Model Page

Morris Marina

Morris Marina

Production Run:


Production Date:

1971 - 1980


1.3 A Series (71 - 80)

1.8 B Series (71 - 78)

1.7 O Series (78 - 80)

1.5 B Series Diesel (77 - 80)


Cowley (UK)


30 Secs ~ 9.8 Secs

Max Speed:

70 Mph - 100 Mph

The Morris Marina, codename ADO 28 was a traditional four seat, rear wheel drive vehicle manufactured by British Leyland between 1971 and 1980. Available as a four door saloon or two door coupe powered by four cylinder engines ranging from 1300cc through to 1800cc the traditionally styled vehicle was marketed against the front running Ford Cortina but still managed to sell over 800,000 units.

British Leyland Motor Corporation was formed in 1968 through the merger of the failing British Motor Holding and the successful Leyland Motor Corporation. BMH was at the time the larger of the two manufacturers producing over twice the volume of vehicles as Leyland however their ageing model line up included the Morris Minor and Austin Cambridge – vehicles that were introduced in 1948 and 1954 respectively. Newly appointment chairman Sir Donald Stokes was appalled when he found that BMH had no replacements for their ageing line-up of vehicles, clearly the situation had to be addressed immediately.

Stokes was of the opinion that the most pressing requirement was to develop and launch a model that would be able to compete with Ford’s massively popular Escort, whilst BMC’s front wheel drive 1100 & 1300 were top of the sales charts fleet buyers had not taken to the model rather opting for the mechanical simplicity of Ford’s rear wheel drive offerings. From this point forward Morris was earmarked to develop traditional front engine, rear wheel drive vehicles with conservative styling - Austin being used to launch more unconventionally styled, technically advanced vehicles such as the Princess and Allegro.

Under codename ADO28 Harry Webster was tasked with developing a rear wheel drive range of vehicles to take the fight direct to Ford with a view of securing a fair share of the fleet market for BLMC and in the process resurrecting the Morris brand. Webster’s approach was to take the existing Morris Minor platform as a basis for the new vehicle, initial design proposals stretched the chassis wheelbase and used the existing running gear coupled with a range of engines from 1100cc through to 1500cc.

Lord Stokes dictated the new vehicle was to be launched at the London Motor Show in 1970 putting huge pressure on the development team to progress at pace. For cost and time constraints the majority of the vehicles components were taken from the existing Leyland parts bin for example the gearbox was shared with that of the Triumph 1300. As Webster worked through engineering the vehicle head of Styling Roy Haynes began work on the design of the vehicle in July 1968. Haynes had a proven track record having previously designed the Mk 2 Ford Cortina and he adopted the same approach of that used by Ford by offering “more metal for you money” and increased the size of the proposed vehicle. He believed that two versions of the car should be marketed firstly a traditional four door saloon and secondly a two door coupe aimed at a younger, more style conscious audience. Development was extraordinarily fast and the design models were present to the board on 5th August 1968.

Unlike Ford who meticulously costed their models down to the last penny, Leyland had allowed the finances of the project to run away. Initial plans was that the vehicle would sell at a price point of £575 providing a small but healthy profit margin whilst undercutting rivals. As the project progressed it became apparent that if the vehicle was sold at this price a loss would be made on each sale so the decision was taken to increase the price to £620 per vehicle at launch – identical to the better equipped Cortina.

Later in the year the decision was taken to move the car from an Escort rival to a Cortina rival and to compete the design was revised to provide a larger engine bay to accommodate a wider range of engines.

The Morris factory at Cowley was chosen to manufacture the Marina, management anticipated producing 5,000 vehicles per week, the antiquated plant was in a poor state of repair and it was clear that significant investment would be required to refit the factory to achieve these levels - £40 million was eventually spent bringing the facility up to scratch.

The Marina was launched in April of 1971 at Cannes but was not available on the UK market until the summer of 1971. THe model was available as a four door Saloon or two door Coupe in a range of trims including De Luxe (DL), Super De Luxe (SDL) and Twin Carb (TC). British Leyland offered a tuning packaging for the Twin Carb models that allowed owners to order a body kit, tailgate mounted spoiler and alloy wheels to their cars. Predictably the press were not overly excited with the model not featuring any particularly interesting features but the car did benefit from praise relating to the styling which was judged to be about right.

