Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Author
Discussion

AMGSee55

382 posts

65 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
My grandmother owned a ‘73 1.8 saloon for 7 years. In fairness it did everything she needed it too and was fairly reliable, but the ride quality was diabolical. Made worse by the fact her previous car was a P6 v8 - one end of the spectrum to the other!
In later years I helped a friend repair his ‘78 1.8 from time to time, which involved me driving it on occasions. If nothing else the B series engine was pleasant enough, not fast but plenty of torque, which was fortuitous as their wasn’t much pleasure to be had changing gear.

Unexceptional in other words, but neither were they objects of hate.

FiF

38,691 posts

214 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
We had a Marina as a pool car, apparently one could perform quite decent handbrake turns in it.

getmecoat

V8 Bob

163 posts

88 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
Dad had a 1.8 tc coupe when I was 17. Was fasting at the time but handling was terrible, lever arm on front ala Morris Minor and leaf spring on back. Snapped a spring one night after pulling out of a junction and flooring it - axle wound up lol

davepen

1,410 posts

233 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
I had an Ital 1.3SL as my first car, it was Dad's company car, we bought it at two years old when he was made redundant - Thatcher's Britain eh!
It was better (and much faster) than the 850cc (sic) A35 Van that I'd used before hand.
I kept it for another 6 years, basically my time in Northants.

Clutch went in Llandrindod, and failed again a couple of years later, on the way to a job interview, when the exhaust rubbed through the hydraulics.
Kwik Fit had trouble fitting the exhaust over the axle so it didn't hit the body.
Mild Steel exhaust systems were almost a service item back then.
It used to have a resonance at about 68mph, which you need to be below or above on the Motorway (M1 to Sheffield)

Replaced it with a two year old TVR S. (I got the new job)
Kid brother then ran it a student transport for a few years until it dissolved in the Aberystwyth sea air and way over 120,000 miles.
Dad then got another one, he was a BMC fan, but unconvinced by E-W engines.
We still have the A35 yikes

The SL was the final update with telescopic dampers replacing the Armstrong lever and a radio with both MW and LW Bands.


Mr Tidy

13,402 posts

90 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
awg454 said:
Fantastic cars smile I’ve still got one !

That is stunning - it's great to see a good example being cherished. thumbup

I never drove one, but I can't believe they were that much worse than contemporary Cortinas - my MK2 Cortina was horrible!

Trfcok

64 posts

93 months

Wednesday 13th November 2019
quotequote all
I had two!!!

My first Marina was my very first car. A 1972 1.3 Coupe MMA841L in dark green with beige interior. ( identical to the one pictured earlier in this thread!). Someone had glued shag pile carpet to the fascia which wasn't to my taste but when I ripped it off it created huge blister like holes - a great feature!

To improve the looks/handling I bought an old set of alloy wheels and put 185/70 13 tyres on them. Didn't really help but it looked much better! When I sold the car I let the wheels go with it and only discovered subsequently that the wheels were J A Pearce classics worth more than the car!

I then went through a Ford Capri and a Dolomite Sprint (which blew up during my final year at university). So I went back to a Marina - this time a 1.8 Coupe in white - WTU225M which lasted 18 months and was replaced by a Scirocco GLi (I'd started work by then!)

I actually liked the look of the coupe and have some affection for the Marinas - to the extent I didn't laugh at or even approve of Top Gears piano stunts! They were both very reliable (although I recall a broken spring on the 1.3) and of their time but I'm not sure I'd replace any of my current garage occupants with another.

PurpleTurtle

4,667 posts

107 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
My grandad had a 1979 Marina 1300 from new, when I was growing up in rural Staffordshire.

I want to sit here and bemoan it as a useless piece of BL junk, but in actual fact it was a really reliable, functional family car. Massive back seat for three kids, we spent hours being ferried from village to village (my mum didn’t drive, dad was always working) and in ten years of him owning it it never missed a beat, including several tours of the Highlands in Scotland.

