A front-drive 1,098-c.c. saloon with self-levelling rubber, all-round independent suspension and Lockheed disc front brakes, available in 4-door saloon form for less than £700 purchase tax paid.
Avid followers of the ADO15 B.M.C. mini-theme have waited a long time to see what that ingenious designer Alec Issigonis, with the connivance of suspension expect Alex Moulton, would engineer next. On August 15th the World (that part of it which does not see French and Italian motor papers which “jump the gun”) discovered that it is the ADO16 Morris 1100, a brilliant extension of the minibric theme, more powerful, more spacious, disc-braked and possessed of simple, exceedingly clever self-levelling of the Moulton rubber suspension units.
The main items in which this new Morris 1100 differs from the ubiquitous Morris Mini Minor are the 64 x 84 mm. (1,098 c.c.) engine developing 48 b.h.p. at 5,100 r.p.m., a remote gear-lever, sealed coolant system with expansion tank a la Renault, pre-lubricated and sealed-for-life suspension and steering joints, Lockheed 8-in, disc brakes on the front wheels, rubber-insulated rear sub-frames, curved glass side windows for increased elbow room, 12-in, wheels shod with Dunlop C.41 tyres, an anti-roll bar which increases the rear roll couple and decreases understeer With power on, and, greatest step-forward of all, interconnected suspension rather unfortunately dubbed Float-on-Fluid Hydroelastic.
Whereas the Minis have proved themselves over rally terrain and on race tracks, the Morris 1100 is intended as a refined, compact but very spacious family saloon, and it is available in 2- and 4-door versions. There is a choice of eight colours, and the surprisingly generous interior passenger and stowage space of the minibric is compressed within an overall length of 12 ft. 3 in. for easy parking and garaging. The wheelbase of the Morris 1100 measures 7 ft. 9 in., the front track 4 ft. 3½ in., the rear track 4 ft. 2 7/8 in. Unladen kerb weight, tank full, is 16.4 cwt. The rack-and-pinion steering is lower geared, at 3 1/3rd turns, lock-to-lock.
First impressions on entering this new Morris are the comfortable seats, elegant yet restrained trim, and the relatively enormous accommodation for four or five occupants and their personal effects. The generous stowage of the Mini is repeated, for although the rear parcels’ wells have been deleted, smaller rigid wells are found on the front doors, there is a full-width facia shelf of moulded form and in addition a huge open cubby-box before the front passenger and a smaller one for the driver. Apart from this, there is an extremely deep lipped shelf behind the wide back seat and a quite spacious (9.5 cu. ft.) boot with a lid that, lifted open, does not obscure the rear view and makes loading simplicity itself. This boot lid, and the bonnet, are self-propping. There is also stowage space beneath the rear seat, and space under the front bucket seats for the feet of rear-compartment passengers or more oddments.
The facia has a black-matt finish, as on Renault R8, Simca 1000 and Peugeot 404. There is crash-padding only along the ‘base of the under-facia shelf. The hooded 90-mph. Smiths speedometer contains a total, with decimal, mileage recorder, and there is an accurate electric petrol gauge and a temperature gauge, and warning lights for ignition, oil and main-beam. The quadrant controls for the fresh-air heater live along the under-facia shelf. The stalk-actuated flashers and the screen-wipers are self-cancelling. Knee room in all seats is generous and the back doors have arm-rests. The front doors possess quarter-lights but those in the back doors are fixed, so that some of the Mini’s ease of ventilation has been lost. The interior door handles and window winders are of black plastic. The front window winders need 3 turns, the rear ones 3¼ turns, to lower the glasses. There is a rather blatant horn, arm-rests on the back doors, a central handbrake that nestles close to a cross-member in the off position, good forward visibility with short bonnet and wings in view, and somewhat sharp under-edges to the exterior door handles.
