‘All the fives’ was the high technology tagline applied to the Austin Maxi when released– with a five-door hatchback body and also five-speed transmission, Austin’s new mid-range fighter actually did seem to have everything.
Unfortunately, the technology could have been there, yet the implementation was a little less than wonderful, and also this progressive vehicle stopped working to sell therefore. Throughout its 12-year production run, it did win several buddies, though …
Austin Maxi growth story.
The Austin Maxi was created out of the hopeless requirement to change the aging BMC Farina cocktail lounges, which had actually been selling continuously since their launch in 1958. Originally, the ADO17 had actually been developed for the task however, due to a specific amount of job drift, Alec Issigonis’ option confirmed too large and too fast– as well as had not been truly approximately the task of changing these vital mid-liners.
Sadly, the Oxford and also Cambridge watering holes were dealing with a rearguard action versus the Ford Cortina– yet really did not have the armoury to do the Ford-fighting job their long manufacturing run had actually required them right into.
When it became clear the ADO17 had not been marketing, a plan was put into location. BMC made a decision the only means forward was to produce a new auto to fill the space in between ADO16 and ADO17.
Project ADO14 kicks off in Longbridge
Serious work with the new cars and truck started in mid-1965– as well as, before the Maxi’s task code of ADO14 was dreamed-up, it was known inside as the ‘ADO16 3/8’. The ramification of that tag was evident– the brand-new cars and truck’s wheelbase was about three-eights of the way in between both vehicles, exactly 100 inches.
It didn’t take wish for this acceptable standard to fall apart. The first significant choice (taken by George Harriman himself) to distress the applecart, was to use the 1800’s doors. They might have worked doors, but rather they weren’t, and more worryingly, their use would certainly force the brand-new vehicle’s wheelbase near to 106-inches– rather longer than the Cortina. The 1800’s doors dictated the windscreen rake on the new cars and truck.
It additionally suggested all Austin-badged vehicles between 1.5- and also 3.0-litres would feature in a similar way styled centre areas. Alec Issigonis as BMC Technical Director made use of a cell system to create BMC’s cars and trucks. Each cell was a team of Engineers with duty for a particular model.
Austin Maxi development: a concern of cells.
A-Cell, headed by Jack Daniels was in charge of Mini development, B-Cell, led by Chris Kingham, was charged with creating the ADO17 1800; while C-Cell, originally led by Charles Griffin, was accountable for the ADO16, which was established at Cowley up until the group relocated to Longbridge in May 1962.
For the ADO14 a brand-new D-Cell was produced, led by Eric Bareham, Assistant Chief Engineer– Transmissions and engines as well as answerable to Charles Griffin, currently Director of Engineering.
New engine, brand-new manufacturing facility …
The ADO14 came to be a different job as a result of the adoption of a new engine as well as gearbox. Any type of money-saving gauges adopted in the design of the body would certainly have promptly been negated. A demand in any type of efficient Cortina-fighter needed to be an engine range spanning 1.3- to 1.5-litres.
This eliminated the A-Series immediately– that had actually only recently been stretched to 1.3-litres in the Mini Cooper, and Engineers felt that was the limitation of growth.
Reflecting BMC’s bold aspirations of the time, it was made a decision that an all-new engine was needed. As Alec Issigonis headed up the project, nothing much less than cutting side would certainly do– so it featured an above camshaft as well as plenty of upgrade prospective an anticipation of future occasions.
Charles Griffin on BMC’s engine technique.
When examined in 1969 regarding why BMC had chosen an above camshaft engine, Charles Griffin responded, ‘Because this is properly to make an engine. It is best to attempt and obtain accurate followings between the camshaft and also the tappet, and also to obtain the ideal message to the valve timing.
‘ And it’s extremely a lot extra accurate when you’ve got the straight system of an OHC than when you’ve got pushrods and rockers as well as points. On the Continent, of training course, they’ve obtained OHC engines coming quite quickly– and also there are one or two competitive engines in this nation.
As the Marketing Department were forecasting sales of 6000 Maxis a week, it was chosen the new engine required a new manufacturing facility to construct it– located at Cofton Hackett, near Longbridge. The site of the plant was exactly best yet, unfortunately, the planning was all wrong.
E-Series: crafted for development.
The design of the E-Series engine was endangered in order to facilitate higher expansion. Issigonis decided top array E-Series engines ought to have an added set of cyndrical tubes, not a lot more engine capacity, as more typically the case.
That implied it required to be extremely portable in order to fit transversely into the engine bays of BMC’s front-wheel-drive array. Designers promoted this by the fostering of Siamesed cylinder bores, implying there was no water jacketing between the pots. This design had advantages, but it meant the four-cylinder variation was apparently stuck to a 1500cc ceiling.
