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
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.