Morris 1500 and Nomad

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Morris 1500 and Nomad

1969 - 1973
4 cyl.
73 bhp @ 5500 rpm
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
88 mph
Number Built:
2 star
Morris 1500 and Nomad
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2

The Morris 1500 and Nomad

With the introduction of the Morris 1500 came the simultaneous announcement of a five door variant to be known as the "Nomad". The 1500 sedan, to the casual observer, looked very much like the 1100. The somewhat conservative character of the 1100 underwent subtle changes which gave a more aggressive, rugged appearance. Tyre size was up from 5.50 x 12 to a generous 6.20 x 12, 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.

Up front, there was a new, bolder grille –flanked on either side by gargantuan parking light/turn indicators. And for those still struggling to find any differences, there was a prominent bonnet bulge designed to clear the extra height of the new overhead camshaft engine. At the rear, tail lights were altered to follow the slope of the boot lid.

Inside, there was a new fascia panel with horizontal strip speedometer similar to that used on the Austin 1800 and a full width parcel tray making up for the lack of a glovebox. The steering wheel was an inch narrower in diameter than that used on the 1100 series, and came straight from the Mini "K" and the gearlever was straightened and angled towards the driver.

The fan-less fresh air heater demister was operated by two levers mounted in Austin 1800 style below the parcel tray. Seating of the 1500 was basically unaltered, but the front cushion was slightly softer to give more comfort and more side support. But of course the big news is under the bonnet. The then new 1485cc engine, which was submitted to exhaustive testing for some time in Australia before its announcement, retained the under-square bore/ stroke ratio traditionally used by BMC to give good torque characteristics at low rpm.

On a compression ratio of 8.6 to 1 the engine in standard form developed 73 bhp at 5500 rpm, developing maximum torque of 81 ft./lb. at a surprisingly high 4000 rpm. In theory, this should have made the car somewhat less flexible than the engine's bore/stroke configuration would suggest, but in practice it didn't work out that way. The "S" engine developed 78 bhp at 5750 rpm by means of twin SU carburettors and a slightly higher compression ratio of 9.0:1.

Maximum torque of 84 ft./lb. was delivered at 3500 rpm, which was strangely 500 rpm lower than on the standard engine. On both engines, valves were operated by a single chain-driven overhead camshaft and the crankshaft ran on five 2-4-inch main bearings. With either engine the exhaust note was decidedly more sporting and intruded noticeably into the engine compartment. There was an optional five speed gearbox available, but at launch this was not on the options list, buyers having to wait until August 1969. It retained the same ratios as the standard four speed unit used in the 1500, but incorporated a .794:1 fifth gear to cut down engine rpm during high speed cruising.

Both the four and the five speed gearbox were considerably tougher than the unit used in the 1100 series. Larger bearings were used, the first motion shaft - which took most of the load - was modified and power was transmitted to the wheels by shortened Austin 1800 drive-shafts. The floor-mounted gearlever selected ratios by means of three cables, as was the case with the Austin 1800. To cater for the slight weight increase and the gains made in torque and bhp, both front and rear sub-frames were reinforced, giving the car a feeling of overall tautness that the 1100 didn’t have. The engine was mounted in four places, as compared to the 1100's three.

Morris 1500 - The Civilized Sports Car

On the Road

The suspension remained unchanged, so the ride was as good as ever, enhanced by the more solid feel of the body. The front disc brakes were modified to give greater reliability and more efficient operation. A swinging calliper was incorporated to make for easier, and therefore cheaper maintenance and the actual disc size was up from 8 inches to 8.4 inches diameter. Pad area was also greater. To drive, the 1500 felt like a cross between an 1800 and an 1100. The upright seating, the horizontal steering wheel and the characteristic high-pitched whine from the gearbox all proclaimed that you were motoring courtesy of Alex Issigonis.

The rack and pinion steering was well damped against road shock and the smaller diameter wheel was much more pleasant to use. Turning circle remained poor, however, at 37 feet. Road noise was minimal, except for the exhaust resonance at certain speeds as mentioned above. Strangely, most road testers found the car to be noisier at 45 mph than at 70 mph, so the noise factor was not a result of a too-low final drive ratio. However, the overdrive fifth gear option did allow for quieter cruising speeds. Handling differences between the 1100 and the 1500 were slight. The 1500's slight extra weight forward of the front wheels tended to add to the understeer, but the wider tyres provided better adhesion. Still, a power-on full chat attack on a tight corner required plenty of lock before the car accepted your chosen line.

Foot-off oversteer was readily available if the corner was attacked too enthusiastically. Performance was right up with the majority of other cars in the 1500cc class. Belying the high rpm at which maximum torque was developed, the Morris 1500 was quite flexible and was content to dribble along at low speeds in top gear, responding willingly to an opening throttle. Spread of the intermediate gears was very good, first giving 30 mph, second 50 mph and third a very handy 72 mph. For Australia at least, the 1500 was a better car in every respect - and answered practically every criticism aimed at the 1100 series. At release the sticker price was A$2150 – which was only about $20 above the 1275 cc "S".

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Also see:
Lost Marques - The William Morris Story
Founding Fathers - Alec Issigonis
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