Wolseley 1500

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Wolseley 1500 Car Review

Wolseley 6 110

Wolseley 1500

1957 - 1965
Soviet Union
Straight 4
1489 cc
50 bhp @ 4200 rpm
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
125 km/h
Number Built:
3 star
Wolseley 1500
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


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.

A four-door full four-seater with the traditional Wolseley "luxury" styling and attention to detail, the 1500 was appealing both in the UK and here in Australia. In the UK, the basic price was £505. It ran on 7.2 to 1 compression, the 1489 c.c. o.h.v, engine was the same as used in the Austin A50, the Wolseley 15/50, the MG Magnette and MG A, and the Morris Oxford and Cowley. Different b.h.p. outputs of these models were obtained by varying compression ratios and carburetion arrangements. This meant that the 1500's engine, with a slice off the head or with an extra carby, would be able to match the b.h.p. of the others.

In standard trim the Wolseley's engine developed 50 b.h.p. at 4200 r.p.m., and maximum torque of 74ft./lb. was on tap at 3000. Times through the gears were: 0-20 m.p.h., 4.2 seconds; 0-30, 6s.; 0-40, 9.2s.; 0-50, 13.5s.; 0-60, 20.5s.; 0-70, 32.5s. Accelerating in top gear was: 20-30, 5.2s.; 20-40, 7.8s.; 20-50, 13s.; 30-40, 6.5s.; 30-50, 12s.; 40-50, 5s.; 40-60, 12.5s.; 50-60, 6s. Taken to maximum in all gears, the engine wouldn't falter and there was no sign of valve bounce.

The four-speed gearbox was more like a three-speed plus overdrive. As the maximum speed figures show, top gear was not far removed in ratio from third. And the gearchange, via the stubby, centrally placed remote-control lever, was easy to use and snapped back and forth between top and third with little effort. Good acceleration was available in all gears, the brakes were up to the job and the rack-and-pinion steering was class leading. But it was the sports-like performance of the Wolseley 1500 that had motoring journalists praising the car.

Morris Minor owners knew how roadworthy and stable their cars were - so it came as no surprise to them that the well sorted suspension and wheels, with a slightly larger body and 50 percent more engine capacity, made for a truly great car. This suspension and engine combination made the 1500 an equal to the then new Morris 1000 in handling, but its acceleration and top speed put it much farther ahead. The body roll may have been a little more pronounced, but the 1500 always felt safe and sure - even when swinging through a flat right-angle corner at what would normally be called a dangerous speed.

Wolseley claimed the 1500 was good for petrol consumption of around 40 m.p.g. at an average 50 m.p.h. For a 1.5-litre car that was better than anybody expected. But when you take into account the car's low weight of 18.5 cwt. unladen - due mainly to chassisless construction - you could understand how this figure was achieved. Well-chosen gear and final drive ratios are another explanation of the 1500's performance. Overall gear ratios are: first, 13.56; second, 8.25; third, 5.12; top, 3.73; reverse, 17.73 to 1. Final drive is 3.7 to 1. So good was the 1500 that the marketing guys were right on the money, when they wrote:

"This new Wolseley Fifteen Hundred. It is a compact car with high performance. The 1500 c.c. o.h.v. engine provides a high power-to-weight ratio giving 'overdrive performance' on a normal, though high, top gear for long-distance tireless motoring. Speed in third nears that - in top - overtaking is swift and sure. Brakes are large and powerful. Torsion bar front suspension, allied to good steering geometry gives rock-steady road-holding and cornering. All interior appointments are tastefully styled to tone with the gay, hard-wearing exterior colours. This new Wolseley is built for to-day's motoring conditions, for those who want all the advantages of Wolseley quality and craftsmanship at a favourable price. Prove it for yourself!"

The Wolseley 1500 Interior

The instruments, steering wheel, gear lever, and centrally-mounted handbrake lever (between the seats) were all in just the right place. Door handles, window winders and ashtrays were equally well-positioned. Interior trim was in two-tone leather over foam rubber padding. There were veneered dash and door sills, plus a rubber-padded dashboard. Instruments included gauges for fuel, oil pressure and water temperature, and a trip recorder was incorporated in the speedo. The steering wheel had spring spokes and was dished to protect the driver's chest. Boot space of 10 cubic feet was large for such a small car, and the luggage area was uncluttered by the spare tyre, which was located in a separate compartment underneath.
Good vision was allowed by large, one-piece curved screens front and rear. The Wolseley 1500 was available in 13 body colors, including seven two-tones. The latter favoured the car, at least in our opinion, giving it a longer, lower appearance than the monotones.

