Opinion : Separating the wheat from the chaff…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Morris Ital development story

A constant conversation I end up having in my day job at Parkers, is naming new cars, and how we treat their URLs online. It’s vitally important to get things right, especially as, when you name a car and establish its webpage, that name should be set in stone for years to come. Sometimes, the manufacturers can make annoying changes, leaving you to wonder why on earth they’ve done so – and, as a consequence, you end up setting up pages that overlap, repeat and don’t contain much in the way of new information.

Interestingly for me (and, yes, I know I am a geek), website users and those searching on Google don’t care about such things – they search on the car’s name – regardless of whether it’s a new car or not. In the world of AROnline, that caused me to rethink how we handle some of our most beloved cars over the years.

In the old days, the Morris Ital was little more than an amendment to the Morris Marina story. This facelift, which was originally going to be sold as the Morris Marina Ital, was a typical industry update to a car – freshened-up styling, trim and colour changes, but substantially the same character. However, because it was sold with a new name, people now consider it to be a new and separate car.

New names, new pages on AROnline

And that’s why we now have a separate page (flagged as a development story) for the Morris Ital. Is this the right thing to do? Well, people search for cars online, and I guess they’re going to search the way they’re going to search – and I have to ensure that I have the story in place for them. Would I ordinarily have a separate page and section for this car? Probably not…

In the case of the Austin Ambassador, which went on sale a couple of years after the Ital, I’ve also given it its own section. In the old days, it was part of the Princess story, but obviously, with a new name it should get its own page. Interestingly, although it’s a facelift, with the addition of a hatchback and an all-new interior, it feels much more like a new model than the Morris ever did. In this case, this decision to separate them feels like the right thing to do.

A while back, I also separated the Austin Maestro and Montego. Since the inception of AROnline, these two cars, which were developed together and were closely related were treated as the singular Maestro/Montego entity. However, after looking at search volume around these cars, it seemed logical to give users what they want, and split these into two cars. As they were two separate bodystyles, and they have very different characters, this one seems to have worked out fine.

What do you, my loyal readers, think of this? Should these cars be treated separately like this? And are there other examples I should look at? Would you give the Talbot Solara and the Chrysler Alpine their own pages? As ever, I’m listening…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

19 Comments

  1. I think it all dependa on how “identical” the two cars are. If it were the Ford Escort MkIII and the Orion I was writing a story page for Id lump them together as there is precious little difference between them. Same for the VW Golf / Jetta. With the Maestro / Montego however, the two cars did not just have substantially different panelwork they were aimed at two different markwt segments and size classes so this justifies two separate pages.

  2. Similar to the case with Escort MKIII & IV. The body was essentially the same but different front end treatment, bumpers, grille, headlamps / rear lamps and dashboard. Initially I regarded the MKIV as a MKIII facelift.

    As for the ITAL & Ambassador, I always considered them to be just mid term facelifts (or late term?) Marina’s & Princess’s. Though the Ambassador was a useful car with a Hatchback that should have been available in years previous.

      • Yes the dear old Ital was well past its sell by date from the day it was born. You had to be a real die hard BL supporter or someone with a twisted sense of humour to part with your hand earned cash for one of those things. At least it give us all a good old laugh as BL’s advertising became ever more desperate trying to offload the dreadful things.

    • Officially, Ford didn’t recognize the “Mark IV” Escort as a fourth generation either – it was just a facelift of the ‘Erika’ Mark III (which it was) – reflected in its internal name of Erika-86. The true Mk IV Escort was the 1990 car which everyone erroneously calls the Mk V.

      • This is with common with Fords, the last style of Cortina wasn’t officially the Mk5 but the Cortina 80.

        The Mk2 Fiesta was really a facelifted Mk1.

        I’m not sure how many marks were used on the 1989 (aka Mk3) Fiesta, as it had 2 markworthy facelifts, the Renualt 14ish mid 1990s restyle & the late “Focus’s pudgy little brother” look.

  3. I think that’s an easy call. If its a facelift, its the same page. If its an evolution, Cavalier, Vectra- linked page. if its Montego Maestro, DEFINITELY right to separate them as it would be the Lancia Thema & the Saab 9000 though again a link is useful.

    Lets face it, people searching for information on the power output of a Montego EFi are not going to be anything other than serious petrol heads from at least the early 80s

    • Just as Mr O’Brien says . . . “a link is useful”. As many different, individual, pages, as you wish/seems appropriate – just with links ever-which-way, to bring them all together.

