Concepts and prototypes : Austin ADO22 (1966-1968)

Keith Adams on the ADO22, a little-known project to update and refresh the BMC 1100/1300 for the 1970s. Sadly, it didn’t make the cut, and needed to make way for the Austin Allegro

ADO22: Hatching out the BMC 1100/1300

Austin ADO22 project was intended to bring the 1100/1300 into the 1970s
This facelifted version of ADO16 was investigated prior to the 1968 merger. It appears to bear the hallmark of Roy Haynes, particularly in the way the headlamp/indicator set-up resembles that of the Ford Cortina Mk2

It’s a commonly-held belief that Donald Stokes said that BMC’s cupboard was bare when he took control of the company in 1968. However, that wasn’t the case – BMC had been working on several projects to update its range, some with more success than others. The biggest cashcow for BMC was the 1100/1300 range, which was easily BMC’s biggest-selling car and had won the hearts of countless British, European and Colonial motorists.

The 1100/1300 had become a national institution – but it was getting on in years, and needed an image boost if it wasn’t going to be consumed by the Ford machine. As it was, the Cowley design office, led by Roy Haynes’s team, was looking at a number of new cars to update the product lineup – and, in 1966, these were led by the ADO22 project.

This car was essentially a facelifted ADO16, boasting more modern styling and a body that was both better engineered and cheaper to produce than the complex current car. In short, it was a thorough facelift, run very much in the Ford way (no surprise as this is where Haynes had come from).

Looking to Australia for inspiration

Concurrent with the promising ADO22 programme, ran the YDO9 and YDO15 projects, which became the Australian-only Morris 1500 and Nomad, the latter having a full opening tailgate. The YDO9 used the new overhead camshaft E-Series engine that had just gone into production at Cofton Hackett near Longbridge, and a refined Hydrolastic suspension set-up.

So, there were at least two ADO22 proposals. The in-house one created by Roy Haynes’s team in Cowley featured squared off front and rear sections, with Ford Cortina Mk2-aping front- and rear-end styling, to be more in tune with the upcoming slew of clever new small cars from Europe. Michelotti also submitted an ADO22 proposal, which unsurprisingly featured very Triumphesque front- and rear-end styling. The latter would end up being recycled into the Austin Apache.

It would have received a raft of timely updates to improve the appeal of the 1100/1300 without diluting what it was that made it so good. As well as the new styling, it would have received a new interior, and top models would have been powered by the 1485cc version of the E-Series. It is entirely reasonable to assume that a combination of the ADO22 and YDO9 design could have kept the basic ADO16 at the top of the sales charts on a reasonably small development budget. This programme could have taken place while BMC designed a replacement for both the Mini and 1100/1300 using the same floorpan design as per Roy Haynes masterplan.

So, what happened to ADO22?

The merger happened. Even before BLMC had been formed in 1968, the development programme of the ADO22 (and the in-house rival BMC 10X) was being sidelined to make way for the Maxi, which was demanding much in the way of resources from the Longbridge engineering team. Although Cowley had put together the ADO22, and it was a very talented (mainly ex-Ford) team that did so, the office was considered surplus to requirements – and was closed in 1968, taking the ADO22 with it.

And, just as quickly, the new British Leyland management team decided that what the 1100/1300 needed was an all-new  car to replace it – leading to the 1973 Austin Allegro. Had the ADO22 appeared in, say, 1971 to spearhead BLMC’s family car ambitions, it probably would have been too little, too late anyway…

However, the ADO22 didn’t die. It lived on in South Africa and Spain thanks to the Austin Apache and Authi Victoria. In the UK, the jury is still out – but as a new small car to sit above the Mini, for British Leyland to take on the oncoming supermini generation, it may well have been just the ticket.

This rebodied 1100 was considered as a more radical alternative to the facelifted car. There was also a revised Hydrolastic suspension system under development for this car, but the project was cancelled by the Leyland management in favour of ADO67.
This rebodied 1100 was considered as a more radical alternative to the facelifted car. There was also a revised Hydrolastic suspension system under development for this car, but the project was cancelled by the Leyland management in favour of ADO67
Keith Adams


  1. Despite BMC’s later financial issues, when would have been the ideal year for ADO22 to appear? Could the Maxi have been delayed/ditched in favour of an early introduction of ADO22 or was the Maxi too further along in development?

    Am somewhat mystified by how workable Roy Haynes masterplan of designing replacements for the Mini and 1100/1300 on the same floorpan was, sure there was Alex Issigonis’s own 9X/10X (and allegedly the ADO17-replacing X11) project to replace the Mini and 1100/1300 as well as other examples though it would depend on how well executed the masterplan would have been.

    This was from the man who wanted to develop wide plethora of cars based on the Marina platform including Jaguars and Triumphs, etc (with the Triumph V8 being investigated in a Marina-based car at one point). Not forgetting the Marina’s own origins as an mk1 Escort-sized car derived from Morris Minor bits n pieces and more.

