In 1985, 'Practical Classics' magazine ran a buying piece about the BMC 1100/1300 range that was....shall we say....not encouraging. It was entitled 'BMC's Best-Selling Rot Box' and suggested that a very large wallet would be required to fund the welding that would be necessary...
"It's not often that a 'buying feature' car is shown in the scrapyard, but that's exactly where most examples of this month's car are bound"
It was clear that something needed to be done, and quickly, to ensure that the legacy of the BMC 1100/1300 was preserved - it was at that point where the number of cars was rapidly diminishing, largely due to rust taking hold and rendering more and more of them beyond straightforward repair, but at the same time there were still many on the roads. In addition, they were not exactly desirable sports cars - in most cases just the family workhorse. Fortunately two men, Dave Withington and Alistair Carter, did notice and in testament to their forward thinking, very soon afterwards the 1100 Club was born.
At this point, perhaps we should pause and consider the ADO16, as BMC referred internally to the 1100/1300 range. Running from 1962 to 1974, the car sported a range of different badges, from the 'bog standard' Austin and Morris models to the more 'exotic' Wolseley, Riley, MG and Vanden Plas. Between 1962 and 1971, with the exception of one year, the ADO16 was the best-selling car in Britain and almost 2.2 million of them were sold across the world. The ADO16 helped to break new ground in small car design and manufacture in many ways, including its smooth hydrolastic suspension, transverse engine, front wheel drive and surprisingly spacious cabin. In the words of Autocar magazine in August 1962, "The staff of this journal have never before been so unanimously enthusiastic about the overall qualities of a car."
So, back to 2016 and clearly the 1100 Club has much to promote! The club currently boasts around 500 members in the UK and abroad, and Idle Chatter, the bi-monthly club journal with articles ranging from area updates to detailed discussions of specific models and complex technical features, has been highly commended for two years in a row in the Classic and Sports Car Club Awards. Oh, and can you guess the meaning of the magazine's title?
The club has a busy website with a searchable database of all technical articles from Idle Chatter and another to search for parts by number. It also has a range of technical documents and useful data. The club also has a very active Facebook page and Twitter feed.
In 2012, the club embarked on a major project to document as much information about the ADO16 range as possible in the form of a book, The Story of the BMC 1100, This is available to purchase via the club website, and contains exclusive reminiscences from BMC factory personnel, together with detailed specifications, colour charts, engine and chassis number information and other essential ADO16 trivia.
The 1100 Club strongly believes that the whole point of classic car ownership is to get out and use them. It has organised two successful driving tours - Land's End to John O'Groats in 2012 (stopping off at the Longbridge factory during the ADO16's anniversary year) and the D-Day Tour in 2014, crossing to France and visiting the fascinating and sobering Normandy beaches. A driving tour to Ireland is planned for August 2016.
Show and rally events also form part of the 1100 Club's calendar, with a spring show and fun run, an autumn gathering and a full weekend's National Rally in between. The 2016 National Rally takes place over the weekend of 13th and 14th August at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre near Aylesbury. As usual, there will be the AGM, concours judging, an evening social event with entertainment and spares and regalia on sale.
The 1100 Club also maintains a presence at a wide range of other shows across the country. It is always represented at the Bromley Pageant of Motoring and at the NEC Classic Car Show, where in 2015 the club took home the award for Best Small Car Club Stand.
The club keeps a close eye on the spares situation, as this is a key element of keeping the ADO16 range on the road. In recent years, the club has taken part in the remanufacture of pitch springs, front wings, exhaust systems and various rubbers and seals. It is also taking a key role in inter-club discussions surrounding the possible rebuilding of hydrolastic suspension displacers, although at a very early stage in the process. Members can source prompt technical and spares advice from designated club officers, including the aptly named 'Spannerman', who also regularly contributes to the club magazine.
The 1100 Club owns and maintains the original cutaway Austin Countryman estate car, known affectionately as the 'Skeleton'. The car was used at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show and then again at Earl's Court, and was originally fitted with three-phase motors to operate the seats and one-piece tailgate automatically!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, the 1100 Club plays a vital role in both raising the profile of the ADO16 and also in facilitating its preservation by keeping members' enthusiasm and passion alive - it's an extremely friendly club and members go to great lengths to help each other out. Ultimately it is the building and maintaining of that 1100/1300 community that leads to all of the other aspects fitting together, and this the 1100 Club does very well.
More details can be found at www.the1100club.com where you can also join the 1100 Club online. Membership costs £29.50 for a UK annual subscription, £42 for Europe and £49 for members in the rest of the world. In addition, overseas members are able to join on a web-only basis, accessing the magazines as PDF files via the website and paying considerably less, as much of the standard overseas subscription charge covers postage. You can also like us on Facebook and follow @the1100club on Twitter.
Join us to help keep alive the cars that float on fluid!
Dave Wilkins is the editor of Idle Chatter.