Morris Car Reviews and Road Tests

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Morris Motors

We are all familiar with Henry Ford, and the impact he had on the mass production of the automobile. Lesser known perhaps, but providing a similarly important role to the British car industry was William Morris (later Lord Nuffield), who believed firmly in the need to produce cheap cars for the masses. Morris himself started out manufacturing motorcycles, but his attention soon turned to automobiles, and he was determined to make his company a success. The first iteration was the 1912 Oxford, named after the nearby city of Oxford (the Morris factory being at Cowley).

But the Oxford moniker was soon replaced by the rather less attractive name “Bullnose” by most, because of the distinctive rounded radiator grille. Powered by a small White and Poppe four cylinder engine producing 10hp (7.5 kW), only 1000 would be manufactured before the outbreak of war. Next came the larger Cowley, which used a 1.5 litre US built Continental engine, and then after the war both cars had their engine capacities upgraded.

As production methods were streamlined, costs inevitably fell, and instead of the savings being consumed by greedy executives they were instead passed on to the buying public. The Cowley, albeit with a slightly lower level of trim, had £100 slashed from the price, a huge sum at the time. Inevitably there was an increase in demand, and with the added cash-flow Morris set about the strategic acquisition of key components suppliers, including Hotchkiss engines, Wrigley transmissions, SU carburettors and Hillock and Pratt bodies. The “Bullnose” radiator would be dropped in 1927, replaced by a less distinctive but more traditional flat design.

The “Empire Oxford” was designed for export to the then British Empire, it featuring a 2.5 litre four cylinder engine mated to a four speed gearbox and worm final drive. In 1934 hydraulic brakes were introduced across the range, and larger versions appeared such as the long wheelbase Ten-Six and top of the range 3.5 litre Twenty-Five. The trusty Minor was replaced by the side-valve Eight in 1935, and was available in saloon or open tourer models. The Eight was replaced by the E Series just before the war, and all models would go back into production following the cessation of hostilities.

But the best would come in 1948 with Alec Issigonis masterpiece Morris Minor. Designed by Issigonis and A. V. Oak, it was originally intended to be a front wheel drive flat four iteration, but time constraints meant the design retained the old 918cc side valve rear-wheel-drive configuration. Technically well advanced, the Minor featured rack-and-pinion steering, independent front suspension, unitary construction, a roomy interior, excellent handling and great fuel economy. In fact, it was such a hit that it would remain in manufacture right up until 1971! Morris merged with Austin in 1952, forming the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

The Austin overhead-valve engines were favoured over the older design Morris side valve units, the Minor now equipped with a 49ci 803cc engine taken from the Austin A30, the 1954 Cowley received the 73ci 1.2 litre B Series, and the Oxford received the 1.5 litre version. Over the next few decades, the Austin and Morris cars became increasing an exercise in badge engineering, being virtually identical versions of the same thing. This was never more evident that with the other Alec Issigonis masterpiece, the Mini, that was available as either the Austin Seven or Morris Mini Minor.

The last “Morris” only iteration was the woeful Marina, the victim of British automotive industry upheaval during the 1970’s. Build quality was non-existent, and it would tarnish a marque better known for producing high quality affordable automobiles for the masses.

Also see: Lost Marques - The William Morris Story
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Morris Oxford  

Morris Oxford MO

1948 - 1954
By the late 1940's Morris desperately needed new models to put on the showroom floor. The cheaper and more economical version was to become immensely popular, the Morris Minor MM, but the Oxford made its debut at the same time and has, for those that are not Morris fans, become somewhat forgotten. More>>
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Morris Minor  

Morris Minor MM

1948 - 1971
Seen as the outstanding economy car of its time, the Morris Minor was a best seller as well as being long standing car in terms of production. More>>
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Morris Isis  

Morris Isis

1955 - 1958
When the Isis was released, the Nuffield organisation emphasised that in developing the Isis - their first six since pre-war - they kept Australia well in mind. And, when judged against other cars available here in Australia at the time, they actually made a very good job of it. More>>
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Morris Marshal  

Morris Marshal

1957 - 1960
The Marshal was manufactured by the British Motor Corporation (Australia) between 1957 and 1960, being a Morris branded version of the Austin Westminster which was marketed by BMC Australia's Austin dealers as the Austin A95 Westminster. The Marshal was offered as a 4-door sedan and as a 5-door station wagon. More>>
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Morris Major  

Morris Major

1958 - 1964
The Morris Major quickly developed a stellar reputation for reliability and durability, and even a hint of sporting prowess given their appearance in the 1960 Armstrong 500. To many people's suprise, a Morris Major would place 4th, it being driven by Peter Manton and Barry Topen. More>>
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Morris 1100 & 1300  

Morris 850

1961 - 1963
The Mini may have been released in the UK in 1959, but it would take BMC's local operation until 1961 to have the then named Morris 850's rolling off the production line here in Australia. More>>
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Morris 1100 & 1300  

Morris 1100 and 1300

1962 - 1973
Another Alec Issigonis success story, the Morris 1100 was the saloon version of the already hugely popular mini. For its time, it was also extremely sophisticated, bristling with technical features for car of its size. More>>
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Morris 1500  

Morris 1500 and Nomad

1969 - 1973
The somewhat conservative character of the 1100 underwent subtle changes which gave a more aggressive, rugged appearance. Tyre size was increased, rims were slotted and the stainless steel surrounds for the side windows were scrapped, all of which added a certain amount of masculinity to the styling. More>>
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Morris Marina  

Morris Marina

1971 - 1984
Many consider the Marina suffered a cursed life as industrial difficulties within the British motoring industry were to lead to compounding reliability and build quality problems. And of course this was to pave the way for the Japanese manufacturers, using thier system of "total quality control", to enter the Australian marketplace. Buyers deserted the British car makers in droves, the rest remains history. More>>
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Morris Crayfords Mumford Marina  

Morris Crayfords Mumford Marina Convertible

1975 - 1978
Many of Crayfords earlier convertibles severely lacked torsional rigidity. The same could not be said of the Mumford Marina, the secret of success being undoubtedly the roll-over bar. Because Mumfords did not touch the runnning gear, there is little point in dwelling on the characteristics of the Marina in general except to say that it, too, was a "sow's ear". More>>
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Morris Crayfords Mumford Ital

Morris Ital

1980 - 1984
The Morris Ital was a remodelled Marina, penned by noted Italian stylist Giorgietto Giugiaro of Ital Design. Reintroduced in mid-1980, and without drastically reworking the four-door sedan body (the two-door Coupe body was discontinued) the Ital was given a new look by redesigning the front end with a greater fall away, fatter bumpers, bigger rear light and so on. More>>
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