Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Morris Marina - was it really that bad?

Author
Discussion

Flying Phil

1,208 posts

106 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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I had a SH "Jubilee" 1.8TC back in 1974/5 and, once I repaired the gearbox (the circlip between 2nd and 3rd had broken so a cheap fix!), it provided quiet (ish), reliable transport and a good tow car. I replaced it with a new Chevette.

It even went up the strip at Santa Pod when I broke my race Sprite!

LuS1fer

37,064 posts

206 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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My ex mother-in-law was a proper Hyacinth Bucket and loved to look down on people. She bought an original boxy Rover 213 in French blue and thought she was the cat's whiskers but I never liked the styling. A year later, she bought a Rover 216 GSi in Burgundy metallic and thought she was the dog's b*ll*cks and I was impressed.

The following year, Mrs Snooty turned up in a top of the line pre-registered silver Ital with tobacco vinyl roof and brown interior. She was totally deflated when I laughed. The only upside was the FIL replaced his 1967 Triumph 2000 estate with a Rover 827.

Touring442

1,927 posts

170 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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The Marina made a fantastic van. They were just about impossible to kill and as good to hustle along as an Escort van in a white knuckle sort of way.

The last time I drove a Marina would have been around 1989, an X plate 1.3 Ital that I did a shamefully bad respray on. I don't know if it had telescopic dampers but I do remember driving it from Witney to Islip in a bit of a hurry and finding it to be perfectly OK. Not a Golf GTI but it wasn't the dangerous understeering deathtrap modern lore has it down as. The 1275 A Series had superb throttle response and torque making it very easy to drive, they could suffer bad clutch judder though.

I'd have an early 1.3 Coupe to drive around in and suspect it would be quite a laugh. With that crisp power delivery, skinny screen pillars and long travel suspension it would probably make a good town car.

Nik da Greek

2,503 posts

111 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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The anecdote that always stuck in my mind from Marina hustling was when I was giving a mate, Tony, a lift to ag college one morning. There was a long downhill stretch of dual carriageway through the Downs heading out of town with a large roundabout a large roundabout at the end. The poor little Marina would hit the heady heights of ...almost... treble figure velocity down here, in the throes of terminal valve bounce and with the speedo needle flapping about so much it was hard to decipher what speed it actually thought it was doing. Maybe that was a built-in safety feature to save you from seeing anything that would upset you too much

Anyway, on this particular morning an artic already on the roundabout had a crisis of confidence, and despite indicating to leave via the exit prior to ours, decided to keep going round. The poor li'l Marina was already committed; I'd trusted the truck driver and factored in just enough deceleration to hit the roundabout, drift heroically (OK, bounce in a vaguely tail-out manner) into our first exit and smoke off into the sunrise. Now suddenly an emergency stop was required.

And Marinas don't really like emergency stops.

I must have gone a bit quiet as I put all my strength and weight into the brake pedal, producing very little in the way of increased deceleration but quite a bit in the way of unexpected grating noises and tail-wagging ill behaviour because my mate emitted a sort of tragic squeaking sound halfway between alarm and resignation of imminent death. Somehow... and it had literally nothing to do with any driving skill I may have possessed, real or imagined... the little Morris decided its time was not now, gathered itself together and squeezed sideways through the shortening gap between verge and truck, wagged its tail and continued serenely into the exit we wanted and away.

"Haha," I tired to bluff it without much conviction. "Had you worried there then!"

Tony looked at me with a measure of contempt rarely seen outside the jury box in rape trials. "When are you going to learn," he said, "to stop trying to do 90s speeds on 70s brakes?"

And that, in a nutshell, was the Marina. Some of it was great but the bits that weren't, really weren't.

Nik da Greek

2,503 posts

111 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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On another occasion I nipped out to grab a cheeky Chinese takeaway. In a moment of remarkable lack of talent, I managed to clip the corner of a car when parking outside the Chinese. It was a (then) nearly-new Civic Aerodeck. The Marina sort of sadly gave a little, gentle bong! and wobbled on her springs a bit. The Civic rang like a bell, the alarm went off, bringing the owner onto the scene. He was the owner of the Chinese takeway, sod's law; not that I'd have tried to escape anyway, I was bang to rights and had no choice but to pay my dues. The Marina had bent out a bit of the chrome wheelarch trim and had a scratch in the paint. The Civic looked like it had been dropped from a crane or maybe hit by a snowplough; all dented and broken lenses everywhere. It cost me a couple of hundred quid to put the damage right. The Marina was two quid for a touch-up stick from Halfords rolleyes

Most expensive Chinese takeaway I ever bought, that one irked

Turbobanana

2,770 posts

162 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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I had 2: my second car (in which I passed my test) was a Sandglow 1.3 with a slippery brown vinyl interior and the facelift, angled-towards-the-driver dash. The week after my test I sold it - for a profit - and bought a white1.8. What a hotrod! (at least to my schoolmates at the time...). That one had more rust than bodywork but went well enough.

