Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Author
Discussion

LuS1fer

37,564 posts

210 months

Thursday 21st November 2019
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The natural competitors and best sellers were the Cortina, the Viva/Magnum, later Cavalier Mk 1 and the Hillman Avenger. In general, people were suspicious of foreign cars and their dealer networks were small.

Fiat made inroads with the Fiat 132 and VW had the early Passat while Renault had the 16, Citroen the GS but, overall, the Japanese gained ground with the Corolla, Lancer etc although these were, like the 120Y, more Escort competitors, like the Allegro.

s m

20,719 posts

168 months

Thursday 21st November 2019
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LuS1fer said:
The natural competitors and best sellers were the Cortina, the Viva/Magnum, later Cavalier Mk 1 and the Hillman Avenger. In general, people were suspicious of foreign cars and their dealer networks were small.

Fiat made inroads with the Fiat 132 and VW had the early Passat while Renault had the 16, Citroen the GS but, overall, the Japanese gained ground with the Corolla, Lancer etc although these were, like the 120Y, more Escort competitors, like the Allegro.
Yep, the road tests ‘lowdrag’ posted show you the competitors the mags of that time considered the Marina were up against

Mr Tidy

13,819 posts

92 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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LuS1fer said:
The natural competitors and best sellers were the Cortina, the Viva/Magnum, later Cavalier Mk 1 and the Hillman Avenger. In general, people were suspicious of foreign cars and their dealer networks were small.

Fiat made inroads with the Fiat 132 and VW had the early Passat while Renault had the 16, Citroen the GS but, overall, the Japanese gained ground with the Corolla, Lancer etc although these were, like the 120Y, more Escort competitors, like the Allegro.
I had a 1970 Fiat 125 in 1977, and it was far more technically advanced than any Marina, Cortina, VW, Renault, Citroen, etc.

It had a twin-cam engine and 4 wheel disc brakes that none of those other alleged "competitors" had!

A few years later I had a 1977 Fiat 132 1800ES that added a 5-speed gearbox to the mix.

So, yes the Marina was sh*t, but so was the MGB, MK3 Cortina and all the Jap Crap at the time. :lol:

Etypephil

724 posts

43 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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williamp said:
Shezbo said:
What was better than the Marina and around in the early mid 70's (many cars - to my mind).

These were three "solid" options:

Toyota Celica
BMW 2002
Peugeot 304 or 504
Thats a can of worms right there! Ther are usually better cars then the best sellers- see how popuoar the a class is, or the Juke today.

Jowevrr, the BMW- then as now isnt the same class. A bit like a modern 3 series against a kia cee'd...

So maybe clmoare it with:
Austin allegro
Fiat 130 or 131
Ford escort (ex Roger clark not allowed- think 1300 with front drum brakes)
Lancia Beta??
Renault 14
Simca 1301
Citroen ami super
Vw beetle
Hillman hunter and its arrow-series derivativez

Based with that list, I feel very sorry for punters in the 70s. Can I say a 10 year old ferrari or DB4 for the same price???
Back then, ten year old Ferraris and Astons would have been broken, and in the case of Ferrari, a pile of ferrous oxide.

Flying Phil

1,258 posts

110 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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As some posters have realised, it is always difficult with comparisons and older cars. They are viewed in the light of today's experience and in many ways (all?) cars are much better today - so yesterday's cars are "bad".
However, at that time, compared to other new cars and older previous cars, the Marina was not a "bad" car. Many hundreds of thousands of people bought new Marinas rather than the alternatives, which may have been slightly better in some respects but overall, not enough to buy in preference to a Marina......at the time.
When I had my Marina my previous cars had been a Ford 107E and Frogeye Sprite. Cars after were a new Chevette, Alfasud, Chevette, new Cavalier, Mini,Avenger etc.
I suspect the age profile of most posters on here has much to do with the opinions expressed......Yes I am now an official "Old F*rt".....yikes

Edited by Flying Phil on Friday 22 November 08:25

CoupeKid

273 posts

30 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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s m said:
CoupeKid said:
s m said:
We all remember the horror of vinyl seats and shorts in the summer hehe

Anyway, definitely a 1.8 Deluxe shown below
I did not know that! A 43 year long belief shattered. Never saw another one though.

lowdrag

11,361 posts

178 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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s m said:
We all remember the horror of vinyl seats and shorts in the summer hehe
Try getting in to an E-type on a hot day while wearing shorts then. I carry two towels in the car to cover the seaths when parked. It's that or get burned.

aeropilot

24,090 posts

192 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Flying Phil said:
However, at that time, compared to other new cars and older previous cars, the Marina was not a "bad" car.
Oh it was.....

