By on October 17, 2013

10 - 1969 Austin 1800 Landcrab ADO17 Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe BMC ADO17, popularly known as the Landcrab, sold pretty well in Europe but was nearly unknown in North America. Not completely unknown, though; a few Landcrabs were sold in the United States, and one of them has just washed up in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard.
01 - 1969 Austin 1800 Landcrab ADO17 Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith the same 1800cc pushrod B engine as the MGB, the Landcrab wasn’t going to win any drag races with, say, Slant Six Plymouth Valiants with a couple of bad plug wires, but its front-wheel-drive layout gave it a very spacious interior for its small footprint.
04 - 1969 Austin 1800 Landcrab ADO17 Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has the look of a project car that sat in a California back yard for a quarter-century or so, but it still has plenty of parts to offer one of the handful of American Landcrab owners.
583-UG-Pacific_Northworst_24_Hours_of_LeMonsI know of just one running Landcrab on this continent, and that’s this Mazda V6-powered example, which Silversleeves Racing ran at the 2013 Pacific Northworst 24 Hours of LeMons race earlier this year. I’ll let them know there’s a parts car just 1,000 miles to the south!

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1969 Austin 1800 “Landcrab”...”

  • avatar

    I remember these , they were sold as Family cars and pretty well loved by the folks who bought them new .

    Too bad it’s far away , I’d have that engine out and home in a trice , the BMC ‘B’ series engines are sturdy , well designed units .

    IIRC , this engine has a mechanical fuel pump unlike the same engine when used in MG’s .


  • avatar

    Okay, trivia fans, where on earth did the name Landcrab come from?

    Seems like a really odd name for a car …


  • avatar

    So you actually mean the BMC AD017, not BMW. Threw me for a second as I traced in my mind any connection between BMC and BMW.

    BMC>Land Rover>Thatcher>Strike>Bad Jags>Rover>BMW. There, did it.

  • avatar

    Landcrab… Crabspirits… its just begging for it.

  • avatar

    What’s *wrong* with me that I want one of these? Why am I so …. *old*?

  • avatar

    I google fu’d the nickname

    “The Austin 1800’s nickname came about as a result of a casual comment by an Australian journalist, who when taking rally pictures from a helicopter through a telephoto lens remarked that the cars looked like “Land Crabs” as they cornered sideways. They were first called Post Office Land Crabs due to their red and white livery.”


  • avatar

    Alex was a walking contradiction.

    “Where the hell is that coming from?”, Alex wondered. He scanned the faces in front of him. All were focused on the task at hand. Was he imagining it? No. It played on the radio ad nauseum, and he was now singing the track seared into his brain on his own, but there was no denying it. A young man lifted his head and looked around, just as puzzled. Pat Benetar was coming from somewhere in the classroom.

    Alex put down the copy of Pet Sematary, and left his desk to investigate. He walked the furrows of growing young minds, stopping next to Samantha. A black wire ran into her big hair. The other end was connected to a Sony Walkman attached at her hip. The teen was in her own little world as the cassette revolved inside. Alex reached down and hit the stop button. Samantha was suddenly startled by no longer being told “we belong”, and finally noticed the entire classroom staring at her. “Sorry.”, she said, smacking her gum. Alex went back to his desk amid the laughter, adding a deadpan “No gum in the classroom.”. The interruption pulled him out of his book. He tossed it into the drawer for another day. Pat Benatar assaulted his brain till the bell rang.

    The black briefcase was loaded with erroneous test papers, and Alex made his way out to the ‘crab in the parking lot. While he warmed up the Leyland B, he reversed the tape deck back to the beginning of the Scarface Soundtrack. It made a metal against plastic click, and began to play. He was well into the song by the time he left the confines of the grounds. No students in sight, the educator could finally cut loose. He depressed the accelerator thoroughly during a critical point in the song.

    Hit the wheel and double mistakes
    throttle wide open like a bat out of hell
    and you crash the gates
    “Crash the gatesssss” ,he added.

    Though stodgy, the car drove in a brilliant manner down the lumpy street. Alex thought it was neither good, nor bad. An adequate car. The engine lacked power, but belted out character in a hollow “Whooooaaa” while it’s operator put it to strenuous work. He cleared the yellow at speed and made his left turn though the intersection. That’s when the man felt a strange sensation. The right side of the car started to lean AFTER the turn. It didn’t come back. The right suspension hammered bump stops as Alex limped into the convenience store parking lot. He left the engine running during the summary inspection of the calamity. The 1800 was still listing to starboard. He noticed a fluid dripping inside the front wheel well.

    Rush rush, got the yeyo?
    Buzz buzz, gimme yeyo.
    Rush rush, got the yeyo?
    Uh oh.

    “Uh oh.”, he said to himself calmly. He parked the Austin properly in a spot, and walked a block to a public phone that still had a directory hanging. It took him some time to find the closest repair shop. Alex fed coins into the phone, and watched a sleek Datsun 300zx turbo cruise past while he waited for a someone to answer. “What car is it?” “It’s an Austin 1800” Alex never called his car a Landcrab. That would just cause confusion and problems. “Ohhh, you need to go to a foreign auto repair. We don’t have the equipment for that.”, said the emotionless man on the other end. Alex used the last of his spare change to find a sympathetic foreign auto repairman.

