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Looking back at the "ADO-16"...

History of 1100/1300 line:

Sir Alec Issigonis at the drawing board.

Already famous for his designs of the Morris Minor and Mini, BMC automotive design genius Sir Alec Issigonis, with assistance from PininFarina in Italy, based the 1100 on his previous design for the Mini ("ADO-15"). The 1100, designated "ADO-16," for Austin Design Office Project No.16, was first introduced by the British Motor Corporation as the Morris 1100 Mk1 and was available as a four door model.

The XC9002. Issigonis' original 1959 rear wheel drive design for the ADO-16.

The Morris 1100, like the Mini, was designed with a transverse engine and front wheel drive. This ingenious powerplant placed the engine block directly over the transmission. Therefore, the transmission also served as the oil pan. Power was transfered to the front wheels by axles with inboard U-joints at the transmission and outboard constant velocity (CV) joints at the wheels. This allowed approximately 80% of the car's length to be used for passengers and their luggage. The design was also the debut of Dr. Alex Moulton's revolutionary new Moulton Hydrolastic pressurized liquid and rubber suspension system. It was Moulton who had designed and developed the first truely successfull constant velocity (CV) joint that ultimately allowed the Mini to be front wheel drive.

Original 1959 PininFarina design.

Following introduction, the 1100/1300's became a "Badge Engineered" line of cars similar to General Motors vehicles in the U.S.A. today. Many variations and improvements were made throughout the production history to suite consumer's needs. From basic Austin and Morris models to the luxurious Vanden Plas Princess and the sporty MG's, and even wagon versions, there was a model to suite nearly everyone. They soon became Britain's best selling car. Due to their success, popularity and high demand, the cars were built in several other countries, including Italy(producing the Morris Innocenti IM3), South Africa(producing the Austin Apache), Spain(producing the Authi Victoria), and Australia (producing the Morris 1100 Mk1, Morris 1500 and Nomad wagon versions). Over 3 million were produced!

The production timeline:

August 15, 1962 - The Morris 1100 Mk I in both 2 door and 4 door models was first produced.  Only the 4 door model was available in the UK.

October 1962 - The MG 1100 Mk I in both 2 door and 4 door models was produced. Only the 4 door model was available in the UK. MG 1100's begin to be exported to the U.S.A.

October 1963 - The Austin 1100 Mk I in both 2 door and 4 door models was introduced. The Vanden Plas Princess 1100 Mk I in a 4 door model was debuted at the famous Earls Court Motor Show.

Also in 1964 - Vanden Plas Princess production begins. Vanden Plas Princess's are exported to the U.S.A. re-badged as the MG Princess.

September 1965 - The Riley Kestrel and Wolseley 1100 Mk I models were introduced.

October 1965 - The AP/BMC automatic transmission was offered on the Austin and Morris models.
March 1966 - The wagon (Estate car) versions of the Austin "Countryman" and Morris "Traveller" were introduced.

Also in 1966 - BMC merges with Jaguar-Daimler under the umbrella organization of  British Motor Holdings (BMH).  BMH was a new holding company, but BMC continued to exist under the same name.
Also in 1966 - MG Princess's no longer exported to the U.S.A.

June 1967 - The 1275cc engine was made available in the MG, Riley, Wolseley, and Vanden Plas Princess 1100 models.

October 1967 - The 1100 Mk II and 1300 Mk I models were introduced. The automatic transmission also became available on MG, Riley, Wolseley and Vanden Plas. MG 1100 export to the U.S.A. dicontinued.

January 1968 - The Riley Kestrel 1100 Mk II was discontinued.

February 1968 - The Wolseley 1100 Mk II was discontinued.

March 1968 - The MG 1100, Vanden Plas Princess 1100 Mk II, Austin/Morris Super Deluxe 2 door and Super Deluxe 1100 along with the 2 and 4 door Austin/Morris 1100 models were discontinued.

March 1968 - Austin America production and export to the U.S.A. began. (Americas were also exported to Canada and Switzerland.)

May 1968 - MG 1300 2 door introduced.

May 31, 1968 - British Motor Holdings (BMH) merged with LMVC (Leyland Motor Vehicle Corporation); Leyland had already bought Standard-Triumph (in 1961) and been
"merged" with Rover (in 1967) by this time. (Standard-Triumph had itself
been formed when the former bought the latter in 1944, and Rover had also
taken-over Alvis in 1965)
to become British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) (Austin-Morris Group).

October 1968 - MG, Riley and Wolseley 1300 Mk II models were introduced.

Also in 1968 - MG1300 4 door version discontinued.

February 1969 - A company in England, Crayford from Westerham, Kent, began offering convertible conversions of the Austin and Morris 1100/1300 and MG 1100.

July 1969 - Riley Kestrel 1300 discontinued.

July 1969 - Riley Kestrel 1300 MK II discontinued.

October 1969 - Austin 1300GT introduced.

September 1971 - Mk
III production begins and Austin/Morris 1100/1300 versions replace Mk II. 1300GT remains unchanged. MG 1300 Mk II is discontinued. Morris versions discontinued except for the Morris "Traveller."

September 1971 - Austin America production discontinued.

April 1973 - Wolsely 1300 discontinued.

May 1974 - Vanden Plas Princess 1300 discontinued.

June 1974 - Austin 1100 and 1300GT discontinued. Mk III production discontinued. Wolseley discontinued.