As said, the HC Viva/Magnum etc was a much better car, as was the Hillman Avenger. Even the Cortina Mk3 was better, which is saying something!
I have experience of all of those in period, and the Marina was the worst by some margin. However, I think people bought them for many reasons that were different to buying today. My Dad hated Fords, Dagenham Dustbins as he would call them, would have never have bought another one (his 1st car was a Ford) no matter how much better it was over the alternatives.
My uncle was a BMC man, again he would have bought a Marina over the alternatives just because it was a BMC (BL) product.

Gojira

899 posts

88 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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aeropilot said:
Flying Phil said:
However, at that time, compared to other new cars and older previous cars, the Marina was not a "bad" car.
Oh it was.....

As said, the HC Viva/Magnum etc was a much better car, as was the Hillman Avenger. Even the Cortina Mk3 was better, which is saying something!
I have experience of all of those in period, and the Marina was the worst by some margin. However, I think people bought them for many reasons that were different to buying today. My Dad hated Fords, Dagenham Dustbins as he would call them, would have never have bought another one (his 1st car was a Ford) no matter how much better it was over the alternatives.
My uncle was a BMC man, again he would have bought a Marina over the alternatives just because it was a BMC (BL) product.
What, like the folks on PH who hate, loathe and detest absolutely anything that doesn't have "Made in (insert country of choice)" stamped all over it? biggrin
Fortunately they don't seem to creep into this dusty corner very often clap

I'll happily admit my view of the Marina is biased by the fact that mine was 11 and rotten when I got it, and went to the scrapyard when I couldn't bodge it any more, but the same is true of the two Maxis and the Avenger I had, before I got a real car (a four-year-old fwd 1.6 Cavalier yikes) and they seemed much less awful, although no less knackered....

Sardonicus

17,828 posts

186 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Who remembers the balls up with the tailgate not meeting the bodywork (over-sized panel) on the later Marina estate before the Ital revision? whose idea was that one? yikes yes it was a thing at the time and I was only a kid wink

distinctivedesign

80 posts

43 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Viewed in the context of its time, and against its opposition at the same price point (unlike a number of the so-called opposition cars mentioned so far in this thread - most of which were miles dearer), the Marina was not a BAD car. It was, I suppose, competitively mediocre.

It had its strengths - the styling (at launch anyway) was modern and unfussy, and the coupe was a good looker. It tended to rust slightly less than its competitors. Its big strength was always its generous accommodation - in terms of cabin space and for luggage. The estates were genuinely useful and very practical load luggers, and much more accommodating than the competing Viva, Avenger and even Cortina estates.

So, it wasn't a bad car as such. Developed on a shoestring, and with well-proven mechanicals, it actually was amazing that it was as competitive as it was at the time. Think about how much Ford spent on developing the Mk 3 Cortina for a comparison.

Like all BL products, the Marina's biggest problem was that chronic lack of investment meant it ended up not being the "stop gap" car its designers and engineers were briefed to provide. Instead, it soldiered on for nearly 14 years, by which time it was little more than a decrepit curiosity. It was supposed to be replaced in 1973, to coincide with Ford's facelift of the Mk 3 Cortina, instead of which the last Ital's were registered in 1985!

I remember them vividly from my younger days - my Dad had Cortina's, but lots of mates Dad's had them as company cars. Later, when I started driving myself, a pals Marina van with a twin carb MGB engine and o/d gearbox in it was a proper weapon - especially after he first converted it, and it was initially still on drums all round!

Last year, at a "park your classic and mooch about" type show down in Kent that coincided with a horsey event that my wife was competing in, I got chatting to the owner of an immaculate Marina a couple of cars down the row from my Healey. A charming chap, he offered my a trip round the field in it, and I was pleasingly surprised at how a good one is, just as a gimmick free family classic car.