    Alex and the Landcrab bounced to the far side of town. It was getting dark, and the several 300zx’s he encountered were popping their headlights up. “Those are so cool.”, he said to himself. There was no way he could fit a car like that under his salary, but it made him think it might be time for a change. He turned into the repair shop’s lot with the right side bouncing on asphalt patches. All of Mercedes’ finest were here. Broken Jaguars, and 2002’s waited for work. “Oh god. This is going to be expensive.”, he thought.

    “Well the suspension on this side blew out or something obviously, but to be honest with you, I not sure I even want to fix it.” The technician noticed the failed rubber hose, and responded “Yeah, I know this isn’t worth much these days. Tell you what, I’ll give you $200 for it.”

    The 30,000-mile L28 turbo sounded marvelous under heavy foot.
    “Crash the gatesssss!!”

  • avatar

    Never seen nor heard of these. Not an entirely unattractive car either in my opinion, I’d love to see one restored!

    • 0 avatar

      Come to Canada! We had lots of European rolling iron compared to the US. Renaults, Citroens, Morris’, Austins, Triumphs, Rovers, were all very common sights in Canada during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I’d wager a small sum of Loonies that there are probably more Austins in wrecking yards in Canada than there are in the US.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to have a Road & Track magazine from 1986 and you guys up in Canada apparently had Ladas and Skodas back then…

        • 0 avatar

          Quebec and Richmond, BC even had Innocenti dealerships around 1984-85. I owned an SE briefly and once went for a test drive in a Turbo. Not built to survive in Canada, but tossable and fun.

          • 0 avatar

            Ah, the Innocenti. A weird sort of Italian/British hybrid that didn’t make a whole lot of sense…but apparently sold well enough to rationalize its existence.

          • 0 avatar

            My uncle has a fully restored Innocenti. It has a turbo 3 banger Daihatsu motor and actually goes alright. We used it as a pit vehicle at a Lemons race a few years back and it got a lot of attention.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    I remember these cars growing up in Ireland.
    Extremely roomy, like limousines.
    Not pretty even then, sort of “odd”.
    Rusted like the blazes.

  • avatar

    Odo says 18K, so does anyone think it turned at 100?

  • avatar

    When BMC/Leyland Australia needed a car to compete with the current (1970) family cars Holden Kingswood, Ford Falcon and Valiant these Morris 1100/1800 morphed into the Austin Tasman/Kimberly range. The car upgraded to a 2.2l straight 6 in east/west configuration. Because there where only two models and fwd, they didn’t do well so then they developed the P76, and that killed Leyland in Australia forever.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Designed by the purist engineer, Issigoni, who did the Mini, this was definitely function over form. There was a Wolseley version, tasty in a tarted up, decadent way.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “….but its front-wheel-drive layout gave it a very spacious interior for its small footprint.”

    That would have to be the understatement of the day…I would wager that this car would have a more spacious interior than virtually any mainstream American car of the era let alone British ones.

    For those that have never seen one, this may seem like hyperbole, but seriously these things had interior space for passengers similar to modern limousines.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re probably right about that. Perhaps not as much interior room as the larger mainstream American tanks of that era, but they were definitely more space efficient than all of them (except maybe the front wheel drive Eldorado!)

      I find many of the older British cars had very spacious interiors in relation to their exterior dimensions. The Austin Maxi is a smaller car but has slightly more interior room than the 2000-2006 Ford Focus, and a friend who had a ride in my Triumph 2000TC last week reckoned it had more room than his Mercedes E320! Suppose having 57 airbags, fatter A,B and C pillars, side intrusion beams in doors, etc all contributes to eroding the interior space of modern cars.

      Not to mention the outward visibility…

  • avatar

    My dad had a couple of these. The first one was retired to parts car status when he bought the second one.

    Roomy cars, tough, too. One evening, driving home in the first car, on glare ice, the wind blew him off the road. The car went nose first into the ditch, then rolled over its nose onto its roof.

    My dad was fine. The car was towed out and brought to the local BMC dealer. Also possibly the only BMC dealer in Northwestern Quebec :) . In the morning Mr Fick (who owned the shop) got in the car, pushed up and popped the roof back into place. Then he filled the oil. Ready to go. The only permanent damage was to the paint where it cracked where the roof had bent.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Gordon

      For their day, that had an immensely still body structure – and were one of the first vehicles to seriously consider energy management in crash survivabilty. There is interesting youtube footage of the Austin 1800 being crash tested

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    This might give some notion:

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    This is the 1st time I saw one of these here in the states. It must have made it through via grey market or Canada. Back in the late 60’s through the 70’s BMC dealers in the US sold the Austin America which was actually quite popular and ahead of it’s time with transverse FWD, the less than stellar Marina and of course MG and Triumph.

