The vans : Austin Morris 7/10cwt (Marina) Van

When was the Morris Marina available as an 1100? When it was offered as a car-derived van.

Chris Cowin tells the story of the Marina you could get in 1.1-litre form.


The life and times of the Marina CDV

Morris 7/10cwt Marina van
The Morris 7/10 cwt van – identical in all but marque badge to the Austin. In time they would both be renamed the Austin Morris 7/10 cwt van

This could become a very confused story, as the ‘Marina van’ went through many name changes and evolutions in its long career – but, for most of that time, it could be ordered with the 1098cc A-Series engine (never available in that capacity in the Morris Marina car range, perhaps thankfully).

Although everybody referred to the Morris Marina van, that was never its official name in the UK (though it was in some export markets – see the Gallery below). So technically speaking, you could never buy a Morris Marina 1100 – and certainly not as a car.

Except when you could – but that’s a ‘twist in the tale’ we’ll leave to the end.

Austin 7/10cwt Marina van
The Austin 7/10 cwt van was, of course, a rebadged Morris 7/10 cwt van

The model range explained

Some believe the lower payload van (initially called 7cwt, later 440) came with the 1098cc engine and the 10cwt (or 575) version with 1275cc – but it’s more complicated than that.

‘Cwt’ incidentally is the short form of ‘Hundredweight’ – a unit of measurement equivalent (in the UK) to 112lb or 50.8kg. And the rather clumsy marketing name of 7/10 cwt van indicated there was a choice of two versions with differing payloads.

When first introduced in 1972 (in both Austin and Morris versions) there was a grim Standard specification for these vans (whether Austin or Morris badged) together with a Deluxe trim level.

The Standard specification was only available on the 7cwt van and buyers would receive their vehicle with the 1098cc engine, no passenger seat, no blower-heater, no vinyl door trim, no cab headlining, a painted front bumper rather than chrome and no rear quarter bumpers.

However, the lucky owners of the Deluxe 7cwt van enjoyed all the above, plus the 1275cc engine and chrome exterior mirrors, (though brake servo, interior rear view mirror and load compartment lamp were optional on both).

Meanwhile, the more expensive 10cwt van had a stronger rear axle and bigger brakes, wide-rim pressed steel wheels, and always came with the 1275cc engine as standard, as did the pick-up.

Morris 7/10cwt Marina van
The 1972 brochure explains choice of 1098cc or 1275cc engine

Two-star fuel and low performance

Owners of a 1098cc van could use cheaper two-star fuel thanks to a low-compression ratio, which was a key selling point, but the performance was leisurely. Autocar tested a Morris 7cwt 1100 van in 1972 and recorded a 0-60 mph time of 33.5 seconds and top speed of 71 mph. You could just exceed the legal limit – at least, with an empty load-bay…

At launch in 1972, the 1100cc Standard 7cwt van cost £665 (pre tax). Adding the 1275cc engine as an option (but keeping Standard specification) cost just £30 more. An affordable purchase price was important for these vans which replaced the old Morris Minor-based vehicles (also powered by the 1098cc A-Series) as well as the larger A60 van and pick-up.

Though names changed several times, a similar choice of engine existed in 1979 when the Morris 440 van came in either base form in conjunction with the 1098cc engine, or Deluxe specification (later called the L variant) in conjunction with the 1275cc engine, which also remained standard on 575 vans and pick-ups. The new 440/575 nomenclature referred to payload in kilograms rather than the old hundredweight system.

It wasn’t long before the separate Austin and Morris branded 7/10cwt vans and 10cwt pick-up evolved into Austin-Morris branded (and badged) vehicles

From Marina to Ital in 1982

However, when a revised Morris Ital van (see the Gallery below) arrived in 1982 in 440/575 form together with 575 pick-up, the 1098cc engine option had disappeared (not least because the new A-Plus engine was not built in that capacity). That’s why – however you look at it – there wasn’t a Morris Ital 1100.

