For pictures and information about old cars, go to the Old Cars page.

British Cars

This page exists because British cars were the ones most familiar to me as a boy, and the features described suit cars from many other countries as well. If you have special memories of cars from other places, please feel free to submit the information for inclusion on this website.

From the French-designed Daimlers, built in England in 1891, through the Wolseley, Land Rover and Rolls Royce and many other brands and models, British cars have always had a well-earned reputation as being solid, reliable performers that would provide years of trouble-free service.

Some surprising facts about famous British car companies

Many car companies that were originally British-owned have been bought by overseas companies.

  • Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) acquired the Mini (originally BMC-, then Leyland Motors-owned) and the Rolls Royce groups, and operates these as subsidiaries of BMW Limited. They both continue to be manufactured in England.
  • SAIC Motor Corporation Limited (SAIC) is a Chinese company that now owns the MG range, previously owned by MG Car Company Ltd.
  • Tata Motors Limited (TATA) is an Indian company that now owns the Jaguar Land Rover company.
  • Aston Martin was owned for a time by Ford Motor Company, but is now owned once more (since 2007) by a British consortium led by David Richards.

A Stable of (Issigonis) Thoroughbreds
From Bram, a car enthusiast.

Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS, RDI    (18 November 1906 to 2 October 1988)

"Alec" Issigonis worked for the Wolseley Motor Company before moving to Austin Motors, and then the Morris Motor Company of Cowley in 1936, working at first on advanced suspension systems. His early concept was for the Morris "Mosquito" as it was to be called after the recent WW2 Mosquito bomber designed by the famous Barnes Wallace of "Dam Buster" fame. He later designed many other vehicles, before retiring in 1971

Morris Oxford

Picture of Morris Oxford with 2-piece grille morris Oxford with 1-piece grille

As seen in these two pictures there were two different builds of the Morris Oxford MO, recognisable by the different grilles,

A two-part stainless steel grille replaced the earlier one-piece one in late 1952. Production ran from 1948 to 1954. It was first launched at the 1948 Motor Show in London.

The Morris Oxford was a four door saloon with a "Unitary Construction" all steel body. It had a 4 speed column change gearbox and hydraulically operated drum brakes all round, "Torsion Bar" front suspension, and "Rack and Pinion" steering, which was new to me at the time but very robust and pleasant to drive and handle as I found out later. The rear suspension was a live axle with leaf springs.

The engine was a 1476 cc four-cylinder inline side-valve, fuelled by an SU 1 1/4" carburettor. It developed 41bhp at 4000 rpm, a quite high revving motor I thought at the time. It had a top speed of 70 mph and could reach 0 to 60 mph in 31 seconds, scary! It had a fuel consumption of about 30 mpg.

Morris Six

Picture of Morris Six, the big-brother of the Morris MO

The Morris Six MS was a big brother to the Morris Oxford MO. It was powered by an overhead single-cam 2215cc straight-six engine that had an output of 70 bhp (71 PS/52 kW) at 4400 rpm. It came with a with a single carburettor as opposed to the companion Wolseley 6/80's twin-carb set up.

Production of the Morris Sixes began in 1948, and production lasted until 1954. Sadly, the overall roadholding was let down by Morris Motors' decision not to use the Minor and Oxford's rack-and-pinion steering and an early change to the car was to replace the Armstrong lever arm dampers with telescopic shock absorbers. The earlier engines were designated as Series I, but towards the end of 1952 a redesigned cylinder head and cooling system were introduced, incorporating enlarged waterways and valves which were slightly longer and designed to work at an improved angle. This later engine became known as the Series II.

The Morris Six MS had a top speed of 82.5 mph (132.8 km/h), could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 22.4 seconds and had a fuel consumption of 20 miles per gallon. The car cost £671 including tax.

The 10 inch (250 mm) drum brakes were a Lockheed system and hydraulically operated. In 1950 the rear axle ratio was lowered to improve its acceleration and twin dampers were fitted to the front torsion bar independent suspension.

A de-luxe version was announced in 1953 with leather upholstery, a heater and over-riders on the front bumpers.