Originally, the E-series engine was prepared with four various abilities, 1160cc, 1300cc, 1485cc four-cylinder units plus a 2227cc six-cylinder variation of the 1485cc engine. In contrast to previous accounts, both smaller units were never built leaving the 1485cc and 2227cc engines to be established by BMC’s Engineers.
Engine screening starts in 1966
By September 1966, ADO16 and ADO17 burros were roadway screening the new engines. Very early on it was chosen the E-Series engine required extra torque as well as, by October 1967, a 1748cc and also a 1797cc unit were being tested.
The new Cofton Hackett plant cost BMC ₤ 14 million in machinery alone and also, in October 1967, simply weeks before manufacturing of the new E-Series engine resulted from begin, Mr Bill Davis, Deputy Managing Director in charge of production, told The Times newspaper that the new plant was ‘the best focus of modern-day devices in an area of comparable dimension throughout the automobile production world.’.
Davis added: ‘We will develop engines as well as transmission which will certainly later on be set up in an additional component of the new plant to generate a total power system. It will certainly all be numerous years ahead of its time so we have a sort of substance rate of interest in our investment prior to we even start.’.
Efficient manufacturing at Cofton Hackett.
Automated was the design that it would certainly require a labour force of just 1100 men. There were 5 setting up tracks utilizing transfer bar conveyor systems with major parts being fed straight by above conveyor from the machining location.
An unique attribute was the semi-automatic setting up of cyndrical tube heads. The engine and transmission devices would be checked on an overhanging veranda prior to the final build-up.
Road-testing of manufacturing built engines began on 14 November 1967 and would last up until 28 February 1969. By the Spring of 1968 engines were being examined in Spain as well as Portugal and also at broadband on the German motorways.
Maxi development: an adjustment of tack.
Alec Issigonis and the Austin MaxiDuring the early stages of development of BMC’s Cortina boxer, George Harriman decided the firm would certainly no longer participate in straight competitors with Ford– a declaration which instantly made the ADO14 as it was developing repetitive.
ADO14 would certainly likewise end up being a high-technology display for BMC’s capabilities– and that led to the choice to develop a five-speed transmission, the well-known hatchback back side and its sizable and versatile inside.
Product Planners were beginning to see a British version of the Renault 16, as well as liked what they saw, because it was better– having actually benefited from a number of years’ further development over the 1965-vintage Renault.
A brand-new transmission system for ADO14.
In 1969 Charles Griffin was asked why the Austin Maxi had a five-speed transmission. He said: ‘The short response is: somebody had to take the campaign in this. Once again, similar to front drive, we’ve done it. You can not speak about this without generating overdrive.
‘ The real purpose of an overdrive is to enhance the relationship in between road speed as well as engine speed. The normal 4th speed, depending on the power to weight proportion, lies someplace regarding 15.5 mph per 1000rpm for the typical household cocktail lounge. Now overdrive lifts all that approximately about 19.5 mph per 1000rpm.
We have consequently constructed this function right into our auto with a fifth rate, replacing the need for an applied different unit … having actually driven the ADO14 for several miles myself– I use 5th speed almost continuously. I discover myself not waiting to obtain onto a freeway to go into 5th rate.
ADO14: those doors.
Austin Maxi hangout.
A closer look at the back of the four-door Maxi bodyshell.
A significant issue for ADO14’s Designers was just how to offer it a tasty style when it had been lumbered with those ADO17 doors. The outcome was an unappealing situation that made it nearly difficult to make the brand-new car significantly smaller than the ADO17 (that car that was already blessed with portable front and also back overhangs).
That resulted in a crisis of self-confidence over the ADO14’s looks– and, along the way, it received a couple of rash transformations. When it came to the ADO14, he came to the final thought its looks just didn’t add-up– he was likewise well aware of the business relevance of the new car and that the whole future of BMH might hinge on its success.
As a result of this, he purchased a restyle of the front end. Ex-Ford Design Director, Roy Haynes was entrusted with offering the ADO14 a more certain identification– as well as landed it with a suspiciously Cortina-esque grille and also headlight arrangement. Edwards could not purchase the Designers to go any further since, most of the body panels had been signed-off as well as Pressed Steel was currently in the procedure of building body presses.
The inside view of Austin Maxi development.
The cars and truck would certainly not confirm to be the saviour of BMH. The Times of 22 April 1968 ran a tale by Geoffrey Charles headlined, Styling troubles postpone new BMC hangout, in which he described the advancement of the exterior design.
‘We need to jump back to late 1964, when BMC Chairman, George Harriman, and his Technical Director, Alec Issigonis, initially showed me ADO14, hidden in the secret projects division at Longbridge.
