Concepts and prototypes : BMC 10X (1968)

We don’t know much about the BMC 10X, only that Sir Alec was sketching it out around the time of the formation of BLMC. It could have been very interesting indeed. 

So, could this have been a credible rival to the Volkswagen Golf?


BMC 10X: hatching out a better Allegro?

This sectioned view of the larger ADO16-sized 9X displays its space efficiency to good effect, and makes for an interesting comparison with the sectioned Mini)
This sectioned view of the larger three-door BMC 10X displays its space efficiency to good effect, and shows off the clever and compact DX engine in its best light

Although we know lots about the brilliant BMC 9X, and how it could have revolutionised the small car market in Europe in the early 1970s, we’ve not looked too much into Sir Alec Issigonis‘s plans to expand the concept. Clearly, this 9ft 8in city car with a hatch was the perfect Mini replacement, but the project would have involved a huge investment at a time when BLMC’s management was ‘turning off the spending taps’ left, right and centre.

However, while it’s highly likely that this wasn’t at the front of Sir Alec’s mind, stretching the 9X platform and expanding the DX engine range would have made perfect financial sense. It would have spread the investment and development costs and significantly increased production volumes for this family of cars – as it would have replaced the BMC 1100/1300 range, which at the time was Britain’s best-selling car by quite some margin.

It’s interesting that the BMC 10X would have crossed timelines with the ADO22 project, which was taking shape at Longbridge and Cowley, and it’s interesting to think that Sir Alec’s 10X programme would have been independent of this more cost-effective programme. As it transpired, both would end up on the cutting floor, being ousted by the Austin Allegro – a middle way between the radicalism of the 10X and the conservatism of the ADO22.

What would the BMC 10X have looked like?

We only have the two drawings on this page to go from, but what we can see is that the longer wheelbase (around 96 inches judging from the rendering) and overhang give this car excellent interior room. Scaled up, it would have been shorter and narrower than the Volkswagen Golf Mk1, but with similar room inside, and more rear legroom. The driving position looks less upright than the traditional Mini/1100 arrangement.

In terms of power, there might have been a little expansion left in the four-cylinder DX engine, which was nominally designed to be between 750cc and 1000cc in the 9X, although it would have been tough, given its Siamesed bored and tight tolerances. However, given Issigonis’s penchant for six-cylinder engines, it’s most likely he had the 1.2- to 1.5-litre six-pot in mind for the 10X.

The six-cylinder DX would, in fact, eventually find its way into an MG Metro-based prototype towards the end of the 9X programme in the mid-1980s – by which time, this was very much a back water project operated by Issigonis very much ‘off the clock.’ Ray Battersby, an engine designer for BLMC between 1970 and ’76 summed up one very good reason why this engine would never have made it into production: ‘I was at Longbridge when the 9X was being shot down by Harry Webster. Issigonis’ arrogance cannot have helped his cause at all, though all those who worked for him that I knew held him in very high regard.’

Like the 9X, the 10X was given McPherson struts at the front and a beam axle suspension set up at the rear. Issigonis chose something utterly conventional (by 1970s standards), shunning the Dr Alex Moulton-designed fluid set-ups which worked so effectively in the 1100 and 1800 models. And this would have been spot on in terms of the upcoming Volkswagen Golf and its clones that would emerge throughout the 1970s.

Conclusion: would the 10X have been a success?

Like the 9X, this car is probably an opinion divider. Although it looked highly promising in terms of packaging and suspension set-up, it’s likely that the exotic six-cylinder engine would have been a show-stopper, leaving this car potentially E-Series powered instead. That being the case, there’s no reason why this car wouldn’t have gone on to do very well indeed, especially compared with the disappointing Austin Allegro, even if it was a tough engine to package.

Of course, there’s a caveat. There always is… Would it have sold in sufficient numbers to have covered its development costs? Now thereby hangs a question. Intriguingly, it’s easy to speculate as to how much more this car would have cost to develop than the Allegro – but one platform shared across supermini and small hatchback market sectors could have made this a more appealing proposition than it might have been.

However, the reality is that the newly-formed BLMC, led by cost-conscious Leyland managers, was never going to sign this one off – especially given that Issigonis’s cars and their lack of profitability would have been seen as the principal reason for why BMC had become so weak by the late 1960s. Yes, this would have been a Volkswagen Golf before its time but, rather like the way the GS helped sink Citroën in the early 1970s, the 10X might have well done the same for British Leyland.

The styling sketch for the above car: compare this with the proposed ADO16 facelift. (Both cars eventually lost out to the Allegro). This design also bears a passing resemblance to the Autobianchi Primula, which itself looked rather like an ADO16 hatchback.
The styling sketch for the above car: compare this with the proposed ADO16 facelift. (Both cars eventually lost out to the Allegro). This design also bears a passing resemblance to the Autobianchi Primula, which itself looked rather like an ADO16 hatchback.

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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45 Comments

  1. if BMC/BL had took up some or all of these great prototypes it could have been a world leader instead of a sadly defunct car company .

  2. Have seen odd comment/etc allegedly referring to a further upscaled ADO17-replacing 11X paper project, on the basis one of the Gearless 9X prototypes featured a 1.5 4-cylinder version of the 9X engine that would theoretically make for a 2.2 6-cylinder 9X engine.

    Not sure how true any of the above is beyond the fact that Issigonis did indeed develop a 1.5 4-cylinder 9X for a Gearless 9X prototype.

    With the reputed similarity of the E-Series to the VW EA827 and the 9X sharing some elements of the E-Series including the siamesed bores and 4/6-cylinder versions, would like to believe a properly developed 9X engine without the siamesed bores sharing a number of similarities with the VW EA111 engine (capable of spawning 1.6 4-cylinder and 1.2 3-cylinder engines), the latter essentially being a downscaled version of the VW EA827.

