BMC’s involvement in Spain came about as a result of the company’s desire to crack the market, despite its steep import tariffs.
The way to circumvent these taxes was to produce locally. However, thanks to the Spanish government’s insistance on a very high local content, BMC set-up a production facilities to produce not only finished cars, but the engines, gearboxes and trim that went into them. Truly, Authi cars were as Spanish as Paella.
A potted history
AUTHI actually stands for Automoviles de Turismo Hispano Ingleses (and is not “Spanish for Austin”, as has been reported once or twice), but like Fiat, is generally spelt as a word rather than an acronym. The company was set up in mid-1965, because having seen what Land-Rover had achieved with Santana, BMC management wanted entry into the Spanish market. BMC entered into negotiations with a small Spanish manufacturer called NMQ (Nueva Montaña Quijano, S.A.), who were at the time, a producer of specialist cars for wealthy customers. As unlikely as it seems, a deal between the two parties was struck, and plans to manufacture the ADO16 under the name Authi were drawn up.
It is important to note that BMC could only enter the Spanish market as an indigenous manufacturer (as opposed to a CKD operation, like those found in Greece, Ireland and Malta) as General Franco was still in power at the time, and ensured that Spain remained isolated from the rest of Europe. To avoid heavy taxation on the final purchase price, cars needed a very high local content. As a result, the only parts used in the Authi that were imported (to Spain) were the hubcaps, which were built in France.
Production of the ADO16 began in October 1967. These cars were eagerly awaited in a market which at the time had few models to choose from. The main competition came from the locally-produced Simca 1000, Renault 8, and Fiat-based Seats 600 and 850. Other Authi models followed the 1100s into production, including the Mini, the following year (850, 1000 and 1275C) and Minivan.
Authi and BLMC became joined at the hip, once the operation proved to be a commercial success – in 1969, BLMC bought 51 per cent of the shares owned by NMQ, and by 1973, Authi became a wholly-owned susidiary of British Leyland.
Throughout its short existence the company had suffered from severe problems with build quality and industrial relations, however, and so it was that in the mid-1970s, BL pulled out, much as they did with Innocenti. In the case of Authi, the Spanish government stood the losses and brokered a deal with SEAT to keep production (and therefore employment) in the area. Several authors have mistakenly written that the Pamplona factory was later sold to GM for the production of the Corsa; in fact, although GM did express an interest in the factory at the time BLMC was looking to sell it, they lost out to SEAT and instead built their own plant in Figueruelas (Zaragoza). Thus, Pamplona remains in the ownership of the VW Group (who acquired SEAT in the late 1980s), and – at the time of writing – is used for the production of the VW Polo.
|1965||June||Agreement signed between Nueva Montaña Quijano and BMC to produce BMC cars in Spain. The first President of Authi, who was also a member of the Board of Directors of Nueva Montaña Quijano, the Marqués de Huidobro and George Harriman signed the agreement. The new factory in Landaben, near Pamplona, took 14 months to build and occupied a plot of 446,000m² of which 200,000m² was the factory at the start of operations|
|1966||June||The Authi Morris 1100 was first shown to the press by Nueva Montaña Quijano. As can be seen this was even BEFORE Authi had been officially set up.|
|30 September||The Morris 1100 production line started working.|
|12 November||Authi (Automóviles de Turismo Hispano Ingleses S.A.) is officially set up as a company with a capital of 200 million pesetas.|
|1967||January||Production of the Morris 1100 was in full swing from this moment onwards and there were regular deliveries of the new car.|
|September||MG 1100 launched.|
|1968||March||Introduction of Morris Traveller.|
|30 September||First Mini launched in Jarama – the Morris Mini 1275C. Also announced at the same time were the Morris 1300 and MG 1300, both using the same engine as the Morris Mini 1275C.|
|1969||14 April||Morris Mini 1000E and Morris Mini 1000S announced and production started.|
|May||Sales started of Morris Mini 1000 E|
|7 July||BLMC acquires 51% of Authi and the capital of the company went from the 200 million pesetas to 1,470 million pesetas. Lord Stokes was present at this meeting.|
