Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

BMC Farinas

Published: 8th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas
BMC Farinas

Buyer Beware

  • These cars employ a monocoque body with extensive bracing underneath. Exterior panels can and do rust, but it is the chassis rails and box sections underneath that give much of its strength. The triangular junction of rail and outrigger under each front footwell are usually a good indication of the structure’s overall condition.
  • The box section behind the front valence can rust away unseen and needs checking. The front crossmember-to-chassis joint also needs careful inspection to ensure it is sound.
  • Radial tyres can grip well enough to crack the front chassis where the steering box is attached. From 1964, a strengthening plate was added to rectify this. You will need to file a small part of this away if you want to convert to alternator power.
  • The lower pressed steel spring pan on the front suspension can trap water and rust out. Later cars are even more vulnerable as the spacers used to lower the car also increase the gap here and let more muck in along with the water.
  • Rear springs tend to sag with age. Fitting the seven leaf items from an estate can perk up the tail.
  • A bearing rattle on start-up from cold means the B-Series bottom end is worn. It can plod on for ages in that state, but ideally deserves an overhaul.
  • Some tappet noise is expected. If the engine is silent, the clearances have probably closed up (valve seat recession) or been over-adjusted.Timing chains can clatter on for years too.
  • If the car bobs up and down under braking or on the motorway, the front dampers probably need replacing. Rear ones tend to knock when worn.
  • Interiors varied markedly between models and finding good secondhand interior trim in the exact specification you want will not be easy, so look carefully at what you have got.Wood veneer and leather seats can be very expensive to repair, certainly far more than the cars are strictly worth, so don’t dismiss water damage or tears lightly.
  • Good chrome is rare, the rear overrriders being particularly hard to find.
  • If you can smell exhaust fumes in the car, it could just be the very back of the tailpipe that has rusted through and is allowing gas to get in via the rear quarterlights. BMC added an extra eight inches to the pipe in 1962 to help stop fumes seeping in.
  • Look out for leaking screens front and rear - although thankfully new seals are available.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Drab, even sporting MG, but okay for genteel classic motoring

  • Usability: 3/5

    Mediocre performance accepted, these make rugged transport

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Mechanicals no problem but body parts are becoming a worry

  • Owning: 3/5

    Will appeal to those who had one in the family during the 1960s

  • Value: 4/5

    A lot of metal for your money - MG, Rileys most coveted

Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Big, comfortable and oozing period charm, isn't it time you stopped listening to the armchair critics and discovered how much fun a Farina can be? Simon Goldswor thy puts the case for BMC's 1960s mid-liner

The marriage of Austin with Nuffield in 1952 created a tangled web of competing companies under one roof. Clearly some sort of rationalisation was both desirable and inevitable, and this started by standardising engines on the A, B and C series. But what the new company really needed to make the most of its many resources was a large scale reduction in the number of competing models it sold. Unfortunately for the future of the British motor industry, that never happened and the 1.5-litre Farinas were as close as BMC ever got to untangling its complicated model line-up. The first steps in this direction were taken late in 1955, when Pininfarina of Italy was commissioned to help pen the styling that would take BMC forward into the 1960s. The first fruit of this collaboration was the diminutive Austin A40 of 1958, a clever re-packaging of the A35’s mechanical underpinnings. Attention then turned to the rather dumpy Austin A55 Cambridge. This car’s proven mechanicals were also carried over to a body that was sharper, two inches wider and a full 12 inches longer. With many dealers unwilling to give up their traditional marque allegiance and BMC fearful of losing sales if that were to happen, Sid Goble at Cowley was charged with tweaking the basic design to create Nuffield versions, but only by altering the bonnets, grille, paint and trim. As a result, BMC could sell Austin, Morris,Wolseley, MG and Riley versions of what was essentially the same car. It made perfect commercial sense at the time and, although the press criticised what it rather dismissively called badge engineering, BMC’s conservative clientele bought around 900,000 of the things in a production run that lasted from 1959 to 1971.

