Morris 1100 and 1300 (ADO16) (1962 – 1974) Review
Morris 1100 and 1300 (ADO16) (1962 – 1974) At A Glance
Great steering and handling, neat styling, and a near-modern driving experience
Not the nicest car to work on, and it does suffer from rust in a big way
The BMC 1100 and 1300 (or ADO16 to those in the know) were a logical extension of the Mini. So that mean front-wheel drive, front disc brakes, interconnected Hydrolastic fluid suspension and a surprisingly large interior considering the compact external dimensions.
Performance was lively by the standards of the day thanks to the A-Series engines, in 1098cc and (from 1967) 1275cc capacities, and steering and handling came close to Mini levels of fun. Much cleverer than their Ford, Vauxhall and Rootes rivals, these cars consistently topped British sales charts but rusted as badly as any other British mass-produced saloons of the time.
Great to drive, but 1100s are undergeared for the motorway - so stick to the twisty roads.
- January 1956: Alec Issigonis’ XC9001 prototype appears
- January 1958: Work begins again on the mid-sized theme
- January 1959: Pininfarina works on the ADO16
- January 1962: BMC confirmed ADO16 production
- August 1962: Morris 1100 launched
- September 1963: Austin 1100 launched
- September 1965: Riley Kestrel and Wolseley 1100 launched
- March 1966: Estate version launched
- October 1967: Mk2 version launched
- June 1967: 1275cc phased in - gradually
- April 1968: Work begins on the 1100's replacement
- June 1969: Morris Nomad launched
- July 1969: Riley Kestrel axed
- October 1969: 1300GT launched
- August 1971: MG1300 withdrawn from the UK market
- November 1971: Austin Apache launched
- June 1974: The final car comes off the line
Alec Issigonis’ XC9001 prototype appears
It's a proposal for a medium-sized BMC family saloon. However, before it can be taken much further, the future Sir Alec switches his attention to designing a small car instead…and the rest of that story is Mini history.
Work begins again on the mid-sized theme
This year’s XC9002 concept by Issigonis is judged to be too visually similar to the Mini to continue with. The project is renamed ADO16, and given to Pininfarina to style.
Pininfarina works on the ADO16
The Italian styling house works its magic on Issigonis’ original ideas, and comes up with a much sharper-looking design. Save for a few nips and tucks, this Farina ADO16 is what will become the BMC 1100 a few years later.
Whereas the Mini had emerged pretty much unchanged from the original drawings produced by Alec Issigonis , Leonard Lord decided that he wanted ADO16 be a much more highly styled car, as it would be competing in a more expensive sector of the market. He further decided that this aim could best be achieved by entrusting the car’s styling to Pininfarina, following that firm’s successful work on the Austin A40. This proved to be another good decision on the part of Lord, because what emerged from the Italian styling house was a crisp and well-balanced design that when launched, proved to be exactly the right product at the right time. Issigonis did in fact make an attempt at styling the ADO16, but he told journalist Ronald Barker, ‘I couldn’t get
Just like the Mini before it, ADO16 was developed in remarkably quick time, and when the first full-size prototype appeared in October 1958, it already had the recognisable 1100 profile. When Pininfarina worked their magic on the styling, the transformation from XC9002 of January 1959 to ADO16 of July that same year was quite remarkable. The Italian styling house had made no major changes to the structure of the car, but in terms of tidying the styling – giving the roofline a makeover and tidying up the front and sides – the overall effect was quite marked.
After the first Longbridge built prototype had been completed, detailed development was handed over to Morris Motors chief engineer, Charles Griffin who was heading a team including engineers such as Alan Webb, Bob Shirley, Reg Job and Alan Parker and was based at Cowley. It was Griffin who would successfully blend Issigonis’ functional engineering, Pininfarina’s style and attractive interior ergonomics. Alec Issigonis would maintain a watching brief, visiting Cowley every Thursday. It was Reg Job, project engineer for both the Morris Minor and ADO16, who designed the swan neck opening mechanism for the 1100′s boot.
The original prototype was fitted with the 948cc A-Series engine, then fitted longitudinally to the Morris Minor. Griffin was appalled with the lack of torque from the engine and other features of the car. He appealed directly to the vice chairman of BMC, George Harriman to get the authorisation to get things rectified. Griffin got the green light to use hydrolastic suspension and the development of an enlarged A-Series engine. By lengthening the stroke to 83.72 mm, the A-Series engine was enlarged to 1098cc and this was combined with a new cylinder head design, the 12G202, which had larger inlet valves, to boost power from 37bhp at 4750 rpm to 48bhp at 5100 rpm.
Torque went up from 50lb ft at 2500rpm to 60lb ft at 2500 rpm. Both the 12G202 cylinder head and the remote gear change that also featured on the ADO16, were previewed on the original 997cc Mini Cooper that was unveiled in the autumn of 1961. The ADO16 would also be the first BMC car in production with Alex Moulton’s Hydrolastic suspension, which had not been perfected in time for the launch of the Mini in 1959. According to Charles Griffin, Issigonis was not a supporter of Hydrolastic suspension at first. Interviewed by Graham Robson in the October 1997 issue of MINI magazine, Griffin said of the early stages of Hydrolastic development.
‘The first Hydrolastic types actually had a central fluid chamber – a ‘cheese’ we called it – under the seats, with pipes going in all directions. It was noisy and very harsh – a cat’s eye bump sounded much worse inside the cabin. The next version had displacers at each wheel, but it wasn’t until we put rubber in the suspension linkage that we got rid of the harshness.’
While Morris Motors at Cowley was responsible for the body and mechanicals, the interior was designed by the Longbridge Styling Department headed by Dick Burzi, the Argentinean born exile from Mussolini’s Italy. According to Jonathan Wood’s excellent book , Alec Issigonis: The Man Who Made The Mini, the fitment of disc brakes to the ADO16 was opposed by Issigonis.
Issigonis was quoted as regarding disc brakes as: ‘…fashionable: the things to have. I was not particularly in favour of them.’
The instigation for the disc brakes had according to Issigonis, come from, ‘…the management, even though it was the more expensive thing to do.’ One presumes the management were acting on a request from Charles Griffin. Anybody working on an ADO16, then and now will notice there is much more room in the engine bay than both the Mini and the later ADO17. This may have aided servicing, but it was not intentional. BMC had been working on a new generation of engine designs, a V4 and a V6 derivative intended to replace all the companies engine designs in one swoop. And the ADO16 was one of those new cars in development that V4 was intended for. Since the late 1950′s BMC had been working on a Lancia inspired 18 degree V4. The V4 used a toothed rubber belt to drive a centrally mounted camshaft and was experimentally produced in both 1100cc and 2-litre variants.
When questioned why the V4 project was abandoned, Alec Issigonis stated that they had been, ‘thrown away because it didn’t fit in with our design philosophy… Cars must be smaller but the ‘living room’ increased. When we started work on the V4 we were using north-south engines but since we have switched to east-west in our small cars the V4 no longer fits in with our concept because an inline engine takes up less room fitted in that way.’
Senior Longbridge engineer Eric Bareham later confirmed that the V4 was for inline installation only, and that for front wheel drive it would have required a transmission layout similar to that of the later Triumph 1300 FWD car. When the A-Series engine proved capable of enlargement to 1098cc, the V4 idea was dropped.
By this time, the marketing situation had descended into a slanging match between the competing networks of Austin and the former Nuffield Group (Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley). The situation was getting worse rather than better because the Nuffield Group dealer principals were looking at what Austin’s dealers had to offer, and could see that the latter had a more complete range of cars to sell.
Rather than tackling these issues head-on – something that really should have been done years previously – Harriman acceded to the wishes of the Nuffield dealers, and agreed to release ADO16 just as a Morris model initially. An Austin version would appear only after a sufficiently long delay. This sop to the dealers may have seemed like a good idea at the time as a way of pacifying any dissenting voices, but it undoubtedly cost BMC sales and therefore meant that ADO16 had a slower start in life than would otherwise have been the case. On the production side of things – there was a side-benefit to this, in that a completely new model was fed onto the market in one basic form, from one factory, thus helping the ‘running in’ process a bit, and simplifying the handling of initial teething troubles.
