Essay : Not their finest hour – Morris Marina and Ital

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

We take another lighthearted look at some of the cars which will be forever remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Mike Humble takes another journey back in time and recalls the car which should have put him off BL related products for life, but instead, got him hooked…. The Morris Marina and Ital.


Practical classic, or dated shocker?

The Marina and Ital – The epitome of everything wrong with British Leyland?

Milestone or Millstone:

No matter how hard you ponder and think about the worst cars BL threw together, the same three come to mind, for me, anyway: the Allegro, Marina and Maxi. Did the Allegro fail to hit the spot as a result of the way it drove? Probably not, try a decent 1500 or 1750 and you find they drive and go quite well. Same with the Maxi. Okay it looks as pretty as a black refuse sack after a rural Fox has visited the evening before bin day; but once again, ram the lever into top and the Maxi will cruise all day. And in decent comfort. At least with the Austins, they tried a little to offer something different from the norm – with Hydrolastic suspension and front wheel drive. But down the road in Cowley, it was a much different story.

They say the Marina went from drawing board to showroom in record time, and I think it shows – or rather feels it. One of my earliest motoring memories is my Uncle Tony buying a nearly new series 1 Marina 1800 in a vile bottle green colour. He kept it for about three or four years, citing its god awful handling as the main reason for selling it on.

A few years later, my father ran a T-plate 1.3LE two-door, which looked like the GT from a distance, I adored the metallic paint and vinyl roof, along with the cute-looking Cibie Iode 35 driving lamps in the grille. And the ‘coop’ was not a bad styling effort either. Ask it to drive on anything other than billiard table smooth roads at anything more than moderate speed, things got very scary indeed!

The ride or the fright of your life:

Remember that-gut wrenching feeling of terror and panic as a child, running down a grassy hill and not being able to stop? Eventually, your little legs would run away with themselves and suddenly, you would trip over, seemingly bumping and rolling along the hard grass forever before coming to a stop and feeling sick. For me, that pretty much sums up the handling of the Morris Marina.

You don’t need to bungee jump or try parachuting. If it’s unadulterated adrenaline and fear you seek, simply grab the keys to a Marina with tired front dampers and take a fast drive along an undulating country lane in the wet – and remember to take a spare pair of pants with you. Ride comfort? you can pass on that one too with the Marina, being far from anything like a Citroen.

Pushing down on the front wing you would see the bodywork bob up and down like a buoy in the sea which would indicate a soft floppy ride. Yet the low speed quality of ride was truly dreadful and the car would bottom out and crash onto its bump stops easily, especially if a few passengers were on board. Cornering was limited too, fine at normal speeds but apply a quick change of direction on the spindly wheel at speed and all hell was let loose – for those yet to experience a Marina, it really was borderline dangerous. Even the later cars with dual anti-roll bars and modified suspension geometry handled in a similar manner to watching your Physics teacher dance at the school Christmas disco – uncontrolled lurches.

Performance was not what the Marina was all about, though even the little 1275cc could put a decent show on if you were prepared for refinement akin to a washing machine on spin with worn bearings. The larger 1800cc B-Series and later 1.7-litre O-Series were blessed with useful torque and performance along with a more sympathetic axle ratio making high speed running easier on the ear. Rivals like Ford and Vauxhall had slick shifting gearboxes, which even today are held in high regard. But the poor Marina was dogged with an ex-Triumph Herald unit that would baulk and fight against you – especially when coming back down through the ‘box. Some early 1.3-litre models had a terrible issue with clutch judder in first and reverse gear – though cured in later variants.

At least as far as mechanical simplicity was concerned – The Marina & Ital were a picnic!

 Morris, the old guard soldiers on:

Later series two and three Marinas (1976 and 1978) seemed better cars, but poor handling and ride, with awful refinement remained a major bone of contention right through the car’s lifetime. Rust was also a huge problem, with many going to the breakers at an early age, thanks to ruined floor pans and major structural corrosion around the jacking points or chassis members. As far as the mechanics were concerned, Marinas were easy to work on. Even the more modern OHC 1.7-litre engine was simplicity itself, requiring nothing more than a roll of old carpet to lay down on and a washing up bowl for that regular oil change.

The Ital came along in 1980, and to be fair, was nothing more than a mild re-skin of the Marina. The 1275cc A-Series was reworked into the A+ and partly thanks to a revised installation, better sound deadening and a viscous cooling fan, became a fairly quiet car with superb fuel consumption. Front and rear light units were changed too. But no matter what was done, it was obvious the Ital was merely a stop gap car until more modern products came along. One of my first cars was an Ital 1700 estate, which cost me all of my apprentice wages. Only the engine was original, thanks to the rear axle failing. The gearbox ate itself, and rampant rust caused the damn thing to disintegrate in front of me.

So in practice anyway, the Marina and Ital were both truly shocking cars – a past remainder of the true low point in the turbulent times of British Leyland. Badly made, badly designed and pitifully out of date, even when launched but brimming with retro charm. Yet I still find myself thinking ‘oh bless’, when I hear that distinctive second gear whine and low rev burble from the tailpipe should a Marina or an Ital clank by. No frills and no nasty surprises (until you turn a sharp bend) the Marina and Ital actually offer a cheap entry into the classic car scene, and thanks to the mechanical simplicity, can be used as an everyday hack.

Proof that time does heal old wounds?

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

110 Comments

  1. I think what people need to remember (if they are old enough) is that when launched it was a middle of the road car .It’s what the UK carmarket wanted in 1971 if the poularity of the Vauxhall Viva, It was only supposed to last until until about 1975 .but the company ran out of money and had to keep building it more or less untouched. Yes by the late 70’s they were hoplessly outdated but so was the Ford Cortina. Ive got a copy of What Car? Magazine from 1981 and the Mk 2 Cavalier just destroys the Cortina making it appear no better than the Marina/Ital which it probably wasn’t by then but just better marketed

  2. Sorry for the half completed sentence in the last post . What I meant to say was average simple cars where what the UK car buying public wanted in the early 70’s if the sales of the Vauxhall Viva, Hillman Avenger and Ford Escort were anything to go by. Damm thing posted before I had completed writing . Damm this modern technology.

  3. @Kev, the Escort had a sporting pedigree, which brought in sales, and so did the Marina rival the Cortina. By the time the Marina was launched, Ford were bringing out the ‘coke bottle’ Mk3 Tina, which had the new ohc 2.0 Pinto lump, and more modern suspension. The Marina was a dinosaur in comparison. The Marina coupe attempt to rival the Capri simply made Ford laugh their head off, with the Marina having poor performance, compared to the Capri with its 3.0 Essex V6 and 2.0 lumps.
    If BL had simply stopped acting like morons, & pooled the money spent on both the Marina & Allegro to produce 1 range, such as a hatch version of the allegro, or reclothed Maxi, perhaps things could have been different.

  4. For a hastily conceived stop gap, living far,far longer than originally intended, it did damn well to sell so well for so long.

    It was honest, simple transport. I’m sure many buyers never drove the car anywhere near its limits and were never aware of its poor handling. For such people the car looked ok and had far more practical virtues.

