Andrew Everett takes a controversial stand against BMC Farina values…
Now, as someone most firmly in middle age I can remember these from the seventies and eighties when they were worth absolutely nothing. And, as we all know, the main reason something is worthless is because nobody wants it. And so it was with these. Farmers loved them as they were tough and could carry pigs and hay bales and they were worth next to nothing. Banger racers loved them because they were almost too tough to kill, and they were worth next to nowt.
Impecunious motorists almost loved them because they were worth next to nothing but really, they wanted a Mk2 Cortina because it was lighter, much easier to drive and went round corners without doing an impression of a mattress tied to a Rhino.
They actually weren’t bad cars and back in 1959, the tall sharp tail fins of the original were certainly a stark contrast to the previous BMC saloons that were styled by Hovis. But under that styling wasn’t a Peugeot 404 with its crisply engineered running gear. No, you got a B Series – a good engine – a whiney three-synchro box and suspension that was already ten years out of date. BMC themselves had already excelled themselves with the rack and pinion Minor, the lovely crisp handling Z Magnette and even the advanced Pathfinder that was only let down by poor welding on a slightly vital rear suspension pick up point.
In other words, BMC knew how to engineer a car that drove really well but they chose not to in this case. Early ones were so grim that during the 1961 revamp, they widened the track, lengthened the wheelbase and added anti roll bars front and rear in an attempt to get it to corner. Having driven an A60 with its hope and pray steering and the up and down motion of the front end as the lever arm dampers try to keep up, I dread to think what an older one is like.
But for all that, BMC shifted quite a lot of them with a huge number going to hire fleets – something like 860,000 in twelve years or so which wasn’t bad going until Ford suddenly started selling a million Cortinas every four years. And it wasn’t anything to do with stuff being advanced because the Austin Morris 1800 range sold about a third as much as the Farina range despite being very obviously a much, much better car.
What the BMC Farina represented was a car that would sell to those who had no interest in cars at all. Does it start? Can I get four bodies inside? Will it do five or 10 thousand miles a year without going wrong all the time? The answer is yes. Austin or Morris a bit too basic? What about a Riley or MG? At those prices? You’ve got to be kidding. At £721, an A60 with a heater wasn’t bad value really at just £100 more than an 1100, a lot of metal for the pound. But £999 for the Riley or MG? On your bike – that’s a pound more than an A110 Westminster (a proper car with a big straight six) and nearly 200 quid more than an 1800 Deluxe. Who are they kidding? That’s why they didn’t sell many. Wolseley 16/60 with wood and leather at 800 quid? Why not?
So anyway, I had a quick look at A60 prices to see how little they are still worth. What, about £1000 for one that needs tidying? £1500 maybe, or £2500 for a really smart one. I’d probably have one for that myself. And I had a shock: six grand for the cheapest clean one, ten grand for something super nice. Ten grand!! A lot of this is due to sellers trying their luck as I cannot seriously believe an Austin A60 is worth anything like that. A classic? Maybe, maybe not – they weren’t very desirable new and in the seventies and eighties were near enough social suicide for anyone under 25 when there were thousands of cheap Cortinas, Escorts and FD Victors about for peanuts . Think about how a teenager would react to being given an R reg Rover 45 now, and you’re about there. Park it around the corner and walk the rest of the way mate. If anyone asks, it ain’t yours.
You also have to ask yourself who is (or isn’t) paying salty four to five figure sums for an A60. It’s not the youth – they might see the irony in an early tangerine Quartic Allegro, hanker after a Mexico and admire a nice early S Type 3.4 but 1960s mid range Ford, BMC and Rootes stuff? No chance. And if the fan base for cars like this is literally dying out – who is going to want a Wolseley 16/60 in another ten years’ time? Certainly not me, and I’ll not be very off a bus pass at that point.
My point? Five to ten grand in an A60 or one of its many variants is probably the last you’ll see of it. Sorry, but they’re a two grand car at most. It’s not a good investment, in other words. A Dolomite Sprint or a mint BMW 528i? Now we’re talking – fast yet comfy, desirable when new and still useful today – if you have to put five to ten big ones into an old four door, choose wisely, not Wolseley.