Declan Berridge and Chris Cowin explain the long and sometimes complex history of the much-loved BMC 1100 in the US and Canadian markets.
BMC 1100 – fit for North Americans
USA: MG Sports Sedan / MG Princess
Within a month or so of the its UK launch, the MG-flavoured version of the BMC 1100 was being exported to the US to be sold as the MG Sports Sedan (perhaps providing inspiration to the Rootes Group, who later launched the Hillman Imp in America as the Sunbeam Imp Sportsedan). Launched in the autumn (perhaps we should say fall) of 1962, the MG Sports Sedan initially used the two-door bodyshell that would not become available in the UK until 1968; four-door models were also available, but in rather fewer numbers.
The launch came at a time when BMC had decided to rationalise its US range, and the 1100 was intended to provide the dealers with a car to compete with the ever-popular VW Beetle. However, with sales of less than 35,000 over its five-year life, the MG Sports Sedan was never really up to this challenge.
USA: MG Princess
In 1964, the Sports Sedan briefly shared its showroom space with the MG Princess, basically a Vanden Plas Princess 1100 with some rather incongruous MG badges added to its grille, hubcaps and bootlid. Only 154 of these models were built before BMC decided to concentrate efforts on the Sports Sedan.
The MG Sports Sedan was phased out in late 1967, when production of the Mk1 bodystyle ended. The final cars were fitted with the 1275cc engine (which also became an option on the Mk1 MG 1100 in the UK during 1967). The model was showing its age by this time, and moreover, it would not have been able to meet the new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which were looming on the horizon.
BMC had also decided to reserve the MG marque in America for use on sports cars, but the US dealers, still keen to steal sales from the Beetle, started lobbying for a replacement for the Sports Sedan. This led to BMC shipping a small quantity of Austin 1100s to the US during late 1967, while they readied a new version of the car aimed specifically at this market.
USA: Austin 1100
Launched in the summer of 1967 as a stop-gap model as the MG Sports Sedan was phased out, the US-spec Austin 1100 differed from its UK counterpart in several respects. From the front, it can clearly be seen that it lacked the usual Mk1 overriders and grille-mounted ‘Austin’ badge, while the clear-lensed indicators also mark it out.
Unlike the MG, this car was available only in two-door form (as was its main rival, the Volkswagen Beetle), reflecting its main role as a second or third car in the US market. Colour availability was limited to White, Tartan Red and Connaught Green.
However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the car was the fact that it used the central instrument pod which would not make its debut on home-market cars until the introduction of the MkII 1100 a few months later. This, combined with the export-only two-door MkI bodyshell, makes this model something of a hybrid, looking rather curious to British eyes.
It is not currently known how many of these models were built, or when production was halted, but it seems that it was partly devised as a means of using up excess two-door MkI bodyshells, so production is likely to have continued alongside that of the MkII cars for a time. It is also thought that the model remained on sale in the US until the introduction of the Austin America the following year.
If you have any further reliable information on production numbers and/or build dates, please get in touch.
USA: Austin America
Introduced in March 1968, the Austin America was essentially a two-door Austin 1300 fitted with a de-toxed, 60bhp version of the familiar 1275cc A-Series engine. In October that year the car gained front seat head restraints, while later modifications included body-side running lights and rubber inserts on the overriders.
The America was also offered in Canada and Switzerland and sold steadily, if not in large numbers, until its withdrawal in 1972. It was replaced in the American markets by the Austin Marina, a federalised version of the UK’s Morris Marina.
BMC 1100s in Canada
BMC and later British Leyland in Canada differed in many ways from the USA. A major example is the ADO16 1100/1300 range. From 1962-67 these cars were marketed in the USA only with MG branding (MG 1100 Sport Sedan plus a few MG Princess versions). However, Canada received both the Morris 1100 Mk1 and Austin 1100 Mk1 in four door form. The Morris brand was dropped in Canada in the mid-1960s, so only the Austin 1100 Mk1 was offered during 1966/67.
When BMC in Britain introduced the Austin 1100 Mk2 and Austin 1300 in late 1967, they were not exported to the USA, where instead consumers during 1967 were being offered a choice between the MG Sports Sedan (detailed above) and a spartan two-door Austin 1100, which was a hybrid of the Austin 1100 Mk1 and Mk2.
Canada was again different. North of the border the Austin 1100 Mk2 was introduced for 1968 as a four-door sedan but not it appears as a two-door (or estate). Unlike the hybrid car already on sale in the USA, this was a proper Mk2 car with cropped tail fins and larger grille. Availability of the new AP automatic transmission was a major selling point, a fully automatic box not being available at that time on the rival Volkswagen Beetle. Although an Austin 1300 sedan was now in production in the UK, this was not exported to Canada (until the arrival of the Austin America).
The Austin 1100 Mk2 in Canada, and the two cars offered in the USA, were bridging the gap before the arrival of the Austin America (below), which was a new version of the Austin 1300 Mk2 two-door saloon adapted to meet the federal requirements on emissions and safety that came into force in the USA in 1968. The Austin America was launched in the USA in the spring of 1968 but it appears rather later in Canada.
Once the Austin America was launched, it flew the flag for the ADO16 in all of North America until it was replaced (in both the USA and Canada) by the Austin Marina (which arrived in Canada in February 1972 and the USA six months later). Thanks to Todd Robin Ziebell for the Canadian Austin 1100 Mk2 advert.
As always, if you have any more info on this subject, please send it in. Although this article refers to the vehicles officially marketed in the USA and Canada, quite a few other 1100/1300 cars found their way across the Atlantic with returning servicemen/diplomats etc. and also because, prior to 1968, there were fewer barriers to importing a car chosen from the UK/European catalogue.
Pictures for this section supplied by Graham Arnold, Declan Berridge and Chris Cowin