  5. “Proof that time does heal old wounds?” No Mike, sadly not. The Marina/Ital is a car with no redeeming features whatsoever! Car as appliance, and not even a good one – think cheap LCD TV with shocking picture quality and no digital tuner, no brand microwave et al. As you say, at least you could see what they were trying to achieve with the Maxi and the Allegro, even if they didn’t realise their ambitions. The Marina was just a cynical attempt at a car, the 70’s equivalent of the 1990 Ford Escort – and we all know how bad that was!

  6. The marina was probably the only car capable of becoming less than the sum of its parts. The Escort and Cortina were no more advanced mechanically than the Marina in ’71, but Ford managed to make the escort fun to drive and the works rally team developed the car to the point where it was a winner on the world stage. It also had a massive hole in the lineup between the base model 1300s and the top end 17/1800s. Ford and Vauxhall had shown that your average mid range lineup should be 1300, 1600 and 2000 for the top end, the marina had no 1600 challenger even though the 1500 E-series would probably have done the job OK (and did after some development in the Maestro).

  7. The Marina was never meant to be anything more than a simple car, a stop gap car. The 1990 Escort was, however, a full budget, long term replacement for the Mark III. Its low standard in virtually every department was Ford and its mighty marketing machine mis judging what buyers wanted, what they would accept.

  8. Thanks Mike, I enjoyed that. Looking at the picture of the Ital, it’s amazing how anyone managed to so thoroughly modernise the outside of the Marina, for little more than the price of Fish & Chips for a family of 4! It remained an antique underneath, but it still managed to fool just enough buyers until the Montego arrived.

  9. The only metalwork change on the Ital was the rump. Everything up to the rear doors was pure Marina, so it was a serious budget facelift. I drove a mk3 Marina 1.3 L estate a couple of times, and the handling was shocking, and performance was glacial. The radio was aimed towards the passenger too. Why? BL really did make a turd of a car when they made the Marina, and the Montego came about 3 years too late.

  10. Remember over a million Marina’s were sold. It was never going to change the world, but the new Leyland car company wanted their own product out quick and the Marina was it, it wasn’t meant to last long.

    However, I don’t think there has been a BL product which has been so consistent in sales? The Marina was never going to worry Ford, but the Mk3 Cortina was heavily criticised at launch, when ‘CAR’ tested it in 1972, the words ‘sluggish’ ‘harsh’ ‘mediocre road holding’ ‘bump steer’ ‘dubious finish’ and more were included. It was also at the mercy of fractious strikes and stoppages too, just some of the criticisms directed at the Marina…..

    For BL fans, the Marina should be appreciated, it continued to sell throughout, despite the company. The Marina had a job to do and did it so other BL products could be launched and promoted. The Marina was one of the very few heroes for BL!

  11. Harry Webster was a Talented guy who Transformed the Triumph range into the stars of the 60s, However if it is to be believed that He was the Man responsible for using a late 1940s Moggy Thou Suspension, then He should of been sacked for even suggesting such nonsense, along with whoever (Lord Stokes ?) gave this Grand idea their Blessing. I cant even think of the last car to use Lever Arm Suspension, When did sensible Manufacturers stop using them? late 1950s?

    With Hindsight If the Marina used the Dolomite Suspension they could of done a classic BMC badge job and produced a Triumph version to sit between the Dolly and 2000/2500, although the Marina was only slightly bigger it did have more room inside than the Toledo/Dolomite.

    Looking back to the 70s Drizzle, mk2 Escorts used to under steer terrible (12″ Popular) although fitting bigger wheels restored them to fun cars and Chrysler Alpines/Solara’s Horizons were quite dreadful though quite stable at speed…they just didnt turn very well.

    My former works had a Marina van which was always a scream to drive as it banged out of gear but surprising willingness of the 1.3 A series mean a reasonable progress, However many people who drove it tried to Kill it along the road ! until the Gearbox finally gave up, I think it was £30.00 for a scrapyard replacement ! Always thought the Gearbox was a re worked Dolomite item… not a Herald one?

  12. The Marina was a flop, plain & simple. It cost BL a fortune in warranty claims, and simply didn’t have the broad choice of specification, unlike the Cortina, which also benefited from constant development, and a complete rebody in 1976, with the German Taunus body, and also the new plush ‘Ghia’ trim level, which had such luxuries as a factory fitted sunroof, alloys, headlamp washers, plush interior, and a German made V6 as an option, with power steering! The Cortina had a version for ‘every man’, from the humble rep in basic L spec, to the middle management in Ghia form. The Marina had bugger all in comparison. 2 engines, and minimal spec differences. Ford also cornered the new ‘mobilty market’ with a 1.6 2 door base, with standard 3 speed automatic gearbox.(The mk2 Escort base was also available as an auto) Ford did drop the ball however with the Mk1 Sierra, but quickly tweaked that, and it went on to be a huge seller, constantly beating the front wheel drive Cavalier in sales.

  13. They were very good looking cars and came with a bit more style than a cortina. I have a friend who has a Mumford Marina and this is an even better looking car. Was there ever a convertible cortina?

  14. In their defence- the Marina/Ital should really be considered to be Unsung Heroes. Here was a car developed in record time on virtuarly no budget using a set of antique components, was slated by the press even before it reached the public, handled dangerously, was poorly built by militant workers in badly managed strike ridden factories , and recieved little development throught a lifespan that was three times what was intended. Yet despite all this being stacked against it, along with the huge gap in the engine range the Marina/Ital still managed to shift close to a million units and was consitantly in the top five best sellers throughtout the 70s outselling both the similar sized Viva HC and Avenger.

  15. Really, I’m shocked that no-one at BLMC thought of developing a new modular RWD platform for both Morris/MG and Triumph until it was too late. Why the hell did they go with outdated 1940s components when they could have developed a world-beating compact RWD saloon that would have rubbed Uncle Sam’s face in the dirt?

    Was it in spite of Harry Webster’s Triumph origins or because of them that no-one considered pairing the Marina with the Dolomite or its replacement?

  16. These were sold here in the U.S. as the Austin Marina since the Morris name was relatively unknown in these parts. Truly dreadful cars, especially compared with the emerging Japanese models. Back in the day I had a 1971 Datsun 510 (aka Nissan Bluebird), an amazing little car for the time. The contrast between the it and the Marina was like night and day.

    Their only shared characteristic, sadly, was susceptibility to the tinworm. Both have long since crumbled back into the earth and rarely seen these days. The difference is that the Datsun 510 is fondly remembered and missed.

  17. Not much more to say about these cars that hasn’t already been said. Utterly awful with only one redeeming feature – they are great donor cars for Morry Thou mechanical upgrades.

  18. When growing up in the early 80’s we didn’t have a lot of money, so the cars my Dad owned tended to be sourced from contacts in the motor trade (read breakers yards!) and should, in reality, probably not have been on the road at that point.

    We had two Series 1 Marinas – a light green four door and a two door coupe in yellow (with a grille painted red!). Both were 1.3 ‘Super'(?) specification with contrasting, uncomfortable, vinyl trim.

    I was only young, but I recall them to be spartan and generally not pleasant places to be whilst their replacement, a MkIII Cortina, was entirely different – comfortable, dependable and familiar. I have very fond memories of JMB 145L.

    Both cars were presumably aimed at the same market, but worlds apart in terms of design and development.