BMC confirmed ADO16 production
The first semi-official acknowledgement that something new from BMC was on the way came on 8 January 1962. To offset rumours to the contrary, BMC announced that the Morris Minor 1000 was to continue in production for some time to come. The rumours had been current for best part of a year that first that the Morris Minor was to be restyled and renamed the Major, and more recently that it would appear with transversely mounted engine and front-wheel drive, as a larger version of the Mini.
The Minor was a profitable car for BMC and management was reluctant to see it go. It would not be the only BMC car to remain in production after a successor had been introduced. Its presentation only served to take volume away from ADO16 production. Production of the Morris 1100 began in March 1962 at Cowley, perhaps the most militant plant in the BMC empire.
Morris 1100 launched
So, on 15 August 1962, a mere three years after the appearance of the Mini, the Morris 1100 was launched. The location for the launch was Worcester College during the summer break, where the foreign press stayed – and Alec Issigonis was in attendance. BMC claimed that 10,000 ADO16s had already been built and that every Morris dealer in the world had an example. A photograph of Lord Nuffield himself posing with a Morris 1100 was issued to the press. He was to die the following year.
Alec Issigonis told Basil Cardew of the Daily Express: ‘We have tried to produce a good looking, functional car – while cutting out as far as possible the risk of things going wrong. My main plan was to design a motorcar to travel as efficiently as possible from A to B, with full comfort over really rough roads. The world will decide whether we have succeeded’
The American Time magazine also quoted Mr Issigonis as saying: ‘My job is not to design fashion accessories or status symbols, but motorcars—things that travel as efficiently as possible from A to B. A car should take its shape from the engineering that goes into it.’
If the trade and the public had treated Mini with a certain amount of suspicion, they had no such reservations about the 1100 and immediately took the car to their hearts, despite the fact that, like the Mini, it was not the most reliable car in its class; not by a long chalk. In the years following the Suez Crisis, the British car market had changed dramatically, with demand for small cars increasing hugely. This had the effect of shifting the centre point of the market downwards. Through a combination of luck and good judgment, the Morris 1100 hit this sector of the market square on.
On 7 September 1962 CAB2 at Longbridge came into operation. The first car off the line was an Austin A40, the kind of car that BMC should have axed when the ADO16 came on stream, but was allowed to linger on. CAB2 was part of BMC’s expansion programme to increase its theoretical production capacity from 750,000 to 1 million vehicles a year. Later in the month saw the launch of the Ford Cortina, which was Dagenham’s impeccably costed car aimed at the all important fleet market. Even its steering wheel had been redesigned four times to bring it in under budget.
Whereas the ADO16 was initially available only with an 1100cc engine, take it or leave it, the Cortina came with 1200cc or 1500cc options. These two cars, which would battle for sales supremacy for the rest of the decade, represented two opposing camps. The ADO16 employed advanced technology to attract buyers, the Cortina employed market research and simple mechanicals to aid reliability and servicing. And because it was costed so perfectly, it was profitable enough for its makers to fund its replacement. These cars were considered direct rivals, offering similar accommodation and performance.
The first to follow on from the Morris version was the twin-carburettor MG 1100, launched on 2nd October 1962, which was more good news for the Nuffield group dealers. The MG 1100 used a new design of cylinder head, the 12G295, the first fruit of BMC’s relationship with Downton Engineering of Wiltshire, whose boss Daniel Richmond had become a consultant to BMC.
The 12G295 had more open combustion chambers than previous designs. This was enough to boost peak power to 55bhp at 5500 rpm. A short stroke 998cc version of this engine would go into the Mini Cooper in 1964. Such was the demand for the Morris 1100, that a waiting list soon built up, despite Cowley having a relatively strike free run in late 1962.
At the BMC annual general meeting in December 1962 one share holder was vocal in his criticism. Mr Osborn Bartram, of Corsham, Wiltshire, told the board: ‘I suppose you are satisfied with progress during the past year. But many of us who are ordinary shareholders are not satisfied. For one of the primary industries in the country, the service one gets as a customer is extremely poor.
'I inquire about the new Morris 1100 and am given a vague delivery promise of three months. I am not interested in that. I want the car now, otherwise I go and get a Ford.’
Mr Bartram may have had good cause to feel angry as it was not until February 1963 that a night shift started at Cowley to produce an extra 800 ADO16s a week. This was achieved by ending the Morris Minor night shift. This had first been mooted in November the previous year, but negotiations with the trade unions delayed the introduction of an ADO16 nightshift until February 1963. Also that month the first Morris 1100 was produced in New Zealand. On 18 April 1963 Alec Issigonis, BMC’s technical director was appointed to the company's board, the same day as it was announced that Innocenti of Milan would build the ADO16 as the IM3.
Issigonis was quoted as saying: ‘They were, enthusiastic about the car and all told me it will do very well in ltaly.’
On 7 May 1963, The Times reported: ‘Production of the Morris 1100 saloon at the British Motor Corporation’s Cowley plant has reached 3750 a week, and is expected to be 4500 a week by mid-summer, but some customers have been waiting for nine months and demand at home and abroad is still mounting, a spokesman of the corporation said yesterday.
‘About 40% of the cars are being exported, assembly has begun at the Innocenti works in Italy, and nearly 70,000 models have been produced since their introduction last August. Output of the Mini is running at 5500 a week, out of a total car production figure by the corporation of 15,000. This is the full capacity rate for the firm at present, but by the end of 1963, when its £49m expansion programme is complete, total vehicle output will have reached 20,000 a week, or one million a year.’
In July 1963, the Daily Express reported that BMC’s Cowley factory had suffered 134 strikes in the first five months of that year. No wonder customers were waiting for their Morris 1100s. By August, BMC’s chairman George Harriman was stating to the press that the ADO16 would be in production for at least ten years. This, he said, would give the additional advantage that the customer’s investment was not swept away by a new version coming out within a year or so of his purchase. This was a script that could have been written by the technical director himself and shows how much influence Issigonis had over the BMC chairman. Harriman added that in the year since the introduction of the ADO16, production of Morris and MG 1100s had passed the 110,000 mark and was running at 4000 a week. Of these, 44% were being exported. Demand still greatly exceeded supply, but by November they would be producing 6000 a week in their different versions.
Harriman repeated the Issigonis mantra to The Guardian newspaper, saying: ‘People want a functional car with the smallest overall package but the largest space inside. Not to big, but it must be the latest in line and in mechanics.’
By August 1963 CAB2 at Longbridge was in full operation with a capacity of 2500 cars a week. It increased the capacity of the factory from 8000 to 10,500 vehicles a week. The new building, which was for paint, trim, finishing, and final assembly, was one of the biggest single contributions to BMC’s expansion plans under which productive capacity was planned to rise to one million vehicles a year. Initial production began in the glass sided, 960ft long building earlier that year and a proportion of Morris 1100s had been produced there to supplement output at Cowley. Full production on both assembly conveyors each capable of dealing with 1250 cars a week, was now within reach.
Bodies were brought into the building after going through a preliminary rust-proofing process, automatically lifted to the body storage balcony, and were not man-handled again until the car was driven off the end of the assembly line. In the intervening time they were moved automatically on conveyors or slung on overhead conveyors on which a total of £750,000 had been spent. After assembly the cars were subjected to a wind and water test, equivalent to driving down a motorway at 40mph in a heavy storm. When the car was driven on rollers, water was directed on to it from all angles, driven by an artificial gale. This was in addition to the various inspections carried out at stations along the conveyor.
Mr WH Cross, superintendent of the car assembly planning department, said at the time: ‘We think this new building will apply the most searching quality checks that have ever been known in motor vehicle manufacture.’
Austin 1100 launched
The Austin version of the ADO16 was launched a year after the original Morris 1100, on 6 September 1963. Production of the BMC 1100 was now running at 5500 a week, and coupled with a weekly output of 6000 Minis. Although the two Issigonis designed cars were related, only 10% of parts were common to both vehicles. An upwards move came in October that year with the announcement of the Vanden Plas Princess version. In 1962, Fred Connolly (of Connolly leather) had privately commissioned Vanden Plas to produce an upmarket 1100 , and BMC recognized the potential for cashing in on the fad for plush small cars, started by companies like Wood & Pickett and Radford with their over-the-top converted Minis.
