Established in 1896, Wolseley was one of England’s first carmakers, quickly garnering a reputation for building quality vehicles. The first iteration was actually built by Herbert Austin who was, at the time, the companies General Manager. This simple three-wheeler would quickly morph into a four-wheeler, as did so many at the time, and by 1901 there was even a four cylinder five speed racer in the modest 3 model lineup. Over the years Wolseley’s would become increasingly larger and more refined, and by 1906 the J. D. Siddeley designed Wolseley-Siddeley boasted a 3.3 litre 201ci engine. After World War 1 the Wolseley lineup would swell to include the 7, the 10 (which was later replaced by the 11/22), and the 15 (which was later replaced by the 16/35 types). However the company never fully recovered after the war, and was taken over by Nuffield in 1927. Unfortunately it ever so slowly lost its identity over the following decades, particularly when ownership was assumed by BMC, who would simply "re-badge" the same model.
were a few highlights along the way though, such as the Morris Isis derived 21/60 of 1929 which boasted a six cylinder engine and hydraulic brakes. In 1930 came the 1.3 litre Hornet, the six cylinder engine being small in capacity but proving itself to be delightfully smooth and powerful. Through the 1930’s the company adopted the use of the famous “illuminated” Wolseley logo on the radiators, a feature that would remain a part of all Wolseley’s until the companies eventual demise. Following World War 2 there was the Eight, Ten and Twenty-Five, and by 1949 2 completely new models were released, the four cylinder 4/60 and the six cylinder 6/80, both engines being of overhead cam design.
But as rationalization spread through the British car industry, the Wolseley name became ever increasingly a badge over a brand. The last Wolseley appeared in 1975, then a re-badged Morris 1100, but when Leyland took control they re-named the car the Princess, and the Wolseley name was lost forever. It is somewhat ironic that only Austin and Morris survived at this time, because they were involved in an auction for the purchase of Wolseley when the firm ran into difficulties in 1926. Sir Herbert Austin originally wanted an Austin/Morris/Wolseley merger to meet the difficulties imposed by the repeal of the McKenna duties of one-third of the value on cars imported into England.
The Labour Government repealed these in 1924 and frightened British makers who had enjoyed a protected market. But next year they were restored with a change of government. Austin wanted the new combine to be headquartered at his Longbridge works, but Morris profits were running at three times those of Austin and he did not accept equal valuations of the two companies and the scheme fell through. When Wolseley failed Lord Nuffield figured that he would get a first-class design staff if he could buy the company, a modern, extensive, integrated plant, and a six-cylinder car, the 'Silent Six' which he liked. He did not want the company to go foreign (to General Motors), and bid £600,000, paying £60,000 deposit, but the unnamed foreign company bid higher. The courts ruled that the receiver was not bound to accept the higher offer, although Morris' second bid was after the set time-limit, and they gave up. Austin and Morris then began their auction, and finally Austin's man asked Morris how far he was prepared to go; 'I am going just a bit further than you', said Morris, and got the Wolseley business for £730,000.
1919 - 1924
The Wolseley 15 h.p. was an example of technological advancement learned during war time manufacture of aeroplane engines. Alloy steel and light weight chassis, accelerated horse power of more than 20 percent on the average Wolseley without increasing the engine size. The most beneficial feature of the then new design was the power output, which only marginally increased fuel consumption and the characteristic smooth running of Wolseley was maintained. More>>
1931 - 1936
There are some enthusiasts in this world of motoring who will stubbornly maintain that the British haven't made a real sports car since the 1930's. While we don't quite hold with this argument, it is true that the decade, 1930 to 1940, saw the greatest variety of sports cars produced in Britain's history and the post-vintage-thoroughbreds which emerged from the largest and the smallest motor factories gained tremendous prestige throughout the world. More>>
1953 - 1956
The Wolseley 4/44 was originally designed under the Nuffield Organisation but by the time it was released in 1953 Wolseley was part of BMC. Much of the design was shared with the MG Magnette ZA which came out later in the same year - but unlike the MG, the 4/44 used the 1250cc XPAW engine a version of the XPAG engine previously seen in the later MG T-type series of cars but detuned by only having a single carburettor. More>>
1954 - 1959
Wolseley aficionados were aghast to find a grey striped formica instrument panel and central large chrome mesh "cheese-cutter" speaker grille. This would be switched back to the more traditional polished walnut facia with the release of the Series II in 1957. More>>
1956 - 1958
Despite its single SU carburettor the Wolseley 15/50 managed to provide reasonable performance suitable for its roll as a mid-range model. Most importantly there was a feeling of general excellence and honesty about the car, Wolseley's having established a solid reputation for a long working life and freeedom from petty troubles. More>>
1957 - 1965
The Wolseley 1500 was basically a Morris Minor underneath, leastwise it used the Minor's suspension and wheels, and a scaled-down Wolseley 4/44 in body style, with the all-purpose B-type B.M.C. engine under the bonnet. It was a smart, superlatively finished unit, with a lot of experience applied in the vital places to make it a sturdy, fast (80 m.p.h.), comfortable and economical means of transport. More>>
1961 - 1968
For the £106 pound premium over the Austin, the Wolseley driver of course received the famous Wolseley grille complete with auxiliary lamps, distinctive duotone colour schemes and a much more upmarket interior, which included walnut veneer facia, real leather and individually adjustable front seats. Options included fitment of an automatictransmission, and/or “Normalair” air-conditioning. More>>
1962 - 1965
The 6 cylinder Wolseley 24/80 sedan and station wagon
(also sold under the Austin name) were released in April
1962. These cars were developed by BMC Australia to counter
the growing popularity of the new 6 cylinder rivals from
the US, namely the GM Holden and Ford Falcon. More>>
1966 - 1972
The upmarket Wolseley "Landcrab" was first introduced to the public at the Geneva Motor Show in March, 1966, as yet another variant of what was B.M.C.'s biggest transverse-engine front wheel drive design. Power assistance for the rack-and-pinion steering was standard and a modified Borg-Warner Type 35 automatictransmission and torque converter, driven via a Morse Hy-Vo chain, was offered as an extra for the first time. More>>