Survivors of the early-1970s Standard vans with 1098cc engine, painted bumpers and no passenger seat are hard to come by and, in later years, the passenger seat and associated equipment (seat belt, sun visor and floor mat) was standardised.

But the passenger seat could still be removed which increased the load capacity of the Marina van from 88cu ft to a useful 104cu ft (below).

Morris 7/10cwt Marina van
Removing the passenger seat (originally an option on base models) increased load capacity. This photo shows a later 440 van on which the seat has been removed (hence passenger seat-belt socket)

Running changes

For most of their career all these vans (and the pick-ups) had their own single dial instrument panel (see the Gallery below) with the dial drawn from the same parts bin the Sherpa raided. But for the later Ital 440/575 van/pick-up the moulded dashboard of the car was substituted.

Though the specific dash of the original van and pick-up with its single-dial binnacle suggests cost-cutting, practical advantages could be claimed: the open storage shelf was better suited than the car’s glovebox for commercial use – and the design encroached less on the passenger footwell – allowing vans not equipped with a passenger seat (as was possible) to offer more load capacity than otherwise.

The single instrument dial was updated as part of a 1978 cosmetic overhaul of these vehicles, which also included a better trimmed interior, black grille and bigger bumpers (similar to the Series 3 Morris Marina cars). A cigar lighter (as the brochure called it optimistically) was also standard on the higher specification versions.
While the original instrument dial with its little jewel-like warning lights and inset fuel gauge looked very familiar to drivers of early Minis – or Morris Minors – the new revised version (pictured below) was a lot more up to date. Warning lights were now arranged in an arc of coloured squares vaguely reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever’s disco dancefloor, and a temperature gauge was squeezed in alongside the fuel gauge… Graphics were updated from the old “Morris Motors” look to something much more in tune with the times.
New look – this rather stylish dial was part of the 1978 update. It featured inset fuel and temperature gauges
Until 1978, the vans (and pick-up) had retained the grille with ‘windsplit’ of the early Marina 1300 car, so they were never built with the full-width chrome grille of Series 2 (1975-78) Morris Marinas.

All the above specification details refer to ‘public offer’ vans on the UK market, but all sorts of variations were created for fleet customers like the Post Office (some pictures in the Gallery below), and for export markets.

One surprise is that the 1.5-litre diesel engine (as used in the export-market Morris Marina diesel) was never offered to the general public in these vans or pick-ups, even though it was in export markets in both commercials (see the Gallery below) and in the Marina car.

However, fleet customers in the UK (including the RAF) did receive diesel Marina commercial vehicles (and there have been conversions).

It appears there was never a 1098cc rear-drive Morris Marina car, anywhere in the world, though such a vehicle would have made sense in markets like Greece where engines were taxed heavily based on displacement. Ford built a special Cortina Mk2 1100 for Greece, for example. Is this another one of those fabled ‘missed opportunities of British Leyland’ one might ask?

The general public was never offered from the factory a Marina van fitted with one of the larger petrol engines that appeared in the Marina/Ital car globally. That’s the 1.8-litre B-Series, 1.7- and 2.0-litre O-Series, plus, in the southern hemisphere, the 1.5-, 1.75- and 2.6-litre E-Series engines.

A Marina 2600 van would certainly have delivered the goods quickly…

So, was there ever a Morris Marina 1100 car?

Well – kind of, sort of…

If you went to Denmark in 1972 and visited a Morris dealer, he could sell you a Morris Marina 1100 saloon but, as pictured below, it might not be quite what you were expecting.

This was because, way back in 1962, the Danish importer of Morris cars (DOMI) had decided to christen the new front-drive ADO16 car the Morris Marina – which sounded a little more distinctive than Morris 1100 as used in the UK and elsewhere.

You can read all about that on the Morris Marina (ADO16) page.