BMC figured that the ADO16 was a far more realistic starting point for the wood and leather treatment than the Mini was, and so the luxury version was born. The concept of a more luxurious small family car proved popular with the car-buying public, and a couple of years later, the middle class Wolseley 1100 and Riley Kestrel versions appeared in quick succession. Eventually, no fewer than six variations on the ADO16 theme appeared, all sharing the basic body shell and only differing in front-end styling and trim – badge engineering gone mad, perhaps, but it did not hinder sales one bit.
Demand for the ADO16 continued to grow, and so did its worldwide appeal. On 17 February 1964, the Morris 1100 was launched in Australia. By 20 February, BMC was boasting that it had built 1 million front wheel drive cars, consisting of 782,838 Minis and 219,291 ADO16 cars. Of the total, 325,441, or 32.5%, were exported. The combined weekly production of both vehicles was 11,350 with demand still exceeding production.
In March 1964, BMC announced the Mini Cooper 1275S with its specialised 76bhp 1275cc engine which produced 79lb ft of torque at 3000 rpm. The 1275S engine used a completely redesigned block in comparison with the earlier A-Series units, had a larger bore and used expensive materials. Any hopes by BMC salesmen that this engine would find its way into the ADO16 were dashed, although Speedwell did market the 1300GT in 1965, an ADO16 fitted with a 1275S engine tweaked to deliver 90bhp at 6500rpm.
In trying to satisfy demand for the ADO16, BMC was plagued by stoppages, the causes both internal and external. In the 12 months to September 1964 the Cowley plant alone experienced 254 unofficial strikes which caused 750,000 lost man-hours. On 19 October, BMC stated that it intended to continue manufacturing both the Morris Minor and Austin A40, which had weekly production figures of 1100 and 820 respectively. By now total Mini and ADO16 production was more than half BMC’s weekly output, but the Corporation was reluctant to free up more production capacity by axing two models that now seemed like cars from a bygone era.
Riley Kestrel and Wolseley 1100 launched
In September 1965, the Wolseley 1100 and Riley Kestrel appeared. As well as the upmarket wood trim they were fitted with the 55bhp 1098cc MG 1100 engine. This was followed the following month by the announcement that automatic transmission would be available for the ADO16 and Mini. The all-British system was designed by the Automotive Products Group and developed with BMC over the previous 18 months – the joint investment amounting to £3m. It was the first marriage of an automatic transmission to a transverse engine – achieved by putting it in the sump-and the world’s smallest automatic with a torque converter replacing the clutch.
By this time both Issigonis cars were also being assembled in Portugal. Weekly British output of Mini and ADO16 was now reported as being between 11,000 to 12,000.
Estate version launched
The estate version of the 1100 appeared in March 1966, marking the end of any serious development of the car. This version was just as stylish and compact as the saloon, but was also a practical load carrier, making it a very appealing package. It carved itself a nice little niche in the market, but was saddled with one significant design flaw: a propensity for the tail to droop markedly under any loading.
Unlike Citroën’s more complex fluid suspension system, the Moulton Hydrolastic design with its front/rear interconnection had no self-levelling capability, and this compromised the car’s competence as a serious load carrier. Way back in 1962, Moulton has been asked to devise self-levelling for the hydrolastic system, and came up with an electrically controlled system for the ADO61 – Moulton’s notes show that he thought this would be a good proposition for the ADO16 Traveller. Unfortunately, it was never incorporated in the small car.
Whatever the disadvantages of BMC’s marketing-led development programme for ADO16, it certainly did not hinder the car’s sales. The ADO16 in all its six incarnations was soon being built in larger numbers than any other BMC car, either before or afterwards. By 1965 – the year that all variations of the car were put on sale, and when it was at the absolute zenith of its career – the ADO16 took an exceptional 14.3% of the UK car market and was firmly established as the country’s best selling car.
In October 1966 the Ford Cortina Mk2 was announced, marking the end of the direct competition with ADO16: not only was this Cortina a physically larger package, but also the entry-level engine was now 1.3-litres as opposed to the 1.2-litres of its predecessor. Hindsight would suggest that Ford had read the market better, correctly predicting the trend for larger, better-performing cars, whereas BMC had not.
The Mk2 Cortina impacted on ADO16 sales in the next year, becoming Britain’s best selling car in 1967, toppling the ADO16 from its perch. The industrial disputes in the autumn of 1966 and sales success of the Cortina Mk2 saw ADO16 production slump alarmingly from 238,359 in 1965/66 to 160,097 in 1966/67, while Mini production held up well, suggesting that the ADO16 was now in decline.
On 19 October 1966, BMC announced the Mk3 MG Midget/Mk4 Austin Healey Sprite. These new sports car variants introduced at long last a productionised 1275cc engine using cheaper materials although the block was different from the ‘S’ engine. The new engine featured the 12G940 cylinder head designed by Daniel Richmond of Downton Engineering.
Mk2 version launched
In March 1967, the ADO16 passed the one million production mark, about the same time that BMC decided to facelift both the Mini and ADO16 and introduce Mk2 versions of their bestsellers at the October London Motor Show. Unfortunately BMC had left it rather late in the day and it was to result in more embarrassment for the beleaguered corporation. In April 1967 British Motor Holdings announced a disastrous £7.5 million half year loss to the end of January 1967.
BMH had evidently been hit far worse than was feared by a seemingly continuous round of strikes, and the strong measures of the July 1966 freeze-and-squeeze measures enforced by the government. The measures were introduced, as the company pointed out, just nine days before the start of its financial year. BMC was heavily hit in the last quarter of 1966 by strikes. In the first six months of its financial year to the end of January 1967, BMC produced 23% fewer cars, compared with a decline in home registrations of 15%.
It claimed to have raised its penetration of the home market from 35% to 39% in August and September, though this slipped from 39% to 27% in the final three months. Both the Mini and ADO16 were cars heavily dependent on high production volumes to pay their way and BMC were missing their production targets by quite a margin. Only a fortnight after BMH announced their poor financial performance, Sir Donald Stokes Leyland Motor Corporation were reporting record business. This set minds in Whitehall thinking…
BMC struggled through 1967, and during the summer, offered the 1275cc engine in the upmarket ADO16 models, MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas. The new engine was available initially only in single carburettor form, producing 58bhp at 5250rpm and 69lb ft at 3000rpm. On 17 October, BMC announced Mk2 ADO16, complete with standard Austin and Morris 1300s joining the existing 1100 range.
Braking was improved to cope with the extra power by fitting larger diameter single caliper discs. On the 1300 and automatic 1100, these reduced pedal effort by 15%, but increased brake lining life by 70%. Other comfort and safety aids included a new combination switch for direction indicators, headlamp flasher, dipper and horn. The 11 Austin and Morris models were available in two- or four-door, de luxe and super de luxe form or as estates. Wolseley, Riley Kestrel, MG. and Vanden Plas Princess models were all four-door saloons. Styling changes on the ADO16 range included a much bolder grille, vented wheels, and neater rear lights to meet new international regulations. There were side repeaters for the indicators, while inside they had new seating (with reclining seats optional on all models), better door trim, window winders, catches and carpets and redesigned dashboard.
Unfortunately, BMC even managed to sour this experience, because although this engine upgrade was desperately needed across the range, it was initially offered only to the upmarket models – it was almost a year before Austin and Morris were able to offer the up gunned engine option.
If that sounds like harsh treatment of the UK customer base by an arrogant company, one could be forgiven for thinking that, but this was not entirely the case: There were supply problems with the 1275cc A-Series engine to begin with, because its engine block was different to the 1100cc version, it was machined on different production lines. The entire period would prove to be chaotic for the company because of the need to phase in the 1275cc in different states of tune and the all-synchomesh gearbox, while still maintaining high production levels to meet the high demand. Full details of the changes to the ADO16 range below.
Also in October 1967, BMC hired from Ford as their new director of styling, Roy Haynes, who was also a product planner. Hired by Joe Edwards, this was a sign that senior management were no longer prepared to accept that Alec Issigonis’s viewpoint was gospel and that design and engineering staff would have more latitude in their work.
1275cc phased in - gradually
Summer 1967: Single-carb, 58bhp 1275cc engine speculatively fitted to the four up-market models (MG, Wolseley, Riley, VP) but still with original body-style; these cars were badged ’1275′.
