The cars : Morris Nomad and 1500

The Australian market featured a number of interesting variations on the BMC 1100/1300 theme which we didn’t get on the home market. The Morris Nomad and 1500 OHC had the most potential of all…

This Nomad might have kick-started the hatchback family car market years before the arrival of the Volkswagen Golf… or negated the need for the Austin Maxi.

Morris 1500 and Nomad: the optimum ADO16s

Morris Nomad added much needed versatility to the ADO16...
Morris Nomad added much needed versatility to the ADO16…

In 1964, around a year-and-a-half after its UK launch, a locally-built (but otherwise fairly standard) version of the Morris 1100 was launched in Australia, where it was sold alongside the Mini and Austin A40 Farina. In August 1967, the Morris 1100 was joined by the 1100S, which actually had the 1275cc A-Series engine of the UK’s 1300 models.

Both these models were replaced in mid-1969 by what were collectively known as the Morris 1500 Series models (below). This extension of the ADO16 theme came about as part of the development programme of the basic car, both in terms of body style (more of that below) and powertain options. The 1500 was effectively a hybrid car developed (in the UK) and then adapted specifically for the Australian market and using a lightly-modified Mk2 ADO16 bodyshell under the codename YDO15.

Dropping the A-Series engines of the ADO16 for the manual models, the Morris 1500 Series cars were powered by the new overhead cam 1500cc E-Series engine used in the Austin Maxi. Transmission choices were initially four-speed manual, although the Maxi’s five-speeder was added later. Interestingly, the AP automatic version of this car retained the 1275cc A-Series engine, as was thus known as the Morris 1300 Automatic.

However, the most intriguing of the member of the Morris 1500 Series models was the Nomad, another offshoot of the ADO16-replacement programme in the UK. This was a six-light version of the 1500 with a Maxi-like rear-end – including the all-important hatchback – initially developed in the UK, shipped to Australia, and finalised there under the codename YDO9. The Morris 1500 Series range incorporated the 1500 OHC, 1300 Automatic, Nomad and Nomad Automatic.

As was the norm in this market, enjoyed a short production run. Both this and the Morris 1500 were updated over the years to comply with the progressive requirements of the Australian Design Rules (which governed car safety), before being phased out in 1972 (after production ceased in 1971), in favour of the upcoming Morris Marina.

The Morris Nomad joins the Austin Apache and Authi Victoria in being a development of the BMC 1100/1300 that was never sold in the UK. It also showed that there was still much potential in this model range, even though it was passed over in favour of the development of the Austin Allegro from 1969 to its launch in 1973.

The Longbridge-developed mock-up (above) for project YDO9, the Morris Nomad; and below, some images from the sales brochure for the production version.
The 1967 Longbridge-developed mock-up (above) for project YDO9, the Morris Nomad.
YDO9 Morris Nomad prototype
Pre-production, fully-engineered YDO9 Morris Nomad prototype from 1968 – as indicated by the doorhandles, which differ from the flush items fitted to the production version of the Nomad.

Morris 1500 Series timeline

  • 1969:
    The Morris 1500 Series is launched in 1500 OHC, 1300 Automatic, Nomad and Nomad Automatic forms. Sales for the year are reported as 5518.
  • 1970:
    Manual models now offered in five-speed as well as four-speed forms. The 1500 OHC now available with the option of a ‘Luxury Pack’ with individual (as opposed to bench) front seats, wood for the interior and stainless steel highlights for the exterior. Sales for the year are 10,004, incorporating 8379 OHC-engined cars and 1625 automatics.
  • 1971:
    Production ceases at the end of the year after a very short run. Sales for the year are 5087 OHC-engined cars and 1612 Automatics. BMC stockpiles models in anticipation of the launch of the Morris Marina.
  • 1972:
    Sales of 1500 Series cars for the year are all of 1971-produced cars. The comprised of 1515 OHC-engined models and 625 Automatics, with a further 30 being registered in 1973.

Timeline data via the 1100 Club

Morris Nomad: the civilised sports car
Morris 1500 Series advert: the civilised sports car

Gallery: the earlier Australian Morris 1100 models

Keith Adams


  1. You miss the most important detail of the Aussie 1100 visible in the bottom photo – it had a bench front seat.

    • For sliding across to the girlfiriend………just like my 1950s Hillman Minx. Did the 1100 have steering column gear change as well? Another essential for a bit of front seat intimacy.

      • And what year was your Minx? Mine was 1954 or 1956. Front bench seat and that column gear change.

  2. My family owned four Morris 15oos. Two Nomads and two sedans. We always had a Ford or a Holden in the garage as well so the we had a car that we could actually drive.

    • the early 1500 was 4 speed cable, then in 70 became 5 speed, known as the o/d5 model. the last ones had wood trim dash and bucket seats.
      i had a 1500 o/d5, with the bench seat, and a bl special tuning twin carb kit. it flew.

