The Morris Ital – A Window On The Past

There is a thing called survivorship bias where the best, strongest and most beautiful things from the past are usually favoured for preservation. This means there is a natural tendency for the past to appear better, stronger and more beautiful than it really was – since all the ordinary stuff which touched a lot of people’s lives has long gone. This informs how we think and write about the past.

I thought about this recently on my regular walk, which takes me past a dilapidated Morris Ital. This car, built by British Leyland between 1980 and 1984, was a cosmetic update of the Morris Marina, a car, which whilst selling well in its day (including to my dad), is best known in 2021 as one of the worst cars the UK has ever produced. The Marina is now very rare. The Ital, already obsolete when it was released, and suffering all kinds of build quality issues, was if anything even worse than the Marina. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Ital is now officially the rarest of all UK production cars.

I consulted which records a total of 27 registered Itals for 2020. The particular model I see on my walk is an HLS, Auto and apparently there are only two of those left registered for road use, with nine others registered as off the road.

So there it sits, a humble car from the early 1980s. Of the 172,276 built, only a handful survive. But the Ital illustrates the past more accurately than any number of Aston Martins. I thought it was worth a celebration.

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