They went a bit 70's-tastic after with (peeling) metallic paints and vinyl roofs in the late 70's, but the early cars in a good primary colour still look smart, and are good inside for their time.

wag2

128 posts

196 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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That blue estate is like the one my firm foisted on me. Gave me a touch of PTSD to see it

restoman

878 posts

173 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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A 16 page thread on a Classic Car Forum - that must be a record for the Morris Marina . . . .

Touring442

2,159 posts

174 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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The Cavalier was the first car in the cheap saloon bracket to actually drive properly, courtesy of Opel. The Cortina eventually came good as a Mark 4 with the mid range 1.6 GL being a very decent car, or a flawed one (it was a Mark 3 underneath) honed as good as Ford could manage. They were smooth and quiet in the way a Marina wasn't and Ford put a lot of effort into eradicating boom periods and getting the seats right. The Mark 3 was a horrible thing really, a step back from the Mark 2. That heavy back axle, loosely connected to the car with four linkages, none of which prevented it from moving side to side although the solid Estate axle bushes helped a lot. Like the Marina, the Cortina front suspension geometry was a disaster that would result in snap understeer in a sharp corner.

The Avenger was built so badly as to be a scandal, with the Linwood versions being unacceptably bad. The Hillman Grunter just never seemed to take off at all.

The smart money in 1975 was on a Datsun Bluebird 160B with a set of decent tyres and a Ziebarting job.

A Marina 1300DL was £1381, an Escort 1300XL £1406, a 160B £1480, an Alfasud 1200 SE £1472 and Citroen GS1220 £1445.

Dr Jekyll

21,267 posts

226 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Touring442 said:
A Marina 1300DL was £1381, an Escort 1300XL £1406, a 160B £1480, an Alfasud 1200 SE £1472 and Citroen GS1220 £1445.
If I wanted to spend £1500 on a car for daily transport, and had to choose between a high mileage Mk3 Mondeo or using a time machine to go back and get one of those new, I'd probably go for the Mondeo.

Touring442

2,159 posts

174 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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With hindsight, it would be the Alfa for me, and Waxoyl the seven shades of st out of it.

They couldn't have made a profit from those - the engineering was so dense and ditto the marvellous GS.

Rex Rexroth

16 posts

72 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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I bought a 1.3 after my Mini 1000 on the basis it was a nice shade of blue. My abiding memory was of it leaking copious amounts of water and the carpets became sponge like. Traded it in for a Suzuki GS750 after 6 months; that didn’t end well either but that’s a different story!

2xChevrons

1,289 posts

45 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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Touring442 said:
With hindsight, it would be the Alfa for me, and Waxoyl the seven shades of st out of it.

They couldn't have made a profit from those - the engineering was so dense and ditto the marvellous GS.
The problem with the 'Sud from a financial point of view was the same as the one that Rootes had with the Imp - the factory they were built at, by government diktat, was so chaotic that they were never able to build them in the numbers needed to make the project pay. Alfa put a huge amount of design and engineering effort into the 'Sud which resulted in one of the most advanced small family cars in the world which represented a massive leap forward for the class in terms of packaging, refinement, dynamics and handling. Yet the 'Sud was originally pitched and priced as a relatively low-cost and economical family saloon. So they had to build a lot of them at a small profit margin - 175,000/year was the original target, increasing to 300,000/year for the second year of production and the factory had a theoretical capacity of 500,000/year.

As launched the Alfasud wasn't sold on its pedigree or dynamics. It was only sold as a relatively gutless (but very sweet and willing) 1.2-litre engine and quite a sparse interior (just a speedo, no tachometer and just idiot lights for temperature/oil pressure etc.). Alfa were actually quite concerned that the 'Sud would harm their image and so 'Alfasud' was treated as a sort of subrand. Originally, 'Alfa Romeo' only appeared on the grille and boot badges (notably without the 'Milano' script at the bottom of the roundel), the boot and dashboard badges said 'Alfasud' and the engine cam covers were blank.