    In a number of respects, it does seem the 9X and 10X could have anticipated the Volkswagen Polo and Volkswagen Golf by a number of years had both reached production (and the money been there to begin with). Yet it comes down to the question of whether the company (either BMC or BL) would have been better off adopting the Revolutionary Approach embodied by the 9X and 10X or the Evolutionary Approach as embodied by Project Ant and ADO22. In the end BMC/BL suffered by opting instead for the ADO20 Clubman (minus proposed hatchback) and the Allegro, with the E-Series siamesed bores and narrow bore centres limiting its potential (notwithstanding the Downton tuned 83-106 hp 1485-1748cc versions).

    A pity BMC was not in a position to put both approaches into production had they properly differentiated Austin and Morris soon after the formation of BMC, in an FWD Autobianchi / RWD Fiat like manner while canning Riley and Wolseley.

  3. I hadn’t realised that a 10X concept (albeit in a very undeveloped form) existed.

    Not sure the BMC/Issigonis engine strategy was very effective, not helped by the latter’s interest in small 6 cylinder engines, leaving an oddball and clashing range of smaller engines but no decent “big” 6 to replace the C series.

    • The gearbox layout for both the 9X/10X would have been a potential problem as well, given the unfavorable comparison of the 9X prototype’s gearchange against the original Mini, upcoming Clubman and the Autobianchi A112.

      With the benefit of hindsight, the sad thing is that a properly-developed E6 could have potentially replaced the C-Series (either in line-6 or 90-degree V6 forms) were it not for the unnecessary limitations imposed by Issigonis during its development, the same goes with the 9X engine.

      At best the small 9X 6-cylinder should have at best been used on Vanden Plas versions of 10X to further differentiate it over the regular 10X, at worst the 9X 6-cylinder should have formed the basis for a 3-cylinder engine.

  4. If one wants to know how the 9x and 10x might have turned out look at pictures of the Peugeot 104. Did Pininfarina use the information it gained in modeling the 9x in designing the 104, both are similar in that the two-door sits on a shorter platform than the four-door? The four-door would have sat between two model segments and probably suffered poor sales because of that, as did the Maestro and 1800?

    • Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe 9X and 10X as a City Car and Supermini respectively in terms of dimensions (albeit with both having comparable interior space to the segment above) as opposed to a Supermini and C-Segment Hatchback?

      Is it known what the likely length of 10X would have been compared to ADO16, since it being potentially smaller would make it more comparable to a ADO16-based Supermini whereas an ADO16-sized or slightly larger 10X would be comparable to a mk1 Seat Ibiza, Peugeot 205 and Yugo Skala (the latter a Fiat 128 hatchback shortened by about 4-inches aka a length of 148-inches).

      • In the picture 10X’s total lente is about 144% of it’s wheelbase, so that would make it just under 3,5m; around VW 1975 Polo’s. I supposedsupposed that would indeed make it a SuperMini…

        • Another reason to doubt it’s chances in the marketplace: hard to imagine many people paying Golfish money for a Polo-sized model. Combined with high initial investment required it seems a very good chance to another money pit…

          • Sorry, on the 3 door picture it seems more like 150%, that would make it around 366 cm, just under the Golf’s length. Still not sure, though, neither about length nor on market chances, as indeed styling seem uninspired…

          • Read in Issigonis’s bio the 9X initially featured a length of 116-inches yet managing to feature more interior space / legroom compared to the original Mini due to the short engine bay, with it later being extended by another 4-inches to match the original Mini’s length with an increase in wheelbase.

            Going by the above one could assume 10X would conform to similar dimensions to ADO16 (though some claim the wheelbase for 10X was in fact 90-inches not 96-inches), the question is the regarding the width for both the 9X and 10X since it is mentioned 9X was slightly wider compared to the original Mini.

            Somewhat related though also seem to recall a quote by Issigonis on his notion of a Super-Mini, which he envisioned as 10-inches larger compared to the original Mini yet featuring the same width as ADO16 (or in other words roughly akin to the Metro yet with 9X/10X level’s of interior space).

          • I agree about the pricing Zebo

            Problem is, whilst interior room may have been provided, people still in the market were not willing to pay more for a smaller car. The market place did not put a premium on cars being smaller than an AD016, as is seen by people perceiving the Ford Anglia as offering better value for money than the Mini. The market was not looking for car smaller than a Mini and many Mini customers felt they were trading up to the original Renault 5, even though it offered no more room.

            Mercedes went on to discover exactly the same as BMC did, when they tried to sell the original A Series by pricing it against the Golf with the argument that whilst it was Polo in size, it had the space inside of a Golf. Customers however (as Mercedes found in their surveys) did not put much value in their car being smaller than a Golf, however they did not appreciate the compromises in ride, handling, driving position, styling etc that had to made to achieve the better packaging.

          • An issue I have with this concept, is while creating a really small car with decent room is a very sellable concept for a city car etc, I’m not sure how many people want a larger car made smaller. I doubt many people in their Escorts or indeed Mk1 Golfs were thinking “if only this car could be made smaller”

            Graham I’m sure the R5 had more room than the Mini, but as it didn’t need to squeeze out every mm, would have had thicker seats etc thus losing some of the space advantage.

          • 9X would be roughly comparable to an Autobianchi A112 sized Peugeot 104 SZ “Coupe” as well as the City Car sized Sub-Polo 1975 Volkswagen Chicco concept.

            10X despite the pretensions of challenging the Golf would probably roughly conform to ADO16’s dimensions making it larger than the mk1/mk2 Volkswagen Polo yet still technically considered a Supermini or (Sub-Golf type of car), which in PSA terms would be roughly comparable to the Peugeot 104-derived Citroen Visa or in non-PSA terms the Fiat 128-based Yugo Skala as well as the Fiat Uno (a Supermini renowned for its interior space despite featuring a wheelbase 3-inches shorter compared to ADO16 or 10X to put things into perspective).

