With space for all the family and great economy, the fun, practical and now increasingly rare Austin 1300 is fast becoming a highly sought-after classic.
AT THE WHEEL
Yes, these cars are practical, but you really buy an ADO16 for its addictive handling. The driving position betrays its close family links with the Mini, thanks to the oddly raked steering wheel, but the seats themselves are supportive and comfortable and the four-speed gearbox is a delight to stir.
None of these cars is especially powerful (48bhp for the 1100, 58bhp for the 1300), but more than a little of Issigonis’ chassis design genius for the Mini rubbed off on all ADO16s, meaning they always feel faster than they really are. This is thanks in no small part to the utterly sublime Hydrolastic suspension and wheel-at-each-corner layout which, allied to the large, airy glasshouse and shallow dashboard, make every model feel like a large go-kart.
They’re evocative little cars, too – the trademark transmission whine is instantly recognisable, while the Mk2’s tail lights would go on to outlive the little cars by years on the iconic FX/4 Austin Taxis.
Practical, endearingly quirky and great to drive – the Austin BMC 1100/1300 offers quite a combination. All you have to do now is find a good one.
BMC ADO16s may not be quite as rare as their A40 Farina predecessor, but you won’t exactly be falling over them at classic car events either, so relative exclusivity is pretty much guaranteed.
They even have an element of small-screen stardom about them – or rather the Austin 1100 Countryman does – for this is the very car to which a suited and booted John Cleese famously administered ‘a damn good thrashing’ with a tree branch in the classic Fawlty Towers episode, ‘Gourmet Night’.
One of the big attractions of ADO16 ownership, however, is their sheer practicality. Even the two and four-door saloons are uncommonly spacious inside, with room enough for four sizeable adults (and a fair chunk of their luggage inside the notchback boot), but for sheer lugging capacity, the Countryman estate is hard to beat, thanks to its massive boot, folding rear seat and wide-opening top-hinged tailgate.
Much, much rarer is the amazing-looking Crayford estate, which took the standard saloon and added a double clamshell bootlid arrangement not dissimilar to that employed by the Range Rover.
It’s fair to say that the AD016s suffered a protracted period during which they failed to gain classic status, but rarity and a growing, devoted cult following have combined to lift them to desirable classics.
If you’re fond of the racy look, then the MG and the GT are the models to go for, but since all models share the same two basic engines, neither offers peppier performance. The GT does sport slightly lower suspension, however, which improves handling slightly.
And yet, superb handling is something that’s common to all models. Go for a 1300 rather than an 1100 and choose the Mk2 over the earlier cars (somehow, they’re so much more modern looking), and you’ll be in possession of a handsome, practical and friendly little car that feels surprisingly contemporary. In fact, your only real problem is going to be finding a good one!