‘It was almost tantamount from the then new 1800; sporting a roof-hinged tailgate and 5 gears, yet decidedly unsightly around its snub nose as well as chopped-off hindquarters. The principle was pure Issigonis: two box body, optimum passenger area, minimal engine space and also to hell with designing, Pininfarina must not run riot here …’.
British Leyland’s first new-car launch.
As occasions taken place, the ADO14 wound up being the first vehicle released by the British Leyland Motor Corporation. BLMC was announced in January 1968 yet did not officially come into being until the following May. To prepare for Sir Donald Stokes taking individual fee of BMC, Alec Issigonis wrote to his future employer on 10 April 1968:.
Dear Sir Donald,
I enclose a brief return to work that I am currently involved in my brand-new undertaking. Monitoring authorization or being rejected of these jobs is still to be determined, however at the earliest possibility, I shall discuss the issue with Bertie Fogg in higher detail, to make sure that you can appraise the circumstance with more truths at hand.
It is really important to show up at a choice over this issue as soon as possible because on this depends the speed at which the development work is performed. The best need for combating enhanced manufacturing prices over the year is the growth of a new engine for a small auto of this type.
‘ The existing A-series engine used a fast method of getting the auto into manufacturing in 1959, however has actually outlasted its function both for weight and expense compared with European competitors; although its performance is still well up to modern-day criteria. The bigger variation (1300) is perfectly competitive for cars in the category above the Mini type of vehicle i.e. the lower medium course array.
Style and also growth of a 750/998cc four-cylinder engine as well as transmission system for transverse or normal drive applications, for a new little car. Along with this work we are doing a style study, combined with Automotive Products Ltd, for a four-speed automatic transmission device.
Development of a six-cylinder variation of the above engine to offer capabilities from 1300 to 1490cc, using as much common tooling as feasible consisting of the exact same transmission system.
Development of a brand-new Mini. This is being studied in 2 variations, one six inches shorter than the present cars and truck (120 inches) and one more 10 inches much longer or four inches much longer than the present version.
Advancement of a small hydrostatic shock absorber in collaboration with N.E.L. The arrangement includes motors in each wheel as well as eliminates the use of high pressure tubes to send oil to these units.
General deal with induction systems including making use of updraft carburettors for anti-pollution job. This job is very essential in order that we can disregard the pricey after burning tools which we have actually had to include into our autos today being marketed in America.’.
Bizarrely, Issigonis stopped working to state the ADO14, which was near to manufacturing.
When Donald Stokes took over the ailing business in May 1968, he took a look at the Maxi as well as chose it required even more work to be made a more enticing suggestion. That led to its second pre-launch renovation. So little could be done by this point, all that was changed was the inside– giving it some form of habitability– as well as some extremely small exterior detailing.
Making the Austin Maxi work …
Stokes prepared in Harry Webster (pushing Issigonis aside while doing so) from Triumph to rectify what he saw as the sickness of Austin-Morris. The prime suspect on that list was the Maxi.
A lot of mistakes were determined by the brand-new monitoring that Harry’s group would wind up having their job removed trying to make great and heal the Maxi. Top of the list of problems for several was the brand-new auto’s dreadful cable-operated transmission (envisioned right). In the end, the Engineers did much pre-launch tinkering to make the gearbox job, however recognized that treating its sickness would require a brand-new linkage layout.
By December, Webster was additionally hearing clear and also loud from his Engineers the message that the 1485cc E-Series engine had not been up to the task of moving the Maxi’s bulk. He entrusted them with developing the extra powerful 1748cc variation into manufacturing reality, and also this would take time.
Harry Webster: re-engineering the Maxi quickly.
Just like the fostering of brand-new gear linkages, the 1748cc variant of the E-Series engine would certainly require over a year to be made production-ready as well as ended up adding ₤ 1 million to the final cost of the ADO14 advancement program.
Stokes struggled over the Maxi, questioning whether it must be launched at all. In the end, he made a decision there was no option however to push the ‘launch’ switch; the vehicle required to go due to the fact that of all the investment tilled in to the brand-new Cofton Hackett engine center.
So, the laughably optimistic product planning by BMC back in 1966 had actually conserved the brand-new car’s bacon under the auspices of BLMC’s new monitoring regime– paradoxical actually. Stokes pushed forward with the launch– booking a date Spring of 1969. Webster’s alterations would have to wait up until it was feasible to include them as a series running enhancements to the Maxi.
Getting the Austin Maxi off the ground.
Like the Mini and also 1800 before it, the Maxi was developed in an extremely functional way. It is a pleasing form in retrospection however, in the style conscious 1960s, it was not what purchasers wanted (Picture kindly provided by Graham Arnold).