Austin 1800

Picture of a 1968 Austin 1800

The Austin 1800 was his "pride and joy", and was pretty unique in many ways.

  • It had an "east-west" engine, with front-wheel drive.
  • The transmission,gearbox and differential were all combined into one unit, resulting in greater efficiency and reduced size.
  • All body parts were given seven coats of paint as rust protection.

The price at the time was £1165 (English pounds), tax included!

The Wolseley 4/50 and 6/80 Stable Mates

The 4/50 was of course driven by a smaller motor than the 6/80 and there were a few visible differences too, notably a narrower and shorter bonnet and wing length due to the smaller engine compared to the 6/80.

Wolseley 4/50

Picture of Wolseley 4/50, which  had a smaller motor than the 6/80

Specifications:
Years Produced: 1948 - 1953
Motor: 1476cc 4 cylinder in-line Fuel System: SU 1 1/4" H2 Horizontal fed by SU Electric Fuel Pump
Top speed: 74 mph
0-60 in 31.6 seconds
Fuel consumption 26 mpg
Front suspension: Independent Torsion Bar
Rear suspension: Leaf Spring, Live Axle
The 4/50 was discontinued in 1953 and replaced by the 4/44




Wolseley 6/80

Picture of Wolseley 6/80, first produced in 1948

The Wolseley-Morris connection continued with the more luxurious models. It was worthwhile paying extra for the Wolseley over the Morris, because it offered more power (72bhp against 66bhp) thanks to an additional carburettor, and far more interior luxury.

The opulent cabin featured sufficient wood and leather to justify its illuminated grille badge and higher price tag. Just as the Wolseley 4/50 was a badge-engineered Morris Oxford MO; the 6/80 was a Morris Six wearing a prominent Wolseley front-end. But the long nose was necessary to accommodate the 2215cc straight-six engine.

The basic shape of the 6/80 never changed throughout its entire life, and although there were some obvious Trans-Atlantic features such as split-windscreen and column gear-change, the 6/80 still retained several pre-war items such as side-opening bonnet and massive upright traditional Wolseley grill.

Production of the 6/80 commenced in October 1948 at the old Wolseley works at Ward End Birmingham. However, only 19 cars were built at the midlands plant before production was moved to Cowley near Oxford. Here, 6/80 production resumed in March 1949, and continued until the car was replaced by the Wolseley 6/90 of BMC in October 1954.

The engines for the Wolseley 6/80 were produced at the Morris Engines Branch in Coventry.

Specifications:
Kerb weight is 1308 kg.
Motor: 2215cc 6 cylinder in-line
Fuel System: 2 x SU 11/4 Horizontal Carburettors fed by SU Electric Fuel Pump
Engine Compression Ratio: 7 : 1 Maximum power Output: 72 bhp @ 4600 rpm Maximum Speed: 81 mph (130 kph) Gears: The 4-speed gearbox has synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th, and is operated by a column-mounted lever Shock absorbers: were Armstrong hydraulic lever arm type on early cars, but modifications were made soon after introduction to fit telescopic types (twin at each front wheel, and singles at the back).

Picture of Morris Minor low-light, so named for the position of its headlights

Morris Minor

I should arguably have begun my story with the baby of the family, the Morris Minor of which over a million were sold.

The first Morris Minor came off the assembly line on the 20th September 1948 just in time for the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1948. The Minor was available in two door "saloon" and open-top "tourer" bodies, with both these options continued into 1949.

It was known as the Morris Minor MM, affectionately known as the "Low Light" because of the head light placement. It also had narrow-barred grille and two-piece windscreen and with its bucket front seats, the Minor was unusual for it's time.

Alec Issigonis went on to design the The Mini, a small economy car made by the British Motor corporation(BMC) and its successors from 1959 until 2000. The original is considered a British icon of the 1960s.

For further information on the Morris Minor go to the excellent site at: http://potteries.mmoc.org.uk/ and in particular look at the Car Identification link.

All-in-all, a fine stable of thoroughbreds that any collector would be proud to own!

Bram


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