            An argument can be made on the merits of selling smaller cars with interior space exceeding its segment and being almost competitive against the segment above, yet both the 9X and 10X would have likely done well in the fuel crisis ridden 1970s despite needing work in a number of areas such as the gearbox (or specifically the gearbox layout), the limitations of the 9X/10X engine design (needing to be more like the EA111) and possibly the styling (as suggested with the Innocenti Mini’s Bertone styling, etc).

            What would have probably helped clear up the confusion would have been had the Austin Maxi been probably developed with a 99-inch wheelbase from the beginning, making it (and not 10X) the Golf challenger. That way both 9X and 10X would occupy the City Car and Supermini segments respectively, with all 3 cars placing an emphasis on interior space within their own classes.

  5. The issue I see with this car, is that it lacks one of the key ingredients that made the ADO16 a success, its neat styling, instead it has the touch the Maxi about it. However if BMC could keep Issigonis at arms length (as happened with the ADO16 by it being managed a Cowley and so Issigonis only got weekly input v the ADO17 and Maxi which he managed directly at Longbridge) and got some Italians in to do the styling then it may have been the car that saved BMC in the way the 205 saved PSA.

    • Yes both the 9X and 10X could have been shipped off to Bertone to give them the same style as the 74 Innocenti Mini. Ditching the unnecessary expense of the DX engine for a combination of A and properly sized (1.6) E series power. I struggle then to see why this conventionally suspended car would have cost more to develop than the Hydrogas Allegro?

      • If the 9X 4-cylinder engine/gearbox package weighed no more than 200lbs (and the 6-cylinder hypothetically around 300lbs or under), as opposed to the 340lb of the A-Series package (not sure of the weight for the E-Series / S-Series package).

        Then doubt the A-Series or E/S-Series could be made to fit into 10X, since the 9X/10X engine was essentially the nub of both projects as the smaller and lighter he could make the engine the bigger the usable interior space could be extracted from the minimum external dimensions.

        Even if the A-Series was updated to feature all-alloy as was proposed in that period and assuming a weight reducing of around 2/3 to 1/2 (or roughly comparable to the Imp OHC and Reliant OHV engines), the A-Series package’s dimensions would have precluded it from being used in either 9X or 10X without a longer ADO16 type front / engine bay (due to ADO16 originally being intended to use a narrow-angle V4 engine).

        • Reading about the DX engine it seems that it was such a tight package that it was not actually productionable as the tolerances were to tight to make on mass. The E series engine was a compromised design but as the later S series showed it could be made into a decent engine. It was a shame that BL did not pull all of it’s resources into making a family of engines – it had great knowledge and design talent – just poor management.

          • Would have to agree regarding poor management.

            What was needed was basically the E-Series becoming the British 1297-1984cc EA827 without the former’s compromises, followed by a downscaled version becoming the British 0.7-1.6 EA111 (assuming the DX engine was not already a downsized E-Series).

            EA111 even produced a 1272cc version, of roughly similar displacement to the 1275cc A-Series and 1275cc 6-cylinder DX engines.

            Such an uncompromised family of engines would have been the only thing BMC / BL really needed. EA111 formed the basis of 3-cylinder engines (and like DX could spawn an inline-6 if worthwhile) along with petrol and diesel engines, while EA827 would not only be produced as petrols and diesels but also form the basis of inline-5/6 and V6/V8/V10 engines (plus the odd 3-cylinder and the narrow-angle VR / W family of engines).

            One sticking point of the above though was the fact such an engine family would have entailed BMC / BL adopting the end-on gearbox layout for its FWD cars, notwithstanding the fact the Mini (and possibly others) was planned to feature 5-speed manual and 5-speed AP Automatic in-sump gearboxes.

  6. Nate – I think if they had puled all their resources into one room and gave them a month to design a decent engine and transmission package BL could have. With Rover, Triumph, Jaguar and BMC engineers working together they could have produced a new engine or reworked the E series engine – I think Spen King would have pushed for end on box like he did with the Maestro. Even if BL didn’t look in house they could have used Downton to develop the engine and then BL could have productionised it in house. The LT gearbox used in the SD1 and Range Rover showed that they could design quality products – it was just a shame that not all of its resources were pulled together for the benefit of the whole company.

    • That’s one of the major problems with BL, no shortage of design talent, but spread too thin across different divisions with not enough money to do the designs justice.

    • To me one of the mistakes was to prioritize the Marina and then follow it up by letting its development and retooling costs balloon.

      Instead priority should have been given to what we have essentially here, a cheaper, lighter ADO16 replacement and as part of it leveraging the E Series investment (as everybody by 68 new the Maxi would be a flop). Because the ADO16 had unlike the Mini the potential to deliver both reasonable unit profit while selling in high volumes.

      The high scuttle line E Series would have required, would I think have not been an issue as this allowed the stylists to have a high roof line see Simca 1100 / Golf / Horizon / Ritma / Maestro and would have worked with Bertone “ruler” approach to car styling in the 70s and seen by Innocenti mini.

      • While the Minor was still an obsolete basis to become a 1970s car, perhaps the FWD transverse engined Minor prototype with end-on gearbox (years prior to Dante Giacosa) could serve as a guide for a suitable low-cost ADO16 replacement in both mk1 Escort and mk3 Cortina rivalling forms?

        Issigonis himself ditched Hydrolastic suspension in 9X, 10X and the Austin Ant 4×4 in favour of conventional suspension.

