Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: ADO16

ADO 16 (Austin Drawing Office Project 16) was the codename behind one of the most successful British cars of all time. It wasn't just one car, but a family of cars based on one design from Sir Alec Issigonis.

The original ADO16 was the Morris 1100 which was joined later on by models badged as Austin, MG, Riley, Vanden Plas and Wolseley and bigger engined 1300cc models.

Launched in 1962 the 1100/1300 range was to bring a new standard in performance, space and comfort to British families looking for a small family car. Production eventually ended 12 years later in 1974 with the introduction of the Austin Allegro - a car which many considered to be inferior to the car it replaced.

Almost everyone will be familiar with the ADO16 through the scene in Fawlty Towers in which John Cleese thrashes an Austin 1300 with a branch from a tree, but my own personal recollection of the Austin 1300 was more positive - if not so funny.

It was 1972 when my mum, a newly qualified driver, hired a bright red Austin 1300 for our family holiday. Before this, all our holidays involved multiple train and bus journeys to reach our location - my father never learned to drive - and this time we were to go on holiday in a car. A brand new car, too. The Saturday we left was a scorching hot day. My brothers and I sat on our cases outside our house while we waited for mum to return from the car hire company and I can remember the excitement as mum pulled up in this bright red, 4 door Austin 1300. It was, literally brand new with just a few miles on the clock.

The journey down to Weymouth was largely uneventful - if rather warm - and I couldn't help feeling a little smug as we occasionally wafted past some poor father standing beside his overheated vehicle fanning the steam from the engine as his equally overheated family complained from inside the car.

The odd thing was, though, that having arrived at our guest house the bright red Austin 1300 was parked up and left where it stood for the entire week of the holiday. The next time we used it was to go home a week later! We spent the whole week either walking or getting a bus to our destination. A trip to the beach involved walking a mile or more laden with our buckets and spades, towels and various beach paraphernalia. Worse still, leaving the beach involved the same walk but mainly uphill.

I suppose this may explain why childhood obesity wasn't such a big deal back then. We probably spent the entire week eating junk - chips, ice cream, sweets, as well as the copious breakfasts of sausage, bacon and eggs and huge evening meals provided by the guest house - but we almost certainly ended the holiday a little lighter and a lot fitter for all that walking.

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