These days, the Morris Marina is best known as a car fequently destroyed by a certain trio of motoring TV presenters. But honour of a sort has been restored to this humble Seventies family hack as the pristine example you see here has been named Best in Show at this year’s Hagerty Festival of the Unexceptional.
The car in question is a 1977 base-model 1.3 Deluxe estate owned by Michael Carpenter. He liberated it from imprisonment in a shed where it had been stashed after a partial restoration cost the previous owner three fingers. It was absolutely filthy, but a thorough clean showed it to be in pristine condition. Michael finished the restoration to seemingly better-than-new condition. Indeed, it’s probably the best Marina left.
British Leyland launched the Marina in 1971 in an attempt to steal sales from the Ford Cortina in the crucial company fleet market. It was a typical bodged together BL parts bin special, mostly based on the ancient Morris Minor it ostensibly replaced and seriously underdeveleoped. Drastic understeer was just one of a litany of problems. A long-overdue facelift in 1980 turned Marina into Ital, but it just papered over the cracks. It was eventually replaced by the Montego in 1984.
The Marina never met sales expectations – only 500,000 were sold, compared to 2.2 million Cortinas over the same period. Atrocious build quality and non-existant rust protection saw pretty much all of them scrapped within a decade. It was a popular banger racer, too. But the Marina has now reached the point where its many and varied flaws have become charming character traits and survivours are treasured – unless Clarkson and co. get their hands on one.
The FotU started six years ago, to celebrate everday cars built between 1968 and 1989, a period when the vast majority of models produced can be best summed up by that motoring journalists’ cliche ‘worthy but dull’. 50 cars were selected to go on display in the Concours de l’Ordinaire, but there was another show to see in the car park, as more than 500 other elligible cars turned up.
The runner-up spot went to a base-spec 1978 Vauxhall Chevette E saloon, while the People’s Choice award was given to a 1982 Peugeot 305 SR estate. The Junior Judges prize was won by a 1989 Citroen BX 19 DTR with an entirely appropriate taxi sign on the roof.
By Graham King