The Austin Maxi
was a medium sized 5-door hatchback car
from British Leyland
for the 1970s. It was the first British five speed five-door hatchback.
The Maxi (code name ADO14) was the last car designed under the British Motor Corporation (BMC), and was the last production car designed by Alec Issigonis. It was launched in the summer of 1969 shortly after the creation of British Leyland. It followed the five-door hatchback pattern of the French-produced Renault 16, which was European Car of the Year in 1966 following its launch in 1965.
Underneath the Maxi's practical and spacious bodyshell lay an all-new front wheel drive chassis which was interlinked with an innovative five-speed manual transmission. The latter suffered from notorious problems with its control linkage, especially in early models which had a cable-operated linkage prone to cable stretch and other problems. The later rod linkage was less problematic. All models were prone to problems brought on by the "cogs in the sump" layout, where the gearbox and engine shared a common oil supply. The clutch oil seal was also prone to leakage.
Power came from a 1485 cc, later 1748 cc (from 1971) E-Series petrol engine which would later find its way into other British Leyland products like the Austin Allegro. The 1750 and twin-carburettor 1750 HL models offered good performance by the standards of the day.
Despite the new platform, the Maxi's styling suffered from the decision to save tooling costs by carrying over door panels from the BMC ADO17 "Landcrab", which compromised the design. Another styling ambition for the car was a 4-door saloon counterpart — a prototype was built badged as a Morris, but it never made production.
The Maxi featured a spacious interior, comfortable passenger accommodation, competitive prices and reasonable running costs. But it was let down by a dull interior and poor build quality, although it was not quite as notorious for its downfalls as the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina were during the 1970s.
One unusual feature of this car was that the rear seat back, as well as folding forward as in a conventional hatchback, also folded back. In combination with fully reclining front seats this gave satisfactory, if spartan, sleeping accommodation.
Towards the end of the Maxi's life, in 1980, a lightly revised model was marketed as the "Maxi 2".
At the end of 1981, the Austin Maxi's 12-year production life came to an end. Its replacement, the Austin Maestro, which also replaced the smaller Allegro, was introduced in the spring of 1983.
Despite its supremely practical design the Maxi never came close to reaching its projected sales targets, it being one of many 1970's Leyland models that came within a whisker of being world beaters.
- 1969: Introduction of the Maxi 1500 5-door hatchback with transversely-mounted 1485 cc E Series engine and 5-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels, independent suspension with hydrolastic shock absorbers.
- 1970: Revisions: badge on front grille, side stripes, gearchange rods (instead of previous gear cables), better sound insulation, wood effect dash and smaller steering wheel. Introduction of the Maxi 1750 with larger 1748 cc engine and revisions as for Maxi 1500.
- 1972: Introduction of the Maxi 1750 HL, which had twin SU HS6 carburettor version of the 1748 cc engine, which gave a higher output of at 5250 rpm. Other additional features for the HL were 165 x 13 radial ply tyres, front bumper over riders, black and chrome mouldings along the sides and rear, electric windscreen washers, 3 spoke-alloy steering wheel with leather-bound trim, padded vinyl dashboard, vanity mirror on passenger sun visor, front door pockets, simulated wooden gear knob, and brushed nylon upholstery.
- 1974: Optional 4-speed automatic transmission available on 1750 & (from May 1979) 1750 HL.
- 1975: Fuel tank enlarged and all models now feature cigar lighter and heated rear window as standard.
- 1976: All export LHD Models now designated "Maxi HL"with specification similar to UK 1750 HL without twin carburettor or 3 spoke-alloy steering wheel,
- 1977: Austin name officially dropped by BL under recommendation by the Rider Report..Model now officially designated Leyland (Austin / Morris Division) Maxi The only sutile difference to the owner was the rear tailgate badge along with the handbooks, so everyone even the dealers unofficially still called it the same name!!
- 1978: All models now have hydragas suspension instead of previous hydrolastic system and all models now feature electric windscreen washers.
- May 1979: Introduction of the Maxi 1750 HLS with walnut dash and twin carburettor engine previously restricted to the HL. (HL now with the single carburettor and wood dash) All models have revised instrumentation and 1500/1750 now have marley fabric seat facings as to the previous PVC basketweave.
- Dec 1979: Maxi 1500 discontinued.
- Aug 1980: Introduction of the Maxi 2 range in 1750 L, 1750 HL and 1750 HLS variations. All models feature new revisions including new bumpers incorporating indicators (front) and reversing lights (rear), new side repeaters, full cover plastic wheel trims and broader side moulding inserts. The L replaced the previous Base model and added LM/MW push button radio, nylon trim, door bins, laminated windscreen and walnut veneer dashboard. The HL gained intermittent screen wipe, velour seats, tinted glass and extra sound insulation. The HLS gained a burr walnut veneer dashboard.
- 1981: Chrome bumpers replaced by Matt Black
- Aug 1981: Last Maxi 2 rolls off production line ousted by the new Triumph Acclaim,the last Maxi, a champagne L model, is now housed at the Gaydon Motor Heritage Centre.