Amusingly for my brothers and I, our grandad had been a wartime HGV driver and continued that as his trade after WW2. Gawd knows what he used to drive, but double declutching was his style, and revving the nuts out of the engine before changing up. This driving style carried over to this poor Marina, there were multiple occasions where my brothers and I gave each other a knowing look of “change up ferchrissakes, this thing is gonna blow!” but he’d just keep revving the damn thing and it’d keep taking it!

There was talk of me inheriting it in 1989 as a 17yo to learn to drive but a few weeks before we acquired a brand new MG Metro and my dignity was saved!

Joking apart I’ve got a lot of affection for that car, maligned as they were. It was far better than the Allegro he had before it!

AndrewCrown

1,414 posts

77 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
Mr Peel said:
As with the Allegro (and other BL stuff) there are myths and cliches galore. Also a distinct lack of putting things into the context of the time.

We need a detailed reply from 2Chevrons.
I agree context of the time is key here...

In answer to the question... was it really that bad... I'm going to say no... It was not that bad.

There are two utterly charming fims on the development of the Marina... click below if you're interested.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZuXNxc180A

The pending arrival of the '71 Cortina put the newly merged company into defence mode....
In the film you might catch a reference to the Capri, hence the Marina Coupe, so our plucky BL tried to fight Cortina and Capri with the Marina.

In terms of sales....



This is a 1d veiw, there was a lot going on in the market at the time, including Japanese imports, fuel crisis etc. But Marina sales held their own vs increasingly better Fords...

Anyway this thread needs a good picture.

BraveSirRobin

827 posts

245 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
My Dad's first 2 company cars were Marinas (both 1.8TC saloons). He'd previously had an MG 1100 & 1300, then an 1800 "land crab" - which he hated 'cause it was sooooo slow.
Some friends just up the road ordered a Marina when it first came out, and theirs (an orange 1.8TC coupe) was delivered while my Dad was waiting for his. Not sure how hard Graham drove it, but one of the rear leaf springs snapped within 2 weeks!! Hoping to avoid a similar fate, my Dad found and ordered some "spring helpers", which were basically tennis ball sized rubber spheres that you inflated to high pressure and strapped between the spring & the body. They sat unused on a shelf in our garage for about 20 years.
After the first one, I tried to persuade him that a Dolomite Sprint was the way to go, but a second Marina was duly ordered. To be fair, neither ever broke down, and the TC engine gave it half-decent go compared to the Ford, Vauxhall & Rootes alternatives.

lowdrag

11,176 posts

176 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
Sir Robin, your father was surely much farther up the food chain than I in the day. My first company car was a Moggie 1000, and it goes to show how typically tight this Scottish company was when I had to drive the car for the last two months with no first or reverse gears while awaiting one of the first Marina "coupés". I had phoned Appleyards in Edinburgh to ask if I could have anything but dark blue, and you can see just what I received. What a car though! Wipers set up for LHD with a big unswept patch on the driver's side, and carried over from the Moggie the asthmatic 1.3 engine with drum brakes all round and - no servo. Withing two days I had bent the car going into the back of a lorry in front of me. I said the car was dangerous without a servo and got a quote to have one fitted, and presented this estimate for £40 to my boss. It was refused on cost grounds, although I did manage to sneak in the purchase of some Groundhog tyres one day. Radials were considered too innovative and, yes, too expensive. The driving of the car was a struggle, with inbuilt understeer and cart spring suspension at the back providing "interesting" handling. Tippytoeing in the snow was a life-threatening experience. After two years of sheer hell my replacement car arrived, this time in puke beige but with the new curved dashboard and - yes - a servo! The diarrhoea brown dashboard had a built-in creaking mechanism, and the plastic seats gave off such an aroma in the summer that my fox terrier decided to eat them. War had by then broken out between me and my boss, an ex-navy man famous for popping to the pub around 11am and returning stinking of rum, so I left Scottish Provident and after a short hiatus elsewhere set up in business on my own in 1977, never again to own a BL product. In fact, since 1979, (apart from a short period with an Accord (because the BMW roundels were always being nicked, as well as smashed windows and radios disappearing) I have only driven German cars as every day transport since. The first was a Golf 1500, and I still remember how I marvelled at a gear change that worked and steering that did not require superhuman strength.


