The Morris Marina may not seem the most ideal choice on which to base a sports car, but that’s exactly what the Yorkshire-based Naylor Brothers did in the 1980s.
They hit on the rather spiffing idea of combining the flowing-yet-traditional lines of the MG TF with more modern running gear and a few more creature comforts. The Marina and Ital’s new O-Series engine would provide rather more urge than the old XPEG MG engine, linked to the Morris gearbox and rear axle. Happily the Marina’s leaf springs were replaced by coils and the ancient trunnions of the Marina were replaced by MacPherson struts. The Naylor TF1700 was fully type approved, with backing from Austin-Rover. 100 were built between 1984 and 1986 before the venture failed. A further 61 were sold as Hutsons after the failed company was purchased by another enthusiast.
The car driven here is a Hutson and it was rather a revelation. There is a hint of kit car in some details, like the out-of-place front indicators and the chunky Chrysler door handles, but it is otherwise a very faithful copy of the TF. Like the original, there’s a steel chassis and the body is formed in ash, with steel panels wrapping around it. It therefore feels nice and solid.
The interior is an interesting mix of tradition and modernity with controls nabbed from then-current Austin-Rovers. The walnut dashboard is a nice touch though and it doesn’t feel any more ‘wrong’ than a Morgan, which similarly mixes traditional wood with modern switchgear.
The biggest surprise comes when you drive off though. Who would have thought that a Marina engine could sound so rorty! Acceleration is strong enough too, feeling much quicker than the 12-second 0-60mph time. I may only have been blatting about the bumpy roads of Birmingham but this car felt taught, responsive and above all good fun. The Marina rear axle is better located, with a proper four-link set-up with Panhard rod. The coil springs all-round mean a much more comfortable ride than any original MG T-Type but this doesn’t seem to come at the cost of cornering ability.
There is a very passionate club for these cars, and it’s easy to see why. Who needs a Morgan if you want tradition and a few creature comforts? I was certainly impressed and in the best tradition of MG, the mechanicals of a thoroughly ordinary car have been transformed into something rather special.