        Perhaps a better approach for BMC or BL, would have been to put Project Ant (aka Barrel Car) and ADO22 into production with Bertone styling and end-on gearboxes yet making use of a EA827-like E-Series and a downsized E-Series more like EA111 to replace the A-Series. That said not sure whether it would have been worthwhile to opt for Hydrogas (that became good in the R6 Metro) or conventional suspension for both cars.

        • As the Marina showed, going head to head with Ford with what Ford did, fleet cars was not going to work. Also there was not the cash to justify throwing away the tooled up plant building the E series transmission. Also do not agree with ditching hydragas, it was one of the Allegro’s plus point, mk2 onwards it road really well, simply BL classic lack of development had led to the Mk1 being bouncy. If the Allegro had had some smart styling, let say Betone it may have been forgiven its biggest sin other than its styling, its build quality. You can also argue that much of those build quality and industrial disputes originated from its sales failures, had it sold as well as the Ado16 let alone got the Ado16 traction (achieved against pre common market membership tariffs) in Europe, it would have saved BL in the way the Peugeot 205 saved Peugeot, by giving them sales volume to support a European wide dealer network.

          • Can accept the fact BL like other carmakers that embraced FWD (such as Renault and Peugeot) were not in a position to embrace the end-on gearbox FWD conventional suspension norm established by Dante Giacosa (despite Issigonis working on a similar layout for the Minor during the 1950s, not to mention the 1950s Alfa Romeo Tipo 13-61 project by Giuseppe Busso), yet they could have at least given the green light to 5-speed manual and 5-speed AP Automatic in-sump gearboxes that were said to have been in development for both the Mini (aka Project Ant / Barrel Car) and ADO22 / improved Allegro (thereby making the 59-84 hp 1.0-1.3 A-OHC and 120-130 hp 1.3 A-Series Turbo more viable propositions) as well as equipped with the improved Mini with Hydragas.

            Not a fan of the Pininfarina 1800 Berlina Aerodinamica (and related 1100 and Mini-based variants) on the grounds of being exteriorly longer without any improvement in the interior, though still believe Pininfarina could have been used to rebody both the Mini (Ant / Barrel Car) and ADO22 / improved Allegro, etc like Bertone did with the Innocenti Mini if the 9X styling by Pininfarina (and other work for other carmakers like Peugeot, etc) is any indication.

            While there was the Downton tuned 106 hp 1.75 E-Series the improved Allegro or AD022 could have used to better compete in the early Hot Hatch segment, an improved E-Series with a larger 1984cc displacement similar to the 2-litre EA827 would have put out up to 120+ hp.

            With the Marina or more specifically the Minor mechanicals it is derived from, while accepting much of it was obsolete by the 1970s. The point is the Minor basis had much more life left to be used until the late 1960s had BMC been canny enough to not place all their eggs in one basket with the FWD Trio or at least embraced a version of the FWD Minor as a low-cost option from the beginning of the 1960s.

    • Indeed

      Though even with a properly developed E-Series engine more like the EA827, it would be inadequate as a replacement for the A-Series despite its initial reason for existing being to replace all three BMC engines yet a very usefully replacement for the B/C-Series engines along with even further engines.

      Which would necessitate either the A-Series continuing production (possibly being converted to A-OHC with 7/8-port head, etc) or being replaced by a downscaled EA827 aka EA111.

      Really it was within the abilities of both BMC and BL to create such an uncompromised pair of engine families.

  7. The Marina was not the car that resulted so much the ludicrous cost to achieve (x2 Allegro) for product which had a useful shelf life of no more than 4 years. The fact was BBC put their eggs in one basket at the end of the 50s, taking them out and putting them in two baskets after the other basket had been worn to the point of no longer being a basket (the tooling for the Minor and B series were now beyond refurbishment and the triumph gearbox despite being an obsolete design needed new tooling to meet the Marina volume) was a critical error by BL. The wasted two years of design and engineering and what little cash reserves on it.

    I agree the Farina root was the wrong way to go, but the 104 suggest what their Ado16 replacement could have looked like.

    The strategy should have been to leverage the Ado16 in the short term with the E Series to fill a higher price point. I imagine it being given a 504 style front nose and tail (bit like an Apache) to create the 1500 range. As a quick fix.

    Then, replace the lower end of the Ado 16 range and the Mini with a Peugeot 104 lwb/swb approach 90 and 96 inch. Replace the higher end of the Ado 16 range with a maxi reskinned to 104 inch (a sort of 306 sized car with 104 styling). Powered by E series 1.3, 1.6 and 6 cylinder 2 litre (with a 5 speed gearbox, I am sure by ditching the side radiator an E6 would fit in a Maxi. As with Golf and 306, saloon and estate variants (which exist of the 104, and look good) could be added to appeal to the fleet market. They did not need anything bigger than that, as that would have a Triumph or Rover badge.

  8. Essentially BMC should have used the early-1960s Marina approach to offset the costs of the FWD trio (in tandem with earlier ADO20-like costing for the Mini and a price increase, etc), replacing the older RWD models (e.g. Minor, A40 Farina, etc) into a related RWD stop-gap family of cars as well as retain existing traditional customers otherwise scared off by the FWD layout and jumped ship to carmakers selling conventional RWD vehicles. Even better if they furthered differentiate the types of vehicle based on marque as well as by bodystyles, with the FWD Trio being hatchbacks so as to further maximize the space efficacy of their layout while the RWD Marina inspired cars utilize traditional three-box saloon layouts.

    That in turn lays the groundwork for the RWD cars to either be replaced as traditional consumers become used to the FWD layout from the early-1970s or potentially superseded by a new generation of RWD Hydrolastic / Hydragas cars (in essence earlier versions of EX234, ADO77 and a smaller lighter X6 version of ADO61) possibly with significant carry over from the FWD cars.