October 1967: ‘Mark II’ bodywork (with cropped rear fins) introduced on all ADO16s except the estates, which always retained the original rear design. At the same time, the 1300 version was formally introduced (still with the 58bhp 1275cc engine) in all six marques (so at this time, the MG version was no faster than any other – probably slightly slower due to its extra metalwork). All 1100 models, which were produced with the revised bodywork, were known as 1100 Mk2s, but with the 1300s, the Austin and Morris versions were called MkII (even though there had never been a previous 1300 version) while the four upmarket models did without the mark designation at this stage.
March 1968: Austin America introduced, for sale only in US, Canada and Switzerland. Fitted with a de-toxed 60bhp version of the 1275cc engine and 4-speed auto transmission. According to one insider, BMH deliberately lost money on this derivative in order to maintain the UK’s balance of payments!
April 1968: Twin-carb, 68bhp 1275cc engine fitted to the MG and Riley models; Wolseley gets twin-carb, 65bhp unit, while VP retains single-carb, 58bhp unit; still no mark designation applied
October 1968: The four upmarket models officially become MkIIs (!), with the MG and Riley models getting a 70bhp version of the 1275cc engine, while the Wolseley kept its 65bhp version; VP now got 65bhp version too (or 60bhp with auto transmission).
Autumn 1969: Austin and Morris 1300GT models introduced, also getting the 70bhp engine.
This slow build-up of the 1300 versions was another sign of the malaise within BMC at the time, and when dealers could not supply cars for buyers, it all smacked of arrogance and mismanagement within the company – of course the management would have loved to have supplied demand for their products, but were unable to. Unfortunately getting hold of a MK2 1100 was also proving difficult.
On 2 November 1967 the Times reported: ‘Because of a shortage of components, production of the British Motor Corporation’s 1100 models at Longbridge. Birmingham. will come to a halt today. About 3000 workers will be affected. Yesterday afternoon 1500 on the day shift were laid off until tomorrow morning and another 1500 were due to be sent home at the end of the night shift until Monday night.’
Clifford Webb in the Times reported in more detail the next day: ‘With 3000 men laid off and the Austin 1100 and 1300 lines brought to a standstill by a shortage of components, union officials and men at BMC’s Longbridge plant reacted strongly yesterday to what one union spokesman described as, ‘yet another example of bad production planning by BMC.’ A token force of the men laid off staged a walk-in yesterday morning. Some of them carried banners proclaiming, ‘Harriman Out… The Lads In’. It was the second demonstration this week by men laid off. The men were especially critical of management for allowing production to be held up by a shortage of components.
‘Where is all this so-called new management approach we have been hearing so much about lately,’ they demanded, a cry echoed by George Evans, district organizer of the National Union of Vehicle Builders. ‘He told me bluntly: ‘It’s the old, old story at BMC. Yet another example of bad production planning’.’
In reply a BMC spokesman said: ‘On the contrary this has been one of the best new model changeover periods we have had for some time and certainly better than some of our competitors, have managed. Changing over to new models is always a delicately balanced and extremely complex affair. The present trouble has been blown up out of all proportion. When the last of the men laid off returned to work on Monday they will have lost in all less than three shifts.’
Webb continued: ‘My own inquiries into the causes of the latest stoppage reveal two main causes of delay, radiator grilles and engine blocks. Hundreds of new cars are being stockpiled at Longbridge without grilles. These were redesigned as part of the facelift for the Minis and 1100s and are largely supplied by one of BMC’s own companies, Morris Radiators. The engine block problem was far more serious. In recent weeks about 800 blocks have been rejected because they did not reach required standards of quality. I understand the great majority were rejected because of blow holes in the castings. The castings are supplied partly from within the group and partly from outside. The remarkable thing is however that rejects from both sources rose alarmingly at the same time. But last night there was news of an even more serious threat to production caused this time by a strike at one of BMC’s major suppliers, Birmingham Aluminium Casting at Smethwick.’
His enquiries were correct. BMC had decided too late in the day to facelift both the Mini and ADO16. Unfortunately this was insufficient time for its suppliers to tool up and produce adequate quantities of components in order to meet demand for the revised models. Also in short supply were tail lamps. During November 1967 there were also disputes at Longbridge and Pressed Steel Fisher and some 7000 workers were laid off. While all this was going on, merger negotiations were now becoming serious between BMH and the Leyland Motor Corporation, overseen by an interested party, Harold Wilson’s government. It must have seemed to those in government circles at the time that BMH could do nothing right and Leyland could do no wrong, and indeed BMC’s stockpile of incomplete cars would get a lot bigger before the component bottleneck was resolved.
What’s more, BMC failed to deliver the kind of upgraded version of the car that the market so desperately wanted. A hatchback version, dubbed YDO15 , had been running as a prototype by mid-1966, but the company decided, for whatever reason, that it was not a car for the UK market and so – criminally – ignored this opportunity for expansion.
Of course we don’t know if BMC ever tried installing the larger B-Series powertrain to the ADO16, it surely would have fitted?
It appears that BMC’s preferred solution to fill the gap between the ADO16 and ADO17 1800, and take on Ford’s Cortina, was the car known to the press as the BMC 1500 and internally as the ADO14, later produced as the Austin Maxi. Instead of up gunning the ADO16, the factories response was to spend millions on an entirely new car. On 20 November 1967, the axe finally came down on the Austin A40, as part of Joe Edwards’ rationalisation, freeing up some more production capacity at Longbridge.
In January 1968 the formation of BLMC was announced, although the deal was far from settled. By the following month, the stockpile of incomplete BMC cars had reached the staggering figure of 51,000, mainly Minis and ADO16s. When Leyland Finance director John Barber travelled to Longbridge on the 14 February, he noticed incomplete cars were being stored on every spare piece of ground. By the 4 May, the stockpile had been reduced to 26,000 vehicles, but to the men from Leyland and the government, the whole episode of the MK2 Mini and ADO16 launch that never was, was a prime example of BMC incompetence – and demonstrated why a clean sweep of management was desirable.
When production and sales of the 1275cc versions of the car were finally up to speed, the lift in sales of the range as a whole was apparent for all to see. In 1967/68 production increased to a record 249,500 and 1968/1969 production of 247,138 was only slightly down on that. In 1968 the ADO16 reclaimed the number one spot as Britain’s best selling car. 1969 (the first full year of Leyland management at Longbridge) was a year of generally poor sales in the UK, yet ADO16 managed to maintain its domination of the sales charts, grabbing 13.8% of the market.
After five years in production and scant running development, work finally got underway on a replacement for the ADO16. Or rather, the more appealing idea of refining the product and bringing its style up to date: initially this development work, headed by Charles Griffin, centred on updating the Hydrolastic suspension set-up to give a smoother ride, and so improved subframes and mountings were developed, which also incorporated lessons learned from the ill-fated ADO61 project. The new car was dubbed the ADO22 and the project moved along quickly once it had been defined – road going mules were built and the results of the revisions to the suspension system were a vast improvement over the existing car.
Work begins on the 1100's replacement
By the beginning of 1968, BMH had the mechanical revisions fully tooled-up for production, but the style of the body was still to be signed off. In the meantime, British Leyland had been created, and Joe Edwards was the first casualty – in April 1968. On 22 May 1968, Roy Haynes wrote to John Barber, one of the new Leyland senior managers, with his ideas for a simple rear wheel saloon to take on the Ford Cortina, which evolved into the Morris Marina. When Harry Webster arrived at Longbridge, heralding the arrival of Leyland, he asked Michelotti to produce a face-lifted version of the ADO16, which would have incorporated Charles Griffin’s technical changes. The results certainly looked promising, but the entire ADO22 project was shelved on the grounds of costs – and the fact that the basic design was now six years old, and in the mind of Webster, this was far too old a design to base a new car on.
There was also a feeling within Austin-Morris, that the new regime wanted to disassociate itself with the past – and as a result, Webster moved whole scale towards a new, cheaper to produce car, the Austin Allegro
From September 1968, it was all change, as Sir George Harriman bowed out as chairman of British Leyland, to be replaced by Sir Donald Stokes. The rump of the old BMC became the Austin Morris division of BLMC, under managing director George Turnbull, who like Harry Webster was a Standard-Triumph import. These were the men who would now preside over the ADO16′s future.