Wolseley 1500 Series II

The Series II model came out in May 1960. The most notable external difference was the hidden boot and bonnet hinges. Interior storage was improved with the fitting of a full width parcel shelf directly beneath the facia. The Wolseley also had a Series III launched in October 1961 which featured a revised grille and rear lights. In October 1962 the car received the more robust crank, bearing and other details of the larger 1622cc unit now being fitted in the Austin Cambridge and its "Farina" styled clones. Unlike the Farina models, however, and unlike their own Australian built sibling, the Wolseley 1500 and Riley one-point-five retained the 1489cc engine size with which they had been launched back in 1957. Production ended in 1965 with 39,568 Rileys and 103,394 Wolseleys made. Here in Australia, BMC also produced its own versions of this design, the Morris Major and Austin Lancer (1958-64.) The Australian versions were less luxurious and had many notable differences from the Riley / Wolseley cars, also, the design was substantially revised in 1959.

Sturt Griffith's Road Test

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing course to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We are not experts on this model, and having never driven one ourselves, we thought it best to recite what Sturt Griffith's said, verbatim. We do refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Wolseley 1500 review below remains as told in 1957.

The Wolseley 1500 is a new and distinctive car. It represents some enlightened thinking on owner's requirements as it provides, for the first time, a small car with a large engine. Furthermore, the engine presents keen motorists with an opportunity to buy a well finished small car. All too often smallness in size is accompanied by austerity of finish, but this is not the case here. Nor is the Wolseley a mere assembly of various BMC components in a differently shaped body shell. Some careful thought has been directed to the mechanical units used, with the result that this little car has quite a character of its own. For instance, although the relatively large 1500cc BMC engine is used, it is not operating on the high compression now the rule on installations of this power unit.

Wolseley 1500 Performance

The Wolseley engine runs on the moderate compression of of 7.2 to 1 with the purpose (and result) of providing the utmost in flexibility and smooth operation at town driving speeds. Again, one immediately notices that the car is quite high geared in top. This sensible change provides a pleasantly high ratio for fast cruising and good fuel economy. The top ratio is well chased, because reasonable hill climbing has been retained, which is not always the case in high-geared small cars. Further, it is associated with an excellent third gear, which is both fast and powerful.

There are a few points which are rather below the general standard of the car. The entire absence of floor ventilation is not rational in Australia. The reaction felt in the steering wheel on really bad roads is most pronounced. The pedals are rather high from the floor, and the gauges are located on the left of the fascia, more in the interests of symmetry than of the convenience of the driver. Special mention must be made of the gearbox and gearshift. Not only are the ratios well chosen, but the stubby little floor gear lever is exactly in the right place at the driver’s left hand, and its movements are short an J positive. It is really a pleasure to use. The Wolseley climbs reasonably well in its high top gear, and it has an excellent third ratio for difficult mountain passes. With two aboard, it should be necessary to use second gear on only where baulked on a climb. The gears used, and the speeds attained, on the regular test hi!is were:

BODINGTON (average grade 1 in 11.5) Top Gear 50-45-32 mph.
RIVER LETT (1 in 12 Maximum 1 in 8.5) A steady and uniform climb in third gear at 40-30-42 mph.
SCENIC HILL (1 in 10 maximum 1 in 8) Another climb in third which showed great tenacity at 50-22-30-23 mph.
MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 9 ) After a start in top, the climb was made mainly in third gear at 50-30-41 mph.
KURRAJONG WEST (1 in 12.5): Top gear at 50-41-38 mph.

The power to weight ratio, with a load of 3cwt, is 47.6 horsepower per ton. The overall top gearing yields a road speed of 18.5 m.p.h. at 1000 rpm. The Wolseley is lively and quite fast on the touring highway. Owing to its high top gear and good engine, it cruises comfortably around 65-70 mph on safe highways. When ambling around town the car can be run down to 30 m.p.h. in top gear without loss of good response. The average speed over the test route was 43.5 m.p.h. Weather was good with little wind.

The maximum tugging power, a torque''of 741b-ft, is developed at the very high speed of 55 m.p.h. in top gear. Fortunately, however, the torque curve is very flat and pulling ability remains fairly constant from 30 to 55 mph. Prompt overtaking requires third gear between 20 and 30 mph., over which latter speed top gear will suffice. The engine is smooth in top from 20 m.p.h. upwards. Times for acceleration are as follows; Third gear: 20 to 40 mph., 9.5 seconds.; 30 to 50 mph.. 11.1 seconds. Top gear: 20 to 40 mph. 13.4 seconds.; 30 to 50 mph. 14.7 seconds.

