When it comes to vision in car design then few can compare to Sir Alec Issigonis. His design for the Mini is legendary, but it is perhaps less well known that he was also responsible for the Maxi, which, through no fault of his, became a joke rather than an icon. As was the case with the Marina and Allegro all produced around the same time, the Maxi was mangled by short-sighted executives determined to ruin what could have been a good idea and instead use it to help send British Leyland into freefall.JPB wrote: ↑Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:23 amNote that Dad's car by that time was a Datsun Stanza, a decent car in its own way, and certainly very comfortable and roomy, but Dad would always scrounge a drive in my Maxi when the folks used to come and visit me during my time spent working in the south and he always got out of the car with a broad grin on his face!
Mum passed in May 2016, Dad in October 2018, they were ok I guess but damn, I miss that Maxi!
Thanks to Issigonis, the Maxi broke new ground in terms of its hatchback design, five-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive chassis. Thanks to the management it was unreliable, slow and uncomfortable due to short cuts taken in its production.
The five-speed gearbox may have been innovative in terms of numbers, but because it was controlled by cables, it was about as quick-shifting as a Scotsman on the M8 this week. Cost-cutting also meant it was given doors from the old 1800 “Landcrab” which looked ridiculous.
Within a few months sales started to dip disastrously with supplies also hindered by a series of stoppages at Cowley’s Pressed Steel Fisher.
Bosses quickly had a rethink and slapped a pile of sound-deadening material on the car along with gearchange rods and, to top it all, a “wood effect” dashboard.
But even that didn’t convince the car-buying public, and the Maxi under-performed in the sales charts as much as it did on the road.
Originally it had been intended that 6,000 a week would be produced. The reality was about 400.
People just didn’t get the Maxi which was only available as a five-door hatch, with nothing else like it on the road apart from the Renault 16 which had far more quirkiness and Gallic charm about it.
One selling point was the folding rear seat which could turn into a bed. But this was only seen as useful for nodding off by the side of the road after an inevitable breakdown. The Maxi’s design was ahead of its time in terms of space and practicality — it was smaller than the modern-day Fiesta. But sadly it was all too much a product of its time thanks to managerial ineptitude, cost-cutting and industrial strife.
There's 401 Austin Maxi's left on Britain's roads today, thank **** for that. There's not enough room on the internet to list the problems that I had with mine. And that, like your father's, was a 1978 on a T plate.