VotW – BMC’s Hydrolastic Suspension

Let’s get bumpy this week!  Our Video of the Week this time is going to be a Morris 1100 television commercial from New Zealand featuring the car’s hydrolastic suspension. Made for the New Zealand British Motor Corporation (BMC) distributor Dominion Motors.

If you don’t know, hydrolastic suspension was used on early Minis and the full line of BMC 1100 / 1300 cars, collectively known by their factory designation of ADO16. The ADO16s include the MG 1100, Austin America, Morris 1100, Vanden Plas Princess 1100, Riley Kestrel, and many more. At this point, BMC was huge into badge engineering.

Hydrolastic suspension cars, at least in this form, use liquid-filled dampers at each of the four wheels instead of shocks and springs. Those dampers, which are basically large heavy rubber bladders, are connected front-to-back by hoses. This means that when the front left wheel hits a bump and is pushed up, the liquid will be pushed out of the bladder, through the hose, to the back left wheel, thereby expanding that rear bladder and raising the body on that left rear corner. This process keeps the car level.  It actually works quite well.


Although in the days of the BMC1100 the fluid filling the hydrolastic system was much like anti-freeze, a mixture of water and alcohol, the system was later re-engineered to being gas filled. That system is known as “hydrogas” suspension and was used on cars such as the Austin Allegro, Austin Maxi, and even the MGF. In a way, it is even a forefather to today’s air-bag suspension.

The system works surprisingly well, is amazingly robust, and simple to work on. Hydrolastic suspension gives a very soft, even cushiony ride, although it can tend to bounce on roads with repetitive humps. The system works so well in fact that it was in a 1964 MG Liquid Suspension Indy car. Yes, a hydrolastic MG ran at Indianapolis – or at least its guts did.

For more information on the ADO16 / 1100 breed of car, please check out The 1100 Club. The book shown below, BMC 1100 and 1300: An Enthusiasts Guide, is a good introduction to these cars. There are a few inaccuracies in this book, but it is still a worthwhile read. The Story of the BMC 1100 is a fantastic, glossy, hardcover book which can be purchased through The 1100 Club. Although a bit more expensive and a bit harder to get (but not much!), this is really the definitive book on the car.  I own both books and highly recommend them both thoughStory of the BMC 1100 must get the nod.

      BMC 1100 and 1300 - An Enthusiast's Guide by Jeff Taylor            The Story of the BMC 1100



  1. Dont forget that the 1100/1300 was the top selling car in the UK in the late 1960s.
    Pity they all rusted away!

    After one year of interruption by the Ford Cortina, the Austin Morris 1100/1300 is back on top of UK car sales in 1968, and it will hold the title of best selling car in the country for 3 more consecutive years, bringing its total spent atop the UK models ranking to six.

    Source: SMMT
    Categories: UK Tags: 1100, 1300, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, Austin, best-seller, best-selling, cars, models, Morris, sales, top, UK

  2. It was good to read that you have a warm place in your heart for the MG1100. I, too, have fond memories.

    In ’72, when I went to work for Continental Cars, I had to go to St. Louis HQ for my Parts Manager training. I drove my ’69 Sunbeam Arrow there determined to return with something different–I didn’t care what! What a beast, but that’s another long story.

    I took it to the dealership in University City and told them they were going to get it for inventory. They had a ’64 MG1100 in stock that I got for an even trade.

    I drove it home. It needed some TLC. The big rubber u-joints in the front axle were nearly gone, and it is a wonder I made it home. But it was by far a finer piece than that Sunbeam.

    I proceeded to dismantle it. I replaced all the subframe mounts; got a 1275 AA engine, and adapted it to the 3-synchro box that came with the 1100. (I liked the gearing and diff ratio.) I removed the flat speedo assembly and replaced it with a turned-around glove box door which had been cut for the speedo/tach/instruments as I did with the ’73 Marina. I painted it bright crimson with a flat black bonnet, genuine Minilites and wide tires, and Stebro exhaust.

    Got a ton of attention at all SCCA events. Actually won the Governor’s Cup, only to have it taken back due to a math error of .1 of a second. I was beaten by a 240Z.

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