Demand was never the issue - there were long waiting lists of the Alfasud across Europe. But the factory was blighted by production and labour issues. Only 78,000 'Suds were built in the first year and by 1974 it had reached a new high...of 100,200. At this point Alfa realised that they couldn't make money on the 'Sud as a cheap-and-cheerful family car and so rejigged it as a small sports saloon/proto-hot hatch. What had originally been designed as a cut-price two-door base model was revamped into the sporting Ti, able to be sold for a higher price at lower volumes. The interior gained a tacho and auxiliary instruments. The specifications of the cooking models were improved with larger engines, five-speed gearboxes, better trim and equipment or so on, leading to the Super, the Ti Cloverleaf and the Sprint which could command higher price tags. Eventually the 'Sud was brought fully into the Alfa Romeo fold, with the badges being swapped for 'pukka' Alfa Romeo ones and the cam covers gaining the distinctive Alfa Romeo branding just like the models made in Milan.

Rootes ended up having to do the same thing with the Imp. They couldn't make any money selling basic Hillman versions, so they brought out the luxury and sporting variants like the Singer Chamois and Sunbeam Stilletto.


Shezbo

437 posts

95 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
quotequote all
distinctivedesign said:
Viewed in the context of its time, and against its opposition at the same price point (unlike a number of the so-called opposition cars mentioned so far in this thread - most of which were miles dearer), the Marina was not a BAD car. It was, I suppose, competitively mediocre.

It had its strengths - the styling (at launch anyway) was modern and unfussy, and the coupe was a good looker. It tended to rust slightly less than its competitors. Its big strength was always its generous accommodation - in terms of cabin space and for luggage. The estates were genuinely useful and very practical load luggers, and much more accommodating than the competing Viva, Avenger and even Cortina estates.

So, it wasn't a bad car as such. Developed on a shoestring, and with well-proven mechanicals, it actually was amazing that it was as competitive as it was at the time. Think about how much Ford spent on developing the Mk 3 Cortina for a comparison.

Like all BL products, the Marina's biggest problem was that chronic lack of investment meant it ended up not being the "stop gap" car its designers and engineers were briefed to provide. Instead, it soldiered on for nearly 14 years, by which time it was little more than a decrepit curiosity. It was supposed to be replaced in 1973, to coincide with Ford's facelift of the Mk 3 Cortina, instead of which the last Ital's were registered in 1985!
.
I just cannot agree, we as a family - had in the late sixties up to the mid seventies - two Marina's - three Cortina's - two Viva's and a Maxi. This was dad, mum and grandad x 2. Post 1978 no - one in the family had a Morris - Austin or Triumph, yet they had been the staple diet of our family 8-10 years earlier?

The Mk111 Cortina was loose on the back end, yes I will give you that (the 1971 version was poor) however, Ford did at least sort the problem so that later 1600 XL and 2000 GXL were good cars.

The Viva's I experienced were OK cars, grandad went from two of these to a Marina - a 1.3 delux. The clutch judder on this car was simply awful and had axle tramp with a 1.3 engine. I remember him swapping it out for a new 1974 (M reg) in beige a 4 door 1.8. Although this car went better, the build quality, was shocking: it went back to Kenning's in Shrewsbury - for a respray as it had so many paint runs, from the factory. Grandad swapped it for a very early Fiesta Mk1 - which was a revelation.....and never had a BL car again.

The Maxi - although still terrible was at least a good design.

The Marina - was a lashed up car, based on Morris Minor under pinning's and tired engines.

It really was Red Robbo's work force, lowest ebb.





Alpinweiss

18 posts

26 months

Friday 22nd November 2019
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My dad bought an L-reg Marina 1.3 Coupe in Midnight Blue around 1977, and put up with it for about 6 years, before replacing it with a Mk1 Astra. Being a DIY mechanic, I expect it was the mechanical simplicity and cheap parts that attracted him to the Marina, though he later said it wasn't his favourite of all the cars he owned to drive... he mentioned the clutch being unpleasant.

I remember it looked like a previous owner had enlarged the surprisingly small radio aperture in the dashboard with a hacksaw in order to fit an aftermarket radio, and it had an aftermarket Smiths stick-on heated rear window though I can't remember if it came with it, or my dad fitted it. Don't remember it being unreliable, though it did need its sills welding up by the time he sold it.