The first one was great in the snow, so long as I had remembered to put a couple of bags of compost in the boot for traction and could maintain momentum up hills. The 1.8 was actually too powerful(!) to be any good when conditions got slippery.

As one or two others have said, I had no mechanical issues whatsoever and although when viewed from today they were rubbish, at the time they were OK. To my mind the Ital was a step too far though: the word "turd" and "polish" springing immediately to mind.


Fastchas

2,121 posts

82 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Didn't the Marina have the radio positioned facing towards the passenger instead of the driver?

aeropilot

23,108 posts

188 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Fastchas said:
Didn't the Marina have the radio positioned facing towards the passenger instead of the driver?
I think the later ones and the Ital's did?

Early cars didn't, had a straight dash. Pretty sure my M reg TC Coupe had the 3 dial, straight dash.....but it was 35 years ago now!


coppice

6,461 posts

105 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Drove several - and the lower the spec the better the car was (in relative terms ...it was never going to be a Giulia , or even a Cortina, right ? ) So -
- 1.3 Coupe - willing , if still fairly slow , light on its feet and not a massive understeer queen
- 1.8 saloon - brisk , quiet but terrible ride and huge understeer
- 1.8TC saloon - brawny, rorty engine, quick . Unbelievably dreadful ride in front , but in the back it felt even worse. Understeered like an oil tanker.

lowdrag

11,044 posts

174 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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As I said above, the one piece moulded curved dash had built in squeaks, and was designed so that the radio faced the driver and was easy to use. Well, if it was LHD that was. And when I complained to Wadham's about the LHD wipers, they shrugged their shoulders and turned away. Ah, people complain today about after-sales service. They know nothing of how we suffered. A new Toledo that wouldn't go over 40 mph. "It's the running in sir". It needed a new carburettor you twit. A new Alfa GTV in the showroom with rusty reflectors. I've left the best to last. When the blue one was taken away, hopefully to the crushers, a new "harvest gold" (or puke beige) Marina was delivered from Appleyards Edinburgh to Leicester. It was dropped off the transporter and rolled gently to a halt in the car park. I looked around it, signed for it and went back in to the office. When I tried to take it home I found out why he seemed to be in a hurry; the gearbox was jammed in reverse. Ah, not even rose-coloured specs can remove the nightmares of those days.

ETA:- Having written this, I turn on the TV and look for something to while away the time. A new (to me) series called Bangers and Cash is noticed, and I find that Series 1 Episode 7 has the description "A customer considers buying a Morris Marina as a Christmas present for his wife". Obviously looking to become a widower or getting a divorce then.

Edited by lowdrag on Thursday 14th November 12:53

rasto

2,040 posts

198 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Had a 1300 Coupe as my first car in 1987 - it was my parents cast off. White with a brown vinyl roof with very worn piston rings so it was a bit of a smoke machine when accelerating 'hard' wink

I kept it for just over a year and managed to burn out some of the electrics by fitting too many extra lights to the front. It was very reliable, cheap to run and never let me down and was responsible for my first ever oversteer experience coming off a roundabout onto a slip road.

I eventually got bored of it and switched to a Mk 1 XR2. Sold the Marina in 1988 to a 'collector', who apparently already had several.

hilly10

5,611 posts

189 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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aeropilot said:
Fastchas said:
Didn't the Marina have the radio positioned facing towards the passenger instead of the driver?
I think the later ones and the Ital's did?

Early cars didn't, had a straight dash. Pretty sure my M reg TC Coupe had the 3 dial, straight dash.....but it was 35 years ago now!
I cannot remember either.
I am always trying so hard to forget the Marina chapter in my life, then this thread happened.

mikal83

5,057 posts

213 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Mine was an orange 2 door job, probably a late 70's model as I had a cortina mk 2 1500 2 door b4 that. it was truly ste. Go around a corner with a bit of spirit, it would pirouette lovely, in the wet..........no probs. On mine the gear lever lower pin would fall out, so to change gear you had to grasp the top AND bottom of the stick to select the gear.......Sold it for around what I paid for it 3 months later and bought an mgb gt.

liner33

8,021 posts

163 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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I had a couple of 1.3 Marinas and later inherited my grandfathers 1.7 Ital. To be honest in found them super reliable , very cheap to run , spacious and comfy to drive . Would i want one today ? Hell no

Sticks.

