(first posted 3/3/2017) You must know the feeling, the sense that the familiar is not quite right, but you can’t immediately spot it. The first time you see your sports hero wearing the colours of a new team, a friend without a regular beard or with a very new haircut. Or, maybe, the first time we saw HM The Queen wearing glasses. This car is one of those.
I saw this nominally regular Austin 1300 MK3 in New Zealand, sitting innocently outside a supermarket in the shopping centre car park, soaking up sunshine. My first thoughts were that it was good to see a car that old in daily service, even in somewhere as gently paced as Rotorua. Being a Curbivore, I went to look more closely and was intrigued again.
The first intrigue was the colour. The UK market never got this colour – the ADO16 family mostly came in a more conservative palette and this colour, in the UK at least, says mid to late 1970s not early 1970s. Remember, the car was discontinued in 1973, supplanted by the Allegro.
Or was it? One of the beauties of the New Zealand vehicle registration system is that the car’s model and year of manufacture are printed on the windscreens sticker, and this car was identified as a “1975 Austin 1300”.
The ADO16 was assembled locally, by a business originally known as Dominion Motors and later as New Zealand Motor Corporation (NZMC).
The car assembly, from CKD shipped from the UK with local variations, was centred on a factory in Newmarket, part of Auckland, although the business was also active in importing built up cars, particularly from Australia. Being a contract assembler, other brands were also assembled, starting with Honda in 1976. The company now known as Honda New Zealand can be traced to NZMC.
New Zealand no longer assembles cars, the last car coming out of NZMC in 1998. The dominant brands are Japanese, and a significant source of supply is from Japan in the form of lightly used vehicles.
But, to see an unusually coloured, “wrong” year ADO16 in daily use was still a pleasant holiday surprise. One of many in New Zealand.
More ADO16: CC 1965 MG1100 – BMC’s Greatest Hit
These are rarer than Minis and Morris minors but yeah still plenty in use, everything had a purple, kermit frog green and orange version here in the 70s.
I wonder if they stockpiled ADO16 kits and started the search for a Japanese partner knowing what was coming with the Allegro.
Sold as an Austin America here, this is the only one I’ve ever seen.
I had one of these as a Matchbox car back in the day. Actually, it was called out as an MG. It was dark green. I understood it was a British car so thought the color was appropriate.
It is surprising to me now that I didn’t change the color with my Testor’s paint assortment (something I occasionally did with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels).
I did think the shape of the car was unique. Remember, Volkswagen Rabbits and Plymouth Horizons were nearly a decade away. That’s also when I realized Matchbox cars were not all to the same scale as the toy MG was roughly the same length as the Lincoln Continental which, incidentally, was turquoise green. There is no way I was going to change the color of that one.
“It is surprising to me now that I didn’t change the color with my Testor’s paint assortment ”
I too was a little Earl Scheib with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. I wish now that I had left them alone.
I did the same thing as you guys, Fintail Jim and JP.
Or else I added matt black panels and GT stripes – but not on the Continental.
Many a hot wheels or matchbox of mine ended up an unusual color courtesy of a Testors bottle and too much free time! Regrettably, I also had a bad habit of painting over the windshields, often gold (maybe I was going for an 80’s gold mirrored tint look?)
I too, am guilty as charged. I still have most of them decades later and cringe when I realize how I messed them up. Never mind playing “Car crusher” with a victim between two bricks. Spent time with my Dad visiting junk yards, so that is probably where that idea came from…
This is so wrong that it is right. And I now want one.
I was rather amazed to see a very nice Austin America on the freeway here the other day, but I could not get a shot of it. But there’s one around.
Our family owned multiple Austin Americas back in the 1970s. The automatic transmission, which shared fluid with the engine, would invariably crap out at about 25,000 to 30,000 miles. The repair cost was as much as the car was worth, so we would buy pristine condition Austins for between $100 and $300. Dad would then repair the automatic transmissions, as he was an automatic transmission mechanic, and we would drive them. All of ours were British racing green, except the pale green car that I had. They were wonderful little cars. No air conditioning, interior door handles that would break off in your hand if you pulled too hard, and slow as could be, but comfortable and fun to drive, with all of the British eccentricities. All of ours were two door models. I never saw a four door.
For the first four years of production all ADO16s were four door models. The estate/wagon was late in the Mk.I series (1966), the 2 door using the same longer door and available on export models some time before it went on sale in the UK.
From memory, the MG was always 2 door ( and of course twin S U s ). I must have driven one at some point. Brilliant car, better really than the Mini, UK best seller for some years ( along with the Mk 1 Cortina). Only fly in the ointment was rust in the subframes – but that probably wasn’t so common in NZ.
I’ve seen US market ads for the MG 1100 four-door, no idea what the take rate was.