    The chap in the first post makes an excellent point about the Mk2 Cavalier being a huge jump technically over the Cortina ’80 but, thanks to clever packaging, a multitude of trim variants and keen pricing, Ford’s family favourite never seemed out of fashion.

    By 1981 both the Cortina and the Ital were based on designs over a decade old (and the new Sierra would carry forward much of the Cortina), but I know which one I would rather have had on the drive.

  19. I’ve never actually driven a Marina/Ital but read plenty aboout its poor ride, awful handling (almost dangerous on early cars). However, as stated above I’m sure many drivers never pushed the car and were never really aware of its chassis problems. For them practicality and low cost maintenance would have been far more important. The car also looked pretty good and was a handy size – not too big.

    And that dash…. Is this not another BL idea/innovation which might have been copied if introduced by another manufacturer, say Citroen? It’s a bit like the Quartic wheel in this respect. Whenever I’ve sat in a Marina/Ital, to me it seems that the dash is angled away from the driver but not the actual switch gear. It was a good way of creating a spacious feel for the passenger and perhaps the radio should have been their concern as opposed to that of the driver?!

  20. Let’s be honest, these cars can’t have been that bad, there are still plenty left (just as many Itals and Marinas still on the road as Cavaliers, Cortinas, FIat 132s etc). From a styling point of view I feel the same about the Marina/Ital, Allegro and Maestro/Montego ranges, they are not bad looking cars, certainly better than some of the ugly, overated trash the Italians were throwing out at the time, Alfasud, most Lancias and most Fiats… Come on guys, enough BL bashing, this is supposed to be a site dedicated to the appreciation of these cars, not a site dedicated to criticising them!!!

  21. The problem was David, the car was born into an era where a car became all things for all people. As a consequence, all things that mattered like handling, ride, quality & reliability were lacking with the Marina!

  22. I’ve owned three and I still have a Mumford convertible. I can’t imagine how anyone can regard a Marina as ugly. They may get tatty but the styling was really a plus point. Ex Ford of Britain stylists were brought in and they came up with a good sharp enduring look, not too disimilar to the mk 2 Cortina but with a more contempory rear end.
    The coupe didn’t sell so well, but had a distinct look and was cheaper than the saloon. Did you know that William Lyons of Jaguar redrew it with the rear side window extended further back to improve the look? People scoff at the doors being the same length as the four door, but I can tell you that this isn’t a real problem when getting in and out of the back and is a major advantage in a tight garage or car park.
    The boot was enormous too. On that factor alone it was in a class (sizewise) above the Allegro and yet sold at pretty much the same price. No wonder they sold far more than the Allegro. It was consistently third or fourth in the UK sale charts over a good seven or eight years. There was never any hope of outselling Ford with its’ hold on the fleet market and regular updates. Considering it was a stop-gap car to replace the Minor and Oxford and instead became BL’s mainstay thru’out the ’70’s and beyond it succeeded in doing far more than was on its’ job description.
    Yes, the ride and handling are awful, but you just adapt to driving it within its’ capabilities. That really means in a safe and leisurely way, which ironically perhaps makes the Marina quite relaxing to drive. To over-exert it is distinctly unrewarding, so you don’t. My first car was a Herald 13/60 and that was a real hoot to drive with its’ sharp precise steering and flat cornering compared to to the 1.8 Marina that followed it. The Mumford 1.8 TC is no better but it has that lovely grunty MGB engine and ye olde second gear whine, squashy seats and relaxed driving position which makes it such a pleasure to take on a leisurely drive on a sunny day. We took ours to France with both kids for a really good holiday not so long ago. Everyone overtook us but it was the perfect car for a leisurely roof down seaside holiday.
    Having said that I have driven it most enjoyably up the hill at Prescott and around Silverstone on the 2010 Aviva classic rally!

  23. I got hold of an Ital in 2007 for a few years, great condition, potholes did send shockwaves through the cabin, but the ride was actually quite soft and very smooth. The 1.3 A+ was also quite perky for such a heavy car, certainly not slow. Got attention everywhere I went too, usually very positive. It’s all relative, but owning one for me was a very positive experience, cheap and very reliable, great considering it was 26 years old!

  24. I’ve spotted an Ital estate a few times now on my wat to work. Seems to be an everyday car for someone. Not bad when you think it must be at least 28 years old.

  25. The Marina/Ital and Maestro were, to me at least, cars which actually looked somewhat better when turned into Light Commercials. There’s a certain ‘rightness’ about how the front end knitted nicely with the van rear.
    The local paper my Father worked for swore by Marina, Ital and finally Maestro vans for distributing the various daily and evening editions to newsagents. When it came time to pension off a number of vans each year, there was always a big list of employees from all depts who stuck their names down to buy one at the usual knock down price of a couple of hundred notes.
    My Father stuck his name down to get one for me as a first motor but to no avail.
    When they sold off all the Itals and replaced them with Maestros, there was a real bun fight with people really keen to get hold of a cheap Ital van.
    As LCVs they were sterling workhorses as tough as any Escort van in their day.

  26. I’ve recalled this comment by the motoring press once before on AROnline. It appeared in the short lived ‘Company Car’ magazine. When testing the newly launched Ital they remarked ” with this car BL are a force’. So in 1980 they obviously didn’t think the Ital’s dynamic shortcomings placed it beyond consideration.

    I remember an HLS spec Ital actually looking quite appealing in 1980.

  27. If I remember rightly the P6 had the lever arm dampers on the front, on the basis that they were going to fit a gas turbine engine. If thats the case I know just how bad the Marina was – I almost bought one, but the car was scary to drive – it didnt so much drive as wriggle, shimmy, jiggle, bounce and sway – and that was at 30mph on one of the better local roads.
    I have to admit to liking the shape of the Marina Coupe and with suitable changes and the V8 it would probably have done better. The Marina/Ital wasnt the only car with the ‘passenger operated radio’ – my grandfather had a Volvo 340 with the same ‘feature’. I think it was a safety thing, just not very well thought out.
    The Ital was nothing less than godawful. There is just no other way to describe it, especially in comparison to the competition. Cavalier SR/SRi and Cortina 2.3, latterly Sierra (aka Cortina ’83), the poor Ital didnt have a hope and didnt deserve one. Probably the ugliest vehicle on the british roads of that entire decade.

  28. I remember a friend’s parents having one when I was growing up, and it was dreadful thing to be carted around in compared even to my folks’ Allegro with it’s plastic seats. At least the agro was relatively quiet and comfortable.

    The Ital was an exercise in turd polishing that proved the old adage. You just can’t.

    And those Mumford convertibles are just an abomination! They look like they were “designed” late on a Friday, after a particularly long lunch in the pub.

  29. Years back, in the early 1980’s I was friends with a proper time served mechanic (i.e. not a fitter) who swore by his Ital.

    As a young bloke at the time, I could never understand this, yet the car looked solid, was reliable and provided reasonable comfort for four passengers.

    As the years have passed by, I have developed a respect for these gentle antiques. It is a shame that the Top Gear team feel the need to mock and ridicule the obvious, rather than providing the original material that they are capable of.

  30. @28, David – I recall that comment too. The point was that the Ital had qualities that made it appeal to fleet managers- cheap, economical, cheap to services, lots of superficial equipment etc. Ian Fraser was quoted as saying ‘No Car reader is going to heap much praise on a Morris Ital, but Company Car has a different view for reasons I find hard to refute’. NB Company Car seemed to survive for about 6 issues!

