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BMC 1100/1300

THE MAXIMUM MINI Published: 18th Jan 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMC 1100/1300
BMC 1100/1300
BMC 1100/1300
BMC 1100/1300
BMC 1100/1300
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A Mini but bigger and arguably better, BMC’s 1100/1300 was one of the most advanced cars of its era. So how come there are now so few around?

Fifty years ago, we were at the start of a space race – no not the one to the moon but nearer to home – your driveway in fact! The fight for family man motoring started three years earlier with the Anglia and Mini, and the two designs couldn’t be more different. BMC went the technological route whilst Ford played it ultra conservative, and yet the pair traded blows and sales positions continually during this iconic decade.

When the 1100 was first introduced as a Morris (Austin didn’t arrive until ’63) the Mini was hardly the sales success it turned out to be; the public – importantly fleet managers – were suspicious of new-fangled ideas that came from BMC. Austin Drawing Office 16 was the Mini scaled up plus boasting Hydrolastic fluid suspension and front disc brakes; making the cart-sprung drum-braked Cortina seem pre-historic. Although, tellingly, it was the Ford which made the company money!


Costing £593, the BMC saloon was even cheaper than the Anglia at launch although this was in part due to a reduction in purchase tax. It was Anglia rather than Cortina-sized too thanks to its east-west engine yet as roomy as the Cortina, even if the boot wasn’t as vast. Quickly BMC played its badge-engineering card by offering a sporty MG version as well as upmarket Wolseley and Riley (Kestrel) offshoots, although the real flagship was the ‘mini Rolls’ Vanden Plas Princess. Ticketed at a hefty £895 back in 1963 it was £200 pricier than the MG it was based upon and almost as dear as a Ford Zodiac but they sold well nevertheless. A clever if unreliable semi-auto gearbox became an option (1964) with the really workmanlike Austin-Morris Countryman estates introduced in 1966. In October ‘67 the gutsier 1275cc A-Series engine became an option, providing quite vivid performance for its time.

The 1275 unit was a simple enough choice on the popular brands but on the rest there was a curious mix as you could have an 1100 with a 1300 engine and vice versa with single or twin carbs, depending upon model. This meant that you could have an MG 1300 albeit detuned with a single carb! On the other hand, the 1968 MGs had the benefit of a 70bhp engine which was two-thirds Cooper S spec, along with a closer ratio gearbox. These two desirable features were shared with the raffish Riley variant although on the latter it was sadly short lived as the marque was killed off in ’69, by which time a working class Austin-Morris 1300GT surfaced, complete with fashionable vinyl roof and lairy paint schemes all for £910; ideal for those who had outgrown their clapped out Mini Cooper.

A mild facelift in 1972 with some garish fake wood for the interior saw out the design as it made way for the Allegro, the final models leaving the showrooms in 1974.


For growing families having outgrown their Minis, the 1100/1300 was a logical choice and a lot more modern than, say, the Morris Minor, which stayed in production until 1971. It boasted that same Mini-like space utilisation for the 2.4 children (the estates remain excellent holdalls) yet the keen driver could still play around as though they were chucking their beloved Mini about. It was one of the liveliest 1300s you could buy with that lovely low speed pull the A-Series engine is famed for. If you could afford the insurance (yes, it was even a problem back then, kids!)then the MGs and Rileys were cracking cultured pocket rockets to enjoy like a Cooper yet were also comfortable enough – if a little travel sick-inducing thanks to that fluid suspension – to take Grandma out in on a Sunday.

For the DIY man the 1100 was a lot nicer and more spacious to work on than a Mini, but that old bugbear of rear subframe and floor rot was as bad as ever. It wasn’t uncommon to see four/five year old examples fail the MoT over this, with older cars regularly scrapped due to the high cost of repairs. You could, if so inclined, save yours by turning it into a Magenta or Ranger kit car which was like a big Caterham or a practical estate but both lacked the fun factor of a Beach Buggy! Practical Motorist magazine liked the 1100 and 1300, if for no other reason than that there were always plenty of DIY jobs to write about. The monthly particularly praised the MG and VP models which were a bit out-of-kilter with the readership’s paint fading, rotting, oil burning C-reg 1100; but nevertheless thought that the MGs in both 1100 and 1300 forms were “a delightful little car” that lived up to the MG name. It dubbed the Princess a “baby Bentley” decades before those WAGS got in on the act…

Motor in 1964 criticised that car’s plush interior and particularly the thicker seats for robbing the rear of precious leg room but concluded that “There is probably no other production car in the world that combines so much luxury with 40mpg”.

The more critical Car reckoned the 1100/1300 was the only front wheel-drive car Alec Issigonis designed that was a “styling success” (it was eventually done by Pininfarina, mind) but reckoned the driving position made one feel “like a dwarf bus driver”. Bouncy ride apart, it commended the handling saying “It’s almost up to Mini standards”.

In many ways we didn’t appreciate what we had with Austin Drawing Office number 16 until it was replaced by the indifferent Allegro, a car which was supposed to have improved on the 1100/1300 but actually did not – save for five-speed gearboxes and a bigger boot.

You see all too few ADO 16s at classic events now, but at the 50th anniversary of the car, held at Gaydon’s Heritage Centre, a healthy number of arguably Issigonis’ finest work gathered to commemorate what was the first truly modern family ferrier and perhaps the Ford Focus of its day.


Asides from starring in what appeared to be every Public Information Film made in the 1970s and an Austin 1100 Countryman being thrashed by a very tall hotelier, a Morris 1100 was driven by Dirk Bogarde in ‘Darling’ and the Mk2 version was re-united with John Cleese in ‘Clockwise’. Monty Python used a MG 1300 to warn of the dangers of ‘Killer Cars’ but the most surprising ADO16 appearance is of the MG 1100 Sport Sedan in ‘Redline 7000’.

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