The impact of Roy Haynes’ ex-Ford design concepts are clear to see in the Maxi’s interior. Unlike Issigonis’ earlier offerings, the Maxi inside was more undoubtedly design-led.
In fact, it was practically a duplicate of the layouts used by Ford at the time (Picture supplied by Graham Arnold).
In terms of marketing the Maxi, it would certainly suit completely with the plans that Stokes had for the Austin marque and how it matched BLMC total method.
BLMC’s monitoring was not timid in coming forwards with a long checklist of the wrongs of BMC in the past, the principal among those being that of badge-engineering. In August 1968, the plan was embeded in area by Stokes that no new British Leyland cars and trucks would be badge-engineered. Within the team, Austin’s role would be to represent the high innovation end of the marketplace whereas Morris would be turned into a marque that produced vehicles to fight Ford directly.
Due to the fact that the ADO14 fitted into the former category flawlessly, it was an obvious candidate for the Austin nameplate and was as a result introduced to replace the Austin A60 just (the Morris Oxford would need to reside on for an additional 2 years). In his heart of hearts, Stokes knew that the Maxi wasn’t sufficient, and also his strategists were informing him so: their estimates were that the Maxi would certainly– at finest– take a 4% share of the UK Market.
Assumptions decreased prior to launch.
By this time, it was imagined that the cars and truck would only be in production for a couple of years, to be replaced by the sweeping variety of brand-new Leyland-engineered cars and trucks.
By January 1969, the press was reporting that the Leyland 1500 would be badged as an Austin. The head of the Austin Morris Division, George Turnbull, was reported as saying that the brand-new vehicle would certainly not take place sale up until it was definitely prepared. ‘Preparation and screening, and after that a lot more preparation and also screening, was my plan at Standard Triumph and it remains my policy below.’.
Examining times for the ADO14.
He was estimated as claiming, too, ‘We are doing 10s of thousands of miles of road testing as well as basic slamming around. The success of the 1500 is of miraculous importance to everybody in the Austin Morris Division. It is targeted at the greatest growth market of the marketplace and I do not want it going off half-cock, even if it indicates holding the car back for a while.’.
The globe likewise got its very first glance of the Leyland 1500 that exact same month when a Swedish paper published four scoop photos of an ADO14 being evaluated in icy problems in Finland.
The Austin Morris test group, that included Charles Griffin’s child, Brian Griffin, were carpeted by their superiors for letting the Swedish pressmen get close sufficient to take a picture of the engine bay. In all, fifteen prototypes were used in the testing.
As well as right here it is– the Maxi’s raison d’etre: the significant, practical and also flexible boot. Right here was a location that the Maxi had a benefit over all its competitors, consisting of the lively Renault 16.
As it was, the Maxi was introduced in Estoril, Portugal in April 1969 and it was instantly apparent a new administration routine was running the show. CAR’s May 1969 issue contained this description of the Austin Maxi’s launch in Portugal. ‘Lord Stokes was furiously fielding objection of the year’s non-event, the Austin Maxi, with what his transatlantic rivals would call an NIH response: Not Invented Here.’.
Harry Webster informed the assembled journalists on the Maxi’s finer factors, and not the old ‘Austin’ style team. Webster had his work cut out marketing the Maxi to the set up press, and also this was to confirm much more distressing after they actually drove the new car.
To say that the initial driving impressions were underwhelming is an understatement: reporters came away with the distinctive feeling that not only was the Maxi was underpowered, it likewise dealt with low-geared and heavy guiding.
The Maxi’s famously inadequate gearchange.
The stopping working that eclipsed all others was the appalling gear modification: certainly, the Maxi supplied the benefit of a five-speed gearbox, yet the badly engineered cord ran shift led to a poor equipment modification. Lots of testers were entrusted the uneasy feeling that they never really recognized whether it was going in fact port into gear or otherwise. Gear changing ought to never be stressful– in the Maxi, it was.
Julian Mounter, motoring contributor of The Times summed up the equipment modification therefore: ‘It feels like stirring treacle with a long slim cane.’.
Nonetheless, these shortcomings apart, the Maxi was a fascinating concept with a lot to recommend it. For a beginning, it was incredibly commodious. Like the Issigonis-engineered autos that preceded it, the Maxi was honored with keen roadholding and incredible ride high quality. Unlike its older counterparts, the Maxi was also a long-legged and silent motorway cruiser, many thanks to its overdriven top gear. Unlike its primary rival, the Renault 16, the Maxi’s hatchback arrangement was straightforward in the extreme. It also had the added benefit of being able to fold up all the seats down flat.
Austin Maxi perceptions: so near, so far.