6,519 posts

212 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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Back then, people who'd bought Morris Minors and Oxfords later bought Marinas. The same 'tried and tested' or dated, uncomplicated machanicals appealed. You could do a basic service simply, set up the carbs, points, timing without expensive equipment and EU cars often had much more expensive parts and even worse reputation for rust.

As a skint youngster my dad sold me his 78 Mk2 1.3 saloon for so much a month rather than let me waste money on one banger after another. I had a few years' cheap motoring from the Marina sold it for more than I'd paid (£1100).

A friend had a Mk2 Escort of the same age. He loved it but it was tinny by comparison, albeit more modern. All the paint faded though. And a friend was given her parents' Chrysler Alpine, not because they were over generous, but at 6 years old the trade in value was nil.

I bought a 1.7 at auction. Didn't make anything on it but traded it in for the same money after 6 months' motoring only costing me petrol.

TwigtheWonderkid

34,187 posts

111 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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awg454 said:
Fantastic cars smile I’ve still got one !

I am glad there are people out there who keep cars like this, Marinas, Allegros and other BL 70s stuff, alive. Those cars are part of our heritage.

I am also glad I'm not one of those people.

But that aside, well done that man.



aeropilot

23,108 posts

188 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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hilly10 said:
I am always trying so hard to forget the Marina chapter in my life, then this thread happened.
rofl


Sticks.

6,519 posts

212 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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aeropilot said:
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
I remember at the time joking about almost having to get in the back to select 2nd or 4th.

Davel

8,862 posts

219 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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My very first car was a Morris Marina 1.8 Coupe as a company car.

Used to drive with 1cwt of sand in a bag in the boot to help keep it stable.

Rain used to piss in to the boot area.

I wrote to Lord Stokes, the then head of British Leyland at the time and actually got a handwritten letter back from him.

Impressed with Lord Stokes but hated the car.

The next car, an MGBGT, was far better....

2xChevrons

1,100 posts

41 months

Thursday 14th November 2019
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coppice said:
Drove several - and the lower the spec the better the car was (in relative terms ...it was never going to be a Giulia , or even a Cortina, right ? ) So -
- 1.3 Coupe - willing , if still fairly slow , light on its feet and not a massive understeer queen
- 1.8 saloon - brisk , quiet but terrible ride and huge understeer
- 1.8TC saloon - brawny, rorty engine, quick . Unbelievably dreadful ride in front , but in the back it felt even worse. Understeered like an oil tanker.
I've driven a 1.3 saloon, 1.8 saloon (auto!) and a 1.8TC Coupe and that is exactly my impression of them as well. The 1.3s are thoroughly adequate but slow, the single-carb 1.8s are a crashy, porridgy mess dynamically but are 'OK' if you just need to get from place to place and the TCs are like mini American muscle cars - good noise, quite fast in a straight line but hopeless in corners. And surprisingly fun in that sense.

aeropilot said:
Fastchas said:
Didn't the Marina have the radio positioned facing towards the passenger instead of the driver?
I think the later ones and the Ital's did?

Early cars didn't, had a straight dash. Pretty sure my M reg TC Coupe had the 3 dial, straight dash.....but it was 35 years ago now!
Correct. The curved dashboard with the passenger-facing radio was introduced as part of the 'Marina 2' update in 1975. I have never even seen any reasoning or excuse behind the radio position (unlike, say, the Allegro's 'Quartic' steering wheel, which was justified on the grounds of improving instrument visibility and leg room even if it was really just a gimmick). It's not even a LHD/RHD thing as on LHD Marinas the dash moulding is reversed to the radio still faces the passenger. I'm sure it's simply half-assed design where they produced the nice swoopy padded plastic dash moulding and didn't think where to put the radio.

Like many Marina facts, it also gets over-egged. Yes, the radio is angled towards the passenger but it's fairly subtle and the driver can still see and use the radio controls perfectly well. It's just a shoddy piece of design.

As for the Ital, in classic BL fashion this was, in many ways, the car the Marina always should have been as it included telescopic dampers for the front suspension, parabolic springs and dual-rate dampers for the back, and much-improved sound deadening so it didn't feel as tinny. Plus it was the only car to get the re-tooled and modernised A-Plus engine in longitudinal form and benefited from some new tooling and revised production and quality control at the Cowley factory on the back of the Triumph Acclaim project. The Ital range was slimmed down to a few trim levels and was sold mostly as a straightforward, no-nonsense, practical car that was no great shakes to drive but was reliable, easy to service and low-priced in its segment. The only Ital I've driven (a 1.3SL saloon) was a big improvement on the Marina in almost every way - better ride, better steering, much better material and build quality, a much more peppy and smooth engine, a quieter and slicker transmission and it generally felt like a much more sound and rugged car.