  31. For the buyer, the Marina may have been pretty crap, but for BL it made sense.

    After trying to be too clever with the 1800 and Maxi, which used advanced technology but were unappealing to most buyers, BL came up with a simple car that looked quite good by the standards of the time with mechanicals that everyone could understand. It sold well and it actually made a profit at a time when BL seemed to have lost sight of the fact that making a profit is the whole point of making cars!

  32. The Marinas biggest failing was that it lived too long. It was hastily conceived as a stop gap car that should have been on the market for 4 to 5 years max. In the end it lasted 13 years. If it had been replaced in the mid 70s by a proper, coil sprung, overhead cam, 1.6/2.0 Cortina/Cavalier rival history would probably judge it rather differently.

  33. My only experience of the Marina was as an observer. I had a friend who owned a K reg 1.3 coupe in khaki green colour that he kept in good condition and it looked rather good. I think the best lookers were the series 2 cars – before the Ital launched, which to me looked unconvincing (apart from the rear lights that improved it a little).

    By then the Acclaim had launched and was a much more modern & refined car, so the Ital really looked “eastern bloc” in comparison. In 1978 I was working in Washington USA and actually saw a Marina there – couldn’t believe it at first sight.

  34. @ 10 and 20

    I’ve never seen a pic of a Marina’s interior, let alone seen one in the flesh – anyway one thing I also notice straight away is the windscreen wipers: why are they set up for a LHD version?
    Wipers, radio aim and angled dash would suggest it was designed in a country on the Continent then adapted for RHD markets (as was the case with the Peugeot 206 I’ve been driving recently while vacationing in Malta, RHD car with LHD wipers) – which obviously was not the case as it was a BL product.
    And I don’t think the Marina was meant to be a huge seller in Europe outside UK either, being just a stop-gap – as a matter of fact I can’t remember it even featuring on any Italian car magazine of the time.

    I’m curious – anybody knows why this wipers stuff?

  35. Comment 29 – Very funny Mike!!! I did actually laugh aloud!

    Comment 33 – Jonathan, I think Company Car only survived for 4 quarterly issues. They’ll be on my Dad’s loft somewhere – I’ll have to dig them out one day.

  36. Ive owned 3 marina’s in my time.:( Out of a desperate need for cheap wheels at the time
    1 X Ex gas board 1975 van
    1 X 1.8 1973 TC
    1 X 1.7 HL 1980 Estate
    All dreadfull! The van possibly the most honest, in terms of simple metal painted dash.Did what it said on the can.
    1.7 Could shift……….In a straight line! I got done by the old bill for showing a white light to the rear at night. This was due to the fact that I’d ripped the lenses off the bumper mounted number plate lights, whilts loading a cooker in the back! Another thing to add the list of poor design features.
    All were expensive cars to run, at every MOT they would require ball joints and some other supension joints. My mate who runs his own garage would always, back in the day have a good stock of bottom Marina ball joints.

  37. @ Simon79

    The wipers were a compromise for both markets as a cost cutting measure. This maybe explains the huge unswept bits on both sides of the screen.

    But just to clarify a point or three. The Marina & Ital were fairly dreadful cars when you compared them to the bulk of the competition. Weak gearboxes – weak rear axles – weak front suspension, they simply were a victim of the cold wind of change of British Leyland’s cost cutting measures.

    On the plus side, they looked okay, the estate was huge inside and they were simple to work on. They were not BLs finest hour, but that said, many people are fond of them in a nostalgic underdog kind of way meaning we now view upon them with a fond smile.

    On more than one occasion I have come very close to buying another. An Ital 1.7 SLX slipped through my fingers as recently as 2007 & great fun was had fitting a 2.0 twin carb O series from a smashed up SD1 into a mates ex Gas Board Ital van – christ! that thing went well!

  38. Going back in time and putting a ‘real world’ head on I would hardly have chosen an Ital over a ‘J’ car Cavalier.
    However, this article has given me a nostalgic soft spot for the old girl. I’ll spend the next few weeks Marina spotting, Ital identifying!!!

  39. not that mechanically simplistic I’m afraid. With Ford using Mac struts up front, those cars were much more simpler.. Lever arms and greasing points are a real pain in the neck to deal with.

    Now, if you want to talk about simplicity in motoring, the most simplest and most basic car that was so brainlessly easy to maintain was the 1.3 carb’d Maestro (with the one piece dashboard).. No other car in the BL range comes close to being the easiest way into ‘Practical Classics’.

    *OHV engine – headgasket replacement easy (as is porting tuning)
    *Electronic ignition, no annoying contact points or ECU to fiddle with.
    *Clutch so brainlessly easy to change.
    *Huge access to engine bay.
    *Transaxle ridiculuously simple (thanks Spen)
    * Suspension components could be worked on by a monkey (thanks again Spen)
    *Bolt on front wings, valance, lamps, bumpers – pretty much anything, using only 3 sizes of metric fixings..
    *Easy to service brakes.. Need new discs? Just remove the screws and fit a new ones.

    Probably the most simplest easy car I have ever, ever had the pleasure of working on and because of it’s simplicity.. It ran until the bodywork dropped off and then some! It was exceedingly cheap to run probably.. In a weird way, the very best car I ever owned.

  40. That reminds me… There is a guy in the Imp Club who has a late Series 2 fitted with the Twin Cam M or T series engine, I remember him saying “I can do a Head Gasket by the Roadside!”.

    1st ever venture into a Marina was with a friends Father in the Late 70s (Another S2) it was brand new, still had the polythene covers on the door trims and seats, it must of been a high up version (HL? or above) as it had the velour seats (in Brown) and the Fog/Driving lights in the grill, somehow I recall him being none to chuffed with it!

    Somehow I remember seeing more Silver Itals SLX versions than Marina’s, which just shows… if its cheap enough most will drive anything!

  41. I only ever drove one Marina, an 1800 Mk1. and it was far superior to my 1968 Escort.
    Mike Humble’s description puts me very much in mind of the Escort (Super?). In 1968 with only 49 miles behind it.
    The thing felt like it missed out on development, only concentrated on styling.

  42. The Rover P6 does not have lever arm dampers. They were fitted to MGBs. I always remember a work collegue many years ago had a old 1.8 Marina he commented that it was in fact a fast car, if you were brave enough to stay in it! I also remember at junior school one of mate’s dad was a rep for Mars confectionary he had an early 1.3 marina in navy blue, a neighbour, a rep for Hoover had an identical car. Both cars looked decidedly tired when after two years they were replaced, with Cortinas. I often wondered how many fleet buyers bought those early Marinas only to convert to Ford and never look back.

  43. Both the Mk3 Cortina and Mk4 had lukewarm recemptions in terms of handling and ride (The Mk4 of course using Mk3 structure)’Autocar’ saying a Mk4 Ghia “bounced around to the point of discomfort” The Mk4 was a handsome car though, the Mk3 dated horribly and quickly.

    I’m not knocking them, I’d gladly have one of each (Mk3 2000E please) but these cars are looked back upon with rose tinted specs, The Sweeney, Minder and Life on Mars bring a certain kudos, whereas the Marina was a little bit more Terry and June.

