The story begins in 1964. The British Motor Corporation (BMC)
was under some pressure to replace (and supplement) its aging
product range. The Austin Maxi was an attempt to address both
The car was very much seen by BMC as the latest generation
of their transverse engine, front wheel drive range of cars
e.g. Mini, 1100/1300, 1800/2200 series. Work began on the
car (then known by its code name ADO14) round about 1964/5.
The design team was headed by Alec Issigonis designer of the
Morris Minor and Mini.
The power unit for the car was initially a problem. The A
and B series engines fitted to the 1100 and 1800 series did
not meet the cars specification. Head of BMC George Harriman
felt he had no option but to design and build a new engine
.. the E series engine.
The car was new from stem to stern, it had a new engine and
transmission (5 speed gearbox), new body and layout (5 door
vehicle with fold down seats). The only thing that wasn't
new were the doors which belonged to the 1800 series. Having
said that the car was a typical BMC design of the time, unitary
steel body/chassis unit, transverse mounted engine at the
front, hydrolastic suspension, front disc brakes, rack-and-pinion
Design of the car and its production facilities were hit
by a series of delays caused amongst other things by financial
problems which culminated in 1968 in a merger with the Leyland
The new management that took over the running and launch of
the Maxi were decidedly unimpressed. The car was judged very
much a BMC product and before and after launch they let it
be known that it was not one that they wished to be associated
. hardly the premise for a successful launch.
The original prototypes were apparently under-powered and
extremely spartan. Launch day was delayed whilst the car had
a makeover. When it was eventually launched it was immediately
criticized for excessive noise, a poor gearchange and lethargic
performance. The criticisms stung the new company into action.
In 1970 they replaced the cars notorious cable gear change,
improved the cars interior and offered a more powerful 1750cc
power unit. A twin carburetor version followed in 1972 as
did automatic transmission. Hydrolastic suspension was replaced
by Hydragas suspension in 1976.
The sad thing about the car was that apart from a few minor
changes to trim levels most notably in 1980 the car received
scant attention from British Leyland and was left to soldier
on as best it could. A sorry demise for the first British
The 1500 cc version was discontinued in 1979, the 1750 and
HL in 1981. Altogether 486,273 were built. The vast majority
of Maxi's were produced at BL's plant at Cowley.