The MG version was indeed rare, but I got to do a brake job on one and I was impressed with the car for what it was. As I recall it was a pale gray, not my favorite, but it looked good on that car, with the formal MG grille.
Both the Airfix kit and the Matchbox diecast MG1100s were 4-door as that was as the real car was initially produced.
Probably the most ‘right-sized’ of Issigoni’s front drive cars and, as you say, a top-seller in the early/mid-60s.
Was there even an America 4-door? I thought they only came to this side of the pond as 2-door versions.
The earlier MG1100 was exported to the US as a 4 door, but the Austin America was only sold as a 2 door car.
I recall that these appeared in the US at a time when many of the other really small cars were not equipped with automatics (for example the VW Bug only had a semi-auto available), which gave them a certain appeal for a time — until they started breaking down.
“British eccentricities” whatever can you mean 😉
It seems that those really shocking colors were all over here in the US by 1972. Chrysler may have been the biggest player with Plum Crazy and Panther Pink. Then they came back for a short time on the original Neon.
My mother’s brother and my fathers collegue each had one, and they absolutely loved their cars.
A purple death trap, how cute.
So, mis-labled by the registrar and not a case of NZMC not keeping 1100/1300 in production after the Allegro appeared on the scene?
No, the 1100/1300 were still being assembled here in NZ in 1975 – it’s likely they’d stocked up on the CKD kits.
This purple one was first registered on 22 August 1975. A quick peek on Trade Me revealed a blue 1100 registered new on 21 August 1975, and a yellow 1100 registered new on 15 July 1975.
“it’s likely they’d stocked up on the CKD kits”
Which could be a polite way to say that demand was not keeping up with supply – ie they couldn’t sell the things! Not necessarily disparaging of the car; it was 12 years old at the time so you can imagine most buyers would look at newer designs.
Actually, it may have been the opposite! It was a good seller, and BL mightn’t have been confident its successor would match up. The same situation hit Ford when Cortina production ended in the UK (the source of NZ’s CKD kits). The Cortina was so popular, and the Sierra so polarising, that Ford NZ bought all the left-over CKD Cortina wagon kits from other RHD markets around the globe so they could keep assembling and selling them into 1984.
They were assembled in MK3 model in NZ also they did not sell as well as hoped so your brand new ADO1300 could be from an older CKD kit, by the mid 70s NZ had a bigger range of small cars than in the 60s when ADO16 first appeared.
I’ve seen precisely one Austin America, quite unexpectedly, about 5 years ago. I was leaving work and there it was, a gray one traveling down Blue Ridge Rd. in Raleigh like it was no big deal. Got my phone out in time for a photo, though not a very good one (and I can’t find it just now anyway).
This 1300 in purple is really something else!
I love that it looks like it’s smiling, in addition to being the color of Grimace from McDonald’s. In fact, I could see Grimace in one of these as a Happy Meal toy.
Wyes, purple was a mid 79s colour, but not purple that purple. This must be a very good respray.
I think it might be original, looks the same as other BL cars assembled here. I’ve seen that shade on Triumph Stags and Minis.
Called peel me a grape for the P76 our colours came from OZ, a mate of mine had a very tidy HQ Holden in the purple like that.
Used to be tons if these in Australia but I can only remember seeing them in dark green or a sort of off white colour. We only had the Austin version and only a four door body as I recall. There were many around for decades, usually ending their service in student car parks.
The ones I ride in were at least 15 years old serving he needs of students who bought them on the cheap and only carried out essential maintenance. Every one seemed to have a very distinctive drivetrain whine noise and all of the interior door handles were always broken.
Also a pale blue (Auntie Grace’s), maroon (girl next door’s), and what I can only describe as a soapy green – a medium whitish-green that looked like the soap we used at home. Might even have been other colours too.
I have a vague recollection of this purple being used on Minis.
BTW, Minis used the same handles. I used to scavenge them from Mini wrecks.
Palmolive soap, Old Pete ?
Friends of mine drove a MK1 Morris 1100 all over Aussie for several years, I havested an engine for them from a similar Morris 1100, they werent exactly rare in OZ in the 80s though in running order maybe.
Clutch and tranny seemed to do them in Bryce; after Leyland shut down it was hard to find someone to do a clutch job. Auntie Merle’s 65,000 mile 1100 went to the yard in ’83 because nobody wanted to work on it.
Late in the development of the mini, the engine was rotated 180 degrees, meaning it needed an extra drop gear to drive in the correct direction. This car inherited the same configuration, and hence has the same transmission whine that you noticed.
My brother had a Vanden Plas version with little fold down tables fitted to the back of the seats for the rear passengers to roll joints on
I saw an immaculate Austin America on Fell St. in SF last year. Even the 1969 issue black license plate on the back was like new. It was parked across the intersection from where I was waiting for a traffic light, and plenty of time to appreciate the fact that I’ll probably never see another one on the street . Before that I hadn’t seen one in decades.