Which model to buy?

There was a definite hierarchy when these cars were new. The Austin Cambridge was always the cheapest of the bunch, with the Morris Oxford costing a little more and having a less austere dash. Both were available in standard or De Luxe forms, the latter boasting such niceties as leather seat facings instead of vinyl, a heater and a clock. The Wolseley was next up the ladder with more interior luxury including wood for the dash and doors, followed by the MG Magnette which carried over ZB Magnette’s octagonal instruments but enjoyed more pep than the lower Farinas thanks to an uprated motor and a pair of carburettors. Top of the tree was the Riley, which combined the MG’s performance with Wolseley levels of luxury. And while all of this could still affect your choice of model today, in reality the condition of any particular car on offer will be far more important than the badge it wears. Bodily, the Riley and MG came with toned down rear fins from the outset, cut back by 30 degrees which was a stylistic success. They kept these fins even after the revisions of 1961 saw those on the other models toned down considerably. The revised ADO38 cars from 1961 were also undeniably better handlers than their ADO9 forbears, but the difference on the road is not nearly as marked as some would have you believe. This may be partly because the appeal of these cars is, and always has been, as comfortable and practical saloons with little in the way of sporting pretensions. If you want a Farina to chuck about, then it doesn’t really matter what you start with as you will end up carrying out some or many of the modifications we touch on later.

Behind the wheel?

You notice just how low geared these pre motorway cars were

The cabin feels huge, because it is. Even the bulkiest of drivers will be able to get comfortable, and still leave enough room for back seat passengers. The controls are generally light and pleasant to use, although the steering can be heavy at slow speeds. There will inevitably be some slack at the wheel, two inches of free play not being uncommon. But the car should still track true along the road, particularly if it has been fitted with radials. One of the first things you notice on the move is just how low-geared these pre motorway cars were. You can change the axle ratio to get better cruising, but they are heavy old beasts and this will knock the acceleration badly. Later cars with the 1622cc engine will wind up to 80mph eventually, but they are very revvy at speed and feel much happier cruising at a more sedate 55-60mph cruise. There is no synchromesh on first, but with the low overall gearing this is rarely a problem. Synchromesh is notoriously weak on second gear, and few cars will show much trace of it by now. The gearchange should feel smooth enough though, excessive slop usually indicating that the plastic ball has fallen off the bottom of the gearstick. Radial tyres make a big improvement to the soggy handling, particularly on the revised cars. There will be plenty of body roll through the corners mind, particularly on the ADO9 cars, and this can be accompanied by uncomfortable axle tramp. The rear anti-roll bar fitted to ADO38 cars does improve matters and it can be retrofitted to ADO9 vehicles, but a large degree of understeer remains common to them all. You can improve matters further by swapping over to the thicker anti-roll bar as fitted to the later Marina/Ital, though you’ll need Midget links to do the job. These BMC cars are not the fastest out of the traps, 23.5 seconds from 0-60mph being quoted for the A55 Cambridge and even the so called sporting MkIV Magnette taking a leisurely 19.5 seconds. Fortunately top gear pull and flexibility is good, so if you sit back and relax, then you are more likely to enjoy the ride. That is, after all, how they were designed to be driven

The Daily Option?

Good honest family saloons with lashings of period charm

The Farina mechanicals are as tough and reliable as old boots. Come to think of it, the body is too, so long as rust isn’t allowed to get a hold. Economy of 30-35mpg should be common, helped along if you ditch the recommended 82degree thermostat and fit an uprated 88degree one instead. That will also help you get more out of the heater. The Farina is a fairly large car for regular town use, but visibility is excellent and those prominent rear fins make placing the rear corners a real doddle when parking. And if you are used to a modern hatch, then prepare to be amazed by how capacious and easy to load the boot is. If you feel the need for a little more power under your right foot, standard engines can be modified to MGA spec using an MGB or Marina head and MGB cam (remember to grind a scallop off the combustion chamber to clear the valves, and be sure to use the Marina rocker pillars if you use a Marina head otherwise the oil holes will not line up). Alternatively the early MGB 1798cc three main bearing is an easy swap if you can find one going spare, the later five bearing units requiring more mixing and matching of parts to mate them with the gearbox. The pictured car has been modified from standard with wider MGB GT wheels together with a tuned MGB engine bored out to 1840cc. This has been mated to an overdrive gearbox from the MGB, but this is not an easy conversion as the tunnel has to be widened to take it - probably only cost-effective as part of a wider restoration. The brakes have also been augmented with a servo operating on the original drums. You can convert to discs from a London Taxi of all things or any of the big six Austin/Wolseley range from the 1950s, but will need to fit MGB steel disc wheels to clear them.