On 30 September 1968 the ADO16 became available with an all synchromesh gearbox, something the Ford Cortina had had from launch. In October 1968, at the Turin motor show, Pininfarina exhibited a stylish car based on ADO16 mechanicals, similar to the previous year’s 1800 Aerodynamica. Unfortunately Pininfarina’s close relationship with BMC was now over and the new men at British Leyland was not so receptive to his ideas.
Morris Nomad launched
In June 1969, antipodean car buyers got the kind of car denied to European car buyers, the YDO9 Morris Nomad and the YDO15 Morris 1500. The Morris Nomad was an ADO16 style five-door hatchback designed at Longbridge in conjunction with Australian engineers. Fitted with the E-Series 1485cc engine with a manual four speed gearbox or A-Series 1275cc engine with automatic transmission. The Morris 1500 was simply the saloon version of the Nomad. Both the 1500 versions had a bonnet bulge to accommodate the tall E-Series engine. Presumably it was not sold in Europe to avoid harming sales of the newly launched Austin Maxi..
Riley Kestrel axed
By this time, total ADO16 production had reached 1.5 million and it held 14.6% of the UK new car market. In July 1969, BLMC announced that it was axing the Riley marque, which meant the end of the road for the Riley Kestrel; although the last Riley of all was in fact produced in October. Austin Morris Managing Director George Turnbull was quoted as saying: ‘We are not contemplating taking action with any other marques in the foreseeable future… The decision to drop the Riley marque has not been taken lightly and is based on sound economic and business considerations. Very few Riley cars are exported and the substitution of export marques will help our overall effort, and assist us to achieve maximum effectiveness as a car-producer.’
Events were now moving fast, on 19 September 1969, the BLMC board approved the styling of the ADO67. At the same time BLMC were announcing the modernisation of the Cowley plant in preparation for the arrival of their Cortina beater, the Morris Marina.
October 1969 saw the announcement of the Austin and Morris 1300GT. This was basically an Austin/Morris saloon fitted with a 70bhp MG 1300 engine and designed to appeal to younger, sportier buyers. It also retailed cheaper than an MG 1300 which also helped. The MG 1300/1300GT engine used the big valve 12G940 cylinder head also found on the Mini Cooper S for an extra 5bhp over the Wolseley 1300 and the Spridget sports car.
One of the factors that made the ADO16 so appealing was its uniqueness on the market, it looked attractive and was both enjoyable and easy to drive, a benefit of front wheel drive, with near Mini-like handling combined with a Tardis like interior, which made it a far more viable family car than the Mini. In short, it was user friendly. While Ford concentrated on sewing the profitable seam of the fleet market, continental manufacturers looked on enviously at the ADO16′s success in selling to European buyers, who before the Mini had been offered a diet of mechanical stodge from BMC.
The first major player to respond to the BMC was Fiat with the 128. Like the Mini and ADO16, the 128 had a transverse-mounted engine, however, the significant breakthrough with the 128 was the use of unequal length driveshafts which allowed the engine and gearbox to be located side by side, a layout which has since become ubiquitous for small cars. The 128 was voted European Car of the Year for 1970. The 128 was available with 1116cc and 1290cc engines, the same choice offered to ADO16 buyers; it was also the first car to feature the all-new Fiat SOHC engine, a design which was considerably advanced for its time, featuring an aluminium alloy cylinder head with a direct overhead camshaft driven by a rubber toothed belt. Mainstream production was to last a decade.
In January 1970, George Turnbull announced production of the ADO16 was to be stepped up with an extra 900 cars a week emerging from the company’s plants. Unfortunately, 1970 was a year plagued with industrial disputes, both internal and external. Then in September 1970 the Australian only Morris Nomad 1.5-litre and 1500 became available with a five speed gearbox.
In July 1971 BLMC announced that ADO16 production had surpassed two million vehicles. Rather conveniently the corporation also claimed that it had produced its five millionth front wheel drive vehicle the same week. What was telling was the fact that at least 4.7 million of these were the Mini and ADO16, on which the profit margins were slim. George Turnbull, Harry Webster and Sir Alec Issigonis posed for the cameras.
MG1300 withdrawn from the UK market
On 31 August 1971, the MG 1300 was withdrawn from the UK market, although CKD kits were still exported until 1973. September 1971 came around, and with it the MK3 ADO16, now a much starker car. Featuring a revised matt Black grille. 1100 two door de luxe were models fitted with a single chrome bar, 1100 super de luxe and 1300 models were fitted with a cluster of three bars. A revised mock wood dashboard featuring two round dials was also fitted. The Austin America was discontinued. Like the contemporary MK3 Minis, the bean counters had been at work.
Austin Apache launched
On 26 November 1971, the Austin Apache was launched in South Africa. This was a booted ADO16 complete with Michelotti makeover. During 1970/71 ADO16 production was 218,322, however in 1971/72 it slumped to 144,347, prompting motoring historians to observe that the apparent collapse in demand was due to BLMC’s inability to update the car. Of course, that does not take into account the fact that the UK ADO16 production was now only concentrated at Longbridge, which could not produce as many units as when it was in partnership with Cowley.
This effectively amounted to a deliberate cut in production. The Morris Marina had quite clearly impacted on ADO16 sales, as loyal Morris buyers could no longer purchase a new ADO16 saloon; but did have the opportunity to buy a shiny new Marina with both 1300 and 1800 engine options. In 1971/73 Marina production was 155,817 and the combined ADO16/Marina total is 300,164 revealing that in terms of volume, BLMC was overall gaining ground. And the Marina was probably more profitable. This seemed to have some effect.
In the 1969/70 financial year, Austin-Morris lost £16m; in 1971/72 it made a profit of £9m.
In April 1972 the Australian ADO16 Morris 1500 and Nomad were discontinued. However, large stockpiles meant that the cars were sold until mid 1972. Later that year, BLMC was forced to deny persistent reports that they were to replace the long-running 1100/1300 Austin range with a new car to be launched in the spring of 1973. Mr Filmer Paradise, director of sales for the Austin-Morris group, said: ‘I can tell you this is completely untrue. They will continue in production for a number of years from next spring whatever additional new models we may be introducing around that time.’
Austin-Morris was already known to be in the pre-production stage at its Longbridge, Birmingham, plant the ADO67, which would be sold through the Austin dealer network. The Morris Marina, introduced 16 months previously, was now the group’s best seller, replacing the 1100/1300 whose sales had dropped. Austin dealers unable to share in the Marina’s success were described as being in urgent need of a new model.
In October 1972, just to prove there was life in the old dog yet, the Austin Victoria was launched in Spain. Based around the Austin Apache, the frontal styling was given more attention and the car was fitted with twin headlamps. With the Allegro on the way, UK production of the ADO16 began to run down in 1973. In April 1973 the Wolseley 1300, Morris 1300 Traveller and MG 1300 CKD kits ceased production. Paradoxically while the ADO16 was fading away in the UK, at the same time Authi who built the car in Spain, was investigating yet another development of the existing car. At the Barcelona Motor Show of April 1973 Authi displayed an MG badged Victoria saloon complete with Downton tuned 83bhp 1275cc engine and all the contemporary mod cons. However problems within Authi and BLMC stopped the car from reaching production.
17 May 1973 was the day BLMC launched the Allegro. Clifford Webb wrote in The Times edition published that day: ‘One of the two 1100/1300 assembly tracks at Longbridge has been converted to Allegro production. When this reaches 2500 a week the second line will be changed over. By early next year the company hope to be producing in excess of 4000 Allegros a week. It is impossible to over emphasize the importance of Allegro to the fortunes of British Leyland. The C class sector now accounts for something like one million sales a year in Britain. ‘Two years ago Austin-Morris was taking up to 30% of this class. By March, 1972, they were down to 23% and in the first three months of this year had fallen to only 18%. This decline was due largely to falling demand for the 1100/1300 although inability to produce sufficient cars in boom conditions was a considerable contributing factor. Since the early 1960s the older model has been the backbone of Austin-Morris. Worldwide sales have exceeded 2.3m of which 1.3m were sold in the United Kingdom.
‘It has been United Kingdom market leader for seven of the 10 years since it was launched and for eight consecutive years held more than 10 per cent penetration. But during the past two years demand has become more concentrated on the top end of the C class sector with motorists insisting on 1500cc engines and above. At the same time they want higher standards of trim, increased passenger and luggage space, improved driving position and reduced noise levels. Despite umpteen facelifts the 10-year-old 1100/1300 was unable to meet these changing fashions.’
