Introduced in 1971
, its fair to say the simple-specification Morris Marina
wasn't an enormous success, although with a production of more than half-a-million it certainly wasn't a failure sales wise.
Remodelled by noted Italian stylist Giorgietto Giugiaro of Ital Design, the car was renamed - what else - the Morris Ital. It was reintroduced in mid-1980, and without drastically reworking the four-door sedan body (the two-door Coupe body was discontinued) was given a new look by redesigning the front end with a greater fall away, fatter bumpers, bigger rear light and so on.
The more massive bumpers slightly lengthened the car by 2.35 in (6 cm) to 14.23 ft. Smaller of the two available engines, the 1275 cc 'A-series' was subjected to numerous modifications at considerable expense, the result being a peppy pushrod ohv motor with strengthened crankcase (cast iron), crankshaft, modified bearings, new pistons and valves, as well as a new type of inlet manifold.
An improved (SU) carburetter was standardised, compression ratio raised from 8.8 to 9.4: 1, and a viscous-coupled cooling fan was fitted which was less power-consuming than the old permanently-engaged type. In spite of its cast iron head, non-crossover porting and unfashionably long stroke the reconstituted engine, designated 1300 A-plus series motor proved to be a first-class power-unit, recording an increase in maximum power of some four brake horsepower (2.98 kW).
Used in conjunction with a raised final drive ratio, the 62 bhp (46 kW) motor returned fuel consumption figures of 44.27 mpg (6.38 lit/100 km) at a constant 56 mph (90 km/h) - an improvement of around 10 per cent. The 1275 motor had been developed with two cars in mind - the Morris Ital 1300, and the larger-engined version of the Austin Mini Metro
In the Ital body (with many new sound-absorption features) the little A-plus performed not only briskly but quietly as well. Top model was the luxury HLS. Larger-engined Itals were powered by the 'Princess-type' overhead camshaft 1700 motor, and a last-minute surprise at the NEC Birmingham Motor Show in October 1980 was the introduction of a two-liter Ital using the 1994 cc ohc motor from the largest engined of the four cylinder Princess range.
he Ital was the last production car to wear the Morris badge (though there was a van version of the Metro which wore the Morris badge until 1984). Production of the Ital was swapped from Cowley to Longbridge in September 1982 to allow the Cowley plant to be upgraded for production of the forthcoming Austin Montego and Austin Maestro. At this time the Ital received an upgrade with different front and rear suspension (parabolic rear springs and telescopic front dampers) and models were redesignated SL and SLX.
The saloon was dropped from production in February 1984 with the van and estate completing outgoing contracts for another six months until they too were axed. From this point, the Morris marque was kept alive solely by the Metro van, and by the end of the decade the Morris marque had been completely discontinued along with the Austin marque, as the Rover brand monopolised the range of hatchback and saloons. The Ital's successor was the Austin Montego, launched in April 1984 as a four-door saloon, with a five-door estate arriving in January 1985.