Sports car projects : ADO56

Ahead of its time

This wooden model, photographed in March 1959, clearly shows the interesting passenger door cut-out, which extends into the rear wheel-arch area, presumably with the aim of facilitating access to the rear seats.
This wooden model, photographed in March 1959, clearly shows the interesting
passenger door cut-out, which extends into the rear wheelarch area, presumably
with the aim of facilitating access to the rear seats

Known within BMC as the ‘MG Sport’, ADO56 was devised by Alec Issigonis, based on an extended Mini floor pan. The car was styled by Dick Burzi, strongly influenced by Pininfarina’s Austin A40 Farina, and was engineered by Jack Daniels.

Sitting on 12in wheels, the car was later built as a running prototype, using a transversely-mounted Mini-Cooper engine. According to Austin stylist Barry Kelkin, who worked on the project, ADO56 ‘went like a bomb’ and came very close to being signed-off for production.

While the longer passenger door is retained, the driver’s door is more conventionally-proportioned. It is not clear whether this is simply a ‘double-sided’ model (to enable both options to be assessed) or whether they were seriously considering this arrangement for the final car.

The 1970s AMC Pacer was one car which bravely took this unusual feature into production.

Further reading

One month on, and the completed model is photographed for the archives.
One month on, and the completed model is photographed for the archives

Keith Adams
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12 Comments

  1. If it’s based on a Mini floorpan I wonder how much dead space is under the very long bonnet!

    • May be not that much if any, as if you are sitting on the floor as you should in proper sports car, you would need that space to stretch your legs into.

  2. What a strange contraption that ive never seen or heard about. There’s shades of MG Midget, BMC 1100 and Vauxhall Viva HC estate in there, Perhaps a forerunner to The Reliant Scimitar? What year was this commissioned? does anyone know?

  3. Wherent there two version of this? Im sure this use to be on the site ages ago and had designs by Longbridge and Abingdon?

  4. Had this car gone into production in the early 60’s it might have sold well. It looks quite attractive and modern for that period of car design

  5. Unfortunately the MGB GT looks sleeker & mid-sixties buyers would have been drawn to its more proven mechanicals.

  6. Presumably this idea was killed after management’s decision to restyle the A-H Sprite and badge it as MG? Another example of the ex-Nuffield guys not paying attention to what was happening at Longbridge??

    • Not at all. It was killed off by Longbridge bean counters. Tooling a new body for limited volumes was simply not cost-effective.

  7. By extended Mini floorpan does that mean ADO56 featured an early version of the Estate/Minivan wheelbase?

    It was probably for the best it did not reach production, since it would have likely needed a larger engine than a 1275cc A-Series.

    • The Sprite and MG Midget were to continue with the A Series until British Leyland gave it the Trimuph 1500.

  8. The earlier ADO58 prototype compares rather unfavourably to the MG ADO34, that is not to say ADO58 is all bad just that elements of the prototype could have probably worked better had it been unscaled further to ADO16.

    Seem to recall reading an anecdote about a ADO16 Coupe clay model that was sabotaged by Issigonis prior to viewing that could have given BMC a direct equivalent of the Autobianchi Primula Coupe for it to easily succeed the Austin A40 Farina. OTOH a 3-door version of the ADO16 Mystique conversion could have worked just as well.

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