Concepts and Prototypes : Morris 1500 proposal (1966-68)

Another missed opportunity from down under?

BMC-Australia historian Tony Cripps has unearthed images of this three-box Morris 1500 family saloon proposal, developed in the late 1960s.

As you can see from the images, it has a familiar-looking centre section.

Australian ADO16 saloon: Precursor to the Morris Marina?

The story of BMC-Australia is absolutely fascinating. The company’s Antipodean offshoot is one of fleeting success, technical innovation and missed opportunities. This saloon that’s clearly been developed from the BMC 1100/1300 is a prime example of that thinking – and clearly the firm was operating with a level of autonomy which meant it was coming up with its own product plan.

BMC-Australia produced the 1100-based Morris Nomad hatchback and E-Series-powered Morris 1500 Sedan as well as the Austin Tasman/Kimberley from the late 1960s and into the 1970s. These were developments of the ADO16 and ADO17 which were never sold in the UK and were specifically tailored for Australian buyers, so the development of this ADO16 Saloon may have been a precursor to those projects.

The images of this small saloon have only recently emerged, and they show that BMC-Australia was potentially looking to build its own saloon before the arrival of the Morris Marina, and – ultimately – the P82 which was later designed to replace it, but never made it into production due to the ultimate closure of Leyland-Australia in 1974.

Sadly, we don’t know a lot about this one. Tony said: ‘This is a proposal for Morris 1100 from Romand Rodbergh. Clay front and rear. I don’t have a date for the photos. These photos were taken in the top-secret styling studio in the Product Engineering Building.’

What is interesting about these images is that the car, which appears to be badged as the Morris 1500, would have been in development around the same time as BMC’s own ADO22 project – and we know that this car ended up siring the South African Austin Apache and Spanish Authi Victoria. There’s some question over the timeframe this model was created, and whether BMC-Australia would have had knowledge of the forthcoming Marina.

It’s likely that this was an early proposal for the YDO15 programme, which became the Australia-only Morris 1500. Former BMC-Australia employee Doug Coxon added: ‘Rodbergh would not have been doing this proposed new design if he knew that Nomad was coming in 1969, and he would have surely known this during 1968.

‘It was known even as far back as November 1968 that YDO15 would be eventually replaced by Marina in 1972, so I doubt if he could justify this expense as a Tasman-like update to YDO15 if Marina was already on the cards.’ This points to the car being an early proposal that was passed over in favour of the more familiar-looking end product.

Tony Cripps shed some further insight into the timeline. ‘It probably happened just before Lord Stokes’ visit scheduled for 1968 and postponed until 1972. The decision to adopt the Marina, instead of waiting for P82, seems to have been a sudden one. You wonder what would have happened to the Nomad, had this design been adopted.’

Interestingly, Roy Haynes could well have seen this design and may have had some input. Tony added: ‘He was at Zetland around this time so you couldn’t rule out some input there. Haynes would have surely met with Rodbergh in 1968, but there’s no record of this in the files. Haynes departed the UK company in 1969 and, by then, Marina styling had been completed. Certainly, this proposal has the right flavour.’

Images: Tony Cripps

Keith Adams


  1. It looks like it has the lift-up door handles of the 1500/Nomad, but not the bonnet bulge. It would have made sense for it to be designed at the same time as the Kimberley, to give BMC a range of booted sedans. If so, it probably predated the Leyland merger and the start of work on the Marina and P76.

  2. Having seen this proposal doing the rounds on the Internet for some time, I have always thought this was a missed opportunity, much like Innocenti’s varied design proposals to update the ad016. Although I think lights behind the grill, which was probably copying American styling ideas doesn’t work. It just showed that the product just needed refreshing and updating and not being replaced by the aggro. Think if this had come out in 70, they could have cleaned up the market fir 3 years and generated more income to develop its long term replacement

  3. It is actually easy to see this proposal with a Maxi style front end treatment, it makes one wonder why it was never applied on ADO16 when the Nomad featured a Maxi style hatchback rear.

    After all the Mini featured a similar front to become the Clubman, speaking of which BMC-Australia were also said to have looked at a similar Mini-based three-box extended-boot saloon by way of a sketch in Tony Cripps book that immediately brought to mind Roy Haynes earlier unfinished attempt at a hatchback Mini on the Leyland’s cancelled Minis page.

    Am also intrigued by the extent of Roy Haynes input and if the Morris 1500 proposal is linked to his own plans for ADO22, as they were conceived around the same time it is difficult to believe they were developed in complete insolation from each other. Is it possible Haynes was making use of BMC-Australia’s level of autonomy to set out his design strategy for the company to not draw too much attention from the chaos back in the UK (as BMC became BLMC) before things went downhill?

    • Nate I think you are right, the sketch of the extended boot version of the Mini on pg 35 of Tony Cripps book is reminiscent of Roy Haynes hatchback proposal and looks to involve about the same overhang. It has always been a mystery to me however why the Clubman nose wasn’t balanced by the Elf/Hornet boot, perhaps with more modern taillights. This was virtually a free option and would have created a distinct upmarket model. Images pop up from time to time of private conversions along these lines and they look great!

  4. Perhaps I’m imagining it, but in the rear three-quarter view, the front wheels look further forward than a normal ADO16, and the nose correspondingly longer. Hard to judge, as the photo is not clear enough to show the leading front door shut line.

    • I think you’re right. The 1800 was lengthened there in the conversion to the Tasman/Kimberley, so they may well have lengthened this prototype there too.

      • Imagine more space would always have been welcome but also this may have helped improve the angle of the steering wheel – I have an idea the Tasman/Kimberley was better in this respect than the 1800.

  5. If you read the history of the Marina it was never going to be ADO16/FWD based. BL recognised a yawning gap in their inherited Austin Morris range of a simple fleet car to do battle with the Cortina, then seen as the main growth market in the UK.

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