While attention now focused on the Allegro, overseas yet another ADO16 variant appeared. In South Africa the Austin Apache TC was launched with a twin carburettor 75bhp A-Series engine. It also had a vinyl roof, chrome side trims and was fitted with a three dial dashboard.
Another personality associated with the ADO16 departed the BLMC scene on 30 August 1973, when Austin Morris Sales director, Filmer Paradise, quit and was succeeded by his deputy, Bernard Bates. This was followed by George Turnbull’s resignation, from both the BLMC board and as managing director of Austin-Morris. It was no secret in the industry that he and fellow board member John Barber were rivals, and the latter now appeared as heir apparent to Lord Stokes. At Austin Morris, Turnbull was replaced by ex-BMC man, Richard Perry.
October 1973 brought the Yom Kippur war and a steep rise in oil prices, which was to affect the car market.
In January 1974 Charles Griffin, now director of advanced engineering at Austin Morris, instigated the ADO88 supermini project, later to evolve into the Metro. He stated to Graham Robson in 1997: ‘If you look at the Metro, you’ll see it has the same interior volume as the 1100, but it was only a few inches longer and very little wider than the Mini.’
However there is no record that BLMC ever investigated using the ADO16 platform as the basis for the corporation's new supermini, as many pundits have suggested they should have. In February 1974, as Britain was plunged into the bleak darkness that was the three day week, the ADO16 Austin De Luxe was launched in Spain. Fitted with a 998cc 55bhp A-Series engine and a grille similar to that fitted to the Austin 1300. The state of tune of the engine suggest it was a Mini Cooper type unit, out of production in the UK since the end of 1969.
The final car comes off the line
The end for UK production of the ADO16 came on 19 June 1974, when a Vanden Plas Princess 1300 left the Kingsbury plant, the last of a long line. This model had continued to sell well despite the end of mainstream 1100/1300 production. The final years of the ADO16 in the UK were not happy ones, British Leyland and its component suppliers were now hopelessly strike ridden and the economic abyss could not now be long delayed. In 1973 the corporation had announced a massive expansion plan, but it could not get its existing plants to work normally and to capacity.
While British Leyland hit the rocks in 1974, Authi in Spain discontinued production of the Austin Victoria, and in July 1975, SEAT took over the factory at Landaben. In May 1976, the Austin Apache 35 Automatic was launched in South Africa, but was discontinued in 1977, and that really was the end of the line for the ADO16, the last of at least 2,250,757 cars, making it second only to the Mini in terms of production numbers.
In Britain, the 1100/1300 series was Britain’s best selling car every year from 1963 to 1966, and 1968 to 1971. The exceptions being 1967 when the Ford Cortina Mk2 narrowly beat it, and then from 1972 onwards when production of the car was cut by the decision to concentrate assembly at Longbridge. The ADO16 was the nearest Britain got to producing a world car and in company with the Mini, it represented the high tide of the British motor industry.
Driving Morris 1100 and 1300 (ADO16) (1962 – 1974)
The ADO16 was a car a generation ahead of its time. Keith Adams drives an early Morris 1100 as owned by Declan Berridge, and is astounded by the experience. Along for the ride was a distinguished guest…
Written in 2003 by Keith Adams, photography by Declan Berridge and Keith Adams
If the Mini had been “wizardry on wheels”, then with the 1100 BMC can been seen to have pulled a rabbit out of its corporate hat, so far removed was it from the fairly safe and unremarkable rear-wheel-drive models which had previously comprised the company’s family models (Minor excepted, of course). The combination of the genius of Sir Alec Issigonis (who created the package), Dr Alex Moulton (who suspended it), Pininfarina (who styled it) and Charles Griffin (who made it all hang together) was as near to automotive perfection as it was possible to come.
Don’t believe me? Look at the facts. The ADO16 was launched in Morris form in 1962, and by the time the Austin model joined it in the marketplace a year later, it was already the best-selling car in the UK. Such was its brilliance, the UK’s family men took it to their hearts like no other car before… Was this because of BMC’s position of dominance at the time, or was it down to the strength of the product? Probably a little of both, truth be told. But the 1100 was undoubtedly the right car at the right time. Britainâs families were growing both in size and affluence, and the compact ADO16 was well-placed to embrace the family man on the rise.
The remarkable thing about the ADO16, though, was this: it was the most technically-advanced small family car to see the light of day in a very long time. It shared the Mini’s drivetrain layout, but it also came with interconnected fluid suspension – something that only those weird people at Citroen had produced before. The die was cast – in 1960s UK, Mr Average was not at all conservative. He was a daring and dynamic car buyer who chose the most advanced family car in Europe.
The ADO16 remained commercially successful throughout its production life · it was the best-selling car in the UK until 1971, and was also built in Australia, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Rhodesia and Ireland. In the UK alone, over 2 million were sold in during its 12-year run, and at its height in the mid-1960s, its production figures dwarfed those of the Mini.
So all in all, this was one amazing little car.
However, time has not been kind to the ADO16: even before it went out of production, it had gained something of a reputation for unreliability. Worse than that, the ravages of tin-worm meant that most unloved ADO16s on the roads soon looked tired and rusty. Peopleâs perception of the car soon nose-dived; no doubt helped by the poor image that the company which replaced BMC was carving for itself during the 1970s. By the beginning of the 1980s, the land was littered with rusty ADO16s that nobody wanted, and the model was regarded with as much affection as last week’s copy of the Radio Times.
This reputation as a scabby old car seems to have stuck with the ADO16 for far too long. In fact, even as late as last year, a certain motoring publisher told me that there would be no interest in a book about the ADO16, as they were owned by people who were “too poor to afford a proper classic car”. How sad and sorry that was – and to me, it seems that there is a huge gulf between what the public-at-large apparently thinks of the ADO16 and the credit it truly deserves. After all, the VW Beetle was a technical dead-end and yet it is still revered by some as the greatest car ever built.
That thinking led me to the home of Dr Alex Moulton, who kindly agreed to meet me in order to discuss the merits of this fine little car. After all, if there was a book to be written on the subject (and there should be, given the fact you can buy books on some very questionable cars), then the first person a budding author should meet in order to get the inside track about the ADO16 is the creator of its suspension, and friend to the great Issigonis. The car chosen for the journey was a remarkably well-preserved and totally unadultered 1963 Morris 1100, as owned by Declan Berridge. There were several reasons for choosing this car; not least was the fact that Moulton considers the ADO16 to be the best of all the Hydrolastic cars produced by BMC. It seemed right and proper that Dr Moulton should be re-acquainted with his car, whilst at the same time I would also get a chance to drive one in the cut and thrust of contemporary England.
When viewing the ADO16 up close, especially when parked alongside modern cars, the one thing that strikes you is its daintiness. The 1100 is small; and to a degree, its delicately crafted lines emphasize this. What passed as a perfectly adequate family car in the 1960s now fits ideally into the sub-B class of 2003. Alongside the 1100, a Ford Fiesta or Citro‘n C2 looks simply HUGE. Not only that, there’s something clumsy about the moderns, and even though common sense tells you that the thin slivers of chrome and bluff-front of the 1100 should make it look old, these features actually accentuate its delicacy and force home the fact that Pininfarina got it absolutely right with this car. Be that as it may, looking at the 1100 does make you question the growing girth of modern cars.
Getting behind the wheel of the 1100 makes one realise just how things have moved on; and that the unadorned interior is an object lesson in minimalism. There are no electric windows, no heated mirrors, no ICE, no central locking · in fact, it is quick and easy to list the equipment the 1100 does have: steering wheel, lights, four seats and an engine. Is that a bad thing? No, not really; in fact, this dearth of standard equipment allows one to focus on what it is that makes the 1100 so appealing.
For a start, it is perfectly roomy enough for four, and not in the way a Mini supposedly fits four (if they are supple, young and not too big), but it the way that a six-footer could fit in the back, seated behind another six-footer. OK, thereâs little in the way of sprawling room, but the fact of the matter is that the 1100 is a true four-seater in the way that no other similarly sized rival of the time could hope to be. The Issigonis principle of maximum interior space for the minimum road occupancy works well here, despite the fact that the Pininfarina overhangs were longer than Issigonis himself would have specified.
