Blog : A Practical Classic

Words and photography: Alexander Boucke


At times it happens to all of us: something bulky needs to be carried, typically after a visit to your local Swedish furniture store. In our case, a friend of the family had a surplus musical instrument – a small organ, a harmonium to be precise – which he wanted to get rid of.

We just had to organise a way to shift it and it would be ours. And surely many of us know, that at times this is easier said than done… Thanks to having access to a fleet of BMC>MGR’s finest with a fifth door, this would be easily done, wouldn’t it?

Here is the object of desire – you wouldn’t think that it looks particularly large… However, after receiving the dimensions through the ‘phone some things were clear very quickly: at nearly 44ins in width and being quite a bit taller this would be a challenge.

The Maestro was immediately out of the game, as were the Rover 827 Vitesse and the 416 Tourer while the Montego Estate might have worked had it not been for those huge wheel arches protruding into the loading area.

Now, enter the Maxi: thanks to the Hydragas bits all being hidden under the absolutely flat floor it just offered the right width and, with the low sill, loading would be a doddle, too.


On arrival, the organ looked so huge next to the Maxi –  if I had not done my homework, I would have had some doubts about the plan but, of course, it fitted snugly into the boot. One wonders how many of today’s 4 metre long hatchbacks would have managed the same.

The loading capacities of the Maxi have often helped me out when bulky stuff needed moving – be it all the contents of a dismantled ADO16 in one go (couldn’t get reverse or fifth gear anymore with two Vanden Plas 1300 front seats sitting on the passenger seat), an Austin 3 Litre engine block (well, that was a bit on the heavy side) or a dining table complete with four chairs…

The Maxi may not be the most beautiful car of all time, but it certainly is an excellent choice to live with.


Alexander Boucke


  1. Hahaha sounds familiar.

    When my grandmother past away my dad waved away any offer from me to help emptying the apartment with my SD1.
    His beloved trusty Sierra Saphire could transport everything and there was absolutly no need for that big old unreliable brit.

    At the end my mother did ask me to help…. It appeared that by somekind of miracle not all the furnature would fit in the Sierra… To my great amusement the rovers big hatch swalled it all with the greatest of ease.

  2. Its a fact–wheel arches destroy the usability of many a load space!! When a youngish person(long ago)my daily driver Maxi swallowed up stuff, whatever its size, way, way better than my “helpers” vehicles for two house moves–all down to the wheel arches. They may have changed gear better but…………..

    • Exactly, wheel arches intrude and ruin the load space of many cars, also the turrets for the suspension resemble the cones of acoustic loudspeakers and transmit road noise into the cabin!

  3. That’s fantastic, looking at the organ next to the Maxi, you’d have thought there was no way it would fit…

    My Grandad had a 1972 Maxi, as a little kid I absolutely loved it, especially the vacuum operated washer pump 😀

    I’d love a Maxi 🙂

  4. ‘One wonders how many of today’s 4 metre long hatchbacks would have managed the same.’ I bet none of them would!

  5. Adam. The vacuum operated washer pump. I’d forgotten about that ! Great memories, thanks for bringing that back to my consciousness. I know I’m a bit sad but it made me smile! Cheers!

  6. To this day my wife thinks the main reason I have an SD1 is because it’s one of the few cars into which you can fit two double basses, and associated orchestral bass playing paraphenalia. As such, it allows to pursue two eccentric hobbies…

  7. Maxi’s are 13’2″ long – the same length as a rear engined “classic” VW Beetle…

    It’s just a shame that such a clever concept for a car, the Maxi wasn’t updated properly in tandem with the Mini, Allegro and Marina, which is why they still had a pump action windscreen washer button as late as 1979 (ok the Maxi HL had an electric one that worked off a rocker switch but was still dash mounted), whereas even a basic Mini 850 had an electric washer on a stalk switch with flick wipe like a modern car as early as 1976. Only a handful of developments were applied to the Maxi between 1971 and 1979, by which time it was very ill equipped and utilitarian indeed compared to its contemporaries. The 79-on versions were much better equipped and had more modern controls, but it was really late in the day by the time they were improved. Typical BL! Why didn’t any of them have fuller instrumentation, head rests, rear wiper etc like the Alpine, R16 etc?

    • Development? did the BL management know what it meant?
      You mention headrests, like when then added headrests to the Mini which sat behind my shoulder blades.
      Instead of worrying about what Ford and Vauxhall were doing BMC/BL should have stuck to a range of Issigonis /Moulton cars in the range from Mini to 3000, and then refined them.
      I’m still amazed by the VdP 1300 Automatic.

      • The range topping HL was quite a spartan car for the money, and shown up by models like the Cortina Ghia and Vauxhall Cavalier GLS, which had full six dial instrumentation, velour seats, tinted glass and a radio, when some of these weren’t even optional on a Maxi. However, the 1979 HLS finally addressed these shortcomings and had similar equipment levels to a Cortina Ghia, while being a far more practical car and a better car on a long journey due to the fifth gear.

  8. Great story, have always said that the Maxi was a severely under-rated car when it came to sales volumes.
    May not have been “the most beautiful car of all times” as Alexander says, but is far more pleasing on the eye than its more successful rival the Renault 16, and, in my opinion, its design has stood the test of time far better.
    Great pity that BL didn’t invest in keeping its equipment at market expectations during the 1970’s, and that its effective replacement, the Maestro, didn’t have at least as good load carrying capacity.

    • The later Maxis seemed to look better then the earlier ones, which were almost too plain looking.

      The Renault was a mixed bag styling, probably the best ones were in the middle to the production run.

      Certainly by the end they were looking dated, & the last facelift didn’t help cover it up.

      • It was the smell of the big vinyl seats, plus my Grandad used to transport his Pigeons to various places over the Midlands as well, really, really happy memories 🙂

  9. I would say that the Maxi was particularly practical with the rear hatch, but virtually all cars of that area are more space efficient than the modern alternatives. But then, I would rather be sitting in a modern hatch in a crash than a Maxi to be fair! You have to consider that a modern hatch will almost certainly have 4 airbags, side intrusion beams, electric windows, a catalytic converter, a decent stereo and will have had extensive body reinforcement against crashes.

    I can remember piling all my worldly possessions into a 1988 Mk2 Astra hatch and was amazed at how much it would swallow with the seats down. This was only 200mm longer than SWMBO’s Audi A1 which I would describe as a 2+2 at best.

  10. Came across this blog by accident and the story struck a chord (sorry) with me. I had a Maxi (same colour) in the early ’80’s and was doing amateur dramatics at the time. I was asked to transport a couple of Timpani (kettle drums) across south London and, needless to say, the Maxi swallowed them whole!

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