MYTH BUSTER

De­bunk­ing the most com­mon old wives’ tales

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

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…

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