engines to sell cars in a recessionary climate.

      • Even the ADO 1100s were a little underpowered when used as a family car.

        My Uncle had one & it had a big end go when on the way to a holiday with my Aunt & Cousins, along with their luggage.

      • @ Glenn Aylett

        Both Ford and Opel were at the forefront of the trend with the 44 hp Escort 950 and 39-47 hp Kadett 1.0 respectively alongside the 44-48 hp 944cc Simca 1100 5CV. If the Innocenti Mini spec 43-49 hp 998cc A-Series engines are any indication, outputs for a 1-litre ADO16 would not be too far off from its rivals or the 45-49 hp Austin Allegro or lower-spec 48 hp ADO16 1098cc engines in terms of output.

        While a regular or slightly tuned 43-49 hp 1-litre ADO16 would have hardly been a ball of fire by any means in spite of being lighter than the 44 hp 1-litre Allegro (thus likely entailing further uprating the 1098cc and 1275cc engines), it would have likely done pretty well in places like France, Italy and elsewhere as well as allowed BMC to further broaden the ADO16’s appeal by expanding the range downwards (and via the 1500/Nomad also potentially upwards).

  3. @ Nate, Ford and GM probably saw these cars as entry level models for people who needed a bigger car, but couldn’t afford a bigger engined model. Also in France and Italy, cars were taxed on engine size, so a 950 cc Escort would have been cheaper than the 1100 and 1300 models. If the 950cc Fiesta was anything to go by, the 950 Escort would have been a painful car to drive on long journeys with very little power and high noise levels.
    One of the last miser type new cars I remember was the Chevette ES, which was launched in 1981 and priced at supermini level. Obviously it had was bigger inside than a Metro and was OK on long journeys, but it had a rock bottom spec that didn’t even include a rear demister( it was based on the lld E model, that was given more equipment and a higher price). Not many were sold, but Vauxhall must have seen the Chevette as a recession era special.

    • @ Glenn Aylett

      Another factor in both Ford and GM’s case for the smaller-engined models would have been the lack of a supermini, otherwise smaller-engined 4-door cars were a thing in continental Europe that BMC could have better capitalized on with a 1-litre ADO16 if not make use of domestically as a recession era special.

      To be fair the 998cc A-Series (along with the later 998cc A+ and stillborn A-OHC versions) as seen with the De Luxe demonstrates a 1-litre ADO16 does not have to be limited strictly to being a recession era special as it was certainly capable of putting out competitive figures of up to around 54-60 hp that other marques were already reaching with similar 1-litre cars.

      Albeit admittingly achieved at the expense of having slightly less torque against the existing long-stroke 1098cc engine, with the latter having limited scope for being further uprated short of being superseded by a 70.6mm bore version of the 1098cc engine as explored in the South African A-Series and the A-OHC project.

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