First driving impression is of less Sensitivity of cornering— whereas the pronounced understeer with power on of the Mini changes abruptly to oversteer if you lift off, the Morris m too seems inclined to oversteer but is virtually neutral both on a depressed andi a trailing throttle. The driver is conscious of more car aft of him, but the Shock-free, slightly vibratory steering is as accurate and quick as ever, and experiments on deserted open corners showed that, if there is less ” feel,” the larger car goes round just as fast with all the certainty and safety of its more cheeky small brothers and sisters! Roll when indulging in this quite impeccable high-speed cornering is unnoticeable and the Hydroelastic suspension seems to help in suppressing it.
This self-levelling is achieved very simply by interconnecting the Moulton rubber units on each side by pipes containing water treated with anti-freeze. No engine-driven pumps or high-pressure reservoirs are required. The accompanying diagrams make clear the genius behind this clever suspension system, which Alex Moulton has thought up and perfected. I was privileged to see it many years ago, but naturally my lips were sealed.
The effect is interesting. The Morris 1100 still has the somewhat lively ride of a Mini but fore and aft pitching is entirely eliminated. The comfort over “level”-crossing and suchlike is second only to that of a Citroen Ami 6 or Renault R4, but sudden encounters with Sunk drains or pot-holes transmit enough shock to pronounce this Float-on-Fluid suspension by no means flabby, very faint tremors being transmitted through the car. Generally the standard of comfort is extremely high.
Although great pains have been taken to render the Morris 1100 very quiet, these pay dividends at high cruising speeds in top gear rather than while getting up to such speeds, for there is considerable fussiness when accelerating and a horrid exhaust resonance after lifting off from 50 m.p.h. or so. The new gearchange is a big improvement, the lever rather tall, and stiff on the still very new test-car.
Performance? I got absolute readings of 26, 44, 70 and 86 m.p.h. on the speedometer. It was probably “fast.” B.M.C. claim 0 to 50 m.p.h. in under 15 sec., 0 to 60 m.p.h. in just over 20 sec., and a top speed of 77 or 78 m.p.h. Top-gear performance is notably good and the brakes good without impressing me as outstanding.
Maintenance ? In 12,000 miles the Morris 1100 will need to go to a service station four times for an oil-change in the combined sump and gearbox and for four front swivel-pins to be lubricated, on two of these visits the oil-filter element will need changing, and on one such visit fan-belt tension and sparking-plug gaps should be checked. The ADO16 has a red warning light that indicates when the full-flow oil filter is clogging up.
These are the impressions I gleaned after driving this new British front-drive, rubber-sprung, self-levelling small car a distance of 240 miles in a day. Soon I hope to be able to write a full road-test report for Motor Sport and then it will be possible to describe this important new B.M.C. model in greater detail, albeit B.M.C. must be the first to admit that it is impossible fully to assess the merits of such a car in less than a year! As it is, I congratulate Issigonis on another masterly piece of automobile designing and am inclined already to agree with his Corporation that the ADO16 should do much to prove false the opinion of Horace Walpole who, in 1776, observed: “I cannot expect England to survive. I shall leave it at best an insignificant island. Its genius is vanished like its glories.”
Providing that the Morris I too and subsequent variants of the ADO16 design are better and more conscientiously put together than the early Minis, they cannot fail to attain glorious sales. The design is one of true genius on the part of the talented Alec/ Alex partners and that this small but spacious, front-drive Hydroelastically suspended car can be sold for under £700 even in its de luxe 4-door saloon form will prove a big factor in rendering it a best-seller and slaughterer of rival small cars, both British and Continental. Whether it will endorse B.M.C.’s bold claim that it has ” the quietness and ease of running of a 2-litre car with the internal accommodation and performance of a1½-litre and the running economy of an 1100, the comfort of a large Detroit sedan with the road-holding and safety of a Modena Gran Turismo I am not yet qualified to discuss. But a day behind the wheel of this Morris 1100 has convinced me that this is a very worthwhile step forward in small-car design, which should bring a valuable increase in prosperity to B.M.C. and Britain and that it is just what a great many captivated conductors of minibrics have been awaiting.—W. B.