Morris Marina Profile

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Morris Marina General Information

Note at first, that TC does not mean Twin Cam, but something as sophisticated as Twin Carburettors on a sidevalve pushrod engine. And that’s only the start of a car full of British Humour! BMC (BMH) was struggling, that’s why they merged with Leyland to form BL. The new management was shocked at the lack of new developments in the pipeline, so the project ADO28 was created at very short notice. Despite a new body shell, it basically combined a small Austin engine with the transmission and some underpinnings from the Triumph Dolomite. And Morris was put in charge of it because Austin by now was famous for FWD, while the ADO28 was aimed at a more conservative market than Triumph. And the coupé is the most curious version of them all.

It seems unusual that after some decent successes with the Austin 1800, i.e. 2nd in the London-Sydney 1968, BL decided to send a technically related car of slightly worse configuration into rallies. Some say when BMC turn BL was struggling they realised that they forgot to sack works rally driver Brian Culcheth, so with the driver still there they found some mechanics, bits and pieces to keep Brian busy, that’s how the Marina rally car was born. But that’s probably just people joking about BMC/BL, because if so they surely would have simply used the existing Austin 1800.... Besides there were rally projects with Triumph 2.5Pi and Dolomite, too. Indeed, the Morris Marina TC used the same engine as the Austin 1800 and many details were the same. The outstanding difference is that the Austin 1800 is shorter and wider, with a hydrolastic suspension and FWD, while the Morris Marina is RWD as its main feature in comparison. While RWD is not a bad thing, being slim and long would not give the Marina an easy handling. Plus the Marina was 5 years further on, yet it had a less sophisticated suspension and saw hardly any testing and development – that all is why it is difficult to make the Morris Marina look good in comparison to the Austin 1800. Many people used to laugh about the Marina, but in rallying it wasn't actually that bad. It was a small effort, although a works entry, it was nowhere near on the standards a works team operated even in the early 1970s. And BL or Morris had more the British Championship in mind anyway. Still, when it came to international stages, it was always challenging for class wins!

Note as well that this is not the conservative Marina saloon car but more its sporty version, a fastback coupé. OK, if I didn’t before, I probably send you laughing about me now, but I love this Morris Marina thing. Yes, the saloon was a bit boring, and we have to drop the “bit” bit when its Morris Ital facelift was given a plastic front with no design features whatsoever, something otherwise only the Asians or VW could do, it was a lot boring by now. I have no idea why the Ital was given a new name, it was plainly an even mild Marina facelift bar the front. Bad news, because in design the front was the best of the whole car! Yes, you could argue that the original Marina saloon front was also not that beautiful, but it was filigree and characterful. The Marina version that was rallied however was the coupé (that never existed as an Ital). The Marina Coupé came by accident, but it was a rather beautiful accident. BL wanted two more versions of the original Marina, first a 4-door fastback, later followed up by a smaller 2-door coupé. But then BL decided there was no money and we drop the additional versions. But the Morris designers did not want to lose their coupé. So they took the fastback as it was and built it as a 2-door coupé! When you have a rear like that, you don’t give it a tailgate? Silly, normally I like the functionality of tailgates. There was a prototype called ADO77 – note that these ADO project numbers had no sequential order, so this is no contradiction to be close in time to the ADO28. While the ADO77 was to have a more aerodynamic front, it is striking to compare this 4-door fastback (also no tailgate) with the ADO28 coupé. Let’s not overcomplicate things with ADO codes and versions that never were. But the ADO28 coupé was born in a desperate situation like this. If you take the ADO77 and weld the rear doors... indeed the 2-door Marina Coupé has exactly the front doors of its 4-door sisters. Yes, as a result the side is completely out of proportion. But somehow it still failed to be really ugly. It had the best bit of the saloon, the front, and a rear that reminded of a combi coupé, very characterful! For a coupé, it looked unusual and characterful, but not really sporty. The sporty bit of the coupé was under the bonnet. An 1800cc engine may not sound like much today, but the saloon originally only had a 1300cc. It was not only a coupé but a car like no other. Indeed the 2008 Volkswagen Scirocco 3 or the 2005 Alfa Brera go into this combi coupé direction, but the Morris Marina came at a time where we have to compare her to Opel Kadett B, Volkswagen 1600 Typ3 and the likes. Maybe these comparisons show that the Morris Marina was far more interesting than people seem to remember her to be.

The Marina's biggest problem may have been that BL also sent the Triumph Dolomite into rallies at the same time. On paper the Dolomite was the clearly superior car: Compared to the Dolomite, the Marina was longer (but lighter) and had a slightly shorter wheelbase. The Marina also had an 1800cc 8v engine that in group2 trim was some 30BHP (and that's a lot when you are talking figures around 150BHP) down on the Dolomite's 2000cc 16v. Yet in the results the Marina did just as well as the Dolomite, so the Marina can't have been as bad as people like to make out. Mind you, the old Austin 1800cc engine had an extremely long stroke while the Triumph 16v unit was a short stroke, so the Marina was quite good on torque in this comparison. Still, apart from torque and weight, on paper it didn't make sense that the Marina could keep up with the Dolly, yet it did!

Morris Marina Related Content

Morris Marina Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Morris Marina TC (73-76) 136/6000 161/4700 4290.1640.1425 1050 (7.7) RWD (2438)

Random Morris Marina Photos

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Morris Marina Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
24th. 1974 WRC Rally of Finland B. Culcheth J. Syer #21 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
16th. 1973 WRC Rally of Finland B. Culcheth J. Syer #7 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00

Morris Marina Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1974 WRC Rally of Great Britain A. Dawson . UNKNOWN #49 [UNKNOWN] SS99 crash
Ret. 1974 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Ryan . UNKNOWN #74 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?
Ret. 1974 WRC USA Press on Regardless Rally B. Culcheth J. Syer #15 [UNKNOWN] SS99 gearbox
Ret. 1974 WRC Rideau Lakes Rally B. Culcheth J. Syer #109 [UNKNOWN] SS99 gearbox
Ret. 1973 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Ryan M. Nicholson #88 [UNKNOWN] SS99 ?