forsure

1,957 posts

231 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
lowdrag said:
Sir Robin, your father was surely much farther up the food chain than I in the day. My first company car was a Moggie 1000, and it goes to show how typically tight this Scottish company was when I had to drive the car for the last two months with no first or reverse gears while awaiting one of the first Marina "coupés". I had phoned Appleyards in Edinburgh to ask if I could have anything but dark blue, and you can see just what I received. What a car though! Wipers set up for LHD with a big unswept patch on the driver's side, and carried over from the Moggie the asthmatic 1.3 engine with drum brakes all round and - no servo. Withing two days I had bent the car going into the back of a lorry in front of me. I said the car was dangerous without a servo and got a quote to have one fitted, and presented this estimate for £40 to my boss. It was refused on cost grounds, although I did manage to sneak in the purchase of some Groundhog tyres one day. Radials were considered too innovative and, yes, too expensive. The driving of the car was a struggle, with inbuilt understeer and cart spring suspension at the back providing "interesting" handling. Tippytoeing in the snow was a life-threatening experience. After two years of sheer hell my replacement car arrived, this time in puke beige but with the new curved dashboard and - yes - a servo! The diarrhoea brown dashboard had a built-in creaking mechanism, and the plastic seats gave off such an aroma in the summer that my fox terrier decided to eat them. War had by then broken out between me and my boss, an ex-navy man famous for popping to the pub around 11am and returning stinking of rum, so I left Scottish Provident and after a short hiatus elsewhere set up in business on my own in 1977, never again to own a BL product. In fact, since 1979, (apart from a short period with an Accord (because the BMW roundels were always being nicked, as well as smashed windows and radios disappearing) I have only driven German cars as every day transport since. The first was a Golf 1500, and I still remember how I marvelled at a gear change that worked and steering that did not require superhuman strength.

I also had one in puke beige with the curved dashboard - that was the one with innovative ergonomics: the radio and heater controls angled away from the driver.

rex

1,935 posts

229 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
Had one as my first car when I was at university. 1.3L in st brown colour. Was a 1978 T reg and I got it in 1990. My father worked at a garage and I paid £50 for it which included the big hole in the top of the front wing. My father had it repaired for me.
A really terrible car but it mostly just keep on going. I never serviced it for the 2-3 years that I had it. It did break down in the pub carpark that I worked at and I left it there for a couple of weeks only to find the landlord had reported it as a scrap car and was to be towed away. It was broken into and the stereo was so st they left it in place.
Got stopped the once as I turned left at a roundabout a bit quicker than usual and the car was leaning over so far, the coppers waiting to enter the roundabout crapped themselves as they thought I was out of control. Once I had explained how st the car was and how the suspension is not the best they let me on my way. Probably felt sorry for me.
The only plus side was that it is the only car I have made a 500%+ profit on as I sold it for £250 once I had no more use for it.


jaisharma

538 posts

146 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
Mine was certainly the worst of about 50 cars I have owned. Terrible handling and I I think a windscreen you could see out of was the best feature.
It only cost 15 quid though so perhaps it wasn’t the best example...

mad4amanda

2,390 posts

127 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
bristolracer said:
soxboy said:
Probably doing as well as they are right now, given that Hyundai built Cortinas (and Granadas) under licence until the early 80s.
Truckosaurus said:
bristolracer said:
... I wonder where Hyundai would be now if they had chosen a Cortina?
NotSureIfSerious.gif

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_Stellar
Everyday is a school day, I never knew that
the earlier Pony was the Marina inspired car :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_Pony

Had a real mix of parts on it

motco

13,749 posts

209 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
jaisharma said:
Mine was certainly the worst of about 50 cars I have owned. Terrible handling and I I think a windscreen you could see out of was the best feature.
It only cost 15 quid though so perhaps it wasn’t the best example...
The worst new car I ever had was a 2200HLS Princess Automatic in 1980. Never a day in its life with me was it free of faults - some serious, most minor but infuriating. In defence of the Marina 1.3 Coupé my F-i-L had it was better than my colleague's Austin Maxi.

awg454

476 posts

179 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
What’s really surprising is how many car enthusiasts have had one,and love to talk about them good or bad,when I take mine out it gets far more comments than any other cars I have.
Maybe be it’s like a Alfa if your over a certain age and you haven’t had one your not a true petrolhead smile;)

crossle

1,518 posts

214 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
We had a Marina Estate as a company pool car in 1976.