|October||Mini 1000b introduced. (The “b” stood for “blanco”, meaning white)|
|1970||February||Introduction of Mini 850 (ADO15 specs)|
|May||Introduction of Mini 1000, which replaced the Mini 1000E, Mini 1000S and Mini 1000b.|
|November||Introduction of Mini 850 Normal and de Luxe and Mini 1000 Normal and de Luxe (ADO20 specs).|
|1971||February||Introduction of Mini 1275 GT.|
|24 April||Mini Van 850 and Mini Van 1000 launched. Introduction of Austin 1300 Traveller.|
|September||MG 1300 S introduced.|
|1972||April||Introduction of Austin 1100.|
|October||Introduction of Austin Victoria.|
|1973||May||BLMC acquired all the shares of Authi (98.4%).|
|October||Mini Cooper 1300 first shown to the press.|
|December||Mini Cooper 1300 introduced officially|
|1974||February||Capital of Authi was now 2,400 million pesetas.|
|Introduction of Austin de Luxe (The famous lost cause of ADO16).|
|April||Mini 1000 LS introduced. Replaced the Mini 1000 de Luxe.|
|Guarantee of one year or 20,000 km introduced for all Authi models and included parts and labour.|
|July||GM interested in taking over the Authi factory and offers Authi a guarantee that they (GM) will continue production of Authi cars for another three years and guarantee the production and supply and availability of spare parts for Authi cars for the next five years. Leyland would have to take over the importation of BLMC AND GM cars into Spain. They also offered Authi 3,600 million pesetas. The Spanish Ministry of Industry was delighted with the idea as this would relieve any social and political tension on the area as the factory would not be closed down and there would not be an resulting unemployment, but Ford protested vehemently against it after they had had to spend millions setting up their Almusafes factory and starting from scratch. So it never went ahead.|
|9 October||Disastrous fire in Landaben. It was an accidental fire although all kinds of rumours went round as to the origin of it. Losses of 500 million pesetas were incurred. 1,700 workers lost their jobs.|
|Year end||During this year made losses of 800 million pesetas in Spain with Authi.|
|1975||February||Authi filed suspension of payments with the Pamplona Law Courts as the Spanish government would not let the GM plan go ahead and Authi said that everything was then their (the Spanish government´s) responsibility.|
|May||Seat start talks with BLMC Europe directors with a view to acquiring the Landaben factory. Last Authi model rolls off Landaben production line.|
|July||Agreement announced between Seat and Authi re the purchase by the former of the Landaben factory. Seat paid 1,250 million pesetas it was thought. Seat sold the Authi factory in Manresa (which manufactured Authi car seats) to a company called Cometsa, which would continue making car seats but this time for Seat. Cometsa paid Seat 150 million pesetas for this factory.|
|1976||February||Last time Authi models figured in the price lists of car magazines. First Seat 124 rolls out of the newly refurbished Landaben Seat factory.|
Timeline by Graham Arnold
The Authi Models
|MinisAuthi Mini 1968-1975The Spanish variation of the Mini was launched in October 1968, as the “Morris Mini 1275C”. A wide range of other models followed.
AUTHI Mini-Cooper 1973-1975
Although the Authi Mini was available in 1300cc from the beginning, it was not until 1973, that it gained the “Cooper” moniker.
|ADO16 models and variationsMorris/MG/Austin 1100/1300 1966-c1972The release of the Authi-built ADO16 models in Spain mirrorred the order in which the first three marques were launched in the UK, with the Morris version coming first, followed by MG and Austin derivatives. While ostensibly similar to their UK counterparts, some of the Spanish versions featured more luxurious Innocenti-sourced interior trim, and the MkII version of the MG was built in four-door form.
Austin Victoria 1972-1975
With a little help from Michelotti and the South Africans, AUTHI were able to offer this appealing three-box version of the ADO16.
Austin de Luxe 1974-1975
A 998cc engine in the ADO16? It was done in Spain, and in some markets it proved something of a minor success in the light of the Allegro’s failure…
According to Rafael Neira Márquez, these cars were built at Pamplona after the end of BLMC’s involvement there:
left: Seat 124. Right: Seat 131
left: Seat Panda. Right: Lancia Beta HPE
Lancia Beta Coupe
Thanks to Graham Arnold and Declan Berridge for their major contributions to this page…
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