It was well-named for its space, but has the Maxi shaken off its reputation for poor build?
The Maxi should be more highly regarded. It was Sir Alec Issigonis’s final design and the last car developed by the British Motor Corporation – although its launch timing also made it the first flowering from the new British Leyland morass. But lack of glamour – much more a workhorse rather than a charismatic machine – and poor build quality destroyed its reputation. Those that have survived are generally the good ones now.
Power (bhp@rpm) 95bhp@5350rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 107lb ft@3500rpm
Top speed 101mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Being a British Leyland product of the 1970s, rust is unlikely to be that far away. Around the headlamps and sidelights are obvious areas to check, where muck gets trapped. Front wings go frilly around their rear edges and bottoms, plus where they mate with the front panel. A support bracket halfway up behind the wing also harbours rust, which will ultimately break through.
Look for bulkhead corrosion due to spilled clutch fluid and leaves in the intake grille. Sills should also be scrutinised, from both outside and inside. You’ll need to lift the carpets to do so, which is a good point to check the rest of the floorpan. Door bottoms evaporate because of blocked drain holes.
Wheelarches often breed rust, and don’t forget the load area. When water gets in, it will collect in nooks and ultimately wreak havoc. Try to get underneath to check out the valance, floorpan, front subframe and mountings, suspension arm mountings and the suspension turrets themselves.
The 1485cc and 1748cc E-series engines are resilient enough, so just investigate for signs of old-age wear, such as blue smoke and excessive noise, like a noisy timing chain (meaning parting the engine from the gearbox to rectify) and bottom end rumbles denoting worn crankshaft bearings. Expect any example to drink oil. Single carburettor cars suffer from vapour lock, making them difficult to re-start when warm, and heat also causes the fuel lines in the engine bay to go brittle. Keep an eye out for the mayonnaise under filler cap indications of head gasket failure.
The five-speed gearboxes are weak. The first 1.5-litre cars had cable-operated ones, which stretched. From 1970, rod ‘boxes were adopted, but they’re pretty poor, too – worn synchromesh, jumping out of gear, and leaking oil. Automatic transmissions can suffer from stretched selector cables.
Hydrolastic suspension was used up until the 1977 adoption of Hydragas. With both, look for tilting or collapse. Often a pump-up at a garage will rectify things, although it might be that a pipe or hose has given way. Uneven tyre wear signals worn suspension mounting bushes. Brakes (disc at the front, drum at the rear) present few problems, save for seizing on little-used examples.
BL/BMC parts bin raiding means a lot of components are shared with sibling cars and thus it’s still pretty common to find good items secondhand. Cloth seats can go saggy and tear, and keep in mind the dashboard on all but the earliest cars was wood, so may crack or peel. Electrics are basic, with most issues down to DIY meddling or bad connections.
All the cars are built like the proverbial tank, all of them offer plenty of room for family transport to and from events, and basic running costs are reasonably affordable too. Just don’t expect to find very many spares at autojumbles in the UK. Your starting-point for spares should be one of the used parts specialists; some of them have New Old Stock parts too, so you might just get lucky.