    In reality, there’s not a great deal between the family car of the 70’s, other than the Marina being the best looking of the lot, and still does this day (I’ll trade the 2000E for a Marina 1.8 TC Coupe in Blaze on a ‘J’ plate please)

  44. Incidently, Ford addressed the criticisms of the ‘Tina Mk4 with the Cortina 80, revising the suspension and tweaking aerodynamics a little to sort the handling. SO if the Mk3 launched in ’70 and the Cortina 80 demised in’82….the gestation of Mk3 to 5 ain’t that disimiliar from the MArina to Ital…….! IMHO of course….

  45. OLB122L and DMK373V Marina and Ital, both owned by my family from new, the Ital was my first experience of real world solo driving and was a glorious car.

    The key item was the semi-automatic gearbox hung behind the A+ 1275cc powerunit. Slip into first and build up the rev’s to normal level when the advanced BL technology took over as the gearstick – replete with integrated shifting to second gear warning sound – would slide without human intervention into second with a satisfying ‘kerbang’

    Further to that the heavy steel beam bumpers were great for the young driver to experience visual determination of walls, bollards and other assorted road/car park fitxures. Much black paint was left on such items by me and a simple car of Halford’s finest gloss hue in a can made everything good.

    I was sad when the the BL Blue Ital DMK373V was sold by my mother.

    To me the Marina and Ital were all right, they sold in okay numbers and were made cheaply and may have cost BL some warranty costs but in the 70’s what didn’t?

    To me the Morris brand could have survived if the TM1 joint venture platform with Triumph was made… that said I always thought that the Triumph Acclaim would have been better served as a Morris.

  46. the 1.8 gt coupe was my favourite especially the sound affects you got from the mg b engine , i also agree with one of the comments above this is supposed to be a site for leyland products so lets stop trashing them leave that stuff to the professionals on top gear.

  47. The Marina wasn’t brilliant but neither was it that bad by the standards of the early ’70s. It aged horribly quickly though. Even so I believe it was second highest UK seller for a while, behind the Cortina?
    Essentially an honest, unpretentious (GT excepted) family car which remained in production for far longer than it should have done. It simply withered on the vine. Shame then that the Montego was launched late and the woeful Ital had to be cobbled together to hold the fort until its arrival.

  48. @37 – The initial months of Marina production had wipers that were correctly set up for RHD. It seems strange that they were changed to create a massive blind spot. Triumph Dolomites and 2000s/2.5PIs had the same issue which overall I find strange.

  49. Having just come straight from the page with the photos of the MG5, it’s quite shocked to see just how sleek, handsome and modern the Ital still appears in comparison!

  50. What a naff advertising picture at the top of the article (the one with the picnic). It’s frightening to think that that sold cars in the early eighties! How times have changed!

  51. No offence on any marina lovers here, but the marina was a cheap, dull, midiocre and outdated. Why would anyone want to keep this monument of all that was wrong with the uk in The 70’s? It’s an unpleasant, unpolished turd of a car!!!!!

  52. The company that brought out the innovative Maxi, a vastly superior car, brought out a car whose technology was primitive even by the standards of 1971. Hopeless handling, understeer, a harsh ride, limited performance and poor rust protection and build quality were the Marina’s downfall. Going from a Mark Four Cortina in two litre form to a 1.8 Marina was like going from a Jaguar to a Volkswagen Beetle it was that crude a car. I honestly wish this heap was ditched in 1975 and the money spent on beefing up the Maxi, which deserved to do better.

  53. Anybody who slags off Lada’s and the old rear engine Skoda’s should really drive a Marina. They Lada & Skoda were dire. The Marina was Diarrhoea

  54. My brother had a P reg Marina van in the late 197o’s early eighties. Went well and gave probelms unlike the truly dredful Fiat van it replaced.

    I used a brand new 1982 Ital estate and that did feel dated compared to the new opposition.

    The 1.8 Special I travelled from Brum to Portsmouth once to do a axle swap on a Sheprpa was noisy beyond belief though.

    I seem to remember that somebody in Pakistan bought both the Ital and Rover 100 tooling but I not heard of anyu production ever taking place

  55. I have had many Marinas but they have all been the Australian model, OHC E series engine, upgraded front end, better interior trim etc. They wre all completely reliable offered far more interior space than any of the competion and had more comfortable seats. My favourite was my 1973 TC which would happily sit on the speed limit all day in top gear and always retuned above 30 mpg. yes it wasn’t as good as the 1100 I had first but then, certanily in Australia, nobody wanted FWD any more. The real sad part about the Marina is that British leyland didn’t finish the Ausrtalian Marina’s replacement- the alloy V6 engined P82. It would have cost less than they spent on facelifts and it was a brand new car! (See Leyland P76-p82 on this website)

  56. It’s a shame that BL in the UK didn’t take a leaf out of their Australian & South African outposts & put the E-series engines in the Marina & 1.5 & 1.8 B-series units in the Allegro.

    That way the Allegro could have been sleeker at the front & the bean counters at HQ needn’t have worried too much about having surplus capacity at Cofton Hackett.

  57. In 1978 I had a K registered 1.3 saloon in which I did about 20,000 miles, a little while later I had an L registered 1.8 Automatic coupe which wasn’t so nice, it was a poor example that was noisy, uneconomical and slow. My dad had a nearly-new 1.8 Special Coupe which we ran for years, it was lively, reliable and comfortable. Many, many years later I test-drove an ancient pickup version and everything was much as I remembered. At the time I was a keen reader of the motoring press so I well remember the comments about it from some quarters. Nobody’s mentioned the estates that the press particularly liked, especially the handling. Does anyone remember Car Magazine’s Marina Marauder project?
    I like them and overall, I think it was on par with its home-based competition.

  58. It’s easy to criticise anything in retrospect. The Marina was actually a very good car when introduced in 1971- certainly as good as any of its competitors. My father had two, and after them an Ital in 1981. By then the design was slightly outdated but the Ital was noticeably better than the Marina. I learnt to drive in the second Marina. That car was very robust and durable – it did 250,000 miles on its original engine. It’s easy to forget that during the 1970’s most people didn’t drive at more than 60mph, even on motorways, and up to that speed the Marina’s handling was quite adequate.

  59. It was a good concept that BL produced saloon and coupe and number of specs made available, however in an early BL video trial marinas had square headlamps, at that time looked very modern , its a shame they didnt use them in the final production models. We had Marina and Ital vans and a Ital 1.7HL estate whilst I was working in the Met police, they were good work horses. One of our Marina Vans had a front end smash, it came back from MRD with the Morris badge missing, saying they could not get one, I obtained one and quickly fitted it.I always wondered if a 2litre TC fitted in a van how well it would go! I think in all was a good rounded car just the handling could have been a lot better. Regards Mark

  60. “when I hear that distinctive second gear whine and low rev burble from the tailpipe should a Marina or an Ital clank by.”

    I must say it is a priviledge now to see a Marina or Ital in the flesh given so few of them have survived, must be be years now since I last saw one.

    I remember even as a child in the early 1980s (before I really knew anything about what made a good or a bad car) thinking that it was horrible even then, and used dread the nightmare scenario of my dad replacing our Fiat 127 with a Marina!

