Tuesday October 24, 2017
There are certain once ubiquitous cars that often cause people to suddenly ask ‘when did I last see one of those?’ It is an extensive list, one to which you could include
- the Ford Sierra Mk.1
- the Austin Montego
- the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk. 3
- the Peugeot 405
- the original incarnation of the Renault 5
- and the Morris Marina
Just take a look at the background of virtually any episode of The Sweeney, The Professionals or indeed of The Bill up until circa 1990 and you are almost guaranteed to find at least one purple TC or bronze HL in the background.
But the handsome model 1.8 Series 2 saloon that will be appearing on the Pride of Ownership stand at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show is believed to be one of just six that are still on the road.
The Series 2 version of the Marina was launched in 1975 as a way of maintaining its commercial appeal, as the great BL historian Keith Adams notes, the Morris sold strongly during that decade and was often found in third or fourth place in the UK sales charts.
The suspension was modified, the fascia was restyled, there were new seats and trim levels while the frontal treatment was slightly modified.
When What Car evaluated a 1.3 De Luxe opposite a Ford Cortina 1300 Mk. III and a Toyota Corolla 30 in 1976 they concluded that ‘each performs the given tasks in an adequate, if uninspired, manner’.
This was just what many fleet managers required, for BL understood the Marina’s core markets where ‘straightforward’ translated as ‘cheap and easy to service’.
One advertisement even featured a sales rep parked outside of a faintly grim looking motel under the caption ‘If I’m going to do 20,000 miles a year, I’m going to do them in a Morris’.
To remark that a Marina lacks glamour is an observation on a par with noting that several East Enders cast members sound remarkably like Anthony Newley or Sid James – it is stating the blindingly obvious.
This was a car that was primarily intended to serve as business or family transport with a boot that was large enough for any amount of samples cases or holiday luggage.
The brochures may have highlighted the GT with its ‘side stripes’ and the HL’s ‘tinted glass for privacy’ but the majority of Briton would have experienced the less expensive versions.
Forget all about air-conditioning, electric windows and central locking, as forty years ago an MW/LW radio, a cigarette lighter, reclining front seats and even cloth upholstery were regarded as aspirational luxuries by many a company car driver
The Marina 2 was succeeded in late 1978 by the third-generation model (which was one of the stars of this quite brilliant commercial featuring The Two Ronnies) and by the early 1990s they were already an uncommon sight on British roads.
Judging if the experiences of Trevor and Brian Ford, their blue S-registered example is likely to prove to be a major attraction of the Pride of Ownership display.
‘When we were buying petrol near Blackpool we ended up being stuck at the filling station for half an hour! Everyone wanted to talk about the Marina!’ Some cars innately appeal via their sense of prestige or their performance but others evoke memories of the saloon that your mum/dad/grandparents once drove.
And that is why cars such as the Fords’ Morris are so essential to the classic car movement.