Urban-planned existences lived out under high-voltage power lines, the yellowed lighting of deserted subterranean underpasses. Dehydrated food – just add water – George and Mildred on the Radio Rentals telly. Modest hopes, unfulfilled ambitions and quiet despair, punctuated by mass unemployment, the three-day week and grinding industrial disputes. The Sixties ‘white heat of industry’ had sputtered – Seventies Britain appeared to be unravelling into a J.G Ballard-esque dystopia.
During the run up to the 1997 UK election victory which swept them into power, Labour Party strategists identified a core median demographic to which they hoped to appeal, which they labelled, Mondeo Man. But had this election taken place some twenty years earlier, Labour’s archetype might have hailed, not from Genk, but Longbridge, because for most of the Sixties, Britain’s favourite car had been BMC’s 1100.
Having painfully emerged from post-war privation, a recovering Sixties Britain remained a hidebound and socially conservative nation. A matter which makes it all the more striking that a car marrying contemporary Italian style with a highly sophisticated technical specification should prove a bestseller. In many respects, the BMC 1100 seemed more akin to what was then termed a continental car than one hailing from the British midlands, the type of car more likely to have been viewed by Mondeo Man’s forebears as something akin to witchcraft.
We continue our examination of Sir Alec Issigonis’ BMC legacy.
While development of the Mini was progressing at Longbridge, the XC/9002 family car project, now carrying the ADO16 development code, was initiated. Issigonis envisaged ADO16 in very much the same austere style as the Mini, simply larger and with four doors. A prototype Big Mini was built at Longbridge and shipped to Cowley for further development.