  61. I have to say the Marina and Ital were good looking motors, but they were dreadful to drive. My Great Aunt had a petrol blue coloured 1.3 coupe back in tbe late 70’s early 80’s before she replaced it with a Mk1 Astra. It was pretty reliable and did not break down, but she hated driving it and it was rusting to pieces when she got rid off it. Shame they did not think about basing the car on Triumph, but the Dolomite and not yet arrived as a rear wheel drive motor and was still FWD at the time.

  62. Not sure if anyone’s read this Month’s Practical Classics but they’ve just done Lands End/ John O Groats in a late Marine coupe!

    Haven’t read the article in detail yet though, I’m not sure how relaible it was, but still a heck on an acheivement.

  63. My Marina /Ital memories started in August 1975 when ‘dad’ had to hire a car after our FD Victor caught fire.Brand new out of the box 1.3 deluxe saloon.Seemed brill at the time.Next was 1.7L Ital saloon again from Kennings car hire when very new.First time and last I saw dad reach indicated ‘ton’ on M1.After that memories from working at BL dealer.While plain jane they were easy to fix.We had a 2.0HLS saloon in stock for ages.Funny now how they are loved and not just by those in the owners clubs.

  64. What a wally, my dad had one and in the 1970’s it wasnt that bad of a car, remember the techie was the same for everyone. It couldnt have been that bad they sold quite a few over the years….

  65. My Dad had a 1800cc Marina estate in the late 80’s. It was an ‘N’ registration which i guess made it a series 1. I thought the Marina made a very good looking estate car, although this one was a horrible light grey colour that looked either pink or blue in certian light. You know the colour I mean. I drove it a few times and found the ride and handling rather disturbing. I was not a very experienced driver then but I know i did not like it. I had a Chrysler Sunbeam at the time that by comparison felt taut and modern – and that was based on the Avenger that was launched before the Marina! Dad’s Marina lasted well though and he replaced it with a Cavalier estate some years later – he was always a Vauxhall man, but the Marina was a deal he would have been mad (at the time) to turn down.

  66. As the Marina was a rubbish car, but with nice styling, it was a shame that Roy Haynes got forced out, as he had a track record of styling inoffensive and successful mid range cars.

    I wonder what a Roy Haynes styled Allegro would have looked like?

  67. “I guess that the picnicking family are waiting for the breakdown truck to arrive?”

    Did the Marina / Ital have a reputation for breaking down? I thought it was pretty reliable?

    Mikey – I think things would have been a lot different!!

  68. I had a Marina 1800 Mk 1, bought in 1973 at two years old and replaced it with a new Ital 1.3 in 1981. The only real problem I had was the Marina gearbox. I changed it twice in 100,000 miles. Everything else was standard service items. I replaced it with the Ital because they were really cheap. A proper family car for the price of a small car. Although everyone derides them, they were good honest basic cars that don’t deserve the bad publicity. It has become fashionable to knock the Marina, mostly by people who have never driven or owned one.

    p.s. my last 4 cars have been Mercedes. They also know how to rust.

  69. My first car 1982 was a 1972 1.3..(All Drum brakes) great for cutting my teeth on as a learner and for maintainence.
    I followed this with a JPS Capri and also my subsequent 10 penalty points too!
    I now have a 1.8 TC under restoration and still think its a pretty car. Designed by the mk2 Cortinas stylist Mr Haines with some echoes of original Mustang (IMO).
    The awful handling these days are easily cured with front telescopic dampers, Polybushes modern tyres and generally looking after the thing. Oh and a ford 5 speed box will fit so problems solved. A real shame BL didnt do these things originally . But as a 70’s child remember most of the Marina’s competition doing some or more of the faults outlined….particularly in the rust dept with some being far far worse. . . .Vivas, Datsuns, Lancia Betas…?
    My Pop replaced a 5yr old Mk3 Cortina with a New Marina LE and when trading it in the salesman nearly pulled the wing of it! They were never meant to be a dream car, a cash cow, and did the job and dont forget that the Marina saved BL from going under so without it there would be none of the more modern desirable stuff like Mg’s, Sd1’s etc
    View it as that and you’ll appreciate it for what it was and still is. Oh and quicker than an MGB!
    Tony

  70. There was a long time British Leyland dealer in Albany NY yet the only Marina I ever recall seeing in person was in the 1980s. It had Canadian tags on it and I remember thinking, taking a long trip from Canada to the U.S. in that car was a tremendous leap of faith or an act of extreme courage and positive thinking. I hope he or she made it home.

  71. Practical Classics duo Sam Glover and Neil Campbell turned a Marina Coupe into a rally car and finished ‘Le Jog’ 24th out of 55 starters. The full story is in the latest (April) issue. Not bad for such an apparently hopeless car.

  72. I remember an uncle of mine who was always BMC to the core, never brought a car that wasn’t wearing an Austin or Morris badge. In’71 he traded in his beloved Austin Cambrige for a brand spanking new 1.3 Marina saloon. After a year or so of almost unending woes he swapped it for a Citroen. A Citroen ! …a whacky machine it was too, full of rotating balls and what looked like a spirit level for a speedo !. But he loved it and never went back to BL again. The Marina was a truly dreadful thing in just about every respect. I got to drive around in a 1.8 for a while and I also owned an Avenger back in those days. The latter was not the greatest car ever known to mankind but it was a long, long way better than a Marina.

  73. Speaking to a guy I know who restores MGs and he gave me this newspaper clipping entitled “Most expensive Marina ever?”

    Can’t quite see the reg. but it is an early one. A red saloon with only 5000 miles from new. Original down to the tyres. The price? £7500.

    Seller details are – Richard Young
    mrmetro.young@gmail.com
    07855 023414

  74. There is an elderly (80 something) year old woman in Gloucester who drives a slightly battered V reg 1300 Marina in Turd Brown (or whatever BL called it).

    I bump into her occasionally at Morrisons- apparently she tried to offer it for sale to an owners club but nobody wanted it. She had to stop driving it for a while when she broke her arm. I’d imagine that even without a broken arm the Marina would be a very heavy car for an old lady to drive.

    Apart from the odd ding it seems to be in remarkably good condition for its age (much like its owner). If anyone is genuinely interested in buying it I could pass the word to her if I see her (hope this doesn’t count as ‘advertising’).

    Unlike many others I have fond memories of childhood trips in a Marina 1.3 Super saloon in a particularly offensive shade of beige- including a family holiday in Belgium. I quite liked the styling of the Marina- particularly the body coloured bar across the grille, and the ‘wavy’ patterned chrome wheel trims (I think they were separate from the hub caps). I miss the distinctive noises that cars from this era made- gearbox whine being a Marina trait. I used to be able to recognise cars as a child purely by the sounds they made, such as the slightly bovine sound of a Minor, plus the fruity fart noise when it changed gear. Even relativly dull cars like the Marina had their own ‘sonic signature’. Now most cars sound alike.

  75. My comment 82

    Bye the way, I wasn’t advertising. Don’t have the slightest idea who the seller is. Just thought a Marina priced at £7500 was of interest!

  76. @Duncan
    Mercs and BMWs of around the 2000-era tend to be poorly rustproofed.
    Why is this? Using up the last of the soviet steel?