  • avatar

    Somewhat stodgy in their day..BMC’s replacement for the 60’s Farina styled Austin Cambridge/Morris Oxford – Peugeot 404 facsimile. Also available with a 2.2L 6 cylinder. No hatchback – something a leg down called the Maxi had that. Think of a Citation sedan with a tighter front end connect. Landcrabs were a hackney cab alternative in the UK.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I don’t recall ever seeing one . The last Austin of any kind that I remember seeing was a long-dead Austin America parked with some derelict Chevy Vegas in back of a gas station on some awful trip to Dallas with the wife and mother-in-law probably 15 years ago .Naturally went to take a closer look at , til wife and awful mother-in-law kept honking the horn at me to get on the road .

  • avatar

    A fair number of these cars were sold in Canada. In May 1965, my father bought one, and in July my mother bought a 1965 Volvo PV544, assembled just a hundred and fifty miles away in Dartmouth NS.

    I was at university, third year mechanical engineering and a car nut. These two cars were at opposite technical extremes in interesting ways. The Austin had independent suspension all around with Hydrolastic fluid front to rear interconnection, a cable gear shift, a body with rigidity equal to today’s cars, and of course transverse FWD. Amazingly roomy inside. The Volvo had kingpin front double wishbones, and a unique coil spring rear axle with long trailing arms, copied in the 1960 Chev pickup (and subsequent NASCAR chassis) without the Volvo’s two-piece propshaft.

    The Austin and Volvo 1.8 liter engines were opposite: the Austin had a mongrelized BMC B engine with single timing chain, single SU carb and the new 5 main bearing crank. It was out-of-date compared to almost any modern engine of the mid-sixties, a real chugger. The Volvo had the B18 with twin SU carbs. No contest there in any way shape or form – the Volvo engine ate the Austin for breakfast.

    The Volvo had thick lustrous paint, the Austin had well, some paint.

    The Austin was quiet and slow, with a creampuff ride. Amazing in snow for its time, but that was only when it started. As soon as the temperature hit 8 F or less, Mr. Issigonis’ pride simply refused to start. That temp wasn’t even full choke start for a B18.

    After just 3 winters, as my father jacked the 1800 up to change a tire, the jack went through the rusted out sill. The door interior panels came unglued, the seat seams split, etc., etc. He kept it going for two years after that, by which time it was a rolling shambles, with rust at every seam, and special three inch ground clearance because it needed new hydrolastic units. Oh yes, a fine car indeed.

    The Volvo with a coat of wax still looked and drove brand new. I spent 5 years in the UK from ’69. The Brits just would not believe my tales of crappo BLMC cars “in the colonies”. I even had a ride in a ’65 Landcrab with 84,000 miles, whose owner was cheesed off that a front ball-joint was shot. No rust, hell the Brits had zero knowledge of real winter and road salt, and blithely exported their rubbish to the world with no attempt to match conditions. If it was good enough for them, then it was good enough for the wankers living in the savage, barbarian parts of the world, i.e. everywhere outside the UK.

    Did the British car industry in, that attitude.

  • avatar

    So this is Basil Fawlty trading up?

  • avatar

    remember reading of this car in some engineriing book, the body was very stiff for the time. just a shame they made it so bad looking. the BMC was so unefficient in those years many great ideas ruined by disastrous planning.

  • avatar

    My dad had one of these (6cyl 2200). Great car, quiet and comfy. Back in the late 70’s (i was 5) we were traveling to Blackpool on holidays when a Ford Cortina slammed into the back of ours, subsequently opening the bootlid. I couldnt see what happened but apparently a teenager driving his dad’s Cortina had hit us and wrote it off (we had a tow bar). After my dad punched the wayward driver and closed the bootlid we were on our way leaving the stranded Cortina, and its driver. Apologies for the story, but seeing the picture reminded me of this car. Not a looker, and probably not reliable but i do remember my dad telling me it was fast and quiet. He sold it and purchased a Triumph 2000 TC after that.

  • avatar

    Oh. My. God. They sold those in America?! How bizarre, incredible.

    It was a king sized mini basically: transverse enginebut with super easy to fix “hydrolastic” suspension. My mum had one briefly – a red 2.2 6 cylinder but the fuel economy scared her into flogging it before it could fall to bits.

    There you have British Leyland and 1972’s UK summed up: Some good ahead of their time ideas let down by truly shite workmanship born of arrogance.

  • avatar

    Man…if only she were in running shape! Ol’ ADO17 has the distinction of being the last production car Sir Alec Issigonis designed. I dream of getting a nice one some day to have my Issigonis collection: Morris Minor, Austin Mini and a Morris 1600/1800.

  • avatar

    A friends parents had one in what must have been the mid 80s. Never got a ride in it but they were pretty common as you would expect in Coventry at that time, you still very occasionally see them.

    I can remember a few random fact about them,

    Apparently the only passenger car with a greater torsional rigidity was a Merc.

    The dipsticks on early ones were wrongly calibrated.

    The later Australians models were restyled and named Austin Kimberley & Tasmin depending if they had the B-series or the E6.

    Oz also had a Ute version

    The B-series was tougher then the E6 lasting about 150,000 as opposed to the E6 100,000

    Pininfarina did the styling

    Won the European car of the year award in 1965 i believe

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