David Mullen casts an eye over the mighty Mini’s big brother, the Austin/Morris 1100

There were many families, certainly, for whom the little Mini was their main car. It was, after all, designed to carry four people and their luggage. That said, with just two doors, a small boot and rather cramped interior dimensions, it wasn’t ideal for families, especially in Ireland.

In the early-Sixties, Irish family buyers tended to prefer larger, four-door cars like the Ford Prefect and Austin Cambridge, and when the Ford Cortina arrived in 1962, it was a popular choice too. Nevertheless, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) had a trick up its sleeve, and, in 1962, also launched a car which would do very well not only in Britain and Ireland, but around the world—the Morris 1100.

It’s hard to believe now, but, at first, the Mini wasn’t a great success. It was too small, too complicated, too unreliable and didn’t make dealers nearly enough profit. What BMC needed was a bigger car to replace its 1.0-litre range (the Austin A40 and Morris Minor), and to fit between the Mini and the larger 1.5-litre Farina saloons.

The company’s boss, Leonard Lord, was keen to establish BMC as a world-leader in technologically-advanced cars and had a huge amount of faith in chief-designer Alec Issigonis, the man behind the Minor and Mini.

Whereas in the late-Fifties all of BMC’s fare was very traditionally engineered (mostly rear-drive saloons), Issigonis’ Mini, with its front-wheel-drive and gearbox-in-sump transverse engine was a bolt from the blue.

Lord wanted to continue along the same advanced lines as the Mini and create the family car of the future to last the company into the Seventies. So, before the Mini was launched, he instructed Issigonis to develop BMC’s new small/medium car using the same engine and gearbox set-up, same clever packaging and new smooth-riding Hydrolastic suspension. The project was codenamed ADO16.

Lord insisted that ADO16 (which stood for Amalgamated Drawing Office, Project 16) have the sharp looks to match its forward-thinking design, so BMC called on the services of Italian stylist Sergio Pininfarina, who had been working with the company around that time on the successful Austin A40 and eponymous ‘Farina’ saloons.

The car would also feature Hydrolastic suspension. Issigonis had been working with suspension-designer Alex Moulton for some years to create a pliant, comfortable system which still allowed for flat, predictable handling.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own