The model for Morris’s new direction, born out of the ADO 28 project started in 1968, was called the Marina, and it was a simple classic three-volume saloon, with a front engine and rear-wheel drive but which shared components with other models in the BL Group in order to contain costs.
In the late 1960s, British Leyland decided to differentiate the products offered by the Austin and Morris marques, which had previously offered identical models with minor details differences and different badges, from each other. The old strategy was considered self-defeating and counterproductive, as it produced identical models sold under different marques, bringing the two marques into competition with each other.
The model for Morris’s new direction, born out of the ADO 28 project started in 1968, was called the Marina, and it was a simple classic three-volume saloon, with a front engine and rear-wheel drive but which shared components with other models in the BL Group in order to contain costs. It was introduced in 1971 and provided for two body styles: a two-door coupé and a traditional four-door saloon, to which, in 1973, and Estate version was added with Station Wagon bodywork. The main reason for the introduction of the saloon was to counter the growing success of the Ford Cortina in the United Kingdom. The Marina had been conceived as a competitor to the Cortina, but had features designed to compete with the MkII version, which had almost reached the end of its production life. Unfortunately, after a short time the new MkIII version of the Ford Cortina was launched, bigger and with a more refined design, and that was the reason the Marina never succeeded in completely counteracting the Cortina with its styling and fittings one step down.
In 1978 the Marina’s styling was revised, with new plastic bumpers and redesigned interiors. Mechanically the engines were retained, including the tried and tested A-Series 1275 cc engine alongside the O-series engine used by the Austin Maxi, with its 1748 cc engine developing 75 or 98 bhp. Despite the fact the quality of the car was not great and it suffered many reliability problems, Morris managed to sell 1,200,000 examples in its 9 years of production.
The Marina left the assembly lines to be replaced by the Morris Ital, a major restyle of the former, which had been styled by Harris Mann, whilst its replacement was partly the work of Italdesign Giugiaro (hence the name Ital). The Ital remained in production until 1984, and the ending of its production also marked the disappearance of the glorious Morris marque, founded by William Richard Morris back in 1913.
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
Copyright © Cars Forgotten Stories. All rights reserved.