A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super Coupe

Most of these photos for Sunday are taken outside my front door, somewhere along my street.

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It’s not that I don’t go anywhere else. I do but I seldom, if ever, see an unusual or interesting car to photograph. I even stop into look at old garages to see if there are rusting treasures hidden from plain view. There aren’t. All the interesting cars in Denmark are either on my street or in a suburb of Copenhagen. This specimen appeared last week. The car is a Morris Marina 1.3 coupe.

1971 Morris Marina badge

The front half of the car and the back half of the car seem to be unrelated. If you read about the troubled history of this car, you learn that among all the many thousands cuts that caused the death of this as a decent car, chief among them was the use of the saloon doors on the coupe. Originally the designer, an ex-Ford bloke, wanted the saloon as the standard

1971 Morris Marina doorhandlecar and the coupe to be a sporty image builder. BL were keen to cut costs and so the coupe gained a set of short doors from the saloon and the faster engine and better suspension went out the door. They decided that the two door should be the base model and the saloon the slightly better one. So, some looked at the fastback shape and expected a sportiness that was never there. Roy Haynes, the designer must have been the loneliest man in the world during this time.

Super - 1971 Morris Marina 1.3 coupe.
Super – 1971 Morris Marina 1.3 coupe.

You can read a fairly clear summary of the Morris Marina story here so I won’t repeat it. It is the meta-story is what draws me. Like the Jaguar XJ-40, the SD1 and the Triumph Stag and the Triumph Acclaim, the Marina´s is the tale of astonishing managerial ineptitude. Another one. The car itself is staggeringly uninteresting. It has no identifiable character externally (shades of Essex Fords?) and the mechanicals are raided from all over the BL empire so the car has no intrinsic character either. The story of how BL arrived at this dull, dull machine is where the fascination lies.

Despite all that, someone loves this Marina. It’s been resprayed and the original plates from the early 70s (white letters on black). That’s also amazing. I was lucky to get a photo of the car as it is usually concealed by a huge nylon cover.

All this on my street. Nowhere else in Jutland.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

42 thoughts on “A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super Coupe”

  1. I’ve found the Marina so embarrassing from Day 1 that I’ve avoiding reading that much about its genesis,. I also find it difficult to look at, so I never noticed that about the doors til now. It was a truly awful car from the UK company that had set the technological pace. Of course, a true bargain 2 door would have sensibly avoided the fastback and used the saloon’s boot and roof pressing plus rear glass. That said, a nice clear view for the kids in the back.

  2. Quite right: a two door saloon would have made a lot more sense. They must have made the decision late in the day. This is more improvisational panic management. “Helen, can you get me a cup of tea, please, and instruct lofting to use the Marina saloon doors…milk, three sugars. Thanks.”

  3. They’re actually part of the DTW rental fleet. You’ve discovered the site sting Chris. Next time you fancy a two week motoring holiday in Denmark at the wheel of a Toyota Tercel, you know where to come.

    1. That is not the worst business idea I have ever heard. A bit like one of those driving clubs, but much cheaper, and with free breakdown recovery thrown in.

  4. One of my more questionable pastimes is collecting mid-century (1950-1970) art glass. The reasons I collect such objects are many-fold. Firstly, they remind me of when I was young. Secondly, I find it incredible that they have survived all that time, often having been whipped out from behind the iron curtain. Thirdly, their design inevitably codifies the values of the time in which they were made (indeed, the more stark, lumpen and communistic it is, the better I like it). And fourthly (and perhaps most critically), because of its spectacularly undesirability, it is shit cheap.

    Browsing Autotrader a month or two ago, I chanced across a Triumph Toledo. Not a Dolomite Sprint, or even a plain Dolomite; just a bog specification Toledo in BL mustard. But that Toledo was completely immaculate. Someone had spent way more restoring it than the £4000 asking price. Viewing it, I had all my familiar mid-century art glass collector pangs. I still get itchy palms thinking about it now.

  5. Not a bad sort of car to look at, the Toledo. I imagine they are horrible to live with on account of the way they were assembled and even made. There were too many rotting Brtish cars on the streets of Dublin in the 70s and early 80s for me to look at these fondly. On paper at least this could so very well have been a BMW 3-series beater. Imagine if BL had given approval and had the means to replace this with a proper successor and not the Acclaim. Instread they picked Rover which had to change its position from a sub-Jaguar to a Munich-on-the-Wolds car. Triumph were a naturally sports-orientated brand.
    While I am here, another peice of recieved wisdom is that a brand has to have a full line of models. What if Triumph had occupied the Escort class and Cortina class and left Rover to sell against Granadas et al?
    The Marina isn´t worth talking about, is it?

  6. There is certainly a sizeable difference in my mind between the Marina and the Toledo. I could imagine liking the Toledo, even if it broke down. The Marina would always make me angry, even if it ran like a dream.

  7. The literature suggests the Marina was a direct copy of the Cortina, as close as they could get without just taking moulds from the Ford´s flanks. The Morris name does not conjour magic. The Marina name is pretentious. A marina is a place where you park boats. I suppose BL wanted buyers to imagine they lived the yachting lifestyle which is absurd given the price and aspiration of the machine. Cortina is a ski resort in Italy. How many UK buyers knew that? The Viva name is from a Latin-language acclamation and as such harmlessly devoid of content.

