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

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 cash cow 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 Triumph-like 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’s 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
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.

    • In 1970, 4 speed boxes were still normal though, so that wasn’t really an issue. It wasn’t until the 80s when 5 speeds became more common in “ordinary cars” – the 1.3 Maestros were 4 speed only when launched

  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.

      • Just because you piqued my curiosity about this, Nate, I bought the September 1979 issue of Cars and Car Conversions in which an early development of Keith Gerrard’s auto box was tested. Here is the article (copyright laws be damned):

        • Here is a short piece about a Midas equipped the the Gerrard clutchflite transmission:

          Incidentally, I did try to contact him via his Facebook page (says he works for British Leyland, lives in Norfolk) but he is obviously not the sort of person to suffer fools gladly, and didn’t respond. It would be interesting (at least to me) to find out more.

          • Final word on Minis and transmissions. I found this online:


            A late 60s article by Eric Bareham, father of the E-series engine. It’s stuck behind a paywall now, but I managed to read it a while back. According to Mr B, the Maxi’s five speed transmission was developed from the A-type (presumably the Mini 4-synchro unit) transmission. He said all that was needed was the design of a new layshaft and laygear. There is some chap on an Australian Moke forum who writes that someone out there spliced the Maxi/Nomad/Morris 1500 laygear to the Mini mainshaft in the little car’s gear casing, and – voila! – a five-speed Mini. Which begs the question why didn’t anyone else do it, why didn’t BLMC?


            I also found a reference to the same thing in the Mini Mk1 Performance forum, but I can’t find the thread now.

          • JH Gillson

            Have wondered about the plausibility of a viable production 5-speed gearbox for the Mini and Metro, be it the Maxi/Nomad/Morris 1500 laygear to the Mini mainshaft way or the Jack Knight approach depending on how they differ from each other.

            While it would have certainty been useful in remedying the drawbacks of the A-OHC prototype engines, would the Maxi laygear to Mini mainshaft approach have been as able as the 5-speed Jack Knight gearbox in coping with further power increases in twin-carb and turbocharged forms for the Mini/Metro and been less of a limiting factor in the ERA Mini Turbo / MG Metro Turbo whose 94 hp 1275 A+ Turbo engine was said to be easily capable of 120-130+ hp?

            Also how long would BMC or BL have been able to continue with the Issigonis gearbox layout had they strived to further develop it before embracing the universal Giacosa layout as done with the Maestro and Montego (joined later by the R6)?

            Recall BL themselves looked into developing an end-on gearbox before buying a Volkswagen gearbox as used on the Golf that was later replaced with the Honda developed PG1, is it known if the mk1-mk2 Polo used the same gearbox as the Golf or a completely different one that just might have been less of a tight fit in a Mini or Metro (had the company been able to afford it) prior to the Peugeot sourced R65 later used in the R6.

            The R6 also going on to use the VT-1 CVT as on the Volvo 440/460, where it was known as Transmatic (renamed HTA aka High Tech Automatic) using steel belts (as opposed to rubber belts) and had nothing in common with the Variomatic CVT used in the earlier Volvo 300 Series. Heard the Volvo developed Transmatic was quite an improvement as far as CVTs go compared to the Ford CTX CVT developed by Ford, Van Doorne and Fiat, with the Transmatic actually being the subject of a big court case involving Volvo and Van Doorne.

          • This is in reply to Nate’s latest post. I couldn’t reply to it directly, so no idea where this will end up.

            Really not sure if the Mini/Maxi spliced box was a possibility but if Terry’s mate in Australia was able to do it, it surely wasn’t beyond the wit of BLMC?

            I have wondered myself recently if the transmission in sump arrangement could have been developed further to eradicate its flaws.

            A Saab-like triple chain arrangement to get rid of the gear whine…


            …an fifth gear for the Landcrab/Princess box and some means of separating the engine/transimission lubrication (the really difficult part, I suspect, but Saab managed it) and – job done. Of course, BMC mamaged to separate the lubrication for both B-series and E6 engined automatic Landcrabs. Anyone know if the E4 automatic was similarly arranged?