      • Of course.

        What also comes to mind was the wide-body Mini Clubman prototype that allegedly featured a SWB version of the Austin Allegro platform and shared the latter’s width, under the rationale of reducing costs of both being merging them together (also heard similar stories regarding ADO88/LC8 carrying over mechanicals or derived platform from the Allegro).

    • Remember Roy Haynes was a product planner and stylist – not an Engineer. I’m sure when he floated the platform sharing strategy you describe, never in his wildest nightmares did he imagine the platform BL’s Engineers would come up with would be something cobbled together from old Morris Minor bits!

      • Agreed, with a bit of tweaking the old Minor mechanicals might have sufficed in an early-60s Marina duo to challenge the Viva HA and mk1/mk2 Cortina though what was really needed in retrospect by the late-60s to early-70s was either a much earlier ADO77 or what amounts to a Morris version of the Ajax-replacing Triumph Bobcat/Bullet/Lynx prototypes (basically being an early-70s Bobcat-based precursor to TM1).

    • I may be mistaken but I think that Leyland Australia did make either a inline six, or Rover V8 powered Marina for that market, a six I think. It did not work out too well, that chassis, suspension was never intended for that much power, and torque, and was a deathtrap compared to the Holdens and Fords of the time. A jag engine would have been a dead end, there is only so much you can change until there is nothing left from which you started with. On the other hand the regular Marinas were much better built cars then their British built counterparts.

  2. Its not a million miles away from that very cute Honda concept for a small electric car that they are I believe now committed to building though sadly not It would seem in the UK

  3. It would have sold better than the Allaggro that’s for sure, those side trims look a lot 1800S. There are a lot of 1800 cues like the front valance.
    It’s also based on a proved platform that everyone at the time understood (even if they weren’t keen on it).
    This is probably the biggest missed opportunity in a plethora of missed opportunities.
    I’ve a question for anyone who knows. It’s possible to fit up the 1800 with a supercharger kit/single carb (HS8 if I remember). Would it be possible to do this on the 2200 using two HS8 set up to work through the supercharger?

    • I’ve seen a turbocharged Austin Kimberley. The South Africans improved the head gasket when they revised the E-series to create their R-series, along with other improvements to the cooling system.

      • The problem with the E-series six is that cylinders 3 and 4 had little to no water jacket between them, to make the block shorter, which caused no end of overheating problems, and blown gaskets, in the Australian Kimberley’s. Because of this there is also less surface on the deck between cylinders 3 and 4, which also caused the gaskets to fail.

  4. It’s a shame that all the effort that went into the ADO16 variants like the Nomad and Apache weren’t coordinated into one upgrade program, that could have delivered Mann’s refreshed 1300 and added the hatchback and booted variants, as well as the 1500 for upmarket or sporty variants. That would have made the Maxi redundant, or it could have been built on a stretched ADO16 platform instead.

  5. Leyland’s obsession with weird suspension systems never really helped. None of the BL Garage’s ever seemed to know how to service them. Leaving the Gearbox in the Sump, meant that only a 4 speed box could be fitted. Should have gone to Innocenti’s Eng on Method. I remember when Mum had a Series 3 Allegro, with that stupid boot. A car so embarrassing, that I caught a bus than get in to it.

  6. Jack Knight made a 5-speed gearset for the Mini gearbox, and the 1500 and 1750 Allegro had a 5-speed gearbox in their sumps.
    If BL hadn’t been so tight, they could have improved the Hydragas with refinements Moulton had developed.

    • There was also a much altered and uprated 5-speed (instead of 4-speed) AP1 Mini Automatic gearbox developed by Keith Gerrard of Bushey Transmissions in conjunction with Jack Knight, which was fitted with a clutch with extra radial shock springs in place of a torque converter and an electronic shift mechanism.

      That said, the company could have been better off adopting the end-on gearbox layout should the in-sump layout not be a significant improvement in 5-speed form.

  7. I guess the problem with designing and producing anything that is revolutionary and brilliant (the ADO 16) is what do you do to follow? So many song writers have found the same problem. I’m a real BL fan but if there is one car I just don’t ‘get’ – it’s the Allegro. Of the hundred or so cars I’ve owned the company harvest gold 1.3 Allegro Automatic Estate (I worked for the Co-op!) was unequivocally the worst!!! The lack of speed was all encompassing, the wining noise was intolerable and the creaking of all the plastics was nauseating. I always parked it so we only saw the three quarter rear view from the house – otherwise Annie said she felt nauseous just looking at the thing!

  8. These could have been the small cars BL needed for the first half of the 70’s. Allegro was a disaster in every single way, but a Michelotti sedan to compete with Escort and the rebodied 1100 with a hatch could have taken on the Golf. Badge engineered versions would have ensured that like the original 1100 range, there would have been a model to suit every taste.

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