Curbside Classic??: 1980 Morris Marina Van – Almost Big Enough To Carry A Piano

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange l

Morris Marina van being cross-polinated via Holden Commodore/Gemini hub caps. Author photo.


Jeerision. Don’t you love that word? I just made it up – it’s a mash-up of ‘jeers’ and ‘derision’. Cool, huh? Curbside Classic’s regular listeners will know I often invent words, I find it quite a splendacious (not made up) past-time. To invent words though, one needs a suitable trigger, something with above-adequate provocationatorialistic (made up) quintessence (not made up). In this case, the motivation for jeerision is two other words: Morris and Marina. Morris…Marina… Never before in the history of mankind have two seemingly innocuous words produced such a cacophony of what can only be termed jeerision. Yet perhaps not all Marinas deserve to marinate in their own gearbox fluid. Some are worthy of death-by-piano, but what happens when there’s a handy dose of practical vannage or utility added to the Marina recipe? Still jeerisionary? Let’s see.

Marina Range

Marina Range. Image courtesy Hooniverse.


Morris Marina, aka ADO28, born 27 April 1971 to proud indifferent parents British Motor Holdings and Leyland Motors. Little Morris came into a world that didn’t really understand him. He had to compete with his frumpy sister Allegro for attention, and to his add further to his awkward adolescence, he wasn’t the same size as the other cars! He was a little bigger (oxymoron alert!) than Ford’s Escort but largely smaller (double-oxymoron award!) than Ford’s Cortina. But little-big Morris actually had a larger family than most competitors.

1980 MORRIS Marina van and ute orange bl

Author photo.


The Marina family members that everyone remembers are the sedan, wagon and coupe. Roger Carr covered the rise and fall disintegration of those here. But Roger’s fine article didn’t mention the Marina’s pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake, the sh!t on the shovel…yes gentle viewers, in addition to the more common body types, BL also blessed the Marina with utility and van variants!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange br2

Author photo.


These commercial Marinas weren’t as unexpected as they sound, as one of the myriad idiosyncrasies of British motoring is the variety of small-medium family cars that were also offered in commercial body form.

A30 van

Photo from Google.


Here’s one of the Marina’s ancestors; a 1956 Austin A30 van.

1960 Morris Oxford

Photo courtesy Trade Me.


How about this 1960 Morris Oxford?

1963 Austin A60

Photo courtesy Trade Me.


If the Oxford doesn’t rock your world, there’s its close relative, this 1963 Austin A60.

1966 Morris Minor

Photo courtesy Trade Me.


The Marina van’s immediate predecessor was the Morris Minor van…

1966 Minor ute

Photo courtesy Trade Me.


…and ute.

Escort van

Photo courtesy Trade Me.


Of course British-Austin-Leyland-Motor-Holdings-Company-Thing-Rover-Bob weren’t the only British manufacturer turning their family cars into vans and utes; other companies followed suit. Ford offered van versions of the Escort, including the MkI (L) and MkII (R).

MkVII Escort

Photo courtesy Google.


In fact there was an Escort van right up to and including the final Mk VII series.



The current Focus-based Transit Connect continues the Marina van’s concept.


Photo courtesy


The Marina itself was succeeded by the Austin Maestro van. The former landlord for my former employer rallied what appeared to be a Maestro van, which to all intents and purposes was a normal (is there such a thing!) Maestro. I conducted a closer inspection of it one day and discovered that it was registered as a 1989 Nissan Bluebird Attessa 4wd turbo! And the interior was the Bluebird interior! Further examination proved it to be a Bluebird with the top cut off and Maestro van panels fitted. The world’s fastest Maestro no doubt!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange interior br

Author photo.


But back to the Marina van, was it jeerisionary or useful? Going by the photo above, it certainly wasn’t something you’d want to crash in! Standards have certainly moved on dramatically!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange interior b

Nifty colour-coded seat-covers and bed-spread. Author photo.


Torsional rigidity, what’s that? And we don’t need no stinking crash protection, we’re in a van dammit!! Hysterically-poor crash-safety aside, the Marina sure had reasonable space inside it. I wonder how many got dented side panels because over-eager owners over-packed them inside?

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange interior fl

Author photo.


As well as no crash protection, the Marina van also offered an exhaustive selection of many other omissions: comfort, style, substance, quality, class… You name it, and it’d be missing!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange  interior fr2

Author photo.


Not even fluffy dice can hide the fact that the Marina’s interior was one of the most basic on a (comparatively) modern vehicle. I mean who really needs a glovebox lid anyway? Puh-lease! “And”, said Austin, “We’ll remove the dashboard air vents and put big round plastic things there so the purchasers know they’ve been cheap.”

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange fl

Author photo.


Having said that though, I’ve never minded the Marina’s face; it’s bland and reminiscent of the MkII Ford Escort, but isn’t heinously ugly.

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange grille2

Author photo.


A little bland but a (very) little subtle detailing is present.

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange grille

Author photo.


Little Morris proudly displays his family crest!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange badge


…and his school ID number!

1980 MORRIS Marina can orange l

Author photo.


So there we have it, the vantastic Morris Marina van. Vantastic or Jeerisioinary? On the balance of things, its commercial appeal was undoubted to small businesses and the likes of Telecom; they certainly sold well enough in New Zealand. But good sales don’t maketh the van good, and despite the handy extra dosage of space, the Marina van retained everything (engines, gearboxes, suspension, build quality…) that made the rest of the range Not Very Good. Practical vannage or not, the Marina van/utes weren’t enough to raise the Marina’s fortunes.

The remaining Marina vans aren’t quite big enough to carry a piano, so the only way to get a piano inside them will be for Top Gear piano to drop by. As a pianist I’ll be sorry for the piano; as a motoring enthusiast, the van just fills me with jeerision.