Why we love the… Maxi 1750

What better car to transport a Moulton bicycle than one that’s Moulton-suspended? Richard Plaxton explains…

“What an earth possessed me to buy this car?” is a thought that crosses my mind, soon after taking possession of any vehicle. Well firstly, with regards to my latest acquisition, a Leyland Maxi, it must be the Hydragas suspension. I’d learnt to drive in a Austin 1100 and liked the unique ride and handling qualities of the Hydrolastic system. It’s performance around corners was excellent, even when compared to similar sized cars twenty years younger. I wanted a return to “float on fluid” driving, but it wasn’t only the suspension system that dictated my choice, it had to have something else…

I made my mind up about buying a Maxi without even having driven one. I was driving a panic-purchase Peugeot 405 and had to get back to owning an older car. I’d only bought the 405 to get me back home from Scotland after running the big end on a Reliant Kitten. Now the Kitten wasn’t a bad car, but it was small, even though it was an estate. The 405 was a saloon and actually more difficult to get a bicycle in the back than the Reliant! You are forgiven if the last statement doesn’t make sense, but the bicycle in question is a small-wheeled Moulton of 60s vintage. Contrary to popular myth, they do not all fold. The one I own has a fixed frame, although some are separable.

The replacement car would have to satisfy the following requirements: Hydragas suspension, hatchback or estate to carry the bicycle, masses of room inside (to carry anything else and some more) and be cheap to buy. Now those at the back shouting “ALLEGRO!”. I’m very sorry but the thought did cross my mind for a nanosecond, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! In short: A Moulton suspended car for carrying a Moulton bicycle.

…those at the back shouting “ALLEGRO!”.
I’m very sorry but the thought did cross
my mind for a nanosecond, but I just couldn’t
bring myself to do it!

I had heard everything bad point about the cars from “rust-bucket” to “roll-a-six-to-select-a-gear” transmission. I can live with the gearchange, the rod change is by no means the worst in the world, but a slick Hillman Imp it is not. The body is okay, but starting to fray round the edges. On my six week search following joining the Austin Maxi OC, it seemed that every car had a previous owner who was a senior citizen. They only had to pass the car on when they were in their 80s and their eyesight was failing. So I perhaps I’ll have to invest in the pipe, slippers and cardigan too.

One minus point was the two spindle radio fitted to the car. It worked, but I couldn’t get the coffin dodger’s favourite – Radio 2. The tuning was slightly offset and no matter how I tried I couldn’t get the thing to tune down that far. So after a lot of work, swearing and cups of tea, I enlarged the hole in the metal plate in the middle of the dash to accommodate a standard DIN E headunit. With a bit of trimming to the radio’s plastic surround I got it to fit, just. Now I have a Kenwood Minidisc / Radio. Further to that I made some MDF boxes for the front speakers because I couldn’t bear to hack the door trim panels. I did stick a hole in each windscreen pillar for the tweeters and it’s sounding good. The huge storage space underneath the rear seats provided a convenient place to put the 10 CD autochanger. Work is underway for an MDF parcel shelf as the original had gone all floppy anyway.

In car entertainment aside. I’m happy with the standard specification (it’s a base model 1750) which means Norwich Union group 6 insurance. (a 1500 is group 5 and the 1750HL and HLS are group 7). The interior is near perfect (one of those “never been smoked in” cars) apart from a slight tear on the driver’s seat. Just short of 50,000 miles on the clock and running very sweetly. I did take an enormous amount of stick for it being very, very ORANGE. Although I console myself that it is easily found in the biggest of car parks and is not “gusset” brown.

The double bed comes in handy too sometimes….

Keith Adams

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