The Marina was not equipped with an engine developed solely for its use, rather utilising existing engines from the BL range. At launch the vehicle was offered with either 1.3 litre or 1.8 litre four cylinder unit, the later could be equipped with either a single or twin carburettor. The 1.3 litre A series engine was a 1,275cc engine taken from the MG Midget with minor modifications to the sump and generated 57 bhp @ 5,500 rpm and 68 lb/ft at a useful 2,450 rpm. The 1.3 Marina had a 0-60 time of 16.4 seconds and top speed of 86 mph whilst returning a respectable 31 miles per gallon. The 1.8 litre B Series engine was lifted from the MGB, the 1,798cc engine when installed with a single carburettor developed a respectable 82 bhp @ 5,000 rpm and 99 lb/ft @ 2,900 rpm this powered the car to 60 mph from rest in 12 seconds and on to a top speed of 95 mph, whilst not quite as frugal the engine still managed to deliver 27 mpg. For the more sporting drive a 1.8 Twin Carb was offered developing a more potent 95 bhp @ 5,000 rpm and 105 lb/ft @ 2,500 rpm – this gave the car a drastically improved 0-60 mph time of 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 100 Mph, fuel consumption was increased slightly to 25 mpg.

All was not well however, Autocar and Motor magazine uncovered a design flaw in the vehicle that gave the Marina a tendency to severely under steer when corners were taken at higher speeds, the larger 1800cc vehicles suffering more than the 1300cc units. The respective road testers visited Harry Webster to table their claims and noted that they would publish unfavourable road tests should the car not be modified – a negative press could have major implications on the sales success of the new model.

The root of the problem was the antiquated suspension system that was derived from the Morris Minor the front suspension was independent and used torsion bars whilst at the rear a live rear axle was used supported by semi elliptic leaf springs. Webster appeased both writers by assuring them that no 1800cc car would be sold without modification and that a front anti roll bar had already been developed to alleviate the problem and would have been present on the press vehicles but for time constraints.

This was not strictly true as the addition of a front anti roll bar would not have resolved the issue rather the engineering team modified the front suspension through the addition of a different lower link arm, furthermore approximately 5,000 vehicles would leave the factory before the modification was integrated into the production line. Even so, Webster had convinced the journalists and the published test reviews were fairly positive and only noted normal levels of under steer.

Looking to increase production volumes Morris introduced Van and Estate models to the line up in September of 1972, the van was available with a 1.1 litre (until 1973) or 1.3 litre engine or a 1.8 litre engine for the estate. The van was highly successfully for Morris and found favour with many large British organisations including British Gas, the Water Board, the Electricity Board and various breakdown recovery organisations, although no accurate figures are available it is estimated that over 100,000 vans were sold.

The range remained static until May 1973 when the limited edition (2,000 vehicles) 1.8 Jubilee models were introduced onto the market. The Jubliee, only available as a four door saloon benefited from a number of updates to boost the specification including driving lamps, opening quarter light windows, tinted glass and a laminated windscreen, alternative side stripes and an in vogue vinyl roof completed the transformation.

With little money for development a vain attempt was made at updating the vehicle in October 1975 when the Series 2 models were released, at this point saloon vehicles equipped with the twin carb engine were renamed HL and TC Coupes renamed GT. The facelift models were treated to a few styling tweaks including a new front grille and larger bumpers revisions continued to the interior with a new dashboard, revised seating and increased soundproofing. Mechanical revisions were made to the suspension and included the installation of front and rear anti roll bars, from this point forward all vehicles equipped with a 1300cc engine were supplied with front disc brakes replacing the all drum setup.

It was not until 1977 that the range was updated further when Morris launched a Marina equipped with a 1.5 Diesel in 1977, the 1489cc four cylinder engine was developed from the B-Series range of engines and produced 38 bhp @ 4,000 rpm and 116 lb/ft @ 1,550 rpm. With such limited figures the car struggled from 0-60 mph in 30 seconds and managed a top speed of just 70 mph although the car did deliver a very healthy 42 mpg, with such performance figures it was never a volume seller and only 3,870 vehicles were manufactured before the Marina ended production.

