By Julian Mounter Motoring Correspondent
Sixty thousand Morris Marina cars, two thirds of the total production, have been sold with what may be an embarrassing design fault. In an effort to cure earlier troubles British Leyland last year decided to reposition the wind- screen wipers on all Marinas. As a result the driver’s forvard visibility is hampered in bad conditions.
The company is considering reverting to something like the original design; but to correct those cars that are on the road-if it decded to accept liability, could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds- The cost of modification to an individual customer would be about £15. It is by no means the complete answer, but it does, in my opinion, offer improved visibility and therefore greater safety. British Leyland says the reason it abandoned its original design, with the windscreen wipers mounted on the right side of the car and parked on the left side. was that at high speed the blades lifted off the glass.
‘We could have cured it with a heavier type of wiper but considered the additional cost was unjustified’, an official said. The AA, however, says that it understands it was a’matter of policy’to have the wipers mounted in one way for both home and export models, and it was this that led to the change. British Leyland started its export drive with the Marina last autumn.
In their original position the wiper blades cleaned the windscreen to within an inch of the pillar on the driver’s side. Now, pivoted from the left side of the car and parked on the right they leave a large area on the top right hand side of the screen uncleaned. In heavy rain drivers of the latest Marinas might not be able to see cars entering their stream of traffic from the right, or pedestrians trying to cross the road. The AA said yesterday that it had received complaints about the fault and had made representations to the manufacturer.
‘We understand that as a matter of policy the company has decided that the wipers should be mounted in the same position for both home and export models. But clearly the needs of those driving on the left are different from that of those driving on the right’, the AA said.
It was the association’s view that ‘one cannot have too much forward vision’and on that basis the situation should be improved. British Leyland, whom The Times first approached on the subject three weeks ago, yesterday decided that it would not add to its original comments except to say that the reason for the modification was’not a cost-saving one’.
Apart from preventing ‘lift’ the change had given better vision’ at the bottom of the screen and improved the driver’s view of his wing mirrors. The man who had to clear the change, Mr Harry Webster, technical director of the Austin-Morris group of British Leyland, had overall charge of the original designing of the phenomenally successful Marina range. Yesterday aftemoon Mr Webster was involved in a number of top level discussions about the positioning of the wipers.
At one point reports said that he and Mr George Tumbull, managing director of Austin-Morris, had decided to revert to’something like the original positioning’, but later British Leyland adopted its first stance of denying there was any problem. claiming that the change- over had been of great benefit. That being the case, some of the owners of the original 40,000 Marinas might feel that their cars needed improvement.
But when we spoke to owners of early Marinas and to garages we found little evidence of complaints of poor visibility or of wiper’lift- off’In the end it way be up to the customer to decide whether he should accept British Leyland’s positioning or pay to have it reversed. As different holes are now used. it is virtually impossible to get as good a sweep as was achieved on the first 40,000 cars.
So the change. which involves the removal of the dashboard and several hours of labour, may even be a retrogressive step. Owners of the 60,000 will therefore probably have to live with the inadequacy, with the hope that cars coming off the line in future will show an improvement.