In the 1950's and early 1960's many British saloon cars were available from the manufacturers in convervible form, but gradually these disappeared until only the Morris Minor 1000 and the Triumph Herald/Vitesse remained. But these too were to soon depart, so for the British driver of the 1970's there was not one mass-produced saloon based, full four-seater convertible available from a British motor manufacturer.
For the British motorist this was sad state of affairs indeed, however it became a rather profitable one for Crayfords of Westerham: for those who could not afford a Jensen or Rolls convertible or even a Triumph Stag (which, with its restricted rear seat and boot room did not fit into the argument for a saloon-based converitable), Crayfords began the manufacture of a range of convertibles based on a wide variety of saloon car shells.
In 1973 they were commissioned by W. Mumford Ltd., then West Country British Leyland distributors, to develop a convertible based on the Morris Marina Coupe, arguably an unlikely donor car. Develop the car they did, and the design was subsequently put into production by Mumfords at their Plymouth works.
The conversion was available on all the Marina coupes, from the insipid 1.3 through the 1.8 and 1.8TC. As if driving a Marina was not enough of an embarassment, creating a convertible iteration made the car look, well, putrid. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no doubt some fell instantly in love with the gregarious color schemes that were available, such as bright purple duco matched to an iridescent white hood.
Folding the roof down to try and avoid embarrasment only made matters worse, as the Marina with its roof chopped off looked even less attractive. A novel feature was the broad, fixed, double anti-roll bar, which had fixed windows in between the side-pieces and a tinted window in its upper section.
This added much needed stiffness and strength as well as safety and the "chassis" too was stiffened to prevent banana-shaped Mumford Marinas. There were wind-up side-windows in the rear quarter located in the rear edge of the roll bar. The standard screen and pillars were retained with a strengthening piece along the top to which were anchored the "up-and-over" clips for the hood.
Faced with the problems of incongruous and possibly dangerous door-window frames, Mumfords simply removed them. Unlike most "saloon convertibles", the Mumford Marina retained the full-width of its back seat, as the hood pivoted above the seat line and the hinges when folded sat above the bodywork rather than disappearing into recesses on each side of the seat, as they did in the Herald, for example. Most of the roof section of the hood folded down into a hood compartment behind the seat, where it and the hinges were covered by a neat, metal-stud attached bag.
Operation of the good-quality PVC hood was reasonably quick and easy. The two butttons, one securing the front of each of the rear quarter panels, were undone, the "upover" clips released from the screen rail, the front half of the hood, including the rail above the door, was folded back to the roll-bar, to which the hood fabric was attached by Velero strips, the fabric was pulled out from between the hinged rails to prevent trapping, and the whole lot, including the Vybak rear window, was folded away into the hood compartment.
When road testers of the day got their hands on the car, they naturally expected plenty of rattles, draughts and leaks from the (oversized) hood, but apart from mild drumming at speeds over 70 m.p.h. there was nothing to complain about. During one such test even a spell of torrential rain failed to penetrate, although given a powerful enough storm we suspect there would have been plenty of water finding its way into the cabin. The only real drawback to the hood proved to be poor rearwards visibility, massive blindspots being created by the rear corners. Not that the standard Marina coupe could offer a much better view rearwards.
Many of Crayfords earlier convertibles severely lacked torsional rigidity. The same could not be said of the Mumford Marina, the secret of success being undoubtedly the roll-over bar. Because Mumfords did not touch the runnning gear, there is little point in dwelling on the characteristics of the Marina in general except to say that it, too, was a "sow's ear". You could argue that the single-carburetter 1,798-c.c. engine was surprisingly quick, revving easily and feeling quite unfussed at over 90 m.p.h. But then there wouldn't be much point, as we are sure plenty of readers will use the "Reader Reviews" section below to tell us we are wrong, and that the Marina, in any shape, is a dog. For that reason alone, we will not argue.