*Special thanks to the following contributors:

My friends in the UK, Michael Turner, Peter Williams and Declan Berridge.
My friend in Greece, Demetris Bouras.
My friend in the USA, Jim Cumberland.
The 1100 Club magazine, "Idle Chatter".

The 1968 Austin America tested by Road & Track Magazine.

The Austin America:

The Austin America was a special version of the two-door Austin 1300. Approximately 59,500 of them were made exclusively for export to the U.S.A. and were sold from 1968 to 1972. The Americas were intended to compete directly with the highly successful VW Beetle and throughout the sales, the marketing campaign advertised them as, "The perfect second car." One ad compared the road holding stability of the two by showing an image of the Beetle as a kite and the America as a brick.

The Austin America was available with either a 4 speed all synchromesh, manual transmission or with a 4 speed automatic transmission. The automatic transmission could be shifted manually, or left in "Drive" to shift on its own.

Year model variations:

There were only subtle differences between the different year models:


1968/69 models were positive ground, had a generator, no side marker lights, and wide stainless steel body side mouldings. The overriders on the bumpers were just chrome, with no rubber centers. A psuedo winged emblem with the Austin Coat-of-Arms was located in each front fender to cover the openings that would later be used for sidemarker lights in the 1970 models.  Inside they had a 2 spoke steering wheel with a fake woodgrained grip area and headrests that were so tall they had to be folded forward in order to lift the seats so rear passengers could get in and out.  The ignition switch was mounted in the center of the dash in between the generator and oil pressure warning lights.


1970 models were negative ground, had short rectangular sidemarker lights on the front and rear fenders, and wide stainless body side mouldings. The bumper over-riders had wide rubber pads in the faces. The headrests were short and rounded, like the MG Midgets and MGB's. The steering wheel was 3 spoke sport model with a wide black rubber grip area. Later 1970 cars had an alternator with internal voltage regulator, and the ignition switch was mounted to the steering column instead of in the dash. This allowed for the steering to be locked when the key was removed.


1971 was the same as late 1970, but had thin body side trim and long rectangular sidemarker lights. They had dash faces that were covered with a fake woodgrain look. The grill was changed to the more open looking "1300 GT" grill. The trunk badge was changed to a mod 70's looking script that was all chrome and said "America." The rear license plate light was moved from the bumper up onto the trunk. It was mounted under a wide plastic housing that stuck out from the trunk lid and had a dual role as an opening handle. The tail lights were two-tone and had amber upper turnsignal areas. The front parking/turnsignal lenses were two-tone with a clear lens over the parking light and an amber lens over the turnsignal. The front seats were mounted on sliding tracks and the seat backs folded forward to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the back seat. This was also the first year that the interior upholstery was available in colors other than black. The decorative tin trim rings were not used on the wheels of this year model.

All models had a single HS4 (1-1/2") SU carburetor and a smog pump to meet emmission standards. From 1970 onward, the California cars (and possibly those sold in other states) also had a charcoal canister vapor recovery system.  This was designed to store fuel tank and engine crankcase vapors while the car was parked. These vapors were later burned by the running engine. The California cars also had a larger fuel filler neck which used a larger gas cap.  Also from 1970, the carburetors started using the swinging needle instead of the earlier fixed needle design.

A sad reputation:

Unfortunately, most of the cars were plagued with numerous mechanical problems and in damp climates, severe rust. In the U.S.A., they suffered from being underpowered and not able to withstand the fast freeway driving to which the American consumer was accustomed. Since the automatic transmission version was heavily advertised and sold, it subsequently failed most often. Like the manual transmission, the automatic, also being the oil pan, ran in the engine oil. This made it extremely succeptable to failure and many of the automatics were in for transmission repairs while still under warranty.

Since the engine and transmission shared the same oil, and sat one on top of the other, when one failed, it often caused problems and damage to the other. The cars gained a reputation for being unreliable and they soon paled in comparison to the VW's, Hondas, Datsuns and Toyotas of the time. With an original sales price of between $1,900.00 to $2,200.00, it was probably difficult to justify the expense of rebuilding an engine or transmission after a serious failure, when the car was only a few years old. A testiment to this is the number of Americas that used to be in the wrecking yards with less than 50,000 miles on the odometers.

Fate of a great car:

The final fate of many Americas was as engine donors for the Mini enthusiasts who were looking to replace their smaller engines with a 1275cc engine. The bodies which didn't share anything in common with their little brother Minis were then scrapped at the wrecking yard.

Today, very few Americas remain. Of those that are left, even fewer are still on the road and fewer still are driven regularly. A sad fate for a car that, along with the Mini, is credited with being the first mass produced front wheel drive passenger car. And, a car that ultimately set a design standard by which "economy" cars still follow.

ADO-16's on the assembly line.

More ADO-16 Production History:

Declan Berridge is rapidly becoming one of the foremost historians on the ADO-16 line.  He's created several documents detailing the history and production of the marque. Use the links below to view an easy to read "Flow Chart" formatted production time-line, and a unique photo album of prototypes.  These are becoming the quintessential historical documents for the history of the marques.

Keith Adams has written two very informative and accurate on-line articles on the production history of the ADO-16.  Excellent information and some fantastic photos of the prototypes and early models.

I'm still learning about the history of these great cars. So if I've made an error or omission, or if you have information to add, let me know.

Contact me!