There were great hopes for the Austin 1800 on its launch in 1965. It was destined to be the larger family car to aspire to.
It was certainly roomy, with good handling and, for its day, stylishly appointed. In hindsight it is viewed as being well engineered. And on launch, the reviewers liked it.
Geoffrey Charles, the Motoring Correspondent of The Times wrote,
‘I would sum up the Austin 1800 as a ruggedly built car, adequately powered, comfortable, offering exceptional passenger space, and thoroughly well-designed for modern traffic and touring. It should earn the highest placings in export markets.’
However, Austin had mis-read the market. With the Suez crisis unfolding and the oil-price soaring they badly over-estimated demand. The up-take was sluggish.
Worse, it was noticed that the 1800 was always to be seen with a big plume of blue smoke coming from the exhaust. The explanation was horribly simple and had taken a long time to identify – the dip-stick had been wrongly calibrated. This simple mistake had resulted in garages across the land over-filling the car with oil – hence the smoke. When the explanation and correction was made public, it made great press - but the reputation of the car was tarnished. The land-crab never lived it down.
Some have seen the launch of the 1800 as the beginning of the decline of British car manufacturing – what followed was British Leyland.
Today such cars are becoming increasingly rare and Collectors are searching out good examples – they are celebrated at annual events such as the “Festival of the Unexceptional” at Stowe.