Morris Marina

Morris Marina, 70s icon?

The Morris Marina, launched by British Leyland in 1971, was meant to be BL's answer to the Ford Cortina. Leyland had been losing sales to the Cortina in the latter part of the sixties and came up with a new look for the seventies that was meant to appeal young, trendy couples setting up home together.

The Morris Marina was part of an overall grand plan which split the company into two divisions - Morris for conventional cars and Austin for innovative designs. Originally the innovation was based around Alec Issigonis's masterpiece, the Mini and the best selling Austin 1100. However, this reorganisation lead to the disastrous Austin Allegro.

Morris Marina Super De-luxe interior, 1970s

The Morris Marina was available in a range of models to suit varying tastes and pockets, just like the Cortina. In 1971 the customer could choose from 1.3 and 1.8 litre engines and 2-door coupe and 4-door saloon body styles. There were De-luxe and Super De-luxe variants. Super De-luxe gave you these lovely knit backed expanded vinyl seats (left), together with cut pile carpeting and a rev counter. The range was topped by a fast and powerful twin carburettor version available in both body styles. The "TC" had the 1.8 litre engine from the MGB. By all accounts though, it did not have the sports car's handling.

The Morris Marina embodied, to a certain extent, the style of the early seventies. The boxy, minimalist look of cars such as the Ford Cortina Mk 2 had been modified and given a new more colourful, even more fun feel. I love the style of the Marina's front grill, it is so typically seventies. The car suits bold bright colours - reds and oranges - even lime flower green.

Why is it rare now?

Most cars from the 60s and earlier were generally regarded as classics quite quickly. In some cases before they were even ten years old. Cars from the 70s, aside from obvious classics such as MGs, although those with the rubber bumpers faired less well, were preserved. However, bread and butter saloons from the 70s raised eyebrows at classic car clubs. It took some time before the naff image of the decade finally turned into retro chic. This means that some of the ultimate naff classics, such as the Austin Allegro with its quadric steering wheel, were preserved just before it was too late. This left more ordinary cars such as the Morris Marina out in the cold - often quite literally. I would not be surprised, however, for a new retro craze to start for these now rare beasts!

Morris Marina - details

70s style grill on the Morris Marina Super De-Luxe 70s style safety door handle on Morris Marina

Distinctive features on the Morris Marina included this 70s style grill (Super De-luxe only) and these safety door handles. Both added to the modern feel of the car.

Morris Marina prices

These prices are from 1971:

1.3 litre Coupe De-luxe 922.71
1.8 litre Coupe De-luxe 994.51
1.3 litre Saloon De-luxe 961.88
1.8 litre Saloon De-luxe 1033.68
1.8 litre TC Saloon 1177.29

Morris Marina on the web:

  • The Morris Marina and Morris Ital Owners Club
  • The Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource

Your comments on the Morris Marina

"i bought a second hand marina from a mate in the 80s it was on the road for approx 5 minuets i drove it round a sharp bend and the steering rack broke and i crashed into a garage wall. the car was a right off the wall did not look to good either. the car cost me 85-00 the wall cost me 25-00 happy days" paul beasley

"Purchased my first marina just a few days ago, a fantastic looking car from my point of view. Though driving it could be compared to driving a home-built go-kart... That's all part of the fun of driving a car like this. Perhaps a car once called "The worst car of all time" could one-day become loved again..." Joe.F 18/12/2010
"My time spent driving a Marina in the early 80's.....Happy, Happy days, fuel was cheap, cars had individuality, 0-60mph took all day and you could service it on a saturday morning. I now drive a Honda same car for ten years....never spent a penny on it other than servicing,its never let me down not half as much fun as a Marina, and the back seat.....well thats another story!!!" BOC 20/03/2011
"I had an L reg 1.8 estate. It could pull away in 4th gear in a field. However top speed was stubbornly 69mph and when I drove over puddles we lifted our feet as water splashed through the rusted holey floor. So much space in the engine compartment a whole family of asyllum seekers could hide in there. But it had character. Just don't sit bare-legged on those vinyl seats in summer!" Steve 11/06/2011
"Owned a string of 4dr Morris Marinas in 1970s as follows:
1st) 1972 1.8 Super (PEY259K)
2nd) 1973 1.3 DeLuxe (GOE363L)
3rd) 1977 1.8 Special (MLV524R0
4th 1979 1700HL (UKA249V)
Best ones were the 1.8s and worst was the 1700 which was purchased new! Problem starter. All others S/H and started fine!
Never owned a Coupe - which I always liked the shape of. Never needed an estate which was again a nice looking vehicle. Happy Days" Rob Owen 24/08/2011
"I worked for a BL dealership in 1972 when the Marina sold well. It was spacious & comfortable, but not a patch on the rival Cortina or Avenger. The handling was pretty poor especially in the wet and the bigger engined cars were the worst. The 1.3 was reasonably well balanced, but the 1.8 was nose heavy and the extra power of the TC enough to slew the rear end round quite dramatically, despite the standard radial tyres. The 1.3s came on standard crossplies - dunlop D75 groundhogs and this meant you could have a lot of fun at the low speed limit of adhesion - provided you were tall enough! Small drivers couldn't take left hand turns fast because the car's bonnet got in the way of sight as the car tilted quite dramatically.
But the worst problem of the cars was undoubtedly the abysmal build quality. It was rumoured they were named Marina after the water leaks. Being mechanically simple & using well proven parts, they should have been reliable, but rarely so. The same problems were repeated over & over in many cars.
Obviously, being a large dealership we had a number of accidents to repair. Owners repeatedly told us that the cars we rebuilt after accidents handled & performed better and were more reliable & had less squeaks & rattles than when they were new. Such a pity that a history of accidental damage devalued them.
The car that could have saved BL undoubtedly contributed to its demise. These were the days of poor industrial relations, factory workers sleeping their shifts, cars often being damage repaired before they even left the factory. Had they been well made, Marinas could have been a good car. Certainly I liked them despite the design flaws. I even owned one for a month as an emergency stopgap after a much loved motor caravan died. My kids took one look at it & refused to be seen in it - except when we went round local garages looking for a new car.
Would I own another? Sorry, no. They were tremendous fun but nowadays I need something reliable and a lot less lethal." dzerjb 17/02/2012
"The marina was the car that was destroyed by management. They wanted a car with a wheelbase of 96 inches, so they raised the parts cupboard, the trouble was they opened all the wrong cupboards. BL already had the Dolomite - wheelbase.....96 inches. Allegro, yes you guessed it 96 inches.
All they needed to do to produce a good car was to import the Dolomite floor plan and build the Marina on that.

That would be, and certainly was far too simple.

From 1973 onwards, BL were producing 3 96 inch cars all in completion with each other. The term economies of scale hadn't arrived at Cowley or Longbridge." mike price-james 07/07/2015
E-mail (Will not appear online)
To prevent automated Bots form spamming, please enter the text you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.


Your guide to vintage and retro