    Would have used the 84-inch Minivan wheelbase 2/4-door Mini prototypes as a template for the improved Mini aka Project Ant / Barrel Car, complete with the better costing of ADO20 as well as 12-inch wheels (also on grounds of cost), rebodied 3/5-door hatchback and R6-style Hydragas suspension, plus 5-speed manual / 5-speed AP automatic in-sump gearboxes. Engines would be the A-Series whether in existing 848-1275cc (potentially capable of displacements as low as 721cc if needed), South African style (e.g. 970-1275cc), earlier A-Plus or A-OHC forms or a downscaled reduced-height version of the improved E-Series akin to the Volkswagen EA111 (albeit capable of a hypothetical 500-1200cc 3-cylinder or 750-1600cc 4-cylinder) yet potentially carrying over viable elements from the 9X/10X engine. The EA111-like engine should also be compact enough to easily slot into the space of a Mini’s engine bay in both in-sump and end-on gearboxes unlike the K-Series.

    Along with being reskinned and properly developed the Maxi ideally should have at least featured a Maestro wheelbase from the outset, thereby making it a lighter Golf-sized car enabling the use of smaller engines from 1.3-2.0-litres (like the Maestro) as well as allowing ADO16/ADO22 to be reconceived as a 1.1-1.6-litre supermini.

    Having seen an image of the wide-body Clubman prototype with the same wheelbase as the Allegro and while understanding the appeal / theoretical benefits of such a move, am not sold by the idea of both the Mini and ADO16/ADO22 or Allegro sharing SWB and LWB versions of the same platform. Nor the idea of the Mini straying too much from its small dimensions, though do agree with the idea of BMC / BL plugging gaps between the Mini and Maxi or ADO16/ADO22 (and Allegro) with SWB Metro/Metro+-sized versions of ADO16/ADO22 (and Allegro).

    Not sure about the necessity of the 2-litre E6 in a scenario where a properly developed 2-litre E-Series 4-cylinder was produced, though perhaps it could be reserved for Vanden Plas versions of the Maxi in 2.0-2.4-litre forms.

    • Meant to say the wide-body Clubman prototype shares the same width as the Allegro (meaning it basically used a SWB Allegro platform) as opposed to the same wheelbase.

      • Giving an overhauled-before-introduction Maxi a Maestro-sized wheelbase (99″) would have made it a Passat (not a Golf) competitor – though it would have needed some more length than the actual model. Would have been quite right, as ADO16/22’s 93,5″ wheelbase and length made them Golf competitors, though the Golf was wider. That could have been corrected in the mid-1970s by a shortened Maxi-platform to succeed ADO22, giving good return on investment fot that overhauled platform.
        Combining Mini and some related SuperMini for the city-class would have made sense as well.

        • While an improved shortened / lightened Austin Maxi with Maestro-like wheelbase would have preceded the original Volkswagen Golf, it would have been smaller than the Passat and basically featured the same 155-inch length (along with the same 99-inch wheelbase) as the Simca 1100 so still within the norm of what was to become C-Segment.

          Though ADO16/22 could be considered another potential rival to the Golf (prior to the latter growing to 150-inches in length), the Fiat 127 had the same width as ADO16/22 as well as close to a similar length at 141.5-143.5-inches (despite the Fiat giving away almost 6-inches in the wheelbase). The ADO16/22 could have served as a suitable basis for a pair of Superminis, with the larger version basically being the early analogue of the R3 Rover 200 in Supermini terms had the latter been pitched as a Vauxhall Corsa rival from the beginning rather than a rival to the Vauxhall Astra. Which is basically BMC’s / BL’s USP for its FWD cars being space efficient for their class.

          For SuperMini, am otherwise unsure whether it could have been derived from the ADO16/22-based Supermini as a SWB version or derived from an upscaled Mini akin to the Austin Metro though perhaps it play the role of missing link between the Mini and LWB ADO16/22-derived Supermini.

          As for the replacements of the alternate Maxi as well as ADO16/22-based LWB and Metro-like SWB Supermini, since the Maestro platform was basically a reverse-engineered Golf perhaps it could also form the basis of a smaller Supermini in the same way the mk3 Volkswagen Polo was derived from a shortened the mk2 Volkswagen Golf’s platform (with the Volkswagen Lupo in turn being based on a shortened mk3 Volkswagen Polo platform). That is not even mentioning the fact the Maestro / Montego platform was upscaled as proposed replacements for the Princess and SD1, even if the replacing the latter with a FWD platform is unlikely.

          For the Mini (aka Project Ant / Barrel Car) it is difficult to see how it would be suitably replaced since it would largely be an earlier production version of the Minki-I / Minki-II prototypes (with the exception of the engine). One idea is to basically twin it with the Austin Metro / R6 / R6X analogue by using the same platform, in the same way the Nissan Micra K10/K11 spawned the retro-styled Nissan Be-1 and Lotas Princess March or the Daihatsu Cuore/Mira L700 spawned the Mini-inspired Daihatsu Mira Gino. A variation of the above would be a retro styled version of the AR6 project, especially given it was to also form the basis of related replacements for the Maestro and Montego.

          Another very cynical approach would be a British Volkswagen Lupo type Mini replacement via a significantly shortened City Car platform derived from the Maestro-based Supermini, which if the Lupo is any indication would be inferior in terms of packaging.

          • “…..since the Maestro platform was basically a reverse-engineered Golf……”

            You really need to stop now…..the Maestro platform was a development of the ADO67 platform. The Golf, despite the use of that dreadful gearbox and a similar layout rear suspension, had nothing at all to do with Maestro.

          • My admittingly limited understanding was the Maestro platform was a largely clean-sheet design that akin to the US version of the Horizon, was a Chinese copy of the Golf platform or at least owed much to the latter.

