Launched in 1970, the car was a typical contemporary design, a modest three-box design, with a front-mounted four cylinder engine driving the rear wheels through a live axle. It featured torsion bar suspension, and was available in two engine sizes - 1.3 and 1.8 litres, and three body styles, saloon (sedan), estate (station wagon) and coupé. The car was popular with families and unadventurous car buyers, and was available in the typical BL colours of the day - brown, beige, dark green and a funky metallic 70s purple. It was intended to be a competitor to the generally similar Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.
BL was beset with problems stemming from industrial action throughout the period, and the Marina was one of a number of models that suffered accordingly. It was said that one should never buy a car built on a Monday or a Friday, as these were supposedly the times that the workforce put least care and attention into assembling them. While the BL workers gradually eroded their own employment, manufacturers in Europe and Japan introduced new and innovative designs (such as the VW Golf) that the Marina and its like were never likely to compete with. Under severe financial strain, BL was bailed out by the government in the late 70s, and Sir Michael Edwardes was brought in to oversee the company. Under his leadership, BL implemented a minor facelift to the Marina and rebadged it as the Ital. While the car did sell to some extent, it was hopelessly outclassed by the new breed of front-wheel drive hatchbacks that others were producing. The Ital was short-lived and was replaced by the new Maestro and Montego models of the early 1980s.