Auction Watch : Morris Marina 1.8 Super (1971)

Seems like a good time to be buying if you’re after launch-spec cars. Following on from the eBay sale of a 1987 Rover 825i which piqued my interest, this rather original-looking Morris Marina 1.8 Super, registered in October 1971, it looks like quite a thing.

The early registration date of this example is what drew my eye to it, as does its seemingly low mileage and good cosmetic condition. The MoT history report reveals that it’s certainly seen little action since 2005 and, although it’s not been tested since 2010, the previous times that it has shows all the symptoms of a car that’s been garaged and not used – binding brakes, exhaust leaks etc. – with no comments about corrosion.

Being such an early example, it’s blessed with the right-hand-drive windscreen wiper set-up, and it has to be said, little else. The seller describes it as a 1.8 Super, but the DVLA says it’s a De Luxe. However, we’ve had it confirmed by the Morris Marina Owners Club that it is, indeed, a Super.

The seller (who I have no links with) describes it as being in ‘unbelievable timewarp condition with 45,896 miles on the clock.’ He goes on to say that ‘it starts with a flick of the key and hums along quietly and evenly, while all the interior is there and complete and though the vinyl shows some sign of fade, it is evenly aged and so looks right. Very little wear and the trim is very, very good. The seats retain plenty of bounce, no rips or tears, carpets very good, headlining excellent. Nothing missing.’

My only reservation would be its patchy MoT history and, although it’s exempt from the annual test being older than 40 years old, it could still do with a thorough safety check. The seller acknowledges this, saying ‘I will gladly put it through an MoT test if the new buyer wishes, included in the price.’

That aside, it looks like a clean, original and early example of one of British Leyland’s defining cars, for better or for worse, and could well be worth a look, as long as you don’t baulk at the idea of a Morris Marina for sale for £4750. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Marina’s launch next month, and what better a way to celebrate.

See the original advert on eBay

Keith Adams

31 Comments

  1. While not a Marina fan I would defend it against the lazy ‘worst car’ reputation it has on the basis that it actually did what it had to do, sales wise, at least in the first 3-4 years of its run. It was never going to be a Cortina-beater – the Blue Oval’s uncanny ability (at the time) to make family/rep cars that people wanted to buy in huge numbers saw to that. But it was honest enough, The real problem was with its ‘high-tech’ siblings Allegro and Maxi whose commercial failure meant that there was never enough cash to bring new models to market, generating a circle of decline that led to nationalisation, and the Ital – and we know the rest.
    Worth remembering that Marina shifted as many units as Allegro and Maxi combined.
    Good find though. Should make a good Spring project for someone!

    • I would say it only got that worst car label because it remained on sale too long. By the early 90’s in Ital guise it was absolutely hopeless against the state of the art represented by the likes of the Cavalier Mk2 and Sierra. If BL had replaced it as they intended sometime in the mid 70s it would be far more fondly remembered.

    • 3/4 a perfectly decent car for the early 70s, hence it selling pretty well.

      It looked decent enough, and the engines were fine. A shame that they didn’t spend the comparatively small amount extra to give it proper suspension and steering…

  2. Hi Keith, I agree with most of your comments on the Marina on eBay. The car “Huccie” as it’s known in the owners club, is definitely a Super, I have personally validated this car in the past and know four of the previous owners.

    We have numerous instances of DVLA records showing genuine Supers and TCs as Deluxes. The inaccuracies seems to have originated when the old registration offices paper records were digitised.

    The chassis number code confirms that it left Crowley as a Super.

    Chris Weedon
    Chairman
    Morris Marina Owners Club

    • That is easily changed, just a form and the evidence and they will change the details over in a couple of weeks… we did it recently with our classic Bentley, they had that down as some weird model, when it was an LWB, a few bits of paper, two pictures and a revised V5 was sent back.

  3. Well Keith after seeing that really nice Rover 825 that you posted the other day,this has brought me back to earth like I’ve just undergone the ice bucket challenge. Seeing what the Marina was like in that rather uninspiring colour brought back to me how dull the car was Factor in the horrible fascia and awful vinyl seats that left you feel incredibly sticky in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. Although sales were better than it’s contemporaries how many of them were fleet sales foisted on staff as a perk,but in terms of fleet sales the Mk3 and later Cortina’s swept the board. Still look on the bright side at least it’s not the two door (calling it a coupe is stretching a point) and should we celebrate the golden jubilee of the car? there’s better cars in the BL range that are more worth remembering.

  4. The wheel trims (which had a nasty habit of forcing the hubcaps off the wheels – the M1 centre reservation was littered with them) and the rev’ counter confirm this as a Super. I like the paint colour, but the seats are filthy. At least the plastic on the seats was ventilated – they weren’t on my Vauxhalls.

  5. I remember the Marina very well as a lad as my maternal grandmother used to have an 1.8 HL four door saloon auto whereas my parents had an L spec Ital five door estate with 1.3 (1275cc) overhead valve (OHV) engine and four speed manual transmission.