            What is the evidence for the Maestro / Montego platform being a development of the Allegro platform, secondly (besides bad management and the chaos surrounding the formation of BL, finances, etc) what prevented the company from adopting the soon to be ubiquitous end-on gearbox layout let alone making the Allegro more like the Maestro / Montego from the outset? If a relation does indeed exist why did the company feel a need to consider developing a Series 4 Allegro at one point in place of the Maestro?

            Apart from using a development of the E-Series in the form of the R/S-Series engine and at one point experimental prototypes being tested with Hydragas suspension (though always intended to use conventional suspension), there is seemingly little to indicate a connection between the Allegro and the Maestro / Montego.

            Especially since the latter was larger than an Austin Maxi, which an argument could just be made to have a distant connection with the Maestro.

          • Nate……My comment isn’t idle speculation. I was one of the PSF body engineers that designed the thing!

            There never was a plan to develop an “Allegro 4” as anything more than a stop-gap trim/equipment upgrade. It was less extensive than Ital! The “Allegro 4” eventually turned into the Equipe.

            By the mid/late 70’s the only work going forward was Ital, Metro, Maestro, XJ57, XJ40, and later Montego.

            Maxi, Allegro, Princess, SD1, TR7, were all being run down. They were either ancient (like Maxi), or failures (like SD1).

          • Thanks for clearing things up, just find it a bit incredulous given the relative improvement the Maestro was over the Allegro and what the relation between the cars implies.

            My point though about the Allegro becoming the Maestro / Montego, is how much of the latter developments (e.g. end-on gearbox, increased interior space, etc) could have appeared much earlier on the former?

            Had BL been in a better position surely it could have been possible for an early Maestro / Montego to butterfly away the Allegro and perhaps even replace the Maxi much earlier in the early/mid-1970s than it did? The same with the upscaled Maestro/Montego derived fastback replacement for the Princess.

            In comparison with the Allegro even the Maestro’s styling would have not been out of place had it appeared in the 1970s, instead of the 1980s.

            It also opens up the question of whether the Allegro like the Maestro could have been fitted with the 2-litre O-Series engine, assuming the in-sump layout was not such a limitation (given the larger 1800 featured a similar layout with the B-Series unit).

            Given how much of a revelation Hydragas in the R6 Metro was, surely it was doable for the Maestro/Montego to carry over a developed version of the system from the Allegro instead of being tested in the odd prototype?

          • Very hard to believe the LC10 program was somehow Allegro-based. Kev, could you tell us to what extent exactly, what parts were carried over? Obvious not the suspension, nor any body parts, so then could hardly have been more than (parts of) the base plate, I suppose?

          • Zebo…..The centre underframe assy from ADO67 was used as a starting point for LC10. In layman’s terms, this was the floor assy, heelboard, sill inners, and pnl dash assy. These were of course modified in the course of development. Indeed, the first batch of LC10 prototype bodies were built around ADO67 underframes. These were designed in PSF Cowley, Body Engineering (E Block), and built in Prototype Sheet Metal, in T Building of the same plant.

          • NAT I am not sure you are right about the Allegro / Ado 16 size, Simca 1100, Simca Horizon, Fiat Ritmo, Opel Kadett (Fwd) suggest that the market centre of gravity was 100inch weelbase although the big sellers Golf Mk1 and Escort Mk3 were at the time a bit 94.5inch and 96inch respectively. So the Allegro I do not think lost sales for its 96 inch wheelbase.

            I think however with the Allegro BL fell into the trap of trying to replace the ADo16 with something broadly the same and not understanding how the market evolved since its launch.

            They missed that they had two sorts of customers for the ADo16, you had the original target customer after an economical family car. But as that market had moved up with the Cortina Mk2 etc, another market had come forward who wanted a compact easy to park second car, but without the compromises of the Mini. In fact many were no doubt Mini owners moving up.

            My view is that a car as important as the ADo16 to the business needed to replaced by two cars to spread the risk. However BMC/BL had no cash.

            So my “68” strategy in the short term should have been to not go after Ford with the Marina, but leverage the Mini, ADo16 and the E series and its new factory (in light of the recognised lack of appeal of the Maxi).

            So assuming we have put Issigonis on the subs bench (as happened) we phone up some Italian to do some styling magic for us (so no recruiting from Dagenham)

            1: Refresh the high end Mini’s with a more modern “family” nose (as happened)
            2: Refresh the Austin and Morris Ado 16 in a similar way (this new but quite cheap)
            3: Replace the Premium Ado 16 and A60 etc with a new family “premium” front and tailed Ado 16 with a raised bonnet line to take the E series ( as was done for export markets)
            4: Do what they can to align the Maxi with a family front, which will replace A60 Travellers (this effectively happened, the just gave it the same “Dagenhamish” nose they gave the Clubman though).

            Basically we have filled the “Marina” gap without spending any of the money it took to create the Marina and for little cash refreshed the Ado16 why, not it is Britain’s best selling car.

            Stage 2

            I develop a new compact car platform (using the money for the Allegro and Marina), wide enough to take the E4 engine and available in two wheel bases 88 inch and 94 inch with hydragas. This then drives

            Mini Repacement, 88 inch, 2 doors, glass lift back (Imp and later Sunbeam style), powered by A series (1.0, 1.1, 1.3) so whilst chassis can take an E series bonnet height can be restricted to that needed to accommodate a lightly revised A series.

            Ado 16 economy replacement, 94 inch 3 and 5 door powered by A series 1.0 (3 door only poverty spec), 1.1, E series 1.3 5 speed and E series 1.6 5 speed (3 door MG sports).

            Cash will still be limited, so we will reskin the Maxi (giving it hydragas) but taking the wheelbase down to 102 inch this then drives.

            Premium ado 16 replacement, takes what could be a 104 5 door sized and styled Ado 16 up to the inch plus size (as Peugeot did 2 decades later with 205 styling being evolved into the 306) powered by E4 1.3 and 1.6 and E6 2.0 litre (MG Sports version) all with 5 speed.