Nobody wanted to be given it as it was so awful.

It "accidentally" fell down a ravine in Scotland and and was replaced with a Cortina estate which was a brilliant thing.

Keep it stiff

1,552 posts

136 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
2xChevrons said:
Being born a good few years after the Marina/Ital left the showrooms, all the following is based on driving preserved examples as classics and a bit of research. I have no experience of them 'in period' or as daily drivers and I have never owned one.

Was it really any worse than any other bread and butter British family car of the period (Escort/Cortina, Viva/Victor, Avenger)? No. Where better cars in that segement available? Yes. Was it inferior to its equivalents from Germany and Japan? A strong yes. Was it a car with flaws? Yes. Was it a bad car given its time, design brief and what its manufacturer required of it? No, but it was thoroughly average.

In my experience Marinas are not pleasant to drive, if you analyse them in a PH-esque way. They are significantly less involving and fun than the ancient Morris Minor which it (partially) replaced. Overly-soft front springing with poor damping, numb steering with low self-centring effect, far too many turns lock to lock and an awkward driving position that makes all the wheel-twirling you have to do an ergonomic nightmare, very noticeably understeer and 'fuzziness' at the front wheels and a poorly-located and overly-stiff live rear axle giving a crashy ride at the back with large amounts of bump-steer over poor surfaces. The bodyshell itself has poor torsional rigidity, so it's plagued by scuttle shake, rattles and a general sense that the two ends of the car are acting against each other like a dumb-bell with a rubber centre section. The horrible 3-rail Triumph gearbox manages to be vague and notchy at the same time, most of them feel like they haven't quite gone into gear properly and the 1.8 litre engines produce too much torque for the 'box so even on low-mileage (>30,000 mile) examples you can pop the transmission out of gear under heavy throttle.

So a nasty, cheaply-engineered, badly-made, lowest-common-denominator suet pudding of a car designed without any real thought or attention to longevity, quality, driver pleasure or a positive 'ownership experience.'

BUT.

That's not what the Marina was supposed to be, and it's not what cars of that sort in the 1970s were supposed to be. It was designed to be 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' disposable family transport for people who just needed 'a car' to get around in, or as something to sell to fleet managers for the same purpose. They wanted it to be simple, straightforward, easy to service, practical and...that's about it. And the Marina clears that very low bar.

The early ones with the mis-designed front suspension uprights were deathtraps, and that was a shameful episode, but otherwise it was 'adequate'. After all, how many of the 800,000 people who bought one were ever going to take it to the ragged edge? Basically none. They were going to trundle around, short-shifting and wheel-shuffling along the road in an entirely average way and the Marina was perfectly adequate for that.

It's interesting reading the contemporary road reports of the Marina, and especially the articles in Car Mechanics and Popular Motorist reviewing it as a secondhand buy. If they mention the wobbly road manners at all, it's glossed over. Instead the Marina is assessed, and praised, for its straightforward, simple engineering. All its running gear came from the BMC/BL parts bin (or essentially did with some tweaks) - Morris Minor front suspension, BMC A- and B-Series engines, Triumph Toledo steering rack and back axle, Triumph Toledo/Dolomite/Spitfire gearbox - so this was a car that every garage in the country could fix and you could buy spare parts at any motor factors on any high street. You didn't have to worry about Hydrolastic suspension units, gearboxes in the sump, gearchange cables, constant velocity joints, cambelts, fancy trapezoidal headlamp lenses or any of that. Just pour generic 20W/50 in one end, EP90 in the other and get the grease gun out at the weekend occasionally. If you wanted a straightforward, no-nonsense four-door saloon car (or cavernous five-door estate) and you, like many of your fellow Brits, weren't ready to countenance a foreign car, then the Marina fitted the bill.