  6. I remember well driving an almost identical coloured 1.8 ‘de luxe’ road test car down a steep hill in Yorkshire and ran out of what we would call brakes, narrowly missing a dry-stone wall. When I did manage to pull up safely, I found that not only did mine have drum front brakes, but no servo. I don’t remember being particularly impressed. My report involved praise for the lusty motor nil point for the vague 4-speed gearbox, and comparison with tin cans for NVH and durability.

    I also remember in 1973 taking a borrowed 1.3 DL across the Pennines, every time we hit a cross-wind the bonnet catch gave up and released itself, I could only surmise due to body twist bearing comparison to a belly dancer, only less glamorous. It too had that peculiar paint job optimistically called sandgold, paired with sick-coloured vinyl. BL was trying very hard to do itself no favours.

    In1980 I had an ‘HLS’ (vinyl roof, yeeaahhh) for a few weeks and that was a nicely trimmed, quiet and reasonably competent family car.

  7. This car is the same colour as our new 1.3 Coupe we bought in 73. Like a lot of models, it improved with age and by the late 80’s when we picked up a 1.7 saloon for pittance, it was good fun. We had a 1.6 Cortina Estate Mk3 at the same time and despite the antiquated components of the Morris – they were both just darned good fun to drive. The engine in the Marina was certainly the equal of the Ford – and I put up some very respectable times on some familiar trips with it. Accepting its limitations it was not a bad car – its just that a lot of people like to think it was. Its one of those where the myth has overtaken reality and most of the critics who love to knock it only remember their dad having one – and have no actual experience of them. I’m talking generally – there are exceptions of course. Ask a 30 year old in a pub what he thinks of the Marina – I rest my case.

  8. If this is a launch spec car will it have the original front suspension set up that made 1.8s plough straight on whatever you did with the steering wheel that BL hastily modified following the first press reviews?

  9. Looks good on the outside and not bad on the inside. Not a very nice colour though (but the current trend of black or grey SUVs doesn’t look any better.) Showing my age when I recall the launch of the Marina – how quickly those 50 years have passed by.

    A friend had a Marina deluxe coupe in a khaki green colour which actually wasn’t bad. My K reg Viva will be long gone now so this Marina has lasted well in comparison…

  10. Brings back memories of the company Marinas we had when I was an apprentice.
    The first thing the company in house garage did with new Marinas was install van rear springs since the standard springs would break when the cars were loaded with the commissioning engineers tool boxes etc. The 1.3 cars went very well and the 1.8 cars went even better of course with their ideal gearing in top (maximum power RPM coincided with the top speed of 95 mph). I remember one engineer saying he forgave the car the poor handling because it would go in a straight line and cruise well on the motorway. The 1.8 engine made an appealing slightly aggresive & eager noise which was very pleasant I have to say.

  11. Time really hasn’t improved this dreadful creation! I would be more than happy to go and search for a suitable piano that could be dropped onto it…

    • When they first did it, it was funny but I’m afraid it turned into bullying. Picking on fans of the Marina was cheap and nasty.

      After all they are a pretty harmless bunch.

      • I wonder if people would have picked on Marina drivers in 1972 when it was Britain’s third best selling car and seen as a reasonable family car. Remember, the Hillman Hunter was the same conservative rwd car, although with some very nice sporting derivatives, and the Mark 3 Cortina had a shaky start with a long strike halting deliveries and some quality issues that weren’t sorted until 1972/73.

        • The Hillman Hunter was launched in 1966, yet for all its simplicity it still had a better engineered strut front end and it was at the time of the Marina’s launch already 5 years old and had been scheduled to be replaced by the C Car in 1971, before events overtook Chrysler’s UK division and UK production was cancelled. The Avenger represented Roots thinking as to how a Marina sized car should be in 1970, at it was way way more competent on the road than the Marina.

  12. Love it or hate it, the Marina was designed to take on cars like the Hillman Hunter, simple, conservative cars that were cheap to own and easy to fix. Possibly without the Marina, British Leyland would have had an even grimmer seventies as the Maxi never really took off, the Allegro was widely hated, and the Princess had a terrible start with driveshaft failures. Yet the Marina kept on selling in big numbers until the late seventies as it gave conservative buyers what they wanted and didn’t have the controversial styling of the Allegro.

    • The misnamed De Luxe was the entry level Marina and Hillman Avenger. This meant completely basic, with the basic driving instruments, rubber mats, no demister and plastic and metal everywhere. Back then, to get things like cloth seats, tinted glass and a clock, it meant the top of the range model.

  13. I used to own this car. It was registered in October 1971, not July. If it had been registered in July it would have been a J reg. It was built in September and was one of the last cars to have the early wiper set-up and the early front suspension set-up (removed by a previous owner). In my ownership it had a thorough mechanical recommissioning and was driven fairly regularly (MOT exempt by this stage). The speedometer was out of action for a while so the mileage can be taken with a pinch of salt. Sold in 2019 for £1650. We had fitted a new rear arch on one side. It did still require some work to the front wings, rear lamp panel and the scuttle. All cosmetic rather than structural. The structural bits were very good and mostly original.

    • Hi Josh,

      Thanks for the additional information and clarification about its date. Cant believe I missed the fact it would have been a J-reg had it been registered when it said it was.

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