Launched in 1962, the MG 1100 was for many years Britain’s best selling car – but it’s hard to say if the Matchbox equivelant here matched the success of BMC’s delightful compact. If you’re going to buy a compact car, then and now it’s the same – the Europeans do it best.
The Car: MG 1100/BMC ADO16/others…
I’ve touched on badge engineering in the past, with the Chrysler 180 and the Hillman Avenger/Rootes Arrow range.
When it was launched in 1962 as the Morris 1100, there were the usual reasons for expanding into other nameplates. MG (Morris Garages) is a sporting name, and so a twin-carb version carried those letters on its bonnet. There were Austins, Vanden-Plas, Rileys and Wolseleys, and if I had been around in the 1960s, I might be better equipped to explain what made each one different.
BMC itself wasn’t to last much longer, eventually merging into British Leyland.
Most people will, of course, recognise the car from one very famous scene filmed in 1975:
Ah, the wonders of British engineering! That’s the countryman estate version, of course, and is a later model than ours.
It can’t have been as bad as Fawlty Towers made it out to be, however, since its designer was Alec Issigonis, and Pininfarina styled the body. For those who don’t know, Alec Issigonis designed the original Mini – perhaps the greatest mover of the people ever built in England. The 1100 was a kind of older brother, an evolution of the original, and came with advancements like Hydrolastic suspension, which used fluid instead of springs.
Once the Mark I had exhausted its run, future series would be fitted with larger engines, updated styling and waiting lists for their customers!
The Model: Lesney Matchbox series MG 1100
The Matchbox MG is a delightful model with surprisingly high levels of detail and some unusual additions.
That green paint and body shape is to die for, and catches light beautifully, highlighting every line, door handle, the gas filler cap, the panel grooves, sills – you name it. Matchbox at this point in time (late 1960s) had a lot of fine details on their cars, and had not yet been pressed into their “superfast” line by the success of Hot Wheels. As such, the car sits on the regular old style wheels, and isn’t a roller – but who wants to roll it, when it looks so good just sitting there?
Where some cars, like the Corgi Mini and Morris Minor, are scaled up when they are a compact, Matchbox has been very reserved with the 1100. Parked next to the Dodge Charger and Lincoln Continental, it doesn’t feel outlandishly huge. In fact, from a distance you might even think they were the same scale.
Even alongside modern cars, like this Toyota Yaris and Renault Twingo, the MG looks like it could hold its own for space. In fact, the real car supposedly had as much room as a Ford Cortina. I especially love the front, as a lot of care has gone into the grille design, the bumper and headlights. The number plate is a nice touch as well, and everything but the windows and interior is (as should be the case) metal.
It stands well next to its fellow badge-engineered comrade – though the Chrysler 180 and MG 1100 are probably a good decade or so apart.
You’re probably looking at the car and thinking – hmm, what’s that I can see inside? Well, take a look. Unusual for a lot of cars, Lesney went to the trouble of adding a couple of driver and passenger to the vehicle. Now, I know this isn’t to everyone’s taste. And when I find it, often I’m not sure myself, simply because – well, I like uniformity. And having one car with a driver and 999 without makes that one car feel like it doesn’t belong. But it’s quaint, and that’s what the MG 1100 is all about. It’s a charming little British car. And the driver looks like he’s enjoying every second of his journey through 1/64th scale Jasmine-Town.
That blob in the back looks like he’s having a good time, too. It’s clearly a dog, but I wonder what breed? My heart says German Shepherd, but my head says Collie.
There’s really nothing bad to say about a Matchbox MG 1100 – if only I could say the same for the real car.
Featured Image: Hans Porochelt. 2013 Spanje 0034b Palamós. Original