  4. I agree with Antony – his paragraph one.
    This works well for me as I find the research interesting to follow through from gestation (the first Marina) to the last (Ital). The core value for me is the continuity – and if the Marina history stopped, novices may never know that the Ital existed – or think that it was a completely different car. I’m constantly being reminded in conversations with younger enthusiasts how little they know. I think your doing a grand job – interesting and nostalgic for us guys but more importantly the educational aspect for younger guys we meet who’ve never heard of Wolseley, Ambassadors, Armstrongs and everything else we’ve grown up with.

  5. The Austim Ambaassador was a totally different car to the Princess. It was a hatchback with a completely redesigned front and rear and a new interior, and had dropped the thirsty 2.2 six used in the Princess. Also the Princess was a brand in its own right( never known as an Austin Princess, despite what most people think) and the Ambassador was badged as an Austin.

  6. The first line of the article mentions the naming of cars, of various models. From the maker’s name and the horsepower (Austin Ten, etc), models took on British sounding names: Standard’s Vanguard (my parents had two, the round back and then the one with the squarer boot – was it the Sportsman?), Morris Oxford, Triumph Stag, Vauxhall Cavalier. But with an eye to overseas sales, all manner of Continental sounding names appeared: Montego, Capri, Vectra, Nova (even if no va means does not go in Spanish) – words that could also be pronounced easily by foreigners. Now we have all manner of model names: with the Far East makers coming up with quite bizarre words, if words they be. In order I have owned two Hillman Minxes (c 1955 model and the later shape), a Humber Sceptre (basically the same body as the later Minx), VW 1600 Variant (is that right?), Ford Escort (quite a basic model), VW Golf, and now a VW Fox 1.4 Urban; from 1965 to 2019. Nothing special about any of those names, but there was nothing special about any of cars; they got me from A to B at a speed and acceleration I was content with. I expect the Fox to see me out.

  7. I believe the name should appear as a separate search. Going back, I’m interested in searching for the Wolesley 6/80, not the Morris 6. We must remember that many of us intimately know the root and derivation of models and brands, but many new persons interested in AR Online are now persons who perhaps grew up with a Chryler Alpine and never knew or heard of a Talbot! Interest is becoming more segmented over time and as you indicate, Maestro followers are not interested in Montegos! As long as we have links, you can follow your individual preference and then link to a wider analysis of other derivatives. Conversely, models get diminished if they are combined eg. The Ambassador has previously had little in-depth detail and is almost an addendum to the Princess story, instead of a rather full investment in a new model and its market position at that particular time and market conditions.
    In the same manner, we should separate the R Series engine from the E Series and the final S Series. Whilst it is easy to say the R and S ar simply later derivatives, they have major significant differences and each demands it’s own technical assessment. Trust this helps.

    • I can’t get with the idea that the Ambassador was a “totally different car”. It was a comprehensive facelift and update, and no doubt cost a fortune to execute, but the bones of the 18/22 series are there and plain to see. Given it’s short lifespan and similar lack of customer appeal one has to conclude that a truly new replacement for the Princess would have more commercially astute move. Assuming the new model was more desirable to the paying customer that is.

  8. @ standhill, only the doors were retained from the Princess and two of the engines, the rest of the car was a complete redesign. Also the Ambassador only cost £20 million to develop, a bargain even then. Yet in some ways the car was a cheapened version of the Princess with its cheap plastic dashboard, Ital headlights and no rev counter, and sales were never that great.
    However, the Ital really was just an updated Marina, although totally for the good of the car as the sluggish and inefficient 1.3 engine was modified with far better economy and performance, there was a 2 litre option, and the restyle made the Ital look far more modern.

  9. Then I have to say it was a spectacular own goal. If the designers truly had the freedom you suggest, to come up with a car as ungainly and lacking in appeal as the Ambassador displayed a shocking lack of awareness of what buyers desired in a car.

    • Just like JLR trying to out-think the MoD about the successor to the Defender? The customer buys what the customer wants!

    • The Ambassador wasn’t a bad looking car by any stretch of the imagination, more like it was let down by its detailing, replacing the handsome front and rear lights with Ital based units and using a far cheaper dashboard that didn’t even have a rev counter on top models. Yet it proved to be reasonably reliable with none of the issues the early Princess had, was enormous inside, had a class leading ride and for all the Ambassador was slow, was a fairly quiet cruiser at motorway speeds. However, it was badly outclassed by the Mark 2 Cavalier in the performance stakes and sales were never more than modest.

  10. Looking at the Parkers site, I notice that you’ve split out all the R3 and HHR variants

    Thus the R3 has 4 separate pages for the 200, 25, ZR AND Streetwise! Using that as a benchmark, it only seems fair to (for example) split the Marina and Ital.

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