      • The wood trim dash and buckets were part of the Luxury Pack option, along with carpets, a side chrome strip and an uncomfortably-shaped wood-trimmed gear knob – or that might have come with the five speed, I forget. The one on Auntie Grace’s 1500 “O/D5 LP” stripped the thread inside the knob several times, and the dealer eventually found one from a Leyland truck that fitted and stayed put! Right shift pattern too.

  3. the early 1500 was 4 speed cable, then in 70 became 5 speed, known as the o/d5 model. the last ones had wood trim dash and bucket seats.
    i had a 1500 o/d5, with the bench seat, and a bl special tuning twin carb kit. it flew.

  4. The Australian end of BMC/British Leyland seemed to have lots of good product ideas. How were labour relations?

    Seems like a better BMC from a parallel (and sunnier) universe. A BMC with added vitamin D?!

  5. With hindsight thanks to the “Barber Boom” they could have sold every ADO16 they could make in 71 (shows how far the Maxi missed the market that it failed to achieve its sales targets when there was a waiting list for the ADO16), this not only puts the good sales performance of the Marina in context as the ADO16 was taken out of production at Cowley and withdrawn from the Nuffield dealer network to make way for the Marina.

    Given that it was clear in 68 that the Maxi would miss the market, it would have made more sense to keep the Mini in production at Cowley (the Maxi replaced it) and put the Maxi and Austin 1800 / 2200 on the same track instead, surplus E series production could be soaked up by introducing the 1500 and hatchback variants to the ADO16 range. This would have meant the money invested into the Marina could have been invested into the ADO16 replacement, which might just have and probably should have led to a Bertone styled replacement for the ADO16 being sold alongside the Bertone (Innocenti) reskin of the Mini as a replacement for the Mini Clubman in 1974.

    A lot of if’s and may be to get to that, and we have to accept that nobody saw the Barber Boom coming (or even understood it at the time), but even without I believe the marina was an unnecessary distraction and given its modest objectives, too expensive to bring to production and efforts would have been better spent building on the success BMC had and continued to have with the ADO16 across the globe.

  6. Labour relations were very good compared to the parent company , the management structure did not reflect the class system as it may have done in the UK .
    the 1500/Nomad was prematurely terminated when it was decided to adopt rear-drive platforms across the range .So it never got refinements like the rod change gearbox that would have been such an improvement. Development and promotion of the cars basically stopped after 1970 as all resources went into the P76 project .

  7. Australian cars of the period had more in common with American ones, which the Ford and Holden cars were based on, than the smaller products of BMC, which explains why they introduced the P6 and six cylinder versions of the Marina. At the time, petrol was cheap, Australia is a big country and something like an ADO 16 wasn’t really designed for the Australian climate, or for carrying families in comfort over long distances, where a V8 would be much more suitable.

  8. My aunt had a 1500 O/D5 LP – The LP signified the Luxury Pack which got you bucket seats, carpets, “wood” on the dash and a chrome strip on the side. Oh, and a ‘wood’ gear knob which was uncomfortable to use, broke, and was replaced by the dealer with a Leyland truck shift knob with the same pattern – much more comfortable to use! I suspect most of the luxury pack bits were probably standard on UK cars, and had been stripped out to ‘Australianise’ the cars and make them more suitable for rural use. As for the standard bench seat, you certainly wouldn’t want to travel three abreast in the front of any ADO16 variant!
    Things were always going wrong with the 1500, compared to the 1100s another aunt and uncle both had. The local dealer seemed to have troubles tuning it or keeping it in tune, and it always seemed to run rough at idle but smooth out beautifully once you got going.

  9. I totally agree with Graham’s 20th Jan comment. This is the most sensible “what if” scenario for a BMC/BLMC model structure that has appeared on this sight (apart from outsourcing the entire production process to Ford).

    Imagine NO MARINA and a better 1100 successor ! And if they had stopped building the Minor earlier, surely the 1100 would have increased numbers. BMC should have had the confidence to fully commit to FWD and drop RWD entirely, except for the Luxury end of the market.

  10. These were good cars let down by the cable gearchange which I believe the local producer was forced to use by the UK parent company after they had switched to the rod gearchange for the maxi. Australian management identified this as an issue prior to release but were forced to use the cabled gearboxes to clear stock. It was the cars major fault. It was marketed as the sensible sports car and it came close to this in 5 speed form. Why this model wasn’t sold in the uk always surprised me as it was the logical development of the 1100

    • These cars were rubbish; My family owned 3 of the things. They overheated, had massive torque steer, were impossible to tune, were noisy, had cheap interiors with cardboard shelves and were not properly developed before they were released. The cable gear linkages were the least of our worries.

      They didn’t sell the 15oo in England because BMC/BLMC/LEYLAND would have been sued.

      • Interesting that you mention ‘impossible to tune’. I used to think it was just the local dealer that couldn’t make Auntie Grace’s car idle smoothly. It used to sound like an MG at idle, with a real ‘rump, rump’ to it – not what a seventy-something lady wanted. She wouldn’t let me try and fix it though. Agree about the noise and the torque steer. Even with the Luxury Pack interior option, the quality wasn’t as good as on the old 1100.
        Her next car was Japanese.

