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A Grand Monday: Morris Marina 1.3

Published 11 March 2019

Few cars have had more stick (or pianos) thrown at them than the poor old Morris Marina. Launched in 1970, the Marina was British Leyland’s answer to the Ford Cortina, and unlike BL’s other family saloons, it was as traditional as they come.

Rear-wheel-drive, with a choice of either the aged A-series or nearly as antiquated B-series engines, the Marina was a straightforward car - so straight forward, in fact, that it shared many of its underpinnings with the Morris Minor, a car that could trace its roots back to 1948.

Morris Marina (2)

While it was quite stylish for its era, the Marina was massively flawed - prone to understeer, with horrendous brakes. At launch, the mtoring media fed back to BL that something needed to be done with the front suspension before the car was launched to the general public, and BL’s management listened intently and acknowledged the car’s shortfalls - then promptly did nothing. 

As a result, early Marinas were slated by the press. Improvements were made, and fairly quickly, but the Marina was never better than average, in driveability terms at least. 

Yet it sold well. Its mechanical simplicity and its spacious interior were strong sales points, regardless of its rather weird ergonomics - to this day, it remains the only car ever made to have the radio facing the passenger and not the driver, for example. 

Morris Marina (3)

Today, the Marina is a bit of a cult car, helped in no small part by the British love of the underdog. If Jeremy Clarkson was prepared to drop a grand piano or a caravan on the roof of one, then those that loved them were focused on preserving them even more.

If Marina preservation appeal to you, then this example is one that looks well worth fixing up. It has an MoT, and while it clearly has a few areas where it is cosmetically distressed, it’s a complete, unmessed with car that would make for a fairly straightforward restoration. There aren’t many Marinas left for under a grand these days, so £995 seems like a fairly decent price…


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