The final development to the range came in September on 1978 when the Series III was introduced, once again the development was hamstrung by a lack of funds consequently changes were minimal; minor styling changes that included a new grille that included driving lights, new rear light clusters, redesigned bumpers and a front spoiler. Simplifying production the range was rationalised, the Coupe was reduced to being made available only with a 1.3 engine, the 1.8 B Series engines were replaced with the 1.7 O Series units and subsequently the Twin Carb models removed from the line-up.

The overhead camshaft O series engine was an altogether more refined unit and for use in the Marina the 1,698cc engine developed 78 bhp @ 5,150 rpm and 93 lb/ft @ 3,400, this was sufficient to power the vehicle from 0-60 mph in 12 seconds and provide a top speed of 95 mph whilst returning 29 mpg. Whilst offering a significant improvement over the date B Series the engine was considered to be unrefined when compared with competitors overhead camshaft engines.

Despite the vehicles basis underpinnings and conservative styling the Marina sold very well in the UK and remained in the top ten sellers list for some time and even reached the heady heights of second position in 1972 / 73 in total around 807,000 vehicles were sold during its lifecycle in the UK market. The car did take a significant portion of the fleet market (although never troubling Ford’s dominance) proving very popular with fleet managers thanks to the low running costs and ease of maintenance in comparison with front wheel drive alternatives. The final vehicles to wear the Marina badge rolled off the production line in July 1980 when the car was finally superseded by the Morris Ital which was essentially the same vehicle with cosmetic modifications.

Today the Morris Marina is often maligned having suffered from poor press recently and it is estimated that just 745 examples remained on the roads in August 2006 making this the most scraped car in Britain. Such a rate can be put down to a number of factors including poor rust proofing, restoration costs exceeding the value of the car, no sporting model within the line-up and that the Marina offers itself up to be a donor vehicle for other Leyland vehicles.

The Facts


1.1 Four Cylinder A Series

1.3 Four Cylinder A Series

1.7 Four Cylinder O Series

1.8 Four Cylinder B Series

1.5 Four Cylinder Diesel


1.1 - 1098cc

1.3 - 1275cc

1.7 - 1698cc

1.8 - 1798cc

1.5 D - 1489cc


All - 8

Compression Ratio:

1.1 - 8.5:1

1.3 - 8.8:1

1.7 - 9.0:1

1.8 - 9.0:1

1.5 - u/a

Fuel System:

1.1 - SU HS2 sidedraft Carburettor

1.3 - SU HS4 sidedraft Carburettor

1.7 - SU Carburettor

1.8 - SU Carburettor

Maximum Power:

1.1 - 47 bhp @5,200 rpm

1.3 - 57 bhp @ 5,500 rpm

1.7 - 78 bhp @ 5,150 rpm

1.8 - 82 bhp @ 5,000 rpm

1.8TC - 95 bhp @ 5,000 rpm

1.5D - 38 bhp @ 4,000 rpm

Maximum Torque:

1.1 - @ 2,450 rpm

1.3 - 68 lb/ft @ 2,450 rpm

1.7 - 93 lb/ft @ 3,400 rpm

1.8 - 99 lb/ft @ 2,900 rpm

1.8TC - 105 lb/ft @ 2,500 rpm

1.5D - 116 lb/ft @ 1,550 rpm


4 Speed Manual

Borg Warner 3 Speed Automatic

Top Gear:



1.3 (1971- 1975) - Drums Front / Drums Rear

1.3 (Oct 1975 Onward) - Servo Assisted Front Discs / Rear Drums

1.5, 1.7, 1.8 - Servo Assisted Front Discs / Rear Drums

Kerb Weight:

925 Kg - 988 Kg

Max Speed:

1.3 - 86 Mph

1.7 - 95 Mph

1.8 - 100 Mph

1.5D - 70 Mph


1.3 - 16.4 Secs

1.7 - 12 Secs

1.8 - 9.8 Secs

1.5 - 30 Secs