  11. Would be interesting if any owners of the Australian Morris 1500 / Nomad models ever attempted to fit the larger 1750cc E-Series or 1600cc S-Series engines.

    Perhaps a British built Nomad would have been more marketable had it featured the front-end of the Apache / Victoria or even the Maxi (the latter in both twin and quad headlamp forms), along with butterflying away the Austin Maxi as well as possibly even the Austin Allegro.

    • The big problem with the cable change was that the detent interlock was at the gear lever end rather than the transmission as in the 1800, as the cables ran through an arc they never came back to a central position causing the selector fork faces to be loaded against the side of the groove in the gear, this resulted in the forks wearing out, this was overcome in Australia by hard chrome flashing the faces of the selector forks as an interim fix while the transmission cases were reworked to include a ball interlock system operating on the selector forks.

  12. Having read so much over the years on these pages – (reference the FWD verses RWD costs) it seems that the company were divided – the Isigonis supporters who thought the company should stay advanced and build on that market – and the ‘Ford thinking’ that promoted repmobiles spearheaded by the Marina? I guess ultimately, the Ford thinking won – and Issigonis went. The individuality and engineering advancement lost at the time was a kind of loose repeat of the Gerald Palmer episode. There are interesting issues surrounding whether the company should have seriously retracted into a smaller leaner specialist concern – or follow a more Ryder like ambition of churning out a million plus cars a year – regardless of whether anyone wanted some of them. Of course, historians and enthusiasts today may think the former was the obvious plan – but then we don’t have the reality of the militant workforce to deal with. After all, if a 3 week strike could be caused by a man being instructed not to drill a whole that’s no longer needed – what chance of our plan succeeding?

    • Surely the company could do both? The solutions needed for a successful small car aren’t the same as those needed for a successful larger car, and the failure of the 1800 showed that Issigonis didn’t understand that market at all.

      • Issigonis seemed to think that a car could sell itself in it’s technical merits. Certainly the Mini & ADO16 managed this, but larger cars needed to be more stylish & better built.

        I’m sure the Landcrab would have done better with better looks inside & out, along with being light enough to have a 1500-1600cc engine, to actually replace the BMC Farinas, even if it meant using the 1622cc B series.

        • Aside from the Landcrab needing better styling, etc, one wonders how it could have been made light / small enough to justify the 1.5-1.6 B-Series engine as well as whether availability notwithstanding it was even the right engine?

          Would it can been enough for the B-Series including the 1.5-1.6 units to feature an early/mid-60s OHC conversion before the tooling was completely knackered (as was the case by the early-70s leading to the O-Series)?

          Sure the project drifted and grew larger as well as initially featuring RWD very early on (derived from Issigonis’s work at Alvis) before being converted to FWD, causing it to need larger engines though find it difficult seeing a more Maxi-sized Landcrab with all the improvements being a success.

          OTOH could an early three-box ADO16 (think pre-Apache downscaled Vanden Plas X6 1800) equipped with a new 1340-1600cc engine based on A-Series principles (think slightly upscaled A-Series akin to Nissan A OHV / E OHC with scope for eventually replacing the 848-1275cc A-Series) have been an adequate replacement for the Farina Bs in place of a smaller Maxi-sized Landcrab?

  13. My mate had one that I’m certain was a 1300 (1275 A series) with a five speed gearbox. it went very well and we lived on top of a mountain so it had a hard life. I don’t remember it ever breaking down, Even after being drive off a cliff (driver fell asleep halfway round a corner on a switchback)and being pulled back up to the road by al og truck it still ran fine. The room in the back was huge you could fit a full size plywood sheet in. i’ve also seen a 1275/five speed moke down in the Army Museum at Bandiana (near Albury Australia) but no one seems to know how many were made…

  14. There were many ” Missed oppurtunities” and blind alley engineering efforts during this period. I firmly believe the launching of the Kimberley in both B 1800 E 2200 onto the UK market in 1970/71 would have been successful .
    Additionally adding the Nomad/ Apache in the UK with 1500 E series’s – 5speed and some nicer interiors would have been the right move, sales would have increased and there would be more time ( possibly 5-years ) to get replacements sorted .
    As it was the Maxi- Marina-Allegro were all short of stellar appeal and ultimately hurt the company’s image further.
    Today platform Sharing is common BMC tried it to a degree but imagine a 70s UK market with a Apache 5 door Estate and a Larger 7 seater Kimberley Estate and a Wolseley or VDP spun off these platforms and you can see how easily several several areas could be filled with only a couple of platforms

  15. For all the extra practicality the Nomad’s hatchback provides, the Mystique hatchback conversion looks a lot sportier and neater in comparison that Nomad could have actually been sold as a 5-door estate.

    The only other thing that stands out about the Nomad that ADO16 could have benefited from would have been the redesigned rear that ditches the ADO16’s tailfins. Leading to the notion a facelifted ADO16 could have made more effective use of a mk1 ADO17 style rear headlamps (and no tailfins), especially in mk1 1800 Crayford estate form a la the Simca 1100 without looking too utilitarian like the Nomad.

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