  77. My first new car was an Austin Marina GT. Drove it for 160k before it was stolen. No major component problems at all, although the heater motor needed to be replaced a few times, not designed for New England Winters. I thought it drove nicely, was comfortable and had curb appeal. I kept it up and till this day recall it with fond memories.

  78. Had two….The first was my very first company car, in 1976, and the very first brand new car I’d ever had – a 1.3 in dark green with the impossible to avoid dark brown interior….I quite liked it – mainly as it was new and after a succession of £200, 3 months to run on the MOT, etc, etc, VW Beetles and Victors….Absolute trouble free motoring of every Monday morning 220 miles to Central London and back every Friday night for almost two years plus, unbelievably, four of us from Manchester to Benidorm and back inside a week….Thought the car looked OK, especially as it was new and shiney, and no really justifiable complaints other than it al felt a bit agricultural much above 20 mph….BUT and a big BUT, three years later I returned from a working abroad where I had had a new Renault 30 and was given as my temporary company car ( but lasted 12 months ) a filthy, never-been-cleaned-inside-and-out two years old 1.3 Ital in vivid, shocking blue….Hideous colour, hideous condition…After the Renault, I realised just how hopelesly outmoded the Ital was compared to other cars in terms of roadholding, breaking and general engineering….That said, another 20-something thousand miles up and down the M1 and M6 without care….So boring – yes….Noisy – yes….Dreadful ride and roadholding – yes….Painfully slow – yes….Reliable – oh yes !!

  79. You have a love-hate thing with Marinas. I hated them in the late 70s when the smart money was on Cortinas, yet in 1982 we had to downgrade to a 1974 Marina Super 1.8 and for all it handled badly and was finished in a weird off white colour, it always started and seemed to complete a 100 mile journey without breaking down. Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh, but they seemed to sell well and was always a popular banger at the time.
    Odd thing was we decided to buy, when finances picked up, a machine gun sounding Chrysler Alpine. Better ride and handling, but at least on idle the Marina didn’t sound like it wanted to shoot pedestrians.

  80. Does the Marina have any redeeming features? None whatsoever, it was complete waste of taxpayer’s money.

    The SD1 had similarly poor build quality and rustproofing, due to being built by communists, but at least it had better performance than the Marina.

  81. Adrian
    The Marina was acceptable as a temporary stop gap, and helped cover for the dismal failure of all the FWD models after ADO16, i.e. Landcrab, Maxi, Allegro etc. BL would have been in massive trouble without its sales.

    That makes it more tragic that it wasn’t replaced in 1975. Instead of producing the Princess (another FWD fastback flop), a conservatively styled larger 4 door RWD saloon (and 5 door estate) with proper suspension underneath would have been a massive fleet seller.

  82. The Marina was a perfectly good car of its era – it was a Cortina / Escort / Viva RWD clone using much of the Morris Minor’s technology at a time when the FWD cars were still regarded with suspicion by many of the driving population. Not a great car, but a good workhorse. Its problem today is that those with no experience of the vehicles of the past judge it by their own experience of vehicles of today . To illustrate the point , try driving a Jaguar mark 2 – almost universally regarded as one of the great vehicles of the 1960s from whatever nation – and see what a different experience it is from today’s cars

  83. @91

    I sometimes wonder if, in 40 years time, people will berate the likes of the Vectra in the way they currently do the Marina?

  84. Apparently Ital’s Italian HQ have numerous pictures of the products they designed hung on their walls, but oddly enough there isn’t a picture of the Morris Ital..

  85. @ 93

    If that’s the case, it will be because they didn’t design the Ital, they were brought in to productionise the changes that BL (under Harris Mann) had designed.

    Really using the Ital name was bordering on the deceitful on the part of BL, a bit like those Isuzu Troopers with ‘Handling By Lotus’ stickers on the side.

  86. Re 94: ….and right mess they made of it. The ADO28 and ADO 73 body drawings were all half-size, fully dimensioned – in decimal inches. That threw the Italians completly. When we got the drawings back to PSF at Cowley, we had to redo the whole lot. The only available people were us apprentices, so we redid the whole lot. Very few of the drawings were on Mylar, most were on waxed linen. It was probably the last body drawn on that (apart from modifications to XJ4, XJ27 and Mini drawings).

    We loved the TV commercial that ran with the tag line “Designed in Italy, built in Britain”. It should have had “redesigned properly by 19 year olds in Cowley” added.

  87. @93

    It’s all on this site in black and white.

    ‘According to folklore, this car was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro in his Italian studio… in truth it was styled by Harris Mann in his Longbridge studio. Ital Design were, in fact, somewhat less involved in the design process – simply handling its productionisation. Of course, the story soon got out that the Morris Ital was actually the work of Giugiaro and, as one insider has subsequently said to me, ‘…why spoil the story with facts!’ It may have been good for the image of Austin-Morris, perhaps it was less so for Ital Design!’

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/facts-and-figures/features-old-wives-tales/

    @95

    May I use your anecdote on that page, please?

  88. My first car was an A reg Ital 1.3, it put up with staggering levels of abuse and just kept going. on a run it could get 45 mpg. handling not a strong point but I’d be happy to have another.

  89. You can say what you like about the Marina, but it was the only BL era car to reach anything like its planned production/sales volumes. Usually number 3 in the charts behind the Cortina and Escort and the car that stopped Ford having a clean sweep of the top 5 spaces.

  90. It might have been bad to drive and with mediocre performance and quality, but the Marina was cheap, wasn’t too unreliable and easy to own, which explains its million plus sales in the seventies.
    Myself I’d have saved up and bought a Maxi, which at least was blessed with an excellent ride and a powerful and refined 1750cc engine, and was a great load lugger. Also the wood dash made it feel classier than the black plastic of the Marina.

  91. It is interesting that the plan to use a common platform was overlooked, as stated it is common practice nowadays. Yet BMC was familiar with this with the Wolseley 1500 & Riley 1.5.Originally a planned Morris Minor replacement, new body and bigger B-series engines. Quite popular with over 140,000 combined sales – far more than the booted Mini Hornet/Elf – and they had some motorsport success. Imagine if the MK2 had been given a few inches on the wheelbase and given the bigger 1600cc B-series engine. Had these profitable models been continually developed (rather than badge-engineered ADO16’s), with time to develop the suspension & brakes the Marina would have been an outstanding car.

  92. Once had a Marina van (PHN548L)and fitted it with a BMC 1.5 litre diesel from an ex GPO J4 van. Had to fit it with “B” series engine mounts and a modified engine back plate to fit the Marina bell housing. Changed the van back axle for one from a 1.8 Marina, which gave it a top speed of about 70mph and a fuel consumption of about 50mpg. I remember having difficulty getting it insured and trying to convince them I had fitted a larger engine for fuel economy and not extra power. I was about to change the lever arm front suspension for coil springs over telescopic dampers (you could by a kit to do this). However I then got married, my wife took an instant dislike to it, so it had to go.

  93. Sure the Marina was not a good handling car, I remember the terrible, ‘snap,’ they had where the tail would – snap – out on you at pretty average speeds. Even low speeds on a rough cambered road the Marina would take you on a spin. I recall this very well with my Fathers 1977 1.8 Super 2-door.

