When BMC launched the Landcrab, the confident Brits predicted annual sales of 200,000 – a figure that eclipsed even the 1100/1300 range. It had plenty of reason to be confident, though.
The Landcrab, which was designed by Alec Issigonis and styled by Pininfarina, boasted a pedigree that others would kill for, while its 1964 Car of the Year award was the icing on the cake.
Objectively, there was plenty to like about the car. Its front-wheel drive configuration meant that it had immense cabin space, with none of the touching-shoulder moments you could expect in other ’60s classics.
Now the interior’s minimal design seems ahead of its time, but still manages to have the heater controls annoyingly out of reach. That the seats are softly sprung serves only to highlight the car’s lean towards comfort.
The driving experience still shares some of the character of Issigonis’ most famous creation – the Mini – thanks to Hydrolastic suspension, rack and pinion steering, plus clever brakes. The latter featured Girling’s G-valve, which prevented lock-up by redirecting brake force to the rear wheels in the event of an emergency stop.
Yet despite all this, ADO17 failed to live up to expectations. Most disappointing were sales that accounted for less than a quarter of BMC’s heady predictions.
Poke beneath the surface and the story of the Landcrab reads like a script that would be followed by countless other British manufacturers. Its development was littered with configuration changes and redesigns, with the original XC9000 conceived as a rear-wheel-drive machine.
Meanwhile BMC, which had favoured Pininfarina’s styling over its own, still couldn’t resist meddling with the Italian firm’s work, with Issigonis increasing the car’s wheelbase and width in the name of packaging.
Nonetheless, its links to some of the greatest names in motoring, not to mention its practical design, mean the Landcrab now makes for an attractive classic.
And they can be snapped up for relatively little. This example, which goes under the hammer at Anglia Car Auctions tomorrow (6 April) could be yours for £2500-3500. It is MoT’d until March ’14 and is a two-owner (father and son) car, meaning the true mileage – which reads 14,000 – shouldn’t be hard to confirm.
Websites such as www.landcrab.net and www.wolseley.com would doubtless be able to offer advice on returning this machine, which currently sports a few non-standard additions, to its original condition.
Problems to look out for include rust, particularly on the inner and outer sills, front wings, wheelarches, door bottoms, footwells and the base of the bootlid.
Mechanically, the B-series engine should be bomb proof and shares a plentiful supply of spares with the MGB. Parts for the six-cylinder unit will be harder to come by and it’s known for early wear of the crank thrusts and camshafts.
Brake servos are another weakness. If the pedal sinks to the floor with the engine running, a bill for several hundred pounds could be on the cards. Waywardness from the rear would indicate wear to the Metalastik trailing-arm bushes.
Finally, on the underside of the car it’s worth checking the fuel tank, which is exposed and therefore prone to rot.
We would hope that none of these problems would afflict the car on our classifieds. With a price tag of nearly £28k, it represents the opposite end of the scale. One of only five works rally cars, it helped to earn the Landcrab its nickname, thanks to its sideways cornering style on numerous rally stages.
This example was fully restored in 1991 and was the first of the ‘SMO’ cars.
No matter how much you spend, buying a Landcrab will leave you with an underrated classic that was developed and styled by the biggest names in the business. As always, our free Buyer’s Guide can help you choose a good one.