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Chris Jones takes a look at one of BMC's most underrated estate cars. Chris looks at the original proposal and the final face lift before the axe came down.


In May 1963 BMC were putting the finishing touches to the Austin 1100, however there were already plans in advanced stages for an estate version of the ADO16. The body styling was looking similar to that used in full production but, BMC were planning to use a split tailgate arrangement which would be similar to that used on the Austin A40.


A 1963 proposal showing the split tailgate arrangement. If only this chrome finishing strip had made it onto production vehicles.


In January 1965, a year before the official estate was to be launched, Crayford had come up with a conversion that converted a standard 1100 saloon into an estate. Crayford were, perhaps, better known for the Heinz 57 Wolseley Hornets of 1966. The conversion would use the split tailgate as used on the BMC prototype with the only difference being that the bottom part of the tailgate didn't go down as far as that used on the BMC proposal. This meant the loading area was severely obstructed.


Crayford's attempt at making a saloon into an estate. Why didn't they make it a full hatchback?


There were two conversions available, a basic and a deluxe. The cost of the basic conversion was 79. Crayford would convert your 1100 into the estate by changing the back seat for one that folded, and fitting of a flat boot floor. The rear window was cast in a light alloy frame which was hinged at the top. Crayford reused the boot lid, and the it was hinged along the bottom edge. If you wanted to spend that little bit more the deluxe version would set you back 115 but included the rear window surround being the same colour as the body, a carpeted load area with longitudinal protective strips and an automatically operated load-bay light.

BMC approved the conversion and would deliver your new 1100 straight to the Crayford factory so they could carry out the work on your car. There was however a waiting list for conversion this was approximately seven weeks, and then for the conversion to be carried out you would have to wait a further eight days.

Before the BMC estate was launched at the Geneva Motor show in March 1966 the rear tailgate under went a makeover, and became a one piece unit. This would be the first  BMC vehicle that would be produced with a one piece lifting tailgate.


The Austin 1100 Countryman cutaway car on show at the Geneva Motor show in March 1966.


The launch of the Austin 1100 Countryman and Morris 1100 Traveller caused interest amongst the press, who were intrigued that the car was the same width, length and height as the saloon, but it boasted huge amounts of storage space.


The Austin 1100 Countryman, fitted with a different dashboard to that of the Morris, but other than that, the same.


The Morris 1100 Traveller, externally the same as the Austin 1100 Countryman, apart from the bonnet trim and Morris badges. Internally the Morris was fitted with a different dashboard.


Externally the Morris 1100 Traveller and Austin 1100 countryman were similar apart from the Austin being fitted with the traditional eight wavy bar grille, and the Morris had eight straight bars. Internally the Morris dashboard was more adventurous than that fitted to the Austin.

Throughout the life of the estate, there were some minor problems with the Hydrolastic suspension. When a load was placed in the rear, it caused the front end to rise, and the rear end to droop. Alex Moulton had been working on a revised system that would be self levelling.

In 1967 BMC turned it's attention to building an 1100 van, however, they only managed to commission 50. These vans were used by dealers and service stations to ship parts. The self levelling suspension would have made the van a viable proposition and could have been a popular commercial.


A batch of vans awaiting delivery. It seems strange seeing the glass missing in the rear but the metal panel looks very in keeping, and suites the style of the body.


BMC launched Mk2 models in 1967, and they were given a similar make over the standard saloon. This included revised front end styling, slotted wheels, restyled seats and trim, redesigned instrument panel (Morris models only), and a simulated wood side trim.


The wood side trim. The only problem was after a few years it seemed to fade. Perhaps not the best material to use? A stainless side trim, similar to that fitted to the Austin America may have been more in keeping?


Want to know more? Check out the timeline page for more detailed information on model changes.

With thanks to Austin-Rover.co.uk and Michael Turner for use of their pictures.

 

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