BMC 1100 & 1300 (ADO16) Buying Guide

Almost as much fun to drive as a contemporary Mini, but with a lot more practicality – and at lower prices, too. Here's how to bag a solid Austin 1100/1300 or 1300GT

How much to pay

1100/1300
• Project £350-500 • Good £1000-2500 • Concours £3250-5000 •

1300GT
•Project £800-1000 • Good £2000-3500 • Concours £7000-10,000

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★★★
Investment ★★★
Desirability ★★★

The Mini is a cult car, but the BMC 1100 and 1300 are not. Yet the Mini provided the template for BMC’s successful range of saloons and estates that sold in huge numbers for a dozen years. The 1100’s design incorporates all the Mini’s best points, and there’s more space into the bargain. It drives very nearly as well, and when it comes to comfort you’ll struggle to find a car of similar size with a better ride. So why isn’t the 1100 as revered as its smaller sibling?

Debuting at the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show, the first derivative of the 1100/1300 range was the Morris 1100. Codenamed ADO16 by BMC, the new arrival featured a transversely mounted 1098cc A-series engine, front-wheel drive and Hydrolastic suspension.

The result was a car with supreme comfort levels, great handling and unbeatable packaging – and all at an affordable price. While there was little choice at first, it didn’t take long for more versions to be introduced, with greater levels of luxury or sportiness. In time there were 1300 and estate versions, too, offering even more practicality and usability.

Your BMC ADO16 inspection checklist

Engine

All ADO16s have an A-series engine; 1098cc in the 1100 and 1275cc in the 1300, both powerplants with either one or two SU carburettors. The A-series is tough and will take hard use (and some neglect), but even when expiry is imminent it can be hard to tell that there’s major expense ahead; expect oil pressure of at least 40psi at speed.

On post-1971 and automatic derivatives, the bushes for the engine’s stabiliser-mounting bar disintegrate, so try rocking the motor backwards and forwards. Worn bushes will be obvious from the excessive play, but new ones are cheaply available.

Poor running may be due to a soaked ignition system, as the distributor is located on the front of the engine. Rain passes through the grille and gets into the electrics. Meanwhile, 1275cc units are prone to worn-out valve guides and stem seals, leading to clouds of blue smoke once the power is applied after the over-run.

Expect oil leaks. If the engine bay is awash with lubricant, something is wrong; on the other hand, you should be just as suspicious if this area is spotless on a potential buy. On post-1971 cars the gearchange and timing-chain oil seals are particularly ineffective, so don’t expect to fix things completely.

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Gearbox

Most 1100s and 1300s have a four-speed manual gearbox, yet from 1965 an AP four-speed automatic transmission was optional. These are reliable, but the front sprag clutch can break, meaning the car won’t pull away in Drive although it’ll operate in the other ratios. Getting the gearbox rebuilt is your best bet.

The fundamental problem with the transmission is that it shares its oil with the engine. The lubricant should have been changed every 6000 miles; 3000-mile swaps are much better. The first thing to go will be the synchro cones, although these should still last 100,000 miles. If there are clicking noises on full lock, the CV joints will need to be fixed.

Suspension and brakes

The 1100’s rack-and-pinion steering is conventional and trouble free, the only likely problem being split gaiters allowing dirt to get into the rack’s grease. Make sure there are no stiff spots and that the steering isn’t heavy; if so, you’ll need a reconditioned rack.

Surprisingly, the Hydrolastic suspension is usually reliable. Make sure the car sits level from side to side and front to rear. The displacers that control the system are connected front to back, so there are two independent systems, one on each side. Problems can stem from rusty hydraulic pipes, leaking displacers or perished rubber outlet hoses. The displacers can be recharged, and the system needs to be topped up with fluid occasionally, too.

The Hydrolastic pipes that run under the car are made of steel, and they corrode. Replacing them entails removing both subframes, so make sure any work has been done properly and that the whole system isn’t in need of replacement.

Grinding noises from the rear suspension betray worn radius-arm bearings; replacement requires a special puller. If they’re worn, the top of the wheel will also be pointing inwards slightly; the rear tyres should appear upright when viewed from behind.

A lack of lubrication for the handbrake and its guides can lead to the cable seizing up, along with the quadrants at the back of its run, but freeing things off isn’t difficult. Potentially more problematic are the rear brakes, as the drums ‘officially’ have to be removed with the use of a puller. It’s usually possible to remove the drum’s retaining nut, put the wheel back on, then rock the drum free. However, if the previous owner hadn’t worked this out and didn’t have a puller, the brakes may have never been inspected, never mind changed.

Bodywork

Rot is endemic, and once it takes a hold it’s difficult to eradicate. It can get a grip anywhere in the lower half of the car; focus on the sills plus the front and rear wheelarches. Make sure the sills haven’t been bodged; if the sill stops half-way into the floorpan it’s a cover that needs to be replaced with a proper one, which is an expensive process.