            What did Giacosa have to say?

            “This led me to ask if Dr. Giacosa had any objection to using engine oil in the gearbox, as Issigonis was forced to do, in view of the separate gearbox, with its own oil, on the Fiat 128? He did not object greatly, he said, if the engine ran clean, but he wasn’t keen, mentioning synchromesh cone wear as an oil contaminant. Automatic transmission might also pose problems. But the real reason for using a separate engine and gearbox in the Fiat 128 was a production one, different factories being thus able to manufacture these units. Giacosa thought the Mini could be revamped with such a layout; there was sufficient room.”

            Got that from here:


          • JH Gillson

            It does seem like it was within Issigonis’s (as well as BMC’s) capability to follow the Giacosa gearbox arrangement (despite his own pride and distaste for his rival) or even precede Giacosa himself by continuing where he left off upon his return to BMC with the experimental transverse FWD Minor prototype instead of drifting towards the in-sump arrangement.

            Such an approach would have been easier with ADO16 and ADO17 had BMC not been distracted by Leonard Lord’s V4/V6 idea developed by Duncan Stuart, which was said to have necessitated a more Triumph-like gearbox arrangement before the engine project was abandoned with the Issigonis in-sump arrangement used by BMC for their existing engines on grounds of cost. Suggesting it was either considered a stop-gap measure til the introduction of the V4/V6 engines in the ADO16 and ADO17 or was in fact a last-minute up-sizing the Mini solution taken in the rush to get them into production as well as simplify things (as opposed to the potential time, money and effort taken to conceive a new gearbox arrangement),.

            In place of the V4/V6 project the efforts should have instead focused on producing their existing engines on modern production lines, where they can be easily enlarged earlier on with many of the experimental ideas investigated being further developed to be easily productionized, which was not the case in real life and caused unnecessary problems for the company later on.

            For the original Mini it would have been a challenge to feature a Giacosa gearbox arrangement given the original design brief though some seem believe it could have appeared as early as the mk2 or mk3 with a bit of work when the original design constraints imposed by Lord for the Mini project are no longer relevant. A Project Ant aka Barrel Car solution in bowling out the sides of the Mini might have sufficed at minimum or in tandem with a 2-inch increase in width as on the 1995 Minki-2 prototype to provide the room needed for an end-on gearbox, the 4-cylinder K-Series used on the latter was actually slightly larger than the A-Series in terms of length and the reason why the prototype was slightly widened (whereas a Maestro A-Plus gearbox arrangement was considered to be too tight for the original Mini’s engine bay during the 1992 Minki project leading to the idea of a K-Series 3-cyinder engine).

            That said the in-sump gearbox arrangements of the original Maxi and stillborn 9X project developed by Issigonis do not inspire much confidence, with the latter even faring worse against the original Mini, Mini Clubman and Autobianchi A112 in a comparison test. Which would suggest in the event in-sump’s drawbacks in the 9X’s case could not be resolved even with further development, others within BMC might have to take a larger role in getting the company to embrace the Giacosa arrangement and side-line Issigonis (or at least impose constraints on his excesses – something that George Harriman was unwilling to do).

          • Allegro and Maxi E4 cars used the AP 4-speed auto. Lotus used the Maxi gear cluster in their 5-speed for the Eclat and Elite, so it was obviously strong enough to handle 160bhp in a 1200kg car. A pity BL didn’t go down this path for the Marina and Dolomite. It also should have been strong enough for the E6 Princess 2200, should have been easy enough to lengthen the Maxi gearbox casing to fit a 5-speed to the Princess. And a beefed up AP 4-speed auto instead of the 3-speed Borg Warner 35 would have helped solve the thirst of the Princess (and a 5-speed AP auto would have been world leading). But would BL have had the manufacturing facilities to make these gearboxes, instead of just continuing with the 1800 4-speed they were already making?

          • Bryan Miller

            You are correct, the criticism against the Maxi was specifically against the original cable linkage version.

