Morris Ital. Maligned and forgotten.

Morris Ital
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It was overcast that day with a lot of showers, uncle Arie won a roulade at the bingo in the evening and Henk Wijngaard's Container song rose to number 17 in the top 40. Probably more people can remember that better than the introduction of the Morris Ital on the same Tuesday, 1 July 1980. But we have not forgotten him.


The modest, sympathetic Briton always lost in his time, he was overtaken on all sides by the competition. A bit like the boy who is always chosen last in class. In itself not so strange, when you consider that this Morris was based on the illustrious Marina. Although. Based is a bit too much honor, in fact it was no more than a facelift of the model that had been around for almost ten years and was already mature at the time of its own introduction. Then you are a bit behind.

British humor

Morris Ital 1
Not even Giorgetto Giugiaro's suggestions for the restyling of the Marina could change much. To entice buyers, the car was given a more exotic name: Ital. After the well-known Italdesign, Giugiaro's studio that provided chief designer Harris Mann with some advice. With this, the British drew their own Marina with some right angles and ditto lines in the 80s.

That Marina was still very recognizable, only the front and rear were adjusted and the three-door coupé variant was discontinued. Probably the budget of the chronically on the verge of collapse British Leyland no longer allowed, because the interior remained unchanged. Here everything was Marina. The dashboard was also taken over almost unchanged, with its ergonomically curved center console. But then to the passenger. British humor.

Technically unchanged

Delicious, and that must be maintained. That is exactly what the primal conservative British did under the skin: nothing about the technology changed. The Ital was on the same rear-wheel drive chassis as the Marina, with the same 1.3 or 1.7 liter four-cylinder in the front. Never change a winning team. Even if it loses, those stubborn Britons must have thought.

However, the 2.0 liter O-series four-cylinder was now also available and in that configuration formed the top model in the Ital range, the 2.0 HLS, from 1981 even available with automatic transmission. For the familyman there was the Estate, the good farmer plumber or baker could order a closed order version. As a sevicewagen this Van was also sometimes used by a brave garage mechanic. He had at least tools and sufficient parts to hand.

Questionable build quality

Morris Ital Estate
Because in addition to the technology and its appearance, the Morris Ital inherited even more from its predecessor: its lousy reputation for its rather dubious build quality. Because in those years the English car industry was by no means a bulwark of passion and perfection. Strikes and other unrest took British Leyland to the bone.

Still, the Morris Ital did not sell that badly at the beginning of its short career. It was an acceptable alternative for the then quite large group that suffered from metum Coegie fronte rota. The fear of front-wheel drive. But that condition disappeared fairly quickly and despite a new front and rear suspension and some modernizations in 1982, the Ital met the same fate.

They seemed to dissolve, and often they did. Rust. The brown ghost devoured them eagerly. Even in Portugal, where the Ital was assembled in its truest form for a short period of time: a now very old car equipped with a very old diesel engine with less than 40 HP. It doesn't get any more sympathetic. Nor is it rarer.
Morris Ital 2
Or it must be the latest version from 1998 (!). In that year, the Chinese Chengdu Auto Works launched the estate version of the Ital on the market, on its own chassis. This Huandu CAC6430 was built well into 1999, while the production of the Morris Ital was ended in 1984. Very few of them are left now, unfortunately. Formerly a dragon, now utterly lovable, this meek Englishman deserves a better fate than oblivion. Just like Uncle Arie.

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Give a reaction
  1. The English disease, which meant that as a customer with a newly purchased car, you had to wait six months for an exhaust that had to be replaced under warranty. Or a hanging door with a color difference in a new four-door sedan.

  2. My compliments, what an excellent analysis of British Leyland's demise! Indeed, there was much more to it than a rioting union. Everywhere in Europe, this matched the era of the late 60s and early 70s. The British were just teuting en masse, they did not innovate. With all its consequences. Greetings from an old British Leyland dealer who is still a big fan of all that English stuff!