Next check the wings around the headlamps and the seams where they join the valance, the valance itself, and the inner wings; the latter are strengthened by a conical-shaped box section welded to its underside. Make sure it’s still there, by removing the front wheels and peering inside the arches. Fixing this means removing the welded-on wings.

The bulkhead doesn’t drain properly, so it rots out; repairs are involved. Pour a jug of water down the vents at the base of the windscreen – if the footwells are wet shortly after, you know there’s trouble ahead. An MoT failure is guaranteed if the heelboard is rotted. This is the vertical panel that joins the rear footwells to the floorpan under the rear seat. The rear subframe is mounted to the heelboard, and repairing it properly means removing the subframe (which also rots).

While the front subframes don’t rot, their rubber mountings perish, so analyse all six of them. There are two at the front, two in the middle (at the top of the suspension turrets) and a pair at the back. They can be replaced in situ without much difficulty.

The boot fills up with water then the floor dissolves, so remove the spare wheel for a closer look; repairs entail removing the subframe and fuel tank. If you’re looking at an estate, check for rot along the top and bottom edges of the rear window; decent used tailgates are no longer available.

Interior

Cabin trim is scarce, with each derivative having its own unique specification. The Vanden Plas has a woolcloth headlining and leather trim, while it was plastic all round elsewhere. It all wears well, but repairing damage is tricky and potentially very expensive.

The stainless-steel and chrome brightwork is also scarce, with detail differences between the various models’ specifications. The bumpers were different across the ranges, with the Vanden Plas featuring a wrap-around rear bumper where the others didn’t.

There’s relatively little crossover between the various models’ switchgear and instrumentation, with some parts now very scarce. Rocker switches break internally, and finding replacements can be tricky. There are two types, with one being quite a narrow unit while the other is much wider; the former type is now very hard to track down.

History

  • 1962: Morris 1100 launched, with 48bhp 1098cc engine; 55bhp twin-carb MG follows soon after.
  • 1963: Austin 1100 goes on sale; it’s more downmarket than Morris. 55bhp Vanden Plas is also introduced.
  • 1965: Riley Kestrel and Wolseley 1100 launch, using MG’s running gear. AP four-speed automatic transmission becomes optional, as is sliding sunroof on Vanden Plas models.
  • 1966: Estate reaches showrooms in Austin and Morris forms.
  • 1967: MkII debuts with trim revisions and less prominent tail fins, plus new lights. Also a 58bhp 1275cc option on all but Austin and Morris versions; this becomes 1300 as a model in its own right later in year. Austin and Morris versions have 58bhp single-carb engine, all others get 65bhp twin-carb unit; autos are fitted with 60bhp single-carb powerplant.
  • 1968: All-synchro manual gearbox now fitted, and twin-carb 1300s boosted to 70bhp. MG and Riley 1300s now have close-ratio gearbox, and from this point MG is available as a two-door only. Kestrel name dies, and 1100 versions of MG, Riley, Vanden Plas and Wolseley all disappear.
  • 1969: 1300GT arrives, in Austin and Morris guises. It has 70bhp twin-carb engine as per MG 1300. All Riley models now obsolete.
    *1971: MkIII cars appear, with very minor changes that involve new grilles for Austin and Morris – and little else. Saloon versions of Morris are deleted, leaving just estate on sale. MG 1300 is also killed off.
  • 1973: Morris and Wolseley cars discontinued.
  • 1974: Austin and Vanden Plas versions superseded by Allegro.

AutoClassics says…

These cars are terrific value and massively under-rated. All family-friendly classics, the various iterations of ADO16 are fun to drive as long as they’ve been cherished – and there’s the rub. Too many of these cars have been run on a shoestring, which is why investing in a suspension overhaul will often reap dividends. The Hydrolastic set-up is often neglected, but in good condition it turns an uninspiring 1100 or 1300 into something that’s comfortable and genuinely fun to drive.

As you’d expect, it’s the more powerful variations that are the most desirable and the best to drive, but don’t get too hung up on specification when buying, as upgrades are easy. Focus on sourcing the best bodyshell and interior that you can; fitting twin carbs or a 1275cc engine to a basic 1100 doesn’t cost much.

Riley and Wolseley editions are now very unusual, while the Vanden Plas is very sought after because of its rarity and luxurious interior. Poor or average cars outnumber the really good ones, but there are some superb examples out there. Find one, and you’ll have one of the most usable and enjoyable classics available, and all for peanuts.

Specifications

Austin 1100
  Power 48bhp
  Top speed 78mph
  0-60mph 22.2sec
  Economy 33mpg

Austin 1300
  Power 58bhp
  Top speed 88mph
  0-60mph 17.3sec
  Economy 30mpg

Austin 1300 GT
  Power 70bhp
  Top speed 93mph
  0-60mph 15.6sec
  Economy 27mpg

Austin America
  Power 60bhp
  Top speed 90mph
  0-60mph 16.5sec
  Economy 29mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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