            Fleet market car. The above car with a premium nose with saloon and estate tails, E4 1.3 (poverty spec), E4 1.6, E6 2.0 (high line and MG Sports).

            I argument for the above is that it gets leverages and then build on the strength BMC had with the Mini and ADo16, whilst with much less investment gets better coverage of the mid sector than was achieved with the Allegro, Marina, Maxi and Princess.

          • Regarding the comparison to an improved 99-inch wheelbase Austin Maxi with Simca 1100, was of the impression of the original Maxi prototype featured a similar wheelbase prior to growing into a larger car (thanks to the 1800 doors, etc) and with increased weight/wheelbase quickly necessitating the abandonment of the 1.3 E-Series.

            If the Maestro is indeed derived from the Allegro, then it only makes a stronger case for ADO22 as well as allowing the Allegro project to drift/evolve into the Maestro / Montego (instead of outright cancelling the project) before entering production by the mid/late-1970s (along with replacing the Maxi).

            Part of the money otherwise spent on the Marina in real-life should have gone to thoroughly developing the E-Series into an EA827-like 1.3-2.0 4-cylinder / 2.0-3.0 6-cylinder replacement for the B/C-Series engines, instead of bring the existing compromised unit into production.

            Whether via an alternate Project Ant or a retro-styled sister model to the Metro / R6, the replacement of the original Mini should have featured a number of elements from the later Minki-I / Minki-II prototypes. In the case of the latter am struck by the comment on the Austin Memories article for the Minki projects that something like Minki-II should have been in production many years ago during the 1995 Mini event at Gaydon.

            While such a car would have obviously not featured the K-Series engine had it appeared earlier (at least not immediately depending on the scenario), quite like of the idea of the original Mini replacement being developed along such lines featuring a number of useful improvements (e.g. ADO20, Project Ant, etc) to both make it cheaper and easier to produce, yet retaining much of and even improving upon the original Mini’s characteristics.

            Which may not be the case if the Mini replacement is basically a SWB version of an ADO16 replacement, just not convinced it could work and would basically end up being the Mini analogue of the Allegro in the same way the latter was supposed to replace the well-regarded ADO16. That is not to say there cannot be significant commonality / carry-over between the models, as was the case with the Mini and Metro (along with allegedly the Allegro with regard to the Metro). Both ADO22 and the Metro / R6 demonstrate there was plenty of life left in the basic design to last the 1970s in the case of the former as well as up to the latter’s intended end of production (pre-1997 NCAP).

            Though the following would have also necessitated a number of pre/post-war historical points of divergence compared to what happened in real-life (and basically butterflying away British Leyland), it would have been interesting to see Alec Issigonis either being fired or walking away from BMC in response to BMC rejecting his revolutionary 9X / 10X approach in favour of an evolutionary approach (e.g. Project Ant, ADO22, etc) and jumping ship to another company (e.g. alternate Leyland Motors post-Rootes acquisition, etc).

            Now, given Issigonis’s friendship with Tim Fry and Mike Parkes who designed the Hillman Imp from his time at Alvis. Had it been possible imagine if all three were tasked to develop a supermini inspired by his work from the rejected 9X / 10X projects yet carrying over something like for example the (admittingly expensive yet fully-developed versions of the) 875-1150cc Imp / 1250-1500cc Swallow derived engines in place of the unviable 9X/10X engines.

            IIRC the 9X 4-cylinder allegedly weighed 200lbs, while the Imp unit was around 176lbs (with both possibly including the transmission into their figures).

            The story of Issigonis meeting Parkes and Fry from time to time and at one point even driving each other’s Imp and Mini prototypes (with each pointing out the failings of others) would take on a whole new meaning in such a scenario.

          • Kev

            My bad on the Allegro Series 4, was conflating it with a proposal (mentioned in History: British Leyland, the grand illusion – Part Four) for the planned LC range to be replaced with a new car based on the mechanics of the Austin Allegro in order to retain ADO88.

            However the above makes little sense if the Allegro was already used as a starting point for the Maestro/Montego, unless the plan basically amounted to a re-skinned Ambassador/Ital-ized Allegro that like the Ambassador very belated featured a hatchback.

            If aware of such plans during this period curious to hear your take on the above re-skinned Allegro proposal?

  9. Nate, your scenario would involve a lot of investment while we know that BLMC didn’t have much forthcoming. In fact, its very existing was a result of neither Leyland nor the BMC being able to finance replacements for their existing models. As discussed earlier, I think from day one BLMC should have focussed on rationalisation (to limit expenditure without making the cars cheap) and quality (to achieve lower warranty costs, better reputation, more sales, higher prices and ultimately higher revenues). Best way to achieve both would be to build on available good bases where possible. After this first phase, the next would have been to invest (wisely) in new products/platforms.
    First possibility would probably be ADO22 (as Maxi wasn’t nearly ready at the time of the merger, needing overhauling as above), complete with hatchback and improved E-series, as an nascent C-cegment/Golf-competitor. After that, an improved SuperMini (84″ wheelbase, 850-1275 CC, 3 and 5 doors, combination of Ant/Barrel and Haynes hatchback proposals: cheaper to build and better quality) would probably have been succesfull (and profitable?!) through the first Oil Crisis.
    Soon after that, the overhauled Maxi (with different body, 1600-2000 E-series and -despite Graham’s very correct remarks about the costs of tooling- an end-on gearbox) could have introduced the new BLMC products and take on the Passat and possibly Cortina-class, as well as serving as the basis for the successor to ADO22 (including updated A-series). Then hopefully BLMC should have earned enough to start building a new platform to succeed SuperMini… Not to mention the RWD-set for now!

