Why were so many sold?
The Morris Marina is that strange beast - a truly terrible car that was actually a big sales hit! Selling over a million cars in a thirteen year period it did very well despite it's considerable flaws. One of the reasons that the car left a lot to be desired was probably it's short run-in period. In the rush to get it on sale the design and production took only 18 months in total meaning some serious cost-cutting with a number of good ideas jettisoned in the process. The objective of British Leyland was to quickly come up with a suitable rival to the Ford Escort and Ford Cortina, but the speed of production meant it ended up with a much less sporty look due to it's saloon type doors amongst other things. Amongst the many less than flattering descriptions the car has been likened to a skip on wheels by some.
Was it really so bad?
More seriously than the lack of flashy looks was the inferior suspension set-up, in which defunct chassis parts were used from the Morris Minor which was a much older design of car. After switching to different engines that were bigger in size, the Marina ended up with it's rather odd shape as the design had to be changed to accommodate them. Other problems included a live rear axle so that the vehicle handled very poorly - on earlier models with the bigger 1.7 litre engines this meant severe understeer as incorrect front suspension had been added on the production line.
What was the quality like?
Other 'interesting' features of the Morris Marina were the windscreen wipers which, on over 60,000 cars, had been fitted the wrong way. The engineers discovered that they lifted up from the windscreen when in a vertical position, therefore, instead of fixing the problem they simply switched them around, despite the fact that this gave the driver a less than perfect view through the windscreen. Another noteworthy feature of the car was it's huge capacity to rust which had obviously not been taken into account when assessing the durability of the vehicle.
Why are there so few still on the road?
Despite featuring highly in a number of worst car ever lists, and in spite of all the design errors and compromises that had to be made along the way such as bigger engines and dodgy windscreen wipers, the car was still a hit for some reason and was bought by a huge amount of willing customers. As the cars were later cannabalised for other models made during that era there aren't that many Marinas left any more, which may come as a relief to some unlucky previous owners.