Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 ITALDESIGN STYLED IT
Not so much a myth, more a flagrant lie. The Morris Ital was not designed in Italy, nor was it shaped by Italdesign. The styling work was undertaken at British Leyland’s studios in Longbridge under the direction of Harris Mann. Italdesign was only employed on a consultancy basis to oversee the engineering changes but BL filmed the car’s TV commercial at their premises in Italy all the same. A voiceover fibbed that the car had been styled there. Italdesign was anxious not to upset its client so kept quiet, but never referred to the Morris in public.
2 IT’S THE VERY LAST MORRIS MODEL
The Ital had a four-year production span. The ageing saloon, estate and van remained on the assembly lines at Cowley until 1984, when the Austin Montego was ready to replace it – an event that couldn’t come a moment too soon. That was definitely the end for the Morris name on cars, but the much-loved old marque remained current for a couple years more adorning the Morris Metro van. The tooling for the Ital was eventually bought by a Chinese company, and a crude rendition was built there into the mid-1990s.
3 IT WAS AWFUL
Well, yes, broadly, both the Marina and the Ital carried corner-cutting design flaws, mostly relating to the decrepit front suspension derived from the old Morris Minor. These made them inferior to direct British rivals including the Ford Escort/ Cortina, Hillman Avenger/Hunter and Vauxhall Viva/Magnum. But with more than 950,000 sold, the Marina had been a 1970s success, and the Ital added some 126,000 extra sales. If your Ital escaped the factory with minimal assembly faults and as long as you weren’t expecting any dynamism, it could be a tough, thrifty, reliable car, particularly in 1.3-litre estate form.
The name was a shameless lie but the Ital wasn’t that bad. No, really…