All that the Maxi really needed in order to come to be a good car was even more power, an acceptable gear modification as well as, most notably, a well-styled body. At the time of the Maxi’s launch, Lord Stokes was publicly favorable concerning the car’s leads.
The New York Times estimated him as stating, ‘We believe that it will certainly develop the exact same sort of revolution in the field of middle-class family motor cars as did the Mini in the realm of small cars and trucks.’.
He likewise said: ‘We have made certain that ample supplies are offered in our representatives’ and also dealers’ display rooms. Actually, almost 5000 are in their hands at this moment and also, with a manufacturing price now running at 2000 a week, the car will promptly end up being an extremely acquainted sight on our roads so that customers will not have to wait as well lengthy to get one. We are passing the starting line at a gallop as for production of this car is concerned.’.
He described the vehicle as
‘… the most extensively checked and verified model the electric motor market has actually ever produced. We have actually done over a million miles of intensive testing with it up and also down the motorways of Europe.
Austin Maxi: what George Turnbull said
George Turnbull was likewise priced quote at the time as saying: ‘I consider it a needs to if you’re marketing in the family sector of the market and also are going to invest heavily on advertising and marketing and sales promotion, to stock your dealerships up prior to the fanfare. You can not manage to enter into a launch with 500 vehicles, maintaining your fingers crossed.
‘ Your suppliers must have 1 or 2 cars and trucks each, and also distributors substantially much more, with an abundant supply to follow up. I would certainly be extremely sorry if we have less than 5000 on statement day, permitting at the very least 2 per supplier, as well as we ought to have something like 7000. Outcome? We will definitely do 100,000 a year, maybe as much as 150,000 also in the very first year.’
The Leyland men would later distance themselves from the Maxi’s development and shift blame onto BMC, publicly they were enthusiastic about the new car. Lord Stokes gave The Guardian newspaper probably the best quote of all: ‘Our Designers and also market research guys have actually performed detailed research studies on the sociological demands of the Seventies as well as the impact on the car and we securely think that the Maxi will certainly accomplish the majority of requirements of the middle-class driver in this context.’
Austin Maxi: what Charles Griffin claimed
Charles Griffin summed up the Maxi in May 1969 with this comment: ‘We assume that an extremely wide array of drivers are mosting likely to find that this is precisely the kind of motor car they are seeking due to the fact that it is quite better than a common auto.
‘ For instance; until now, if you wanted the station wagon center, you had to have something that didn’t appear like a motor car. In the UK this is the first time really that we’ve offered the best of both worlds.
‘ Our supreme inspiration is based on the truth that a motor car is basically an extension of an individual; car is an extremely customised activity. We have tried to provide the client what he desires– what we feel he desires– an entirely brand-new auto with substantial carrying capability, quickly and also financially serviced, as well as wonderfully valued.’
Job Aquila: the fashionable Maxi
This design created by Chris Field as a result of a 1972 Daily Telegraph young developers competition was based upon the Maxi’s running gear. This layout proposal was made-up right into a full-size car (listed below).
Although BLMC donated the Maxi, the workout still cost the paper an amazing ₤ 26,000. If the suggestion that the Maxi was a superb cars and truck crying out for a more stylish body, it is most potently demonstrated here. Note the striking similarity between this car and a 1977 sketch for the ADO99 project by Harris Mann.
Purchasers didn’t love the Maxi, either …
In truth most of the British motoring press, whatever they might have really felt as people regarding the auto, otherwise enthusiastic regarding the Maxi in print, did not rubbish it either, other than the regular monthly CAR Magazine. The publication’s Assistant Editor, Jeff Daniels, reviewed the Maxi under the title Back to the drawing board? Reading the post today, it is quite clear that it created the basis for the phase on the Maxi in Daniels’ later timeless publication, British Leyland– the fact behind the autos.
Back in 1969, Daniels complained about the E-Series engine’s breathing and defined the gearchange as ‘one of the most awful gear-shifts in Europe– this side of the Iron Curtain, at least.’
He took place to create: ‘The nose looks unobjectionable if uninspired, but doesn’t seem to belong to the remainder of the cars and truck, having actually plainly been created by someone else. It is a comparatively recent redesign, having been lengthened by several inches in an attempt to give some sort of visual balance … Whether there is any room in the car for a bigger engine seems to depend on which BLMC man you talk to, but Harry Webster says not, at least without rearranging an awful lot of other components.’
Tips regarding future growth
The last declaration is intriguing as Harry Webster already recognized the 1748cc version of the E-Series engine was on its means. Jeff Daniels went on to write: ‘Interior noise attacks one from numerous instructions. It never ever becomes overpowering, however the automobile could absolutely not be called silent.’
