Video : Morris Marina advert (1971)

Beauty with brains behind it…

The Morris Marina was to be the bright white Knight of the recently created British Leyland Motor Corporation when it hit the market in 1971 – this advert did a great job of making it seem sexy enough to entice Britain’s hard-working sales reps. Would you think any manufacturer would try using the tagline ‘beauty with brains behind it’ today?

Us neither…


Keith Adams


  1. I know the Marina has always been BL knocking fodder, but as a youngster in the UK, I always liked the 1.8 TC coupe. Along with the 3500 SD1 that warbled up the street opposite our house, it beat the pants off other cars in my young mind. I owned an S2 SD1 3500, which diluted some of my feelings for that car, but the 1.8 TC Marina still holds a fascination.

    If only they weren’t magnetically atrracted to piano’s these days…

  2. Dont forget that BL would have gone under in the 70’s without this car. The cash it generated was a lifeline. There were a million sold roughly.

  3. Although the picture quality is mushy looking here, the original would be on 35mm motion picture Film and of great quality back in those days. Perhaps better quality than the car it’s promoting? More great nostalgia though

  4. It`s a funny thing but there seems to be more loathing & almost hatred of these cars NOW than there ever was in the early 70s when they were current. They were a mundane family car, – just like an avenger/viva/escort. I`ve never driven one, I`ve only travelled as a passenger once when a friend of mine bought a mauvey coloured coupe in about 74. At that time it looked pretty nice; after being taken for an inaugural run into town and back I didn`t feel it was exceptional – or exceptionally bad. In short it was of its time & it did its job maybe a little better than people give it credit for. Given a choice now I`d still rather have a marina coupe than a Qasquai (however it`s spelled)

  5. Like Steve above, back then it did not seem to have the stigma it later gained. I never drove one fro real, but did shunt my father in laws around on his driveway. Cant recall why I didnt take it for a spin. It didnt last long with him though.
    Two memories spring to mind I was told from a supposedly reliable ex BL guy that when he was driving a demo down to Hertz Rental cars, the front suspension collapsed on the one side. Hence no Hertz sales. No idea if true or not but good source.

    While travelling on business in USA in the 70s I was flying out of DFW when a friendly Texan told me he had bought his wife one of them there little British cars. I think it was sold as an Austin America. I did visibly slide down the seat and tried to change the subject, while he told me how cute it was. We had to have a new paint job, and a few things fixed, new transmission oh and motor……………… then to balance it out he told me “but them seats is so comfortable”. I guess you could always just sit in it in the repair shop.

  6. I recall this slogan emblazoned in many places, ranging from the engine lid advertising panel astern Bristol REs to those unusual, vertical banners – for want of a better word – standing alongside new Harvest Gold and Teal Blue Marinas in the showrooms. They were only about four inches wide but stretched from floor to about six feet high, were of a foil-like material and rotated. Power was supplied by an Ever Ready battery visible in the base.

    Anyone else remember them?

  7. I’d have more time for a Marina than a Qashcow.

    At least people didn’t buy Marinas for their ability to obliterate pedestrians or other vehicles in a side-on crash.

  8. @ 4 Yes, much criticism is often aimed at the Marina – a stop gap car with huge inadequacies left to soldier on and on..
    Let’s not forget though that it was not totally devoid of appeal and more importantly it was a commercial success.

  9. While not the best car you could buy, the logic behind the Marina was simple, a rwd conservatively styled car built to take on similar cars in its class( no five speed gearbox, fwd, Hydragas suspension as on Austins of the time). Over a million sales in nine years proved that if the Marina was so bad, how come so many were sold in the seventies and why did so many, estates in particular, live on well into the eighties as cheap second hand family cars?
    My family had a 1974 Super as a stopgap 30 years ago and it started first time, carried five people in reasonable comfort and never broke down once.

  10. Re NY- Longbridge comment , someone I knew had an early newish 1.3 coupe and the front suspension collapsed on one side as well so perhaps it was a weak point. I know BL had to fit an anti roll bar at the front after reviews showed the understeer was unacceptable. It was lets face it a cheapish fleet car that wasn’t too difficult to make or service and used fairly mundane mechanics , but most of what was being made in the same sales secter in the UK was mundane !!

  11. I had a TC Coupe, sounded great with that twin carb engine, loads of room and never broke down once.

    I traded it in for an almost new car, and saw it for many years after. It just had/has a bad reputation.

  12. The Marina had a bad reputation at the time and a bad reputation now. Yes its a derided car and almost a banner for all that was wrong with BL and indeed the wider British car Industry in the 1970s. I remember them well, my Father had one and yes it was a terribly unreliable car and it about turned his head, until it was replaced with a Renault 18 which seemed like a revelation at the time. However the Marina did have good points as well. If you subtract the 1.8 out of the reputation equasion the reliability issues recede. The Marina was fine as a 1.3 it just was not able in terms of transmission or suspension to cope with the power, torque and weight of the 1.8 engine. BL overwrought the marketing, they needed a Cortina rival and the Marina could not match a Hillman Avenger never mind the MK3 (or even later MK2 X-flow) Cortina. BL lied and even at launch insulted the press’ intelligence. So at birth the Marina left a sour taste in the mouth. If they had been honest and pitched it as a Morris Minor replacement, an honest effort it was and it did outclass the Viva HC, I would say anyhow. The Marina just was not able for the 1.8 engine. I remember our 1.8 Super, the gear stick felt like it was connected to some pit of hell where gear shaped souls were being strained and tortured, yes the gearbox went bang, in a garage just after the front trunnion on the n/s was replaced. It was a dire car. It did not see its 10th birthday.
    So how different would we remember the Marina if it was launched as 1.1 and 1.3 only. Say a super frugal 1.1 2-door with the van dashboard for example would have been a simple, bit slow but understandable cheap car and with good front seats and hearer. This would have made many former owners of Morris Minors or Ford Anglias quite happy. A 50mph 40+ mpg car. A Minor with a new body (and fitted as standard, as many Minor owners did, with Wolsley 1500 brakes.) The A-Series 1100 tuned for torque and so economy fed with a single 1.12” SU. People would have simply understood the car. Middle aged Britons of the early 1970s or indeed fleet Managers wary of lunatic young reps getting their hands on something with a 1600+ engine, both parties would have been quite happy with a Marina 1.1. Then lets say the 1.3 got the car dashboard and maybe square front headlamps. Perhaps the 1.3 in 3 different states of tune. A standard 1.3 Super with twin 1.12” SU’s to make best of the 1275 A-Series engine in standard economical form, A TC or GT version with 1.25” twins for the sporty model with 4 round headlamps and finally, and think about this. A Super Plus 1.3 model with single 1.5” SU, torque tuned for higher gearing. To suit the motorway driving rep. If they dropped pretensions of Cortina bashing with the 1.8 and concentrated on the best use of the A-Series I think the Marina would be remembered fondly as the Car that was much easier on petrol than the Ford and more reliable than the Viva. The Marina was a good enough 1.3 car. Grease the trunnions every 2 months or so, adjust the drum brakes and keep oil in the dashpot they went well returning 35 mpg. They were noticeably better on petrol than a 1.3 Escort and more able than a Viva. Its just BL thought they could pull a fast one. In a 1972 group test of GT’s the Marina 1.8 TC was great in a straight line but as soon as you asked it to do something it all turned to terror. An Avenger 1500 GT (TC) won the test because it could do corners. The Marina was never going to be anything but a 1300 car and never should have been more than 1.3.

    • BL already had the ADO16 with those engine sizes so they didn’t need much more duplication.

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