Up front, once you get to terms with the Mini-like upright driving position and the bus-like angle of the steering wheel, there is a lot to recommend it. Considering the fact that the 1100 is a confined car (you can touch the passenger door quite easily when sat in the driverâs seat), it is also rather airy, thanks to its generous glass area. The seating position is such that you get a commanding view of the road ahead, and ö get this ö unlike modern cars, you can actually see the bonnet. There is also generous headroom, both front and rear, despite the fact that the 1100 is not a tall car, and notwithstanding the rather upright seating position.
In fact, perhaps now is a good time to address that driving position. Much has been written about the “bus driver” position that owners of Minis, 1100s, 1800s and Metros had to suffer when piloting their cars; and it was something that road testers singularly pointed out as a significant flaw of the “Issigonis” cars. After all, it was generally regarded that such an upright driving position was too compromised for long-distance travel. Indeed, moving from a car with a more conventional, reclined, driving position to an 1100 is always something of a culture shock. The upright wheel you need to almost hunch over and the pedals that seem to be almost under you instead of a nice leg-stretch away are certainly idiosyncratic and take some getting used to. But is it an uncomfortable driving position? On the basis of my own experience, the answer to that question has to be “no”. The trip from London to Alex Moulton’s home in Wiltshire was a long one, and yet I emerged from the car without complaint… no backache, no aching limbs – nothing.
More significantly, the late 1990s saw the emergence of the Mini-MPV as the car of choice for growing families. As a result, it seemed that all mainstream hatches similarly grew upwards (as well as outwards and lengthways)… and with that growth, came more upright, Mini-like driving positions. Drive something like a Citroen C3 now, and there is something familiar about the pedal positioning and that upright seating position. Perhaps Issigonis was right all along!
To drive, this 1100 is something of a revelation; things do not start off too promisingly, however, thanks to that familiar A-series rumble and excessive gear whine. The judder that resonates through the car when the clutch takes up also fails to impress, though it seems to be a familiar BMC family trait to me… One can drive around it easily enough, but again, it cannot have been good for those who felt the need to be impressed by positive first impressions. Thanks to very low gearing, however, the 1100 sets off with a liveliness that belies its mere 48bhp power output. At urban speeds, it means that the forty-year-old car has little trouble keeping pace with the more modern traffic surrounding it. The excellent visibility and compact dimensions also mean that the mean streets should hold no fear for the little car. The depressing number of potholes found in the average UK city does not do the 1100 any favours, though; it tends to crash over them and the interconnected setup has little chance of dealing with any sharp irregularities at low speeds. However, to confine the 1100 to the urban grind would be to do it a real disservice; the driver simply would not see the benefits of the interconnected Hydrolastic system.
Move away from the urban sprawl, and matters improve considerably: as speeds increase, the ride smooths out nicely, and undulations are handled with aplomb. That famous Hydrolastic “bounce” manifests itself in the most interesting way – when the 1100 mounts a bump, the entire car rises, then falls – importantly, remaining level. It is a little disconcerting the first couple of times it happens, but the driver soon gets used to it. Personally speaking, this “bounce” is something that I find quite amusing, and if nothing else, can be viewed as an amiable eccentricity.
The pay-off for this is the car’s fantastic handling. Back in 1962, family cars were expected to wallow, crash and bang – they were simply not interested in going around corners, and suffered A-roads because they had to. The 1100 changed all that. Venture onto a typical English B-road in it, and the first thing that strikes the driver when he hits a corner is the fact that there is almost no body roll. Allied to the compliant ride, this makes punting the 1100 a very rewarding experience indeed. The no-roll attitude gives the driver immediate confidence, and in no time at all, corners are being taken at some very interesting speeds indeed. The steering, which is quite heavy at parking speeds, comes alive at speed: it is direct, and most importantly, delivers feedback from the road to the driver in spadeloads.
It doesn’t so much tell the driver about the road he’s driving on, but shouts its message through a megaphone! The 1100 driver really is wired directly in… and it makes the B-road run a real pleasure. Just as well, really. The engine has no power in any meaningful sense of the word, and as a result, if the driver that wants to make any headway, he will do so by simply driving flat out everywhere, corners included. Thankfully, the little engine is heavy on torque and undergeared, so one does not have to change gear too often… just leave it in fourth, go and steer! Just try that in a rear-engined Volkswagen of the same era…
Dr Moulton agreed. Driving extremely smoothly around some demanding unclassified roads near his house which he “knows every inch of”, Moulton simply kept repeating the word, “extraordinary”. In a good way, of course. And who could be better qualified to judge the 1100′s abilities than this man who had such a prominent hand in creating it. To say that Moulton was complimentary would be an understatement… Indeed, “extrordinary” summed-up the 1100 for him – in ride, in handling, in packaging and in steering. Some achievement. Especially as this was coming from a man whose garage is home to a Bentley Mulsanne and Citroen XM, amongst others.
Without doubt then, the 1100 inherited the Mini’s fun-to-drive persona, but with an extra degree of civility and space. The end result was a rather appealing proposition…
However, at the time this particular 1100 left the production line, the UK was rapidly moving into the motorway age, and it is here that it both impresses and disappoints in equal measure. Directional stability is excellent, and the steering continues its habit of feeding the surface’s most intimate details to the driver. The ride remains smooth – and overall, one gets the impression that the 1100 was designed with motorways very much in mind. Disappointingly, however, the low gearing that serves it so well in the city and on B-roads, means that the A-series drone becomes a constant and irritating companion. Like all four-cylinder engines, there is a mid-range resonance that can be defeated, and above 65mph the engine smooths out. Thankfully, there is no tachometer; I would hate to see at what revs it is turning over at 70+ mph! Still, a little motorway noise can be forgiven given the car’s age, and once the driver accepts that this car’s effective maximum cruising speed is 55-60mph, then motorway travel can be quite painless.
Dynamically sound, the ADO16 certainly proved to be an interesting and fun car to drive on the day. In terms of practicality, the boot is bigger than one would expect, and as noted before, the interior room is acceptable, given its size. Being A-series-powered, the fuel consumption should remain on the right side of 40mpg, if driven with a degree of sensibility. Performance is a little weak in standard 1100 form, but it was perfectly in keeping with the opposition at the time (the Cortina 1200 would take 22.5 seconds to “sprint” from 0-60; roughly the same as the 1100). To address this, 1275cc versions were eventually offered, and in the hands of the road testers, they returned perfectly acceptable performance figures.
All in all then, and in the context of the time, the ADO16 is an extrordinary achievement, just as Dr Moulton himself professed. Handling of this order in small and unassuming family cars was not on any of its rivals’ menus, and it took until the early 1970s for the others to catch up. More significantly, it proved to be the template from which all of BMC’s rivals could produce their own small cars. The Mini was a marvel, but in real terms it was the 1100 that proved to be the far more significant car – one only has to look at the 1971 Alfasud and 1974 Volkswagen Golf to see just how influential it was.
Only the lack of a hatchback and a bit of a weight problem stopped the ADO16 going on to be the classic 1970s supermini, to fight the likes of the Fiesta and Polo, but it was considered long-in-the-tooth by the Leyland management that came in and swamped BMC in 1968. The interesting thing was that although the ADO16 was regarded as being some ten years ahead of its time when launched, its replacement was in many ways disappointing for not carrying that momentum forward. Yes, the Allegro was a little bigger, and offered a bigger range of engines, but there was precious little else to recommend it over the outgoing car. All of a sudden, the opposition caught up with and passed BL, and that golden opportunity created by the ADO16 was lost forever.
Today, far too few people realise just how ground-breaking the ADO16 was in its day. Driving this 1963 Morris brought it home to me – I just wonder how long will it take for everyone else to see it the same way…
Morris 1100 and 1300 (ADO16) (1962 – 1974) Buying Guide
What to look for
Oh dear! One thing the Austin 1100/1300 is famous for is its ability to rot. However talented Issigonis may have been in other directions, he wasn’t that great at designing cars which were capable of resisting tinworm. An 1100/1300 will willingly rust anywhere, given the chance, especially if it’s a car that sees a lot of use, as many of these vehicles still do.
