1 Feb 2013

Austin Maxi for sale - £20,000. Uh???

The Austin Maxi was never a great car.  At it's peak 2000 a week were created by the good folk at BMC - with 450,000 produced in total.  Amazing figures given the factory was on strike half the time.  For example, in the year of it's launch, in 1969, the management decided that the 29,000 workers at the plant in Cowley should have their hours reduced due to sales falling below expectations - and the fact they were losing money.

The factory was reduced to a 4 day week and production cut to 1300 Maxis per week.  The shop stewards in charge of the unions decided this was wrong and called a strike.

BMC workers weren't the only ones at it.  At the time of that strike the 1150 workers at Standard Triumph in Liverpool had been on strike for five week.  This meant parts weren't getting to the Standard Triumph factory in Coventry so production was shut down there too.  The strike cost Standard Triumph £6,000,000.

Not long afterwards VW introduced the Golf.  The non-striking Germans, and their Japanese counterparts watched in glee whilst the British car industry was killed by the unions and incompetent management.

Back to the Maxi.  Designed by Alex Issigonis, of Mini fame, it was the first British built car to feature five doors and a five speed gearbox.  John Lennon bought one, in white.  He crashed it, injuring both Yoko Ono and himself.  Thereafter it was kept in a plinth at his house.  When Ringo Starr bought the house from Lennon he had the Maxi crushed.

The Maxi has never been a well loved car, save from by a hardcore bunch of hardy fellows.  It was unreliable, not very quick, started to rust the moment it left the factory and was quite ugly.  As such most Maxis for sale today in good condition fetch around £3,000.  By contrast a 1969 Mini in similar condition will cost £15,000.

So why has a Maxi come up for auction with a guide price of between £19,000 and £24,000?  Have a look at the picture below for a clue.

This Maxi is a 1970 model (they were made from 1969 to 1981) and was rallied on the 16,000 mile 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally by three British ladies - Tish Ozanne, Bronwyn Burrell and Tina Kerridge.

The car was prepared for the rally by BLMC (British Leyland Motor Corporation) dealer (that must have been a fun job), Marshalls of Cambridge with the assistance of the BLMC works motorsport department.

106 cars started the rally and only 26 finished.  The ladies in their Maxi were amongst the non-finishers, getting stuck in mud in Argentina.  Tina Kerridge said recently of the end of their rally, "Something like 4” of rain fell in one hour and we simply got bogged down in the most desolate area, in the middle of the night, surrounded by pampas grass, and nothing else. It was so disappointing as we had been going so well. We just sat there and cried.”

The Maxi has recently been restored to the same condition as which it entered the rally and has 38,000 miles on the clock.  The engine was upgraded, after the London to Mexico rally, from a 1500cc unit to a 1750cc.

The auction at Historics at Brooklands (located at Brooklands Museum) takes place on 9 March.  Apparently, great interest is expected.