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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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…