So, yes, a Morris Marina 1100 was a thing – and not just as a van…

The (ADO16) front-wheel-drive Morris Marina 1100 (right) could be found in Danish Morris dealerships during 1972

Gallery: Morris 7/10cwt brochure images

The ‘Morris Marina Van’ was an officially listed model, but only in export markets. That name wasn’t used as such in official UK market brochures (although ‘Morris Ital van’ occasionally was)
Morris 7/10cwt Marina van
Marina vans and pick-ups had a dashboard which differed from the car models. (here in 1979 L trim).
Morris 7/10cwt Marina van
The 1979 brochure with choice of 1098cc or 1275cc engine…
The Post Office was a major customer for the 7 cwt and 10 cwt vans, with custom specifications being developed in conjunction with the factory, as seen here.
Overseas (here in Portugal) the van and pick-up could be bought by regular customers with the 1.5-litre B-Series diesel engine (as could the Morris Marina car in a few countries)
Morris 575 Van
This 1984 Morris 575 was used by the AA as a promotional vehicle during the 1980s. Some brochures referred to these as Morris Ital vans
Chris Cowin

25 Comments

  1. Ta Chris for the insight of the bizarre world of commercial vehicles. Why would you spend money on producing a different instrument binnacle? Did you see Ford do it? Err no because the cost of producing the tooling and having a separate line cancelled out any savings on materials. Just blank out what you don’t need.

    It does make you wonder who also made the decision not to offer the Diesel to ordinary customers, and why didn’t the 1098cc A series get offered as a tax break option in countries that were volume charged!

    • I always thought that about the dashboard as well – This also sort of explains the disappearance of basic car models often bemoaned in these pages. In many cases manufacturers where spending money on designing, sourcing and tooling cheaper materials, wheel trims and finishes for cars hardly anybody specified and that they had to charge less for. What’s the point of that! – Sure in the good old company car days the market expected a career ladder badge hierarchy – but thankfully we now have rather more sophisticated ways of remunerating people!

    • They didnt… It came from the Sherpa… and no doubt it was passed down from something else before it

    • As I’ve just added to the article : ) …. Though the specific dash of the van and pick-up with its single-dial binnacle suggests cost-cutting, practical advantages could be claimed:
      The open storage shelf was better suited than the car’s glovebox for commercial use – and the design encroached less on the passenger footwell – allowing vans not equipped with a passenger seat (as was possible) to offer more load capacity than otherwise.

  2. In a former life I worked for British Rail and did many miles in an A plate “Ital” van – It replaced Bedford HA vans in their small van fleet. The HA was a far better van to drive, crisper, nippier and with a much snappier gear change. Given the HA hadnt received any real development since 1963 thats a pretty damning indictment of the early 80s Morris!

  3. My brother had a 10cwt van for some years. On holiday,we ran into a hidden rock in a grass verge, which not only punctured the tyre, but bent the wheel impressively. Went to a dealer for a new wheel, but had to be ordered specially as it was different from all other Marina wheels. Parts man explained it was due to its Cambridge back axle, which I guess was the strengthened version?

  4. I well remember driving from Oxford to Wallington in the summer of 1972 and seeing a large number of pre-launch Marina vans parked in a field a couple of miles away from the Cowley factory. The wheat had just been harvested and the vehicles were simply standing on the stubble.

    It being a different time, there was not even a gate to the field, let alone any other security.

  5. There were some truly dire poverty-spec commercial vehicles produced in the past, typically sold in contract batches to the old State-controlled utilities [post office, british rail, water/electricity/gas boards, CEGB, NCB, British Steel, local councils and the like]. They were often seemingly sold at a loss but their production kept the factories in work.

    A friend had an ex-London-Electricity-Board 850 Mini van. It was a poverty-spec version [Heater? Sunvisors? Seatbelts? Interior light? No luxuries allowed when you’re working for the public-sector, sunshine!] which was desperately slow. I mean mind-blowingly, slug-slithering-through-treacle, abysmally slow!

