Austin Maxi - Overview

   
   

•  Production started:

•  Launched:

•  Production ended:

•  Cars produced:

5th October 1968

24th April 1969

8th July 1981

486,273

   
 

Developed by the British Motor Corporation (BMC), under the guise ADO14, the Maxi was the last of Sir Alec Issigonis’ designs to be put into production.  It was the first British hatchback and one of the first family cars to be fitted with a five speed gearbox.

Despite being a BMC design, in the event the Maxi was the first car launched by the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC), following the merger of the Leyland Motor Corporation with British Motor Holdings (itself a merger of BMC and Jaguar) in 1968.  At the launch, there was only one model offered, the 1500.  This used the new 1485cc 4 cylinder ‘E’ series engine with a cable change gearbox.  Both engine and gearbox soon attracted criticism from the motoring press and public alike, and the Maxi’s styling was definitely not considered a strong point.

It was soon realised a drastic rethink was required by BLMC management, and senior engineers from Triumph (owned by Leyland since 1961) were drafted in to improve the Maxi (as well as the rest of the Austin Morris range).  As a result the Maxi was effectively relaunched in October 1970, doubling the range – the original 1500 and the new 1750.  Both cars had an improved rod operated gear change, whilst the 1750 (with a longer stroke 1748cc engine) had more power to shift the weight of the Maxi.  This addressed the two main issues with the car but cosmetic changes were limited to a new grille and interior; and minor trim and badge changes.  Major re-styling would have to wait.  In reality, due to the continual financial constraints faced by BL and the small market share of the Maxi, no alterations to the styling were made over the car’s 12 year life.

A third model was added in 1972, the Hi-Line (HL) using the 1748cc engine but with twin carburettors.  To emphasise the “sporting” nature of this new model, it had a sports steering wheel, crop Nylon seat coverings and a vinyl covered padded dash.  In 1979, the HL became the HLS, with a new HL model offering the same features but without the twin carbs.  Due to dwindling sales, the original 1500 model was dropped.  The final instalment in the Maxi story came about in 1980 when new interior trim, bumpers, wheel trims and grille led to the Maxi being renamed “Maxi 2”.

Despite being badged as an Austin for the first seven years of its life, the majority of Maxis were actually produced at the former Morris works at Cowley in Oxford.  However, the combined engine and gearbox was produced at a specially built factory in Cofton Hackett, adjacent to the former Austin works at Longbridge in Birmingham.

Despite the initial design problems and relatively low production figures (just under half a million) for a 12 year run, the Maxi did develop a loyal following with owners who appreciated its immense practicability; and it was not uncommon for many to buy several Maxis in succession.