The front wings are a logical place to start your investigation. Corrosion hits around the seams where the wings connect to the front panel (in much the same way as they affect Minis) and can also break out around the headlamps and sidelights. This isn’t all with the front wings, for the lower rear edge, next to the door, also deteriorates easily. It’s not only the outer panel you’ll have to be worried about as well, since the inner wings are prone to problems too. You may find trouble at the top of the inner wing, so check it out from under the arch and from under the bonnet as well. The outer wing mounting flange – which is behind the wiring loom – is a particularly vulnerable spot, as are the locales around the fuse box and starter solenoid.
Your engine bay investigations shouldn’t just be confined to this area, as there’s the bulkhead where it forms into a shelf under the washer bottle. As you might expect, it’s a prime location for collecting water. The area around the clutch and brake master cylinders also suffers as a result of spillage. At least the bonnet doesn’t usually rust…but check it anyway. It’s a BMC/British Leyland product after all…
Naturally, the sills aren’t the most resilient of items. Even if there’s no obvious signs of rust, you should look at the fit as well, for it could just be a cover item, fitted to disguise serious problems underneath. If the sill tapers in towards the rear, or doesn’t have a step at the front which slots in behind the front wing, suspect a cover item. It’s a good idea to take a magnet along with you just to check for filler disguising faults. The body number is stamped on the nearside sill door step – either near or under the front door seal – which is often welded over if the sills have been touched. However, it’s likely that most 1100/1300s will have had their sills done by now, so a more surefire way of checking for bodges is to look underneath the car for spot welds.
Above the sills, both sets of doors will start to disappear from the bottom upwards, thanks to water getting inside. The bootlids are also known for going at their bottom edges, as is the boot itself, although its tinworm troubles start in each corner. You can see the edge of the box section that supports the rear spring mountings inside the boot as well, but you’ll get a better idea of how rusty (or otherwise) these areas are by looking under the rear seat (see interior section) The rear valance can also corrode, and the bottoms of the back wings can be bedeviled by tin worm too.
All the four wheelarches are susceptible to rust, although the back ones will probably be in a more advanced state of decay than the front ones. Don’t just look at what you can see outside, but also at the inner wings as well.
On GT cars, feel the vinyl roof for crunchiness underneath, a pointer to water having got trapped underneath.
Trim on all cars can be quite difficult to find. It’s all out there somewhere if you search enough autojumbles, but is getting rare now, especially for the less plentiful cars like the Riley, MG, Wolseley or Vanden Plas. So, do check the brightwork, because putting right damaged or corroded parts might be more involved than you think.
Hydrolastic suspension is a pretty good system that cuts out a lot of the moving parts that can go wrong on cars with a conventional set-up. Theoretically, it’s sealed for life, but then again, BMC and BL probably weren’t planning on too many 1100/1300s having a life of over 40 years! Check that the car sits fairly and squarely all around all around. If it’s down on one side, it suggests a leak – look for fluid on the ground – but you might get away with a £20 or £30 pump up from a garage or one of the rapidly diminishing network of MG Rover dealers.
CV joints wearing out are relatively common. A clicking noise from a front wheel when cornering points to the joint being on its way out, but don’t worry too much. They’re cheap ’n’ easy to put right.
Lift the carpets to check the floorpan – but especially check the front corners in the footwells, plus the seatbelt mountings and the inner sills. If the carpets are wet when you touch them (and it’s not raining outside), it points to water getting in where it shouldn’t ought to… probably from the bulkhead around the heater or the footwell kickplates.
Underneath the rear seat, you’ll be able to check the rear subframe mounts and how rusty they are. It’s a tricky area to put right, but sadly very dangerous if tinworm is too far advanced.
Now to the nice stuff – the furnishings. As with the outside, missing trim won’t be that easy to source without a search, and if you need to fully retrim a Vanden Plas, it could almost approach Rolls-Royce levels of expenditure!
Front subframes don’t usually suffer from problems, thanks to their close proximity to the engine, which usually ensures a nice supply of corrosion-proofing oil. However, do investigate the mountings – you can see them from inside the engine bay, at the lower front corners.
Rear subframes are another matter though. They corrode quite readily and can also suffer stress fractures, thanks to hitting kerbs and also incorrect jacking (as a result of using the rear crossmember). Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to spot cracks because of all the grime/underseal that usually coats the frame.
Don’t forget to look at the petrol tank. It can rust around the seams, with the result that scary leaks occur.
While all the gearboxes whine a little – it’s part of their character – a loud one or a rattle coming from gearbox idler gear (near the clutch) while the car is underway points to a worn bearing. If it isn’t sorted out, it will eventually damage the casing itself, and then your only solution will be a new gearbox. Don’t be bothered about gear chatter while the car is just idling – that’s just another transverse front-wheel-drive A-series transmission personality trait. You’ll learn to love it in the end.
Clunks when pulling away can point to a few possible maladies. Best case scenarios are just worn engine or gearbox mountings, the result of worn bushes or a stabiliser bar not doing what it should be. More worrying are worn driveshaft couplings…pull the shafts and feel for any play.
The four-speed automatic AP gearboxes don’t play up very often, but don’t expect sophistication from them. They’re generally a bit leaden with their changes, and often seem uncertain as to what ratio they should be in, but listen out for strange noises and feel for (very) rough changes as signs of a ’box approaching the end of its life. Squealing at low revs points to a blocked engine breather, especially if accompanied by an uncertain tickover too.
The A-series may be a British motive power legend, but don’t take its supposed ruggedness and longevity for granted. Yes, they’re very easy to work on and parts are still everywhere, but lack of care will hasten their demise sooner rather than later.
High oil pressure doesn’t really mean much – these engines can soldier on showing a good reading right up until the second they kill themselves – but on cars fitted with an oil gauge, anything less than 40psi simply isn’t healthy.
You can check the condition of the engine stabiliser mountings – as mentioned in the section on the gearbox as well – by grasping the engine and trying to rock it back and forth. If there’s significant movement, then the mountings will need replacing. Advanced trouble in this department will show up during a test drive with the A-series actually shuddering when drive is taken up. It can feel like a pendulum on very bad examples, and on cars like this, ancillary items – such as the exhaust or pipework – can get damaged because of the constant shaking.
Do keep an eye on the temperature gauge. While the side-mounted radiators usually operate efficiently enough, they don’t get any direct air flow from the grille, so the fan doing its job well is important, as are clear waterways.
Don’t expect the engine to be particularly quiet, thanks to inevitable A-series tappet noise and timing chain rattle. However, noisy timing chains are simple enough to put right and won’t bash your wallet. Listen out for rumbles and other worrying noises from deep within the engine, for they indicate an imminent engine rebuild or replacement on the cards. Look for the usual signs of blue smoke from the exhaust and/or under the filler cap for further proof of potential problems.
You shouldn’t expect the engines to be completely oil tight either, with the multigrade making a break for it from the driveshaft couplings, timing chain cover and where the block joins the gearbox. Most owners just live with it…and unless there’s a veritable flood of black stuff, it’s not much to worry about.
Running Morris 1100 and 1300 (ADO16) (1962 – 1974)
The 1100 Club, www.the1100club.com
MG Car Club, Kimber House, PO Box 251, Abingdon, Oxford, OX14 1FF. Tel: 01235 555552 or www.mgcars.org.uk/carclub/
MG Owners Club, Octagon House, Over Road, Swavesey, Cambridge, CB4 5QZ. Tel: 01954 231125 or www.mgownersclub.co.uk
Riley Motor Club, c/o Brian Lowe, 154 Cot Lane, Kingswinford, West Midlands, DY6 9SB. Tel: 01384 273878
Vanden Plas Owners Club, c/o Brian Peebles, The Ferns, Tripenhad Road, Ferryside, Carmarthenshire SA17 5RS or www.vpoc.info
Wolseley Register, c/o Cindy Shilton, Wolseley House, 1 Priory Crescent, Roade, Northants NN7 2NF or www.wolseley.dircon.co.uk
As well as the specialists listed below, Mini specialists should be able to help out with a lot of mechanical parts too.
RPM Workshops, Derbyshire. Tel: 01246 455540
BL Transverse, London. Tel: 020 8654 3069
New/Old Stock, Ayrshire. Tel: 01246 455540 or www.austin1100-1300.co.uk
Bumper to Bumper, Suffolk. Tel: 01502 740128
Earlpart, Derbyshire. Tel: 01773 719504
Ex-Pressed Steel Panels, Yorks. Tel: 01535 632721 or www.steelpanels.co.uk
Morris 1300 Mk2
|69 lb ft
|74 lb ft