I have been following the correspondence in your columns regarding the merits or otherwise of M.G. 1100 (or Morris) and Ford Cortina. This has been of special interest to me as I have owned both cars its the last six months—a January 1963 M.G. 1100 and September 1963 Cortina GT. My experiences may be of some interest to readers who are contemplating the purchase of either of these vehicles.
The M.G. was delivered in the middle of the very cold spell at the beginning of the year and nasty shocks were immediately the order of the day. The battery was very low and this, combined with a choke control which would not pull out properly, made starting impossible on the day after delivery, so I went to work by ‘bus, leaving the battery on charge. A replacement choke control cable, plus the properly charged battery, made starting instantaneous the following morning. However, Middlesbrough Corporation Transport got another unexpected passenger that day because I found it impossible to engage any gear at all—the clutch would not disengage. The distributor came and towed the car away, re-positioned the clutch, and by the next morning it was actually possible to get in the car and drive it away. I found this to be a very chilly operation as no heat was coming from the heater. A quick roadside investigation revealed that the heater control cables were not connected up, and I was able to effect a cure on the spot.
The next few months of M.G. 1100 motoring were a mixed bag of satisfaction and downright stupefaction. Two large screws securing the facia were only halfway in and the cubby-hole lid refused to stay shut, its magnetic catch displaying a regrettable lack of cling. Strong-arm stuff on the screws finally got them home and henceforth the cubby-hole lid actually stayed shut.
The bonnet lid was an atrocious fit and after a few weeks’ use it was impossible to open it by pulling on the release knob, situated in a cunningly inaccessible position in a recess under the facia. I got over this by inventing an ingenious little gadget which I once contemplated patenting for the convenience of other M.G. 1100 owners. This was simply a short length of strong rope with a loop at each end. One loop was dropped over the release knob and a strong piece of broom handle inserted in the other. A good two-handed tug on the toggle thus farmed and the bonnet lid would spring open with a fearsome clang.
At two months old the rear brakes bound on, and at three months the trafficator switch disintegrated. I was informed that “they all did this, there’s a new design switch been brought out; we’ve had them on order for four months but can’t get them.” I settled for a switch from a Mini van installed under the facia. This functioned splendidly but there was not, of course, any self-cancelling.
The car was a delight to handle, especially on ice and snow where f.w.d. gave it wonderful traction. Performance was nothing to enthuse over, “just about adequate” being a fair summing-up, anything over 65-70 m.p.h. making the engine sound definitely hard worked. The gear-change was poor and the screen-washers never worked at all. The suspension was easily the best I have ever experienced over bad surfaces, and cornering was exceptional at all speeds that the average motorist is likely to use. However, I must in all fairness sound a discordant note in all the praise that has been lavished on the Moulton suspension. In my opinion it leaves a bit to be desired as far as really hard driving is concerned, any shutting off of power on a bend causing a quite appreciable swerve. Also I think it fair to say that if one overdoes it a bit on a fast corner recovery is easier with good conventional suspension. Perhaps this is why one so very rarely sees a Morris or M.G. 1100 being raced?
As will be apparent from the foregoing, I was not really satisfied with the M.G., and when an opportunity arrived to part with it I did so, and bought a Cortina GT. I haven’t had this car long enough to give an exhaustive opinion about it but so far I am more than satisfied. I have just completed the running-in at 1,500 miles and very few faults indeed have been apparent. The performance is, of course, very much superior to the M.G.’s, acceleration in particular being delightful. Handling is good, the steering being very light and positive, and the car can be taken through bends very rapidly. Over bad surfaces the suspension is definitely lively and not a patch on the M.G.’s. The biggest drawback is the very small fuel capacity and consequent short cruising range. [Well over 200 miles, surely?—Ed.] The interior is a bit austere, but the seating arrangements are very much more comfortable than the M.G.’s; the latter’s front seats evidently having been designed for people with 24-in. legs. I miss the M.G.’s very compact dimensions when parking, although the GT’s steering is much lighter for close manoeuvring.
Both cars have a fascination, but the M.G. lacked the sense of honest strength apparent in the Cortina. In my opinion much of the brilliance of Issigonis’ design has been wasted on the 1100 range by sheer downright bad workmanship and abysmal inspection. And, really, it is nice to be handling a real gear-change again!