  8. Imagine the brief. “Look here Webster. I want something to square up to that bloody Cortina. None of that Issigonis fancy foootwork mind. Back to basics. We’ll show Ford a thing or two. Talk about lowest common denominator. We’ll make that Dagenham dustbin seem like a bloody Citroen DS.”

    Chris. You’ve just reminded me of two gloriously kitsch wine glasses I bought in Prague in 1981. I wonder where I put them?

  9. Based entirely on the conversation on here, plus the whiskey I drank too quickly at lunch, I have decided I am going to start a subscription car club for weirdly immaculate non-classics. Want to drive an oddly preserved Nissan Cherry with a blue velour interior and only 17,000 miles on the clock? How about a Volvo 740 subjected to a perplexing restoration at 170,000 miles? Borrow our Austin Montego somehow untouched by rust or scorn! Only £145pcm (unlimited breakdown cover included).

    1. As you said above, I’ve heard of worse ideas, it might even appeal to those people who used to treat themselves to the supercar experience. Let’s face it, on today’s roads if you rent a piece of exotica, most the time you’d be driving it at 4/10. For a real he-man experience, take out that Marina on a wet day still on it’s original wooden Goodyears.

    2. There could be a market for leasing pristine bog-standard cars. A small one but it would offer curious want-to-be classic car owners a painless remedy for their affliction.
      1983 Triumph Accclaim
      1983 Alfa 90
      1975 Volvo 262
      1980 Renault 11
      1984 Audi 80
      That kind of thing.

    3. Sourcing a fleet would be the hardest part. Not necessarily expensive, just hard. Although there is a weirdly immaculate Maxi on Auto Trader at the moment for Not A Lot.

  10. Possibly there is one car that is so forgettable, no-one remembers it. All examples have been scrapped, it has completely disappeared from our mass memory. No-one ever wrote a book about it, tested it for a magazine and certainly no-one has put it up on the internet. It was only available in one colour, a sort of off something that didn’t have a name and the interior was in a darker version of that colour. It was probably Japanese since the UK, for example, couldn’t make a completely average car – it would either be slightly interesting or unforgettably bad. The car I’m (not) thinking about is is the ultimate non-car. If you do actually remember it, the chances are you are dead.

  11. The Peugeot 305 and Carina are ideal. The 305 is one of those great ordinary cars that people never get around to trying. The Carina would be genuinely rare and morbidly boring. The Tagora must get into the list.

    1. I once bought a 2 year old Peugeot 305 Estate for around £3,300 I think. About 18 months after this indulgence, we had problems at work and I thought I might have to sell the Peugeot. I was still going to need a car and, feeling that I was the architect of my own misfortune, thought that I would buy the most unloveable car I could – which I decided would be a 6 year old Carina, probably in dark green. At the time this seemed to me a total piece of self-mortification. In the event we scraped through and the Peugeot remained. Good car though it was, it also cost me a fair amount of money in faults and breakdowns so, in hindsight, maybe I should have got that Carina anyway.

    2. The Chrysler is a good one.
      And I agree with Sean about the Tagora. I was first tempted to add it myself.

  12. A couple of suggestions:

    1980 Volkswagen Derby 1.1 LS
    1985 Talbot Samba 1.1 Trio
    1986 Fiat Regata 70
    1987 Nissan Bluebird 1.6 LX
    1988 Peugeot 309 1.3 GR

    Of course these are the cars of Car Chat – (still only 99p from all good newsagents), so perhaps it would only be fitting to call it Full Chat Hire.

    1. Regata: good suggestion!
      I’m not convinced about the Samba, though. We’d certainly have to exclude the convertible here.

  13. An ’85 Nissan Laurel?
    A VW K70?
    Or maybe the same comments as the Tagora apply to both.

    A 1.3 litre base model Sierra with slatted grille.
    A Fiat Tipo

  14. The K70 is definitely in the Tagora category. It already has too much of a real classic following in the Germanic world.
    If Richard brings in the 929: Why not add all Mazdas from the early-to-mid ’80s (excluding the RX7, of course)? Or basically most other Japanese cars from this time – it might be easier to do a negative list for them.

    I also thought about Citroën. Alas, most have become classics already, but what about the LN?

    Other suggestions:
    1985-90 Isuzu Gemini
    1975-89 Hyundai Pony (3 generations!)

  15. This is my Marina, and I truly love her. You gotta drive her to know how much temper she has! If your lucky you might meet her one day!

    Christian Emdal Graabech Sørensen

    1. Hi:
      Thanks for writing. Despite the critique of BL, I think it’s great people like and look after these cars. I noticed the fresh paint and general tidiness. I’d be pleased to take a closer look at some point. I presume the car is hiding from the water and salt at the moment.
      How many of these are left?
      And why is the street where this car parks so much more likely to be inhabited by rarities than anywhere else in the region?

  16. Apart from the doors, I think this is actually a handsome looking car. It is no more dull than Vauxhalls of the time and the rear looks nice and sporty. I know that British Leyland was infamous for the bad quality of their cars, but this one survived and has become a cute classic now.

    1. Yes, it has unicorn appeal. However, the form doesn’t hang together because the car behind the b-pillar is so clearly unrelated to the bit in front. I am glad someone is looking after it.
      Ford and Opel had the money to spend on proper variants of their mainstream cars and, alas, BL had to scrimp meaning a decent theme on paper was savaged in the name of feasibility.

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