Unfortunately, the Maxi was welcomed with total apathy from the British automobile purchasing public– and also it is easy to see why. For a begin, most people fell short to comprehend the Maxi; it was an excellent concept let down by rather basic outlining, not least the styling.
Whereas the Cortina (in spite of what Harriman may have announced, it was a competing to the Maxi) was crisply-styled as well as was offered in a wide variety of alternatives, the Maxi was a one-model program: five-speeds and five-doors, take-it-or-leave-it …
A very early sales success
The Maxi did enjoy a brief honeymoon with car buyers, by mid-May 1969 the press were reporting that Cowley was introducing a nightshift and that the order book for the car amounted to five months production. George Turnbull was quoted as saying: ‘We are very encouraged by the response of our distributors, dealers and public, to the Maxi.
A series of stoppages, mainly by Pressed Steel Fisher at Cowley, which supplied Maxi body shells tested the patience of the potential customers who had a Maxi on order. Gradually once a week Maxi manufacturing went down from the prepared 2000 a week to 1800, after that 1600 and, by September 1969, BLMC revealed it was dropping better still to 1300.
In The Times of 16 September 1969, Giles Smith composed: ‘The share of the British car market won by British Leyland’s much and new publicised Maxi, production of which will certainly be reduced for the 2nd time in a month later on this month, dropped to less than 2.5% in the 3 months following its April launch it was understood last night. Maxi models are approximated to have had a 3.3% share of the May market, 2.5% in June, and also 2.4% in July.’
… but the bubble would certainly quickly rupture
The Times went on to report: ‘Indications are that sales in August are most not likely to climb above the July number. Leyland said last night that this had nothing to do with the manufacturing reduction at its Oxford plant and asserted the team had constantly been focusing on a two percent preliminary market share number. Sales of the new car, one of the most publicised and heavily prepared launches by the group’s Austin Morris Division, have clearly been a disappointment to the company’s executives.
‘ It is recognized the group was believing in regards to a minimum market share of 5%, possibly rising to 7-8%; no company would seriously consider a launch of the dimension and also price of the Maxi’s if it were not aiming at a market well over 5%.
‘ Leyland validated over the weekend break that output of the Maxi at Oxford, originally planned to be 2000 a week, today some 1600 a week. When the plant re-opens on 29 September, would be cut back to 1300. The business claimed the lessening, entailing short-time working, resulted from difficulties in getting bodies for the Maxi from Pressed Steel Fisher.’
Poor assumptions weren’t met
Actually, in September 1969, the Maxi took a plain 2.2% of the UK auto market, by November production had been decreased additionally to 1000 cars and trucks weekly and, by December 1969, its market share had actually fallen disastrously to 1.4%; a mere 681 cars.
In the 1 November 1969 version of the Daily Express, the paper’s car correspondent, Basil Cardew, outlined a few of the Maxi’s perceived troubles: ‘The Maxi has actually dealt with installing objection considering that it was introduced last April. The output of Maxis is currently down to 1000 automobiles a week– not almost filling up the production line of a ₤ 24m manufacturing facility to construct its engine. Its sales are 2.2% of the house market.
‘ The Maxi is stated to have a ponderous equipment adjustment, too much roadway sound and frustrating performance. Its rate of ₤ 979, consisting of acquisition tax obligation, is stated to be expensive in regard to its closest competitors … Renault 16 (₤ 970), Ford Cortina Estate (₤ 958), French Simca 1100 Estate (₤ 959), Vauxhall Victor (₤ 949), and also Hillman Minx de luxe (₤ 851).’.
Austin Maxi: 10 more years.
‘ The Maxi, say the doubters, would, be all right if it were ironed out correctly. It feels and also seems unrefined– with buzzes, shakes as well as booms. It gives a tough time and also the advantage of the five-speed transmission is offset by the tortuous equipment change.
‘ So last night I dealt with 53-year-old Lord Stokes that claimed: ‘We have 31 standard designs under the British Leyland umbrella, the Maxi is only one. Yes, I have heard, some of these criticisms but I inform you categorically, that the Maxi is here to stay at the very least for an additional 10 years. There were comparable criticisms when BMC highlighted its 1800 version, and now it is just one of our best sellers.’.
‘ He is persuaded that, by following springtime, the Maxi will be a best seller. The Austin/Morris 1800 was considerably customized prior to it acquired favour: Will the Maxi also be worked on? Said Lord Stokes: ‘At this time we ponder no significant adjustments.’.
Advertising and marketing and also pricing errors.
His Lordship’s statement regarding the Maxi remaining in manufacturing for a decade is ironic, considering Sir George Harriman additionally made similar guarantees regarding previous Issigonis cars and trucks to the media. In reality, as early as September 1969, the BLMC Board was expressing issue at the Maxi’s absence of market penetration. Lord Stokes would like to know why it was not preferred with fleet purchasers. Sales Director Filmer Paradise’s response was that the Maxi was ₤ 75-150 too pricey.
