Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A closer look at the Morris Marina

Take a look at the back of the Corgi Catalogue for 1971-2 and you'll see on the right a Bentley, Ford Capris, Ferraris and Lamborghini, Porsche and, er... two Morris Marinas.

In May 1971 Corgi released the Morris Marina 1.8 Coupé in lime yellow-green and reddish-bronze. It was, at the time, not something you'd see on British roads as the real car was only launched at virtually the same time, 27 April that year. So it had that much in common with the gorgeous sports cars and luxury editions that surrounded it. You might have thought that the Ford Cortina Mk III GXL would have been a common sight but no, although also launched at about the same time as the Corgi model in late October 1970, a strike at the Ford factory meant that precious few cars actually got to the dealers until it ended in the summer of 1971!

The Ford also had the glamour of not only being launched in early promotion as 'Project X' but also had Graham Hill (no relation), the racing driver and commentator in the box. Well, a model of him, that is. The Marina was just the Marina.

Later to be described as one of the worst cars ever produced by one of the Top Gear team (and possibly all of them at some point), the Morris Marina did actually sell really well and was the second highest selling car in 1972. 

If you look at the range at the time, though, it was still a curious edition to come out with. Whilst it does have the dreaded ubiquitous Whizzwheels and the Mazak stamp on the base, it is quite an attractive little car and seems well-made, with opening doors, jewelled headlamps and nice chrome bumpers. I have only at this moment discovered that the front seats tilt. I doubt that Morris Marinas had adjustable backs but the whole seat could be tipped forward to let people get in the back. Being in the back of a Morris Marina CoupĂ© would not have been a pleasant experience as the windows were fixed. There was no ventilation (except from rust in older models) and the suspension was extremely simple which meant you bounced a lot and not always in harmony with the seat or car. The back seat was a place for children really and wise parents, if they had to have a Marina, would have bought the four door saloon anyway.

The front of the Corgi model seems to show a chrome grill but actually the early editions had a solid body-coloured piece of shaped metal running the whole width on 1.8 models. The 1.3 had metal grills but they were in two distinct sections. Interestingly, a couple of years after the Corgi model was launched, Morris did, in fact, produce a model with a front end looking very similar to the model, with most having fog lamps inserted in the new grill.

The Corgi model was not particularly popular. As you can imagine, or may even recall, the more impressive names tended to have more appeal to most children but there was a thing about having a model of your dad's car and I am sure that helped the sales considerably. The Corgi model was taken off sale in 1973 after less than two years in the shops and now can be quite hard to find in nice condition. The paint is fairly tough but the rear screen is vulnerable to cracks.

Prices seem similar for each colour - and they still seem inexpensive. Maybe not for much longer.

No comments:

Post a Comment