Friday November 15, 2019
‘Most people think it is either an Innocenti or a British Mini with Innocenti bits – about one person per year recognises it as an Authi’. In 1965 the British Motor Corporation signed an agreement with Nueva Montaña Quijano S.A. to form Authi - Automoviles de Turismo Hispano Ingleses – and Simon Wheatcroft’s Cooper 1300 is one of over 140,000 Minis to leave the Pamplona factory.
Authi came about from a need for BMC to gain access to the heavily protected Spanish car market and for Nueva Montaña Quijano S.A to a find a new partner after their former client Renault began to build engines in-house. Production of the Morris 1100 commenced in 1966, followed by the MG 1100 in 1967, and by late 1968, the Morris Mini 1275-C.
The last-named did not directly compete against the ubiquitous SEAT 600, for it was a car that appealed to the affluent young man or woman about town; the then Prince Juan Carlos favoured a 1275-C. Power was from the Morris 1300’s single-carburettor unit – the “C” badge did not denote Cooper – and the list of standard fittings included auxiliary lamps, hide upholstery and a wooden fascia.
The slightly more modest 1000 (in “Standard” or “Special” forms) joined the range in April 1969 and, as this footage demonstrates, they were the epitome of grooviness - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRi2KNQeNP0&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1c9aVp9EBsmVMIP2pppPTmYwPvjnQ2TwLxWDSyF60AVPL9TKACnLtbcm8. The running gear and suspension were locally made while the body panels were shipped from the UK. Authi introduced the Mk. III bodyshell - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7-e2XBXk2Q - in 1970 and in early 1971 they unveiled a Spanish version of the 1275GT which featured the 850/1000 front rather than the Clubman type nose.
1973 saw British Leyland take complete control of Authi and further major automotive news was the introduction of the Cooper 1300 in that December. Simon remarks that ‘my car is one the first’. They were never officially sold in the UK, and PWN 151 M was privately imported in 1989. It was converted to RHD, and in 2013 Mr. Wheatcroft ‘bought the Mini from its original UK owner’. The Cooper is immediately recognisable via its badging, grille and vinyl roof – a “first” for a Mini – while the cabin features a leather-covered steering wheel, extremely comfortable seats and an elaborate, if completely un-ergonomic, set of instruments – ‘they are Spanish made’.
Mr. Wheatcroft thinks Authi ‘saw what Innocenti were doing with their Coopers’ and was inspired to make their own version’. As compared with the British S Mk. III, the engine had a lower compression ratio; 8.8:1 rather than 9.7: 1 – ‘it feels very similar to the 1275GT’. The price was a fairly steep 156,000 pesetas, making the Cooper 1300 very much transport for an ambitious young lawyer or architect. Alas, as with the parent company, the factory in Pamplona suffered from quality control issues and poor industrial relations. BL’s plan to sell the concern to GM fell through, and February of 1975 saw a depressing report in no less a journal than The New York Times:
The British Leyland Motor Corporation, Ltd., has decided to close its money-losing automobile plant in Spain after the collapse of negotiations between the Spanish Government and the General Motors Corporation for its purchase.
Five months later the factory was acquired by SEAT and by 1976 it was building their 124. At the same time, the final -Leyland cars vanished from Spain’s new car listings. Today, Simon believes that ‘there are about three or four Authi Coopers in the UK’ – just don’t call it an Innocenti…
With Thanks To: Simon Wheatcroft