Maxi was the brainchild of Sir Alec Issigonis – and BLMC wasn.
BLMC launched a crash modification program for the Maxi– Austin Morris Sales Director Filmer Paradise admitted, later in May 1970, that the initial vehicle ‘… had some niggling mistakes.’ Beginning on 17 December, Austin distributors were contacted us to a series of conferences at Longbridge at which, according to Mr. Paradise, ‘… everybody let their hair down. We approached them with plain realism as well as an approval of their issues in offering the Maxi.’.
He included: ‘And any type of sales person that is not enthusiastic, is absolutely nothing. Something needed to be done.’.
Rebooting the Maxi for the 1970s.
Maxi was substandard and the unusual action of choosing a full relaunch felt like the only way of saving the Maxi. By the autumn of 1969, adjustments were being presented to the assembly line at Cowley to separate the root causes of extreme resonance and also make the gear change a lot more positive. Sound deadening material was liberally used.
Twenty of the newly-modified autos were handed over for dry run. Countrywide re-training of display room salespersons was next– dealers and distributors were offered monetary motivations to place more than 1500 demonstrators when traveling, to get prospective purchasers behind the wheel of the Maxi.
Next came a mass-mailshot of 1.5 million would-be customers that the Maxi was well worth buying. The most telling move was the decision to hold the Maxi’s price at ₤ 1018 during price increases, thereby increasing its competitiveness.
Austin Maxi 1750 breaks cover.
Eighteen months later on, on 12 October 1970 and after a great deal of back-room deal with the auto, the 1750cc E-Series variation of the Maxi showed up, in addition to the brand-new rod-operated gearchange– as well as, then, the Maxi started ahead great as a car. The brand-new version was no much less odd-looking as well as the guiding was equally as low-geared and heavy, however at least the Maxi now had a sensible turn of rate and also one can currently involve equipment without the consistent fear of wrong-slotting it.
At launch of the changed Maxi, Austin Morris Managing Director, George Turnbull, stated: ‘We would certainly be absurd not to concede that the initial Maxi needed extra refinement and also a more positive gear choice mechanism. It is in these areas that we have actually focused our research and development.’.
Sadly, the damages had been done by now, the premature launch of the wire modification 1500 Maxi had terminally tainted the cars and truck. The changed Maxi was the cars and truck that needs to have been launched to begin with. Actually, as for Maxi advancement was worried, that had to do with it: the twin-carburettor Maxi HL showed up in the future, in October 1972, consisting of an useful walk in power to 91bhp.
Special Tuning gets its hands on the Maxi.
There were, in fact, factory-backed growths available to improve the Maxi’s performance, care of British Leyland Special Tuning run by Basil Wales at Abingdon, however they would certainly set you back a premium over the standard car. Autocar in the shape of Jeff Daniels, who had actually relocated from CAR, went to Special Tuning in late 1970.
Daniels checked numerous BLMC autos consisting of a Maxi 1500, VVP 430J. The ST conversion included twin SU carburettors, a sleek inlet manifold as well as a new exhaust system all for an expense of ₤ 66 at time when the Maxi 1500 retailed at ₤ 1057.
The tuning bundle, referred to as a Pluspac A, boosted power from 74bhp to 83bhp, almost on a par with the new 1750 variant and pushed top speed up to 91mph from 86mph. The 0-60mph dash was reduced from 16.6 to 14.9 seconds, again indicating that the E-Series engine was severely restricted in standard form. The ST car was actually faster in fifth gear, whereas Autocar’s 1969 road test car was fastest in fourth.
Motor magazine later tested a Pluspac A kit on the Maxi 1750, reaching a maximum top speed of 96.4 mph and a 0-60mph time of 12.7 seconds. This tuning package formed the basis of the later Maxi HL minus the bigger bore exhaust system.
Downton improves the Maxi.
As usual it was left to Downton Engineering of Wiltshire to demonstrate the Maxi’s true potential. For ₤ 203.30 the Maxi owner received their Stage 2 conversion which, in addition to the twin carburettors and performance exhaust offered by Special Tuning, also had a modified cylinder head. This boosted power to 105.7 bhp at 6000rpm and torque was also up to 113.2 lb ft at 4000rpm. Motor magazine tested UMW 777J in February 1973, lapping MIRA at 100.1 mph.
The 0-60mph time was 10.1 seconds. Motor summed up the Downton Maxi as’ a very desirable, versatile, and civilised Q-car for motorway, country or town.’ As far as the factory was concerned, they were not going to offer any of the improvements devised by Downton or Special Tuning on the E-Series engine as standard, which was left to wither on the vine for a decade.
