The Leyland Marina was built by people who had far more interesting things to do | Drive Flashback

The Leyland Marina is often eclipsed by its P76 stablemate when it comes to Aussie lemons. But, as Tony Davis wrote in 1996, the Marina really was an Australian-built stinker.

Story by Tony Davis originally published in Drive on 6 December, 1996

To err is Leyland . . .

Let's start with a disclaimer. I have a friend who owns a Morris Marina. But that's not the only reason I'm about to bucket this lamentable piece of Anglo-Australiana.

Few cars deserve a bucketing as much as the Marina and, of those that do, an alarming number were also built by Leyland Australia.

One of the most amazing things about Leyland Australia (aka Morris, Austin, BMC, British Leyland, and now Rover Group) is the large number of talented people who walked out the front door when they finally closed it down.

But back to the case in point: the poorly conceived, stupidly named, badly built box of bolts called Marina, which was introduced to a disinterested Australian public in 1972.

There were two body styles (Sedan and Coupe) with three variants of the same four-cylinder engine.

Most Leyland fours of the era were front-drive but the English-designed Marina powered the rear wheels. This was in keeping with the objective of producing a simple and rugged car which would overcome the reliability problems for which Leyland had become a byword.

The result was simple, yes, but it wasn't rugged. The driving experience was crude at best and the "improved" reliability was just gruesome. The Marina seemed to have been built by people who had far more interesting things to do.

To match its nautical moniker, the Marina tended to fill with water at the slightest hint of rain.

The suspension was shocking, literally. This not only gave the occupants a jarring time, it hurried along all those badly attached parts which were already thinking of leaving.

Engines included a 1500cc and two 1750s. A Leyland sales blurb described these engines as "fast, faster and good morning, officer".

In reality, the performance suggested that the Marina had a few too many boats moored in it.

A solution, from late 1973, was to squeeze the P76's six-cylinder under the bonnet.

Mimicking the trend established by Holden with its six-cylinder Torana, this transformed the Marina from an underpowered pig into an understeering pig.

Compare the Marina and its compatriot models with what the Japanese were doing at the time and it's not hard to see why there is no longer a single British-owned mass producer. Meanwhile, the myriad problems that comprised Leyland's Australian division came to a head in 1974.

Marina production was an early casualty but the company had cunningly made a vast number of reserve cars to satisfy future demand.

Either that or the nongs had got it wrong yet again, having built far too many Marinas and none of them well enough.

Either way, the huge stock of unsold, unwanted, unlamented Marinas would last for most of 1975.

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