To all you Mini fans, October the 4th 2000, will be remembered as the day the last Mini was made, but to me it is the day that the last car fitted with an “A” series engine rolled off a production line. The “A” series predates the Mini by eight years, it was first fitted to the Austin A30 in 1951 and had been fitted into five cars before the "Mini". When Austin and Morris merged to form the British Motor Corporation in 1952 the "A" series became the groups small engine of choice. The engine was soon fitted to the Morris Minor in it's original 803cc form, in place of the old Morris side valve unit. In 1956 a 948cc version was produced and fitted to the Minor 1000, also the Austin A35. In 1958 the 948cc version was also fitted to the Austin A40 and the Austin Healey Sprite. An 848cc version was produced in 1959 and used in the new Austin/Morris Mini. In later years the Mini was produced with 998cc and 1275cc version of the engine. The first Mini Cooper of 1961 had a special 997cc version of the "A" series. Also in 1961, the MG Midget, introduced alongside the Austin Healey Sprite 2, was fitted with the "A" series, by 1962 both had a 1098cc version. The 1098cc engine was used in the second transverse engined BMC model the "1100". There were various versions of the "1100" badged as Austin, Morris, MG, Vanden Plas Riley and Wolseley. This was renamed the "1300" when fitted with the 1275cc version of the engine installed from 1967. The Mini Cooper S, was fitted with a couple of special version of the "A" series, a 970cc version and one of 1098cc.
It wasn't until 1971 before another new model was produced that used the "A" series. That was the Marina, the 1275cc unit was one of the engines options. By then the parent company was the British Leyland Motor Corporation. BLMC's next model to use the "A" series was the Allegro in 1973. 998cc, 1098cc and 1275cc versions were fitted. The Austin Metro introduced in 1980 was only available with an "A" series engine, 998cc and 1275cc versions. The MG version made from 1982 until 1991 was fitted with the 1275cc version and was available in turbo-charged form in the MG Metro Turbo. The last Morris model, the Ital of 1980/84, was a revised Marina and continued with the 1275cc unit. The Austin Maestro of 1982 was the penultimate "A" series powered car, having the 1275cc version amongst the engine options. The final new model to have a 1275cc "A" series engine option, was the Austin Montego of 1984. By 1994 only the "Mini", was still using the "A" series. The "A" series engine was the only option in all of the Mini's made whatever the model.
Initially with an output of 30BHP and rising to a peak in unmodified form of 93BHP in the MG Metro Turbo, it was produced in ten different capacities, three of them only used in the Mini Cooper and Cooper “S” models. It was used in twelve distinct models and I estimate that around twelve million cars have been produced with the “A” series engine.
The first time I drove a vehicle with an “A” series, was the 803cc Morris Minor van that I learnt to drive in, I went on to drive other Minor vans, the best being a 1098cc version that was great fun.The first “A” engined car I purchased was a 1275cc Marina that I kept for ten years, the next was a 998cc Metro that I drove as far as Yugoslavia and back. This was replaced by a 1275cc Ital in 1982, the components from this I used to build a Marlin Roadster which I still own and use most days, the engine is now converted to unleaded
petrol. The last "A“ engined car I purchased was a 1275cc MG Metro that had a tendency to pink a lot due to the 10.3 to 1 compression ratio, but gave good service until electrical problems lead to a loss of confidence and sale after eight years. So I think I know the engine well. I sometimes think my Marlin with the “A” engine feels like a vintage car, after driving my Rossa K3 with the Rover "K" series engine. the “K” series is a worthy successor, but will the “K” series still be in production in forty years time, I very much doubt it. Long live the “A” series.
Cars fitted with the "A" series engine