    • BMC in the 1950s was in a position to implement such a path and unlike the FWD cars would have been cheaper to build RWD cars and profitable enough to potentially offset the costs of the FWD cars had it been done correctly, it made little sense continuing to produce the aging unrelated RWD cars throughout the 1960s whilst alienating traditional buyers who went instead to RWD opposition at Ford, Vauxhall, Rootes, etc. It is up to BMC to decide by the late-1960s whether to abandon the cheaper RWD cars as the FWD layout becomes more common for their mainstream cars from the 1970s and beyond.

      Reskinned bodies by styling houses and compact EA111-style downscaled E-Series replacement for the A-Series aside, the small improvements made during development for the Maxi and E-Series (e.g. EA827-like 2-litre E-Series 4-cylinder) engine would entail large cost savings by butterflying away the need for example to develop the O-Series (and being a very effectively replacement for the B-Series and C-Series). The abandonment of the RWD layout on mainstream cars by say 1970, would mean little need to develop the Marina and instead opt for a three-box saloon body of the FWD cars. Etc.

      Otherwise believe we are largely in agreement in many respects, including the fact an evolutionary approach with Ant and ADO22 was more realistic than Issigonis’s revolutionary approach with 9X and 10X.

      Can see the idea of calling a composite of Project Ant / Clubman hatchback the SuperMini (especially if the more expensive 10-inch wheels are replaced by 12-inch wheels) though the 84-wheelbase would have made it small against the Metro short of the latter being an upscaled extension of the former that assumed the SuperMini moniker.

      What this composite of Project Ant / Clubman hatchback or its replacement (had it been twinned with Metro) could have benefited from, were earlier new presses that appeared latter for the Metro. Since it would have allowed the Mini floor to be made in one piece instead of six pieces, in combination of redoing the side pressings allowing more tumblehome and de-seaming, which together would have come to about £750k during the development of Metro thereby making the Mini cheaper and significantly less labour intensive to produce. That said, it appears Project Ant did follow such a brief though obviously needed a bit more de-seaming (the Clubman hatchback also being in more need of the latter to create a smoother and more modern appearance).

      One unknown about ADO22 is the latter’s dimensions in both hatchback and saloon forms, apparently Victoria / Apache three-box saloon used the aborted ADO22 project as a basis yet it still carried over much from ADO16 including wheelbase / width unless it was somehow intended to feature a roughly similar wheelbase / width to the Allegro.

      • One addition: I think in the 1970s and 80s there would have been a market for RWD cars as well, so a need to develop some RWD platform or component set, as was intended with SD1/SD2/TR7/8/Lynx/ADO77, after rationalisation of the FWD models would have been achieved. I also think the idea of differentiating Austin/FWD and Morris/RWD in the 1970s was fundamentally right, though one could also argue that ADO17 was simply a bridge too far in the 60s and that BMC should have stuck with RWD in the Farina/Cortina segment, creating better opportunities for economies of scale after the BLMC merger in the proces.

        Re. ADO22: I always assumed it was of equal size to ADO16, being basically an extensive facelift, or are you saying the hatchback rear would have added more than a few cms extra length? Are any other pictures known of AD)22 than the ones on this site?

        • The main point behind the related stop-gap low-cost RWD cars from the 1960s (its conception beginning during the mid/late-1950s) is that it lays the groundwork for differentiation between Austin/FWD/Hatchback (sans Vanden Plas) and Morris/RWD/Saloon to begin much earlier when it mattered, where the profits of the latter could be used to both offset the costs of the former as well as keep traditional RWD BMC customers within the fold.

          The larger mainstream RWD cars from 1970s onwards (as embodied on SD1 / SD2 / TR7-TR8-Lynx-etc / ADO77 and to a lesser extent on EX234 via 1.6-2.0 E4s) would be able to utilize 2.0-3.0-litre E6 engines in petrol and diesel / turbodiesel forms, though am otherwise unsure of whether the larger FWD cars would have been better off sticking with the transversely mounted inline-6 layout like Volvo (with the Si6 engine) and Daewoo Magnus (with “XK6” engine) or embrace a 90-degree V6 as with the PRV V6, Maserati V6, Honda C and VAG Group engines.

          It could be argued that ADO17 especially in X6 form should have featured RWD as it drifted from a Farina/Cortina to a Granada type car. On the other hand an earlier FWD Vanden Plas X6 with a 2-litre B-Series later 2-litre E4 / 2.4 E6, would have made for a unique challenger to the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500 before being replaced by an analogue to SD1/etc.

          On ADO22, am operating on the likely inaccurate assumption that it could have featured slightly increased dimensions. It is interesting to note ADO16 never featured a version with an increased wheelbase as was the case with the Mini (e.g. Minivan/Estate/Hornet/Elf) and ADO17 (e.g. X6).

  10. What should have happened is they should have made the mini, 1100, Maxi and 1800 properly. Powersteering, rod linkage, range of body shells. They should have updated that mini and 1100 properly. 1300 yes, but also 1500 e series victoria and Nomad versions. 1800 as per Kimberly/tasmin and with 2600 E6 and estate versions.

    The Marina (if they went ahead with it) should have had the 1300 A, 1500 E and either the 1750 E or 1800 E. They needed to find a two litre 4, what was wrong with the triumph slant four. Proper dampers on the front and suddenly it’s decent.
    Same with Allegro, why no hatch especially by mark 2. Fix the transmission. By series 3 it was pretty good and competitive with newer models. Needed a two ltre halo car.
    BL stratagy was perhaps not spot on, but execution was terrible.

  11. Returning to the 9X/10X 4/6-cylinder engines, while it was mentioned the design could not be toleranced to make it productionable.

    It is difficult to believe Issigonis would have persisted with the engine without managing to actually further develop the engine to meet acceptable tolerances by the time it was tested in the final MG Metro-based prototype.

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