Ease of Ownership?

The maintenance regimes of these cars may seem slightly onerous to us today, but this is only because cars have become such throwaway items. If you want to use any classic on a regular basis, then you will have to take more care of it. Early cars have loads of grease points, but greasing regimes on all variants need to be strict: front kingpins only have a felt seal to protect the bottom bush but need a few squirts from the grease gun every 1000 miles or so - or three times a year for most owners. The drum brakes are more than adequate for the standard or mild tune engines, but they do need to be set up properly. This includes bleeding them with the front shoes wound fully off and the back ones wound fully on. Rust protection and repair are likely to be your biggest bugbears, though. Full panels are few and far between, although there are repair sections available for most of the trouble spots and fibreglass wings can be a cheap way of keeping a car respectable and mobile. If you do find second-hand panels, then doors and bootlids are common, front wings are interchangeable except on the A60 Cambridge and MkIV Oxford, while front bumpers are only different on the Wolseley. Dashes are straightforward to swap, as they all fix to the same mounting holes. Mechanical components are still ery easy to find and generally cheap as chips.



First steps towards, rationalisation starting back in 1952 as the formation of the British Motor Corporation sees the B-Series engine adopted by both Austin and Morris, although otherwise the car ranges share very little.


The new 1.5-litre class is set to show the way forward for model rationalisation within the sprawling conglomerate. The Wolseley 15/60 is the first of the new. Styling is modern but mechanical components are utterly conventional.


Austin Cambridge A55 MkII joins the party in January 1959, followed by the Morris Oxford Series V in March. MG Magnette MkIII has more power care of twin carbs; Riley 4/68 combinesthis with added luxury.


Estate versions become available, with traditional Countryman (Austin) and Traveller (Morris) name tags. They have a rear anti-roll bar to help cope with full loads, and stiffer seven-leaf rear springs.


Revised range in August (known as the ADO38) fitted with enlarged 1622cc B-Series and reworked chassis. Now called Austin A60 Cambridge, Morris Oxford Series VI,Wolseley 16/60, MG Magnette MkIV and Riley 4/72. Automatic option using Borg Warner 35 becomes an option without sapping too much engine power.


Diesels were rare back then, but BMC had one. However this 1489cc oil burner was always relatively unpopular, yet appealed to some export models and taxi drivers willing to put up with a 62mph max and snail pace.


The MG Magnette saloon, never particularly a successful seller thanks to the unhappy marriage of a genuine sporting heritage with distinctly un-sporting family saloon underpinnings, ends in April.


Riley and Austin Cambridge versions both bow out of production, the Riley name never to reappear and Austin to concentrate on its fwd saloons, such as the new Maxi and the improving 1800 (which was initially badged Cambridge).


Morris and Wolseley variants bring production of the ADO9/38 Farinas to an end. Morris name soldiers on but it's the end of the line for the cultured Wolseley brand. Final Farina tally was 866,000.

We Reckon...

These four-cylinder Farinas were once just a part of our street furniture, but their numbers have been decimated by time, neglect and the banger racers. Badly informed critics will dismiss them as dull and boring, but that is complete nonsense. The trick is to relax into their natural driving style and accept them for what they are: good, honest family saloons with lashings of period charm. But with an MGB engine…

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Latest Issue