            Also the following old article on the MG Metro Turbo, where testing revealed the engine would take a big power hike with a turbocharger and outputs of 120-130 hp being easily attained. Only for it to be detuned down up to 94 hp in order to preserve the life of the 4-speed gearbox.


            Interesting the TurboMinis website seems to suggest about 150 hp is the reliable limit for the A-Series Turbo engine, albeit one built for sensible money with the right selection of suitable parts without the need for bespoke components.

            A suitable 5-speed gearbox that could reliably withstand such outputs in tuned Mini and Metro turbos or simply keep both models competitive against the Charade GTti, Uno Turbo and 5 Turbo along the same lines Lotus achieved for their 5-speed in the Eclat and Elite would have been a bonus. It would have also likely been useful for the MGB/MGC or EX234 had the latter reached production.

          • From reading the Lotus forums on the Maxi derived based Lotus 5-speed gearbox, it was a mix of Austin-Maxi gearsets, Ford internal shift rails/ forks/ parts, and a bespoke housing.

            It was initially used in the (126 hp / 113 lb⋅ft) Lotus Elan +2S 130/5, prior to a long-tailshaft version being used in the (160 hp / 140 lbs-ft) Lotus Elite/Eclat.

            However in the more potent Elite/Eclat the gearbox was prone to shedding teeth particularly in 2-gear, Lotus attempted to remedy the issue a year or two after the Elite/Eclat’s launch by polishing the gear teeth to remove street risers which while being an improvement did not cure it.

            Perhaps BMC or BL would have been able to overcome the failings Lotus experienced under better circumstances for inline applications.

            Interesting that Ford themselves did not have a 5-speed gearbox at that period yet given the components it contributed towards the Maxi-derived 5-Speed Lotus Gearbox. Could BMC have developed something similar using either the post-1968 full synchromesh 4-speed gearbox in the MGB/MGC (later MGB V8) or a redesigned full synchromesh version of the 4-speed Minor gearbox (originally proposed for the Marina prior to losing out to the Triumph 1300 gearbox) as a basis (or failing that for their components)?

            BMC potentially having their own earlier equivalent to the 5-speed Ford T9 transmission (itself a development of the early-70s or so 4-speed Ford Type E gearbox) is a fascinating what-if.

  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.

  9. Having seen the Michelotti concept for the Ad016 for Innocenti (thanks Nate), I think this would have been a better route to take for the Ad016, than the Apache (too triumph) or the Allegro. With development of the engine to A plus standard, Charles Griffin’s planned updates to the sub frames and the appearance of Hydrogas, it could have kept the car up to date for another 5 to 10 years and allowed for the Company to invest in the areas it needed instead of the shocking mess that happened.

    • Even though the existing two-box ADO16 was a success, would a (possibly Pininfarina styled) three-box saloon bodystyle like the Innocenti j4 Michelotti update have been enough to tempt more conservative buyers that otherwise would have stuck with the more conventional styled (e.g. Fiat 128) or familiar front-engined rear-wheel-drive layout offerings from both the opposition as well as BMC’s own obsolete models (that ADO16 was intended to replace)?

      While the comparison between the regular Innocenti A40 and A40 Combinata (hatchback) in Italy at least would suggest a ADO16 hatchback could have achieved even more runaway success compared to the regular two-box ADO16 or a three-box version, BMC producing ADO16 as both a two-box hatchback and three-box saloon (like they later planned with the Maxi) instead of a two-box saloon would have potentially allowed the company to both have its cake and eat it on top of finally enabling both the A40 Farina and Morris Minor to be discontinued?

      Fiat indirectly comes to mind by producing the Fiat 128 saloon and having Yugo produce the Skala hatchback, in addition to the Autobianchi Primula before it and developing the Primula-based Fiat 123 E4 prototype (more or less a FWD alternative to the Fiat 124 that lost out to the latter before later being dusted off and evolving into the rebodied Autobianchi A111).

  10. The LIGNES/auto’s 50 years of the Golf : Pininfarina’s proposals article has some interesting images around the same period as ADO22, could Pininfarina’s ideas for what became the Giugiaro bodied Golf have been applied on ADO22 or another successor to ADO16?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.