Museum Photo Report – The British Motor Museum Gaydon – Part 2 – Possibly, Perhaps Or Best Not To?

Proving that museum curators can have a sense of humour, Gaydon have put the ADO70 sports car prototype on a box like a model car in the toy shop. For a Curbivore, this is a bit of  toy shop, after all….

The ADO70 was built by Michelotti to a Longbridge style on a Mini Clubman platform as a potential MG Midget replacement, and dates from 1969. A version was considered by BLMC in 1970 but came to nothing, partly because the mechanical format may have fitted in Europe but didn’t match North American tastes

Alongside the ADO70 and ADo34 (from 1964, and at the top of the post) was the MG EX-E, first shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1984. This was intended to be statement of intent and confidence by Austin-Rover – the company was led by Harold Musgrove who felt that it had a good, contemporary and capable manufacturing capability, strong style capabilities under Roy Axe but was hindered by image and recognition issues, and some dated products. This was a way of showing the positives of that position, and in time hinted at shapes seen in the 1994 MGF roadster.

More prosaic was the Triumph Broadside project – a proposal to update TR7 by reskinning it, and fitting the O series engine from the Morris Marina, Ital and Princess.

One of BL’s larger missed opportunities was the Triumph Lynx –  a long wheelbase V8 engined TR7 derivative with a Celica/Capri style liftback format and 2+2 seating. The car never made it, cancelled by BL in 1978 when the Speke plant in Liverpool that built the TR7 (and would have built the Lynx) was shut.

But the idea was arguably spot on – everything a Capri or Celica offered but with the option of a V8 engine and a sporting heritage to go with it.

It is sometimes surprising how effective a reskin can be – ask Ford about the Escort Mk 1 and 2 or Cortina Mk 3 and Mk 4 for example. Such examples exist even if the glasshouse or doors are not changed. Until you take the second glance, this Michelotti reskin of the Triumph Dolomite is one of those.

Visually, the Dolomite family dated from the 1963 Triumph 1300, with the addition of a longer boot profile and a revised front end. But by the early 1970s it was starting to look its age, and Michelotti, the original designer, came up with this reskin in 1972.

Until you pause, you may not realise that the glasshouse and doors are unchanged, and the silver colour somehow brings out the visual clues it had in common with the BMW Neu Klasse.

Some people have a huge regard for David Bache, stylist of every Rover the P5 to the SD1, including adding style to the engineers’ visons that were early Land Rovers and the porotype Range Rover. Others point to this, the Triumph SD2, and suggest you think again.

The SD2 was planned to replace the Dolomite around 1978-9, but ran into BL’s affordability and investment issues, and was stillborn. There was a saloon version planned as well, to be sold as a Morris and to replace the inadequate Marina.

In concept, it was a compact SD1, with a significant commonality to the TR7 – perhaps even it was a long wheelbase hatchback TR7. That doesn’t sound bad, but the cost was too high, and the styling perhaps didn’t help sell it to the accountants.

Perhaps the best angle was inside  – this interior looks pretty good to me for 1978.

The Austin Metro supermini, from 1980 to 1997 in various forms, was only ever offered as a hatchback, but BL were thinking other forms, including this saloon, built in 1984.

By the standards of such conversions, it’s perfectly fine, but you have to ask about the logic – demand for such a variation in any market the Metro was likely to do well in was surely minimal. Ford have never offered a saloon Fiesta in Europe and I’d suggest that tells you what you need to know.

The Metro’s big brother was the Austin Maestro – this was a very early prototype from 1978, five years before the Maestro was launched.

And one that, based on some recent comments of another Vanden Plas, may appeal of many of the CC Commentariat – the prototype Vanden Plas version of the ADO71 Princess, built in 1973 two years before the car was launched and fitted with the transverse six cylinder 2200 engine. What was it about BL, and adding traditional grilles to just about anything?

Who says Government owned BL was always cautious and unambitious? The 1982 Austin-Rover ECV3 disproves that view. An aluminium framed, plastic panelled 1.3 litre hatchback, trialling new ideas for compact cars. The project was led by Spen King, the engineer behind the Rover SD1, original Range Rover and with big inputs into the Austin Metro and Maestro as well. The key word in his vocabulary would be “pragmatic”.

Power came from a 1.3 litre  three cylinder, with four valves per cylinder driven off a single camshaft, just like King’s Triumph Dolomite Sprint engine. Interior space was a match for the Ford Sierra, two feet longer than this car. The spirit of Issigonis was still living on inside Longbridge.

The lightweight (around 660kg/1500ibs) and aerodynamic (CD 0.24) body made claims of 100 mpg credible and BL were courageous enough to let the magazines test it. It even got onto Top Gear in its sober consumer journalism days.

Perhaps the closest thing to this to see the light of day would be the Audi A2.

King left BL shortly afterwards, joining Alcan where he led the work on aluminium structures that found their way into the 2002 Jaguar XJ8.

The AR6 was a proposal to replace the Austin Metro, which carried some of the ECV3 thinking forward, notably an aluminium  body. the engine was initially expected to be a version of the Rover K series. In the event, the production plan became a steel car with a four cylinder engine, and was then cancelled as Rover aligned plans with Honda and assessed a new small car as a low return exercise. We got a heavily facelifted Rover Metro instead.

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