You should have gone to the nearby(to me) British car museum at Haumoana HB the guy is a BMC fan with 23 different Minors and lots of others 400+ cars in total many if not most unrestored just saved into his huge collection, best $10 entry fee around.
I did, and CC will hear of it soon!
I’ve been wanting to go for years, and here’s someone from the other side of the world getting to it before me…! But looking forward to the write-up!
Roger, just letting you know that Ian Hope, who founded and ran that museum, died in 2019. His nieces and nephews inherited it and have sold the museum itself (but due to the unique nature of it, settlement is a year or two away). The purchaser only bought some of the 500 (!!) cars, so one of Ian’s nephews bought the rest and has been selling them on Trade Me. He’s had some interesting makes and models listed over the past year and still has plenty more to list.
HI Scott, thanks I’d heard that on the f******k grapevine IIRC. Truly, from the evidence of my meeting with him, he was a friendly chap and a definite character.
Is the museum staying open in any form or have the retained cars gone into a separate and/or private collection
It’s great to see cars that for whatever reason fall outside what we are accustomed to seeing. The only way this could be better is if it were left-hand drive!
the America had numerous flaws that hindered its longevity. A fellow here in USA has compiled a labo(u)r of love website where he provides numerous fixes/workarounds to the original design issues. worth a look for what concerted effort can do to maintain the extinct. to appreciate the work, check out: technical advice tab: AP Automatic transmission. wherein he shows you how to correct the underengineered parts. still he suggests an oil change on auto trans engines every 1000 miles! http://www.austinamericausa.com/
Awesome to see a Kiwi car Roger – and even more awesome that you photographed it in Rotovegas (as the locals call it), not too far from my hometown! In fact, in my sales-rep days, I used to park in that very carpark weekly, fairly close to the spot the 1300’s parked in! Also nice that you mentioned NZMC, as my Father was an NZMC dealer mechanic throughout the 1970s and 1980s. As a child at the time, I was well exposed to the changing tide as BL fell and Honda rose – a very interesting time, more so in retrospect.
Plenty of New Zealand (and Australian) car companies offered startlingly lurid and/or unlikely colours in the early-mid 1970s. I remember a particularly eye-searing pink that Holden offered on the HQ Kingswood, and there were plenty of loud greens, yellow, oranges…
I never liked the 1300 when there were still plenty around, but now that they’ve thinned out somewhat, it’s definitely nice to see them in use, especially in such a fantastically ‘period’ colour!
Yep, that’s the one Peter. There was a much lighter pink sold here too, metallic I think, but it was easier on the eye!
I haven’t seen an Austin America in 35 years. Michigan driving conditions are not helpful to British steel.
Saw a rather battered orange one one evening in spring 1980 and a white 71 (updated grill, which looked like the one in the OP) in 81. Also, somewhere about the same time I saw the version that was billed here as the “MG Sport Sedan”, with the engine seemingly screaming to maintain 45mph.
These were the best selling cars in Britain for much of the 60s. They were nippy,roomy, handled well, were economical, and rusted like an old tin bath. Most celebrated their 8th birthday with a one way trip to the junkyard.
The oil really, really had its work cut out being shared with the engine and box. Manual trans versions you want to be changing the oil every 3000 miles. The less than wonderful automatics, even more frequently!
The A series engines did, however, have the ability to keep running even when terminally worn out. They would grow increasingly oil thirsty, and more rattly but continue to run right up until they they either crapped out the bottom end or just wouldn’t start.
This may be late husbands aunt Myrtle’s first & only car bought new 1975 / gifted to us
Chch visit mid-1990’s / drove to our then-home Doubtless Bay Far North / drove back to
Seddon Sth Island mid-2000’s / then on-sold at Nelson. Later regretted ! wished held onto as would’ve been great little car go to rallies/ events/ & memories.
However ! on our journeys just about everything possible blew up at one point or another & would have been up for complete new engine/gearbox/etc etc for sure. The hydrolastic suspension was great but about where mechanical expertise started & ended !
Of course, aunt Myrtle bought a (myrtle) car deliberately – she was a self-employed woman all her life at a time & place that was pretty unusual (1920 onwards)
Really hope this finds someone although I note this site is not recent; just chanced on
Hi Judi, what a great thought!
If you know the reg number for Aunt Myrtle’s car….
Great cars. Not a colour I associate with these, but it suits.
The world needs more purple cars.
Strangely or not barnfind ADO16s keep appearing it seems a lot were just parked and not used again when the exJDM tsunami started,
I missed out on a orange 73 I got outbid at the end of a trademe auction, the car was described as as runner but not driveable, I looked at it failed to find anything wrong with it a tuneup and oil/filter swap wouldnt cure and tried to buy it but the vendor wasnt taking cash offers it was auction only.
A rather good color for this model. The few I recall seeing were white or light yellow.