As has already been mentioned, the Marina was a sales success. Granted, it didn't meet BL's lofty sales predictions but that had as much to do with the company's collapse and the general economic situation as the Marina's failings. Remember, the Marina as we know it was designed in a crash-course when BL was formed and the new management was shocked to learn that BMC had no plans whatsoever to replace the Morris Minor (1948) or the Farina-B (1959) models which were its closest competitors to the Ford Escort and Cortina which were about to enter their Mk2 and Mk3 phases. So the Marina was thrown together from pre-existing parts in a new but conventional bodyshell with the aim of holding the fort before a proper all-new replacement could be brought online. That project (ADO77) never came into being but had the makings of an excellent design (assuming it would have been built properly - a big if for BL in the mid-70s). Mention has already been made that Hyundai got its start by apeing the Marina for the original Pony. In fact the Pony has much, much more similarity with ADO77...and George Turnbull was the man who went from BL (where he was the manager responsible for the ADO77 project) to South Korea to get Hyundai's car project up and running.

But the Marina did sell well. It did increase BL's share of the company car market and, uniquely amongst Austin-Morris products of the 1970s, it did make a profit. Like a lot of BL products, its real failing was that it lingered on far too long. The hastily-made stopgap with suspension from the 1940s was just about average when it was launched in 1971 against the Mk2 Escort and Mk3 Cortina but it was still around in virtually the same form as the market shifted in the 1970s so before long it was up agains the Mk4 Cortina, the Chrysler Alpine, the VW Golf/Passat and, most devestatingly of all, the Vauxhall Chevette/Cavalier, which took the Marina's principles of no-nonsense RWD engineering but packaged it into a modern body and, in the Cavalier's case especially, a genuinely decent effort at making such a car vaguely pleasant to drive.

I'd really struggle to say that the Marina was a good car. It has, objectively, too much wrong with it. It's typical of the low-effort dross that many manufacturers put out (and many buyers all-but demanded because they knew or cared no better) in the 1960s and 1970s until they were forced to up their game by foreign competition. But ZOMG WORST CAR EVA! KILL IT WITH FIRE! ? Nope.
Excellent and well balanced response.

When reflecting on such issues I feel that there is a tendency for memories, be they positive or negative, to be blurred by the passage of time and comparison/influence of subsequent automotive development.

Back in the 70's when we drove Marinas, Cortinas and Allegros there was an acceptance that questionable build quality and lack of longevity was the norm, it was only when the Japanese models took a strong foothold in the 80s that both we as consumers and British industry wised up to the fact that there was a better way. In the Marina era the difference between the L and the GL was essentially one door mirror or two, promises and expectations were not high! The company I worked for had a mixed BL/Ford fleet, my favourite was the Allegro and my least favourite was the 1.2 Cortina. Would I like to own any of these now? No.

PH5121

1,728 posts

176 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
My dad 'had to' buy a 1979 1.3 coupe in 1986 or '87 to use as a winter runabout. At the time he'd just bought a Porsche 944 and didn't want to use it when the roads were salty.

He had a mate who worked at a Vauxhall main dealer so we went along to look in 'compost corner' (at the cars that had been taken in part exchange). This was an annual tradition for my dad, and over the previous couple of years he'd had a Mk1 Cavalier and a HC Viva. I earlier said he 'had to' buy it, this was due to the damage he inflicted whilst inspecting it.
Driving it down off the kerb to take it for a test drive the mud flap snagged on the edge of the kerb and ripped the front wing off, to add insult to injury he also pushed on the wiper arm and the front scuttle surrounding it disintergrated.

Neither of these put my dad off as he was an experienced bodger who could soon sort it out with a trip to the local motorist discount centre for some fibre glass, body filler, aerosols of paint and some underseal.

It did have a propensity for the boot to fill with water, this was cured with a hammer and screwdriver and the inpromptu addition of some new drainage holes in the boot floor.

After the winter was over he then went on to sell it to a mate of his for the mates son to use as his first car.

I never drove it as I was too young, but have weirdly fond memories of the beige seats and the smell of damp and underseal.

aeropilot

23,516 posts

190 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
quotequote all
Mr Tidy said:
I never drove one, but I can't believe they were that much worse than contemporary Cortinas - my MK2 Cortina was horrible!
The 1.8TC I had was way worse than my Mk3 Cortina GT, and that's saying something. laugh