By this time hopes that the more emissions friendly OHC E-Series engine would find a home in British Leyland’s sports cars had also evaporated. The MGB replacement was slated to use the engine, but the corporate sports car became Project Bullet, later the Triumph TR7. Only the Austin Allegro and Maxi used the four cylinder version of the engine.
Hydrolastic replaced by Hydragas.
Beyond that, the Hydrolastic suspension was replaced by Hydragas and, in doing so, the Maxi was brought into line with the rest of the Moulton-suspended range.
In 1980, the Maxi was further, cosmetically facelifted to become the Maxi 2. New bumpers, wheeltrims and interior trim brightened the car, but did not significantly improve it.
It was left completely untouched to battle through the 1970s– and it has to be said that, although the Maxi never sold in any great numbers, settling down to a steady 20-30,000 a year in the UK, it did pick up a loyal following in the UK.
Carving a niche of its own.
The Austin Maxi catered to the family man who needed space aplenty and, as such, there were few cars that could offer anything approaching its space efficiency. Most car magazines tended to view the Maxi as a small estate car and so its appeal was unfortunately severely compromised. Those that did not and compared it with the Renault 16 (the Maxi’s only real rival during its life) found it wanting in too many departments to mount an effective challenge to the charismatic French car.
In a sense part of the reason the Maxi failed to sell in the numbers expected of it was that British Leyland never really understood what they failed and had to exploit its virtues as perhaps the original MPV. Many potential buyers simply looked at the engine options and saw it as a Cortina rival, but without the style and at a higher price.
Those customers who did opt for the Maxi experienced a comfortable, flexible car with excellent ride characteristics provided by its Moulton-designed suspension. All the Maxi’s plus points cost money to engineer into the car which was passed onto the customer who could find a cheaper, simpler car from a rival manufacturer which they more readily understood. Even the concept of a fifth overdrive gear was alien to many motorists at the time.
Internal rivalries didn’t help the Maxi.
It could be argued that the 1750 Maxi faced internal competition from the 1800 and later the Princess. In the Maxi’s peak year of production, 1972/73, 70,846 emerged from Cowley along with 37,831 1800/2200s from Longbridge. The 2200 may have had the edge in performance over the Maxi, but was the 1800 really worth keeping in production alongside the Maxi?
The last Maxi was produced at Cowley on 8 July 1981.
On 26 August 1981 General Motors unveiled the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2, sold as the Opel Ascona in continental Europe. The day of the launch was co-incidentally the anniversary of the announcement of the original Issigonis Mini and, in a sense, the Cavalier/Ascona was as significant as the Mini.
Whereas the Mini and the 1100/1300 had established the front-wheel-drive format in their respective market sectors, the ADO17 1800/2200 and Austin Maxi had completely and totally failed to woo fleet buyers away from simple rear-wheel-drive cars like the Ford Cortina and its rival clones.
The Cavalier/Ascona was a front-wheel-drive car available as a four-door saloon with a boot or a five-door hatchback. The engines were overhead camshaft available in 1.3- to 2.0-litre capacities mated to a five-speed gearbox, which gave above average performance and all this was in a stylish contemporary body.
By 1983, the Cavalier/Ascona was challenging Ford’s new Cortina replacement, the Sierra in the sales chart. It was General Motors which took the Maxi blueprint and created a properly thought out and engineered car in the Cavalier/Ascona– a car which, in short, appealed to both fleet and private buyers and established front-wheel drive as a viable commercial proposition in its respective market sector.
Looking at the size and weight of the Maxi, it is actually shorter and lighter than the 1998 Ford Focus, but manages to have considerably more room inside– which demonstrates that BMC certainly knew how to obtain the most interior room for any given package.
That the Maxi manages to beat the Focus– state of the art in 1998– for packaging speaks volumes for the concept. The ultimate shame for British Leyland was that, although the concept of the Maxi was fundamentally a good one, its execution (especially at the start of its life) was quite simply, rubbish.
Maxi 2 incorporating cosmetic improvements appeared towards the end of the car’s life, in 1980.
British Leyland could have rescued the car by redesigning the body and interior and pushing this redesigned Maxi as a product to sit in the range where the Allegro finally ended up.
The reason for this abandonment of the Maxi is easy to see– it was seen as a product of BMC and, therefore, something from the past– and, by the time of its launch, the newly-installed British Leyland management was already busying itself planning for the launch of the new company’s first car: the Morris Marina.
As Alec Issigonis himself said in 1964, an advanced design only becomes a successful one when others copy it for themselves. The fact that so few rival designers produced an answer to the Maxi speaks volumes about the car.