Britain's best selling car of the 1960s.

Posted: 01/06/2023 @ 20:21PM

Here at Atom Retro we love 1960s fashion. We could talk about the cool sophistication of a classic John Smedley polo shirt, a pair of Levi's® 501® Jeans, Tootal Scarves and Steve McQueen 714SM Persol sunglasses all day long, but we also love mid century furniture and classic1960s cars too!

In terms of British made cars, there's the obvious 1960s classics such as the Jaguar E-type, the MG Midget and MGB, the Triumph Spitfire and TR6 (my mum had a Triumph Herald convertible when we were kids and we thought it was amazing... so did everyone else too - they don't make 'em like that anymore), the Austin-Healey 3000 and of course James Bond's favourite Aston Martin DB5. Check out Henry Grossman's shots of George Harrison's classic DB5 - Super cool! Another British made car I've always quite liked is the Jensen Interceptor.

What would you say the best selling UK car of the 1960s was?

Many people think the Mini (originally the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor respectively). Whilst the Mini is arguably the most iconic of 1960s British cars, it wasn’t the best selling car in 60s Britain. In fact it comes third in the list behind second placed Ford Cortina (built by Ford of Britain). Incidentally the Ford Cortina would top the list of British car sales for 9 out of ten years between 1972 and 1981 (topped only by the Ford Escort in 1976). 

So, just what was Britain’s best selling car of the 1960s…

The Vauxhall Viva, the Ford Anglia, The Hillman Imp… well actually none of those.

It was the Austin/Morris 1100/1300 or simply the 1100 (eleven-hundred) as it would become known as in the British domestic market. The 1300 was the one with the bigger 1300cc engine. 

The car was launched by BMC (British Motor Corportaion) in 1962 as part of the BMC ADO16 range of small family cars. The car was in production in the UK for 12 years, selling an estimated 2.1 million units between 1962 and 1974. The most prolific of the ADO16 range, the 1100 rolled off the production lines at Brimgham's Longbridge Plant. Another of the cars designed by Alex Issigonis (he also designed the Mini), the 1100 was to have a high level of comfort, refinement and presentation and would be promoted as an affordable family car.

From 1963 to 1966 and then again from 1968 to 1971, the 1100 was Britain’s best selling car, interrupted briefly in 1967 by the Ford Cortina. 

In fact, for most of its production life the ADO16 was Britain’s best selling car, holding 15% of the new car market at its peak.

You might not be that familiar with the car, but you might remember the episode of Fawlty Towers ‘Gourmet Nights’ where Basil Fawlty gives his car ‘A damn good thrashing’… that’s right, the car was a 1967 Austin 1100 Countryman Estate.

Between 1963 and 1968 BMC manufactured the car and between 1968 and 1974 it was British Leyland. It was they who phased the car out in favour of the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro.

We won’t go in to the demise of the British car industry, it’s a sorry tale for another day…

Although it is worth mentioning that Ford once bought and dismantled a Mini at their Dagenham plant to determine the true cost of the car. They came to the conclusion that the car had to be selling at a loss. Perhaps just a footnote in the long line of disasters that would ensure the swift, sharp and catastrophic decline of Britain’s automotive industry.