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BMC 1100/1300

BMC 1100/1300 Published: 24th Oct 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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ADO 16 was the natural progression of the Mini theme offering more space and refinement yet it’s just as good to drive

The Mini may be the one with the lasting appeal but its bigger (better?) brother, the 1100/1300 range, showed the innovative Issigonis packing in its best light. Launched in 1962, along with the Ford Cortina, these rivals, that vied for the top selling slot during the 1960s and early 70s, were like chalk and cheese with Ford sticking to conventionality but BMC showcasing some quite cutting edge design and engineering features which were a step up from the Mini such as its fluid suspension. Thanks to its timeless appeal, the original brick on wheels will always have the upper hand over virtually any other FWD BMC model, but it comes at a cost. What ADO 16 offers instead is Mini-like fun and minimum prices.

On the move

Issigonis wasn’t a stylist and it showed in his work but the first thing which strikes you about the 1100/1300 is the car’s clean and well proportioned styling and you can thank Italian Pininfarina for that. A much smarter car than the dumpy Allegro replacement, if anything, it’s the square cut estates which show off the lines the best in our view.

The interior is far more inviting than the Mini and is equally space efficient being no bigger than a Ford Anglia on the outside yet is Cortina-sized inside. The driving position is Mini bus-like but not as severe and all trim levels were good for their day, especially the badge-engineered MG, Wolseley and Riley (Kestrel) offshoots, although the real fl agship was the ‘mini Rolls’ Vanden Plas Princess even if it lacked true refi nement that befitted a price tag which was of Ford Zodiac proportions. 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”.

By rights the posher versions should command the most money yet today’s trends dictate that the boy-racer looking Austin/Morris 1300 GT is the ADO that there’s much ado about. Launched in 1969 it’s virtually an MG but in four-door only form with racier 1960’s plastic trim. Prices now surpass those of the more tasteful MG and Riley – it takes all sorts!

All ADO 16s are powered by the gusty A-Series engine and even the 1100 (the same 1098cc engine used by the Morris Minor) feels pleasantly vivid around town although it’s the beefier 60bhp 1275cc ‘1300’ which really gives this small family saloon a big heart. In its time, it was one of the liveliest 1300s you could buy but still with that lovely low speed pull the A-Series engine is famed for. When launched, the standard tune 1275cc engine also replaced the earlier, lightly tuned 55bhp twin carb 1100 unit fitted to the upmarket MG, Riley and Wolseley versions yet was still notably quicker and, with better gear ratios also helping, less frenzied on the motorway.

Posher post 1967 cars enjoy the benefit of a particularly perky 70bhp engine that’s two-thirds to Cooper S specification. Along with a special closer ratio gearbox, albeit only on the MG, it makes them swifter than a normal Cooper, more on par with a Midget and just as much fun with a distinctive touch of class about them. Thanks to 12 inch wheels, the larger body and better soundproofing, the 1100/1300 is lot less tiring at out of town speeds than any Mini.

The automatic transmission is a novelty. Made by British Automotive Products, like the rest of the ADO 16 design, it was years ahead of its time being a semi auto with full manual override when demanded. True, they didn’t have flappy paddles back then and instead relied on manual shifting but the effect is much the same and road test reports have cars in the ‘manual shifting mode’ as quick as a normal transmission. The downside is that this unit is now very costly to repair plus parts and specialists are becoming thin on the ground catering for it.

Round the corners

Minis were predominantly purchased for their kart-like cornering prowess and while its bigger brother can’t quite match it for cross country capers, the ADO 16 isn’t lagging behind that much either. The basics remain constant which is for the most part tenacious roadholding with strong understeer prominent when pushed plus equally strong ‘tuck in’ when the throttle is closed, a trait which varies in both Minis and ADO 16s it seems but one, along with steering wheel fight, traits which are much reduced on moderns. By playing with the throttle in such manner during quick cornering skilled drivers can use this to their advantage and period road tests reckoned the 1100/1300 handled better than many 60’s sports cars.

CAR, bouncy ride apart, said of the ahead-of-its-time handling that “It’s almost up to Mini standards”.

What let the car down was its fluid suspension. “Contrary to popular belief the Hydrolastic suspension does not give a magic carpet ride” warned Motor in 1966 and the bouncy possibly travel sick inducing behaviour is not a patch on a Citroën DS. However, playing with tyre and suspension pressures can help and it’s certainly superior to other similar aged classic family cars feeling like a Rolls-Royce compared to an early ‘dry’ suspended Mini!

Go or no go

For growing families having outgrown their Minis back in the day, the 1100/1300 was a logical alternative and a lot more modern than, say, the beloved Morris Minor, which stayed in production until 1971, two years before the ADO 16 was replaced by the Allegro (although the 1100/1300 remained in service for another year). And 45 years on we regard the 1100/1300 range as a very underrated family classic because it boasts that same Mini-like space utilisation (the estates remain quite brilliant holdalls) yet the keen driver can still play around as though he or she were still chucking their beloved Mini about. In many ways we didn’t appreciate what we had with Austin Drawing Office Number 16 until it was replaced by the indifferent Allegro.

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE All are brisk but 1300s best. Sporty versions are Cooper quick

CRUISING Much better than a Mini, 1300s benefit from higher gearing

HANDLING Almost as good as a Mini but the ride will not please everybody

BRAKES Up to the job and improved for 1300s

EASE OF USE Just the job for Mini fans who want something bigger

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