British Austin has never been famed for producing particularly ferocious cars, but the model name chosen for this one may indicate that they did in fact have some aggression burning to be released.
Yet there won’t be many European car enthusiasts who have encountered this one, which has a perfectly logical explanation: it was only sold within Africa. The story of the Apache started in the late sixties where sales of Austin’s ADO16 (known on some markets simply as the 1100/1300 and on others as the Marina) started to slump on the South African market, where the car was built under license by British Leylands subsidiary, Leykor. The management quickly decided that the pretty little ADO16 was in need of a facelift, and they had recently seen a suitable Michelotti prototype during a visit to the factory in the UK.
The decision process within the South African Leykor was clearly much more efficient than in the parent company, as the new model debuted in late 1971 with the exotic name: Apache. Typically for Michelotti, he managed to get a whole lot out of very little. Despite the complete middle section being perfectly identical, the Apache still has a very different appearance from the smaller 1100/1300. Truth be told, it’s the exact same car, only with a different front and rear grafted onto the original 1962 Pininfarina design. But with Michelotti’s talent, he managed to vastly change and update the car so that it could soldier on until 1978.
I’m sure there will be varying opinions on which is prettier – the original Pininfarina or the updated Michelotti. Please feel free to air your thoughts and discuss openly in the replies section below. Personally I prefer the original, but there’s no denying that the Apache looks more modern, and that the facelift has given the little car a more aggressive (relatively speaking) expression with its sharper edges – as was prescribed during the seventies. Furthermore, bearing in mind how British Leyland’s own update of their Mini turned into the boxer-nosed Clubman, I think it’s fair to say that Michelotti’s work was worth every Italian lira of his fee.
But it’s equally fair to point out that rather than reinventing the wheel, he merely applied the same approach to the ADO16 update, as he had done previously when he facelifted the big Triumph 2000/2500 saloon. But then again, why wouldn’t he, as that had also led to a rather successful result. Let’s just conclude that Michelotti was a very adept designer.
The car was of course a good one. Not that I’ve actually driven an Apache, but it MUST have been since it was based on the ADO16. Though we should of course apply the usual British proviso that design and idea was better than the execution. Also that the fundamental design from 1962 wasn’t precisely cutting-edge by 1971, all of which could be the explanation to why the Apache never got beyond Africa.
However, that’s not what this is all about for me. Nor is it about the interior which according to the brochure is equipped with “wall-to-wall-carpeting”. Instead it’s primarily about the actual brochure – more precisely page 6: I may have never encountered another picture enticing me to such a degree to buy a car. Dressed in a mint green cocktail gown we’re introduced to a ravishing lady with an alluring Mona Lisa expression. She’s certainly more shapely than the Austin, but also has similarities with the car, as they both radiate an intriguing conservative restraint combined with something modern and flash. Fetishists will no doubt immediately notice her shoes which are downright naughty – perhaps only outdone by the prominent three-spoke sports steering wheel. Austin experts will also take note of the Apache’s full instrumentation, while the rest of us can contemplate how the cloth-centered seat feels against her curvaceous rear.
With her gracing the passenger seat, the cabin still seems spacious. There’s something deeply fascinating about the whole green/brown sensual combination, which makes me wish she was occupying the rear seat instead. In that relation, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s the TC version with two carburetors. Apache. Wild thing.