The UK has a proud history of creating memorable cars and that’s personified with the Pride of Ownership competition held at the NEC Classic Motor Show in November. The short list contained a 1978 Morris Marina. The Marina is interesting because it was stated to have many flaws throughout its lifespan. Even so, it proved to be a popular car, being one of the best selling vehicles in Britain during its production life. We’re taking a look at how the Marina was created and what made it so memorable.
A merging of ideas
In 1968, Leyland Motors merged with British Motor Holdings to create British Leyland. The staff were shocked to find out that other than the Austin Maxi, no new cars were being developed. This caused them to design a vehicle that was a combination of a Morris Minor and Farina model. Developed under the ADO 28 codename, it was decided the car would be badged as a Morris.
The initial concept involved a traditional rear-wheel drive, with components used from a Morris Minor and MGB. The car was designed by Roy Haynes and it shared the same styling with the Ford Cortina and Hillman Avenger.
The Marina was produced in Cowley and launched on the 27th April 1971. At the time, manufacturers said they were producing 2000 cars per week and by March 1972 the 100,000th Marina had been made.
The Marina didn’t get off to the best start because of rushed production and faulty road tests. There were issues with the suspension, but this was corrected with the Mark 2 in 1975. Even with media criticism, the Marina was incredibly popular, becoming the second best selling car of 1973.
The car was a hit with families and its popularity was down to the simple design and mass market appeal. The design was meant to entice company car and corporate fleet buyers. At the time, the market was dominated by the Ford Escort. Nevertheless, the Marina was successful in capturing a large share of the fleet market.
In the modern day, only a handful of Marinas survived. This is due to poor rust-proofing and it being a suitable donor car for other British Leyland models. For example, the brakes were often used to upgrade a Morris Minor.
Whatever your opinion on the Morris Marina, it’s certainly a car that’s worth talking about. What do you think of it?
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