  3. I enjoyed driving a Morris Ital 1.3 in the eighties for several years. Inside, it was a very luxurious car with extremely comfortable seats and plenty of space. Also in the trunk. The 1.3 engine gave enough power to be able to cruise 110 to 120 km pu. Fairly noiseless. The car was not made for sports performance. In no way comparable to the Morris Mini Cooper 998 that I drove before (in the seventies).
    However, there were some costs to the Ital, partly due to the damage to a headlight. The costs of maintenance were quite high anyway. English cars no longer had a good reputation then. That's why I decided to trade it in. A pity afterwards.

  4. Sad story, Olav already indicated…. a lot of bickering back and forth between especially Rover and Triumph who didn't want to exchange anything at all. In the sixties the British were leading, the Issigonis models that were certainly extremely modern in the early 60s, the MGB as a monoque roadster, the Healeys with “prowess”, modern Rover 2200 (disc brakes all around and independent rear wheels were only in the French and later Italians commonplace for a long time), Jaguars Mk2 and a lot of small (er) manufacturers with amazingly unique models. Past perfect tense.

  5. On YouTube you can see those years of the British car industry at the annual London Motor Show in Earls Court.

    Still beautiful in the sixties, with modern and beautiful models from dozens of factories. And then you see the deterioration, until I believe in 1978 the already considerably reduced exhibition had empty stands due to new strikes and the audience mainly came to marvel at the increasingly numerous and sill girls.

  6. Some words have already been written about how the British car industry changed from a world standard to total demolition in just a decade. Here too the blame is on the unions, and that is certainly true in part, but you also have to remember that in hot Europe there are unions but not all over Europe the car factories were lost.

    Again, it has been a combination of factors.
    1) Ineficiency. You can't tell from the end product, but the British car factories were largely pre-war. Producing a Morris or Austin took seven times more man hours than a German Opel or Volkswagen and almost twenty times more than a Japanese Datsun or Toyota. Simply because the British had not modernized enough after the war.
    2) British Leyland was a hodgepodge of the British Motor Company and a handful of other brands whose executives hated each other and stuck to their factories and models. As a result, the much-needed increase in scale did not take place. Opel, just as big as BLMC, had two (!) Factories to cover the entire market with no more than seven models, in which in principle there were only two engine types and three gearboxes (separate from the GM V8). British Leyland did it with 43 factories, more than a hundred models and a strange mishmash of technical components, nothing was tuned, nothing matched and the quality was “variable” so that the seller and buyer never knew where they stood.
    3) Oil crisis: it came along in 1973 and 1978. That led to a sophisticated model and production policy everywhere, but that did not work at British Leyland, see (2).
    4) And finally the perilous downward spiral. To become more efficient, factories would have to be closed and people fired. With Labor in power, politics countered this and the unions became more and more fanatic about calling strikes. At the time, the whole of the United Kingdom was economically wary, especially as they were rapidly being overtaken by countries investing in new industries, new ports and good public and free education. London and Liverpool were still the largest ports in the world in 1968. In 1978 everything was empty. The United Kingdom was still the largest shipbuilder in the world in 1960. In the XNUMXs, all new seagoing vessels came from Korea and Japan. The new mass unemployment made existence look increasingly gray. Savings were running out, homes were losing their value, factories were empty, I saw deep poverty and even hunger in cities like Newcastle and Glasgow at the time. Pain that would be exacerbated by Margaret Thatcher, who closed the coal mines. But it was necessary.

  7. In the Morris Marina I got my BE in '77.
    8 hours of lessons and driving off.
    Once had the gear lever out, you could quickly hook up again.

  8. Nice, that Morris Ital. I had completely forgotten about him, but we laughed how much we laughed as a youth. It was like taking a Lada 1200 as a basis to base a new car on. Jeremy Clarkson would say, “Guess what ………………… .. They did”.

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