    OK, it was a low-compression [8:1 if I remember] version so it could run on the cheapest 2-star petrol or paraffin or creosote or recycled lard, but even so it should have been faster. Investigation showed that even with the throttle pedal pressed hard to the floor the butterfly on the little 1 1/4-inch SU was only 3/4 open. Seems that to prevent ‘reckless’ driving the poor thing had been fitted with a different-length throttle actuating arm on the carb! There was a company called SPQR that produced nice cast-alloy throttle-quadrants [painted red!] for SU carbs – one of these was sourced and the little Minivan could then exceed 70MPH for the first time in its life.

    • @ MOWOG, even into the eighties, you had the miserable old Bedford HA, for fleet owners too mean to stretch to a Chevanne. It worked, it went from A to B, but it was a dark ages vehicle with its sixties dashboard and styling and dire handling. Few private buyerx, except Barry out of Auf Wiedersehen Pet, would touch an HA and it was always poorer local authorities and British Rail that bought the HA. Finally, though, when the HA was being phased out in 1983, I do remember British Rail switching to the more modern Morris 575 in some depots.

      • It seems that BR had the same approach to their vans as the Southern Region had to their trains, continuing to buy an old fashioned, but tried and trusted design they knew all about, years after everyone else had moved on. The Southern Region received the last of their Mk1 slam doors in 1974, basically a 1950s design.

      • If memory serves me, wasn’t the Bedford HA van only fitted with a drivers seat – the passenger seat was optional. The Chevanne was a better product even with the standard 1256 engine.

        My first employer had a blue Chevanne, used in NE England, (replaced a MK1 Escort). I got to drive it once or twice

      • But how much more modern were they. Ancient Minor based suspension and the A series engine? Bit of a cheek to condemn the HA as antiquated!

  6. Did a short while working for a chap who sold, ex Water Electric Gas Board etc HA Van’s. They used to get delivered by the Transporter Load direct from Auction The BT ones would struggle to do 40 MPH, the throttle operating rods were made is such a way as you could obtain only about 1/3 Throttle. The ones from Gas, Electric & Water etc were not restricted. When we got Marina vans from BT they were not restricted not sure if they were 7 or 10 CWT but remember they were very low geared.

    • I don’t know about the Marina, but the old GPO Morris Minor vans were restricted by simply putting a metal plate between the carburettor and the manifold with a ¾” hole in it!

  7. I worked on the devellpment and test of ghese vans also the pick ups. It was a good project and gave dome amazing results. One test was a laden chicane test at MIRA. Our test driver found that the laden van was quicker through the chicane than an MGB!

  8. Interesting article, I had almost forgotten these Morris vans. I do remember the Escort MK1 Van in the early 70s though. (drove one a few times).

  9. The Morris 10cwt van and pick up truck were used by my local council in the late seventies and early eighties. They also were one of the few local authorities to use the Talbot van based on the Simca 1100, due to the local Talbot dealer offering a good deal on them, or so I was told. Can’t remember what these vans were called either as they were never big sellers.

  10. I wonder if the Morris name would have had a future as a marque for vans after it was phased out for cars in 1984. The Morris name, more than Austin after the sixties, was just as well know for light vans as for the Marina in the seventies and early eighties. Using the name for all of Leyland’s vans would have been a continuation of a marque with a history going back to Morris Commercials and the first post war vans.

    • There is a new startup, Morris commercial. It’s launching an electric 1950s j2 van this year.
      Be interesting to see how it does.
      They’ll be made near Worcester, birthplace of William Morris.
      Price 60 k

      • @ Rob, nice idea and nice to see the Morris name back, but a 60k van, when you can buy some very nice premium badged cars for this money, will be a very acquired taste. I was thinking more of the Morris name being continued on Austin Rover’s car derived vans and the Sherpa in the eighties and nineties.

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