    Now that blue 2-door was a legend! It lived down to every negative stereotype of Marina unreliability – and more.
    On one occasion it was on the mechanics pit getting a snapped trunnion replaced – even though they were greased regularly.
    When the Mechanic was finished my Father jumped into JIJ 1073, started it to reverse off the pit, selected reverse and – BANG – the mighty 1.8 Super didn’t even make it off the pit without something else going seriously wrong!
    The amount of trouble that car was! Despite a re-spray it still proceeded to rust like mad too. Was replaced with a 1980 Renault 18TS (1565cc) which went on for a long time reliably and economically until 1991.

    I heard a story from a guy who was big into banger racing back in the day and he said that he would half load a Marinas boot with gravel fill to take the snap out of them!

    So the Marina was chewed to bits by other cheap British cars of the same era, the Escort or Avenger were a much better machines.

    The Viva was not a wonderful handler either and like the Marina could eat gearboxes and diff’s. The Marina though did have a nice set of seats in Series 2 form and the 1.3 could get you 35mpg. Like the Viva, 1.3 Marina had a 3-bearing engine but the Vivas 3-bearing lump wouldn’t last too long.
    So perhaps the Viva was the worst when faced with the choice of: Marina-Viva-Escort-Avenger.

    What really condemns the Marina in my mind is the amount of money (£40 million apparently) spent on its development, that was a huge amount of cash at the time and you only have to look at what Rootes-Chrysler did with £26 million – the Avenger – and that included a factory re-fit.

    Okay so, we are to update a Morris Minor by rooting the Triumph parts bin and strengthening the Moggies front suspension. £40 million.

    The Marina was a clear sign of the way BL was heading unfortunately. How any company could blow that much to just re-skin a very old model and toughen up various parts is the very essence if how inefficient, incompetent and frankly stupid BL were at the time.

    That said, the Marina got a lot of families through the vicious early 1980’s recession, and for that reason it should be remembered as a bit of a war-horse.

    It was not a good car but it got a lot of people, honest people, through hard times.

  94. Sure the Marina was not a good handling car, I remember the terrible, ‘snap,’ they had where the tail would – snap – out on you at pretty average speeds. Even low speeds on a rough cambered road the Marina would take you on a spin. I recall this very well with my Fathers 1977 1.8 Super 2-door.

    Now that blue 2-door was a legend! It lived down to every negative stereotype of Marina unreliability – and more.
    On one occasion it was on the mechanics pit getting a snapped trunnion replaced – even though they were greased regularly.
    When the Mechanic was finished my Father jumped into JIJ 1073, started it to reverse off the pit, selected reverse and – BANG – the mighty 1.8 Super didn’t even make it off the pit without something else going seriously wrong!
    The amount of trouble that car was! Despite a re-spray it still proceeded to rust like mad too. Was replaced with a 1980 Renault 18TS (1565cc) which went on for a long time reliably and economically until 1991.

    I heard a story from a guy who was big into banger racing back in the day and he said that he would half load a Marinas boot with gravel fill to take the snap out of them!

    So the Marina was chewed to bits by other cheap British cars of the same era, the Escort or Avenger were a much better machines.

    The Viva was not a wonderful handler either and like the Marina could eat gearboxes and diff’s. The Marina though did have a nice set of seats in Series 2 form and the 1.3 could get you 35mpg. Like the Viva, 1.3 Marina had a 3-bearing engine but the Vivas 3-bearing lump wouldn’t last too long.
    So perhaps the Viva was the worst when faced with the choice of: Marina-Viva-Escort-Avenger.

    What really condemns the Marina in my mind is the amount of money (£40 million apparently) spent on its development, that was a huge amount of cash at the time and you only have to look at what Rootes-Chrysler did with £26 million – the Avenger – and that included a factory re-fit.

    Okay so, we are to update a Morris Minor by rooting the Triumph parts bin and strengthening the Moggies front suspension. £40 million.

    The Marina was a clear sign of the way BL was heading unfortunately. How any company could blow that much to just re-skin a very old model and toughen up various parts is the very essence if how inefficient, incompetent and frankly stupid BL were at the time.

    That said, the Marina got a lot of families through the vicious early 1980’s recession, and for that reason it should be remembered as a bit of a war-horse.

    It was not a good car, the proof being its lack of export, but it got a lot of people through hard times.

  95. IIRC some of the money was spent replacing Minor tooling that was found to be worn out very late in the day.

    Its shows there were some serious communication problems at BL.

  96. Why is it that BL didn’t just lighten out A Dolomites body and fit the 1275cc A-series instead of developing a Morris Minor with shoulderpads?

    Surely that would have been the most obvious (and cheap) rationalization of BMC-Leyland?

    Take the weight off the front and rear of a Dolly, simplify the Dolly’s rear axle (say) retrograde the rear suspension to leaf springs or a simple coil with trailing link (which worked very well with the Avenger – as I know.)
    Cheaper form shapes on a lightened Dolly, which also would have kept the Dolly as a Triumph’s prestige, instead of the Marina as we knew it.

    Hindsight is wonderful indeed, it just seems so obvious, cheaper Triumph body with BMC engines. Why not?

    Likewise BMC, then BL had no 1600cc. Yes there was the Leyland/Triumph alloy headed 1500 but that was too expensive for a cheap saloon.
    Another one of those (what seems) obvious and cheap to do was the capacity of the B-series. In three bearing form it was 1600cc, right?

    Then in five bearing form it was 1800cc. Its well documented that the 1800 was neither fish nor fowl, not an economical but torquey 1600 or a punchy 2-litre.

    So how hard would it have been to have the B as a five bearing 1600cc?

    The more I think about it the Marina was the living embodiment of an old saying:

    A camel is a horse designed bu committee.

  97. I had several marina/ital models-all really reliable, cheap to run and did what it said on the tin-basic, reliable workhorse. I had a 1.3 coupe in teal blue, which was my 1st car, buying a cheap 1.8 orange coupe to run along side it.then a burgundy 1.8 mk2, yes the higher powered tc/gt/hl marina s ate gearboxes, especially as they aged-but i remember in the GT and TC coupe i later owned were pretty much fun and entertaining, especially going round corners. It was pretty much BL s saviour car-outselling the allegro, maxi, 1800, princess all added up together. It looked better than all these cars, especially the coupe. Remember the 1970 s were very different times compared with today-people were more happy, with make do and mend mentallity and not so obsessed with image-which seems to be everything now. I think it s easy to slag the marina off in hindsight now, but if you look at all 70 s cars, they were all pretty much dire, dreary and rusted before your very eyes. Marina was the right car at the right time that was successful.

  98. It might not have been perfect, but people forget the Marina was Britain’s third best selling car in the early seventies, and far outsold the more sophisticated ADO 17 and Maxi. I think the Marina really began to fall behind when the Mark 4 Cortina and Vauxhall Cavalier appeared in the mid seventies, both were far better to drive, looked far more modern and the Cortina stretched to a V6 option. Also foreign cars like the Renault 12, Volkswagen Passat, Fiat 131, Toyota Carina and Datsun Bluebird began snapping at the Marina’s heels.

    • Probably the best thing to do would have been to give the Marina a makeover in 1975, around the time the Vauxhall Cavalier arrived, and done some serious work on the suspension and engine refinement. I’m sure this would have made the Marina a serious challenger again as it started to fall behind after 1975.

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