Could more than a million people really be wrong? Evidently, yes, because more than a million individuals parted with their hard-earned cash in exchange for Morris Marinas during the Seventies and early Eighties. Built by the Austin-Morris division of British Leyland (hardly renowned for flawless build quality), the Marina was fast-tracked from drawing board to production in just 18 months to get it on sale post-haste — a recipe for disaster right from the outset.
The corner-cutting didn’t end there, as rather than developing a new chassis for the for compact saloon, the British Leyland brainiacs raided the parts bin and came up with the chassis components from the ancient Morris Minor as a basis. A last-minute rethink meant the Marina did at least get slightly more modern engines than the bulbous Minor, but the powerplant switch meant the dimensions of the platform had to be chopped and changed — resulting in awkward proportions — to accommodate the ‘new’ motors.
The Marina’s crude live rear axle allegedly endowed it with the handling finesse of a garbage skip, and reports from the day suggest the car was prone to doing a hop-step-jump on bumpy roads. And, get this, Marinas with the larger and heavier 1.7-litre engine were fitted with the wrong suspension on the production line, resulting in the car understeering like a shopping trolley with wonky wheels.
The standard Marina was a four-door saloon, but there was also a coupe derivative conceived to rival the hot-selling Ford Capri. But, here again, cost-cutting spoiled the recipe as the coupe used the same doors as the saloon, significantly compromising its looks. As a final insult, the Marina’s wipers were fitted the wrong way around as otherwise they lifted from the windscreen at the top of their sweep. Rather than remedy the problem, the ingenious fix the engineers came up with was to simply switch them around.
You may also like: Not their finest hour: British Leyland
You may also like: Not their finest hour: Triumph TR7