On the Road

The torsion bar suspension used on the Wolseley front end gives rather a hard ride over bad roads, but it also gives good road-hoiding. The comfort of the car is classed about average, with the rear seat a little more comfortable than the front. The car corners well on dry bitumen, but when the surface becomes wet and greasy, or extremely loose, one has to exercise care and reduce speed a little, without rear-seat passengers. The reason is that most of the car's dead weight is concentrated on the front wheels, leaving only 43 per cent on the rear wheels. As a consequence, in the lightly loaded condition, the rear wheels drift away rather readily on greasy surfaces.

The gentle drift that develops is. however, quite easy to check, and the car has good directional stability. Body roll is moderate, and the tyres are commendably quiet when the car is cornered hard. At an average speed of 43.5 m.p.h. over the test route, the Wolseley. gave 35.2 miles per gallon. Taking the loaded weight of the car into consideration, this represents 37 ton-miles per gallon. The fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g, x average speed) is 1.610. Both of these figures are satisfactory. At the foregoing rate of consumption, the fuel tank gives a moderate fast, cruising range of approximately 250 miles.

Steering and Braking

The familiar Nuffield rack-and-pinion steering is used in the Wolseley, and it-has the very pleasant attributes of positive and quick action. It also has the characteristic of transmitting1 severe road shocks to the hands over bad surfaces, and this seems most pronounced in this new car. The steering is always light and it requires only 2J turns of the wheel from' one full lock to the other. The turning circle is 33j feet, and as a consequence the car is readily manoeuvrable in confined spaces. The Lockheed brakes gave a good .performance. At all times pedal pressures are light for normal braking, and one can produce very rapid results with' a determined push on the pedal. The lining area is 94 square inches, and the brakes proved themselves free from fade on the 3J-mile descent from Kurrajong Heights in neutral. The handbrake also proved its worth, readily locking the rear wheels on a firm application.

Behind the Wheel

A discriminating owner will find things well to his liking in the driving seat of this little Wolseley, Although the front seat squabs are none too generous, the seating is comfortable and untiring on a long run. The three-spoked dished steering wheel is comfortably placed, and the pedals are well spaced but too high above the floor. Vision is excellent in all directions, and the gearshift and brake are ideally situated for quick and effective operation. While the speedometer is almost before the driver, the other instruments are placed^towards the left side of the fascia. They comprise gauges for oil pressure, head temperatures, and fuel contents. The minor controls are arranged in the centre of the fascia in two groups of three, wherein each is readily enough found at night. The wipers are self-parking, the winker-turn indicators self-cancelling, and the rear-vision mirror is good.

The Wolseley 1500 Body

The "B" Series engine has a bore and stroke of 79 by 89 mm. and it operates on a compression of 7.2, It is fitted with a full-flow oil filter. The gear ratios are: Top 3.7. third 5.1, and second gear 8.2 to 1. An S.U. carburettor is fitted and is provided with an oil-bath cleaner. Access to all engine ancillaries is quite satisfactory. Front suspension is by torsion bars, while semi-elliptic leaves are used in rear. All wheels are damped by piston-type shock absorbers. The appearance of the interior is lifted above the usual standard by the use of walnut for the fascia and door cuppings. The effect is, however, not assisted by the use of a rubber mat for the front floor.

The individual front seats are 20 inches wide, and the rear bench seat is 40 inches between the wheel arches, Svnthetic seat covering is used. The hump in the front floor is of very moderate proportions and leg and head room are ample in the front compartment. Both of these dimensions are. however, quite limited in the rear seat. The fascia carries two glove-boxes and is flanked by upper and lower safety pads. The floor of the boot is substantial!) flat, but slopes downwardly from rear to front. It is well shaped and has an approximate luggage capacity ot 10 cubic feet. The spare wheel is carried beneath the boot floor.


The Wolseley 1500 is a small car - but it is particularly well designed from the point of view of yielding a satisfactory road performance. The car is specifically intended, to carry four people and a moderate quantity of luggage in comfort over long distances. The car shows out extremely well on touring highways because it cruises fast without effort, and is always economical of fuel. The high top gearing which gives these pleasant results is, of course, inimical to good hill climbing. However, third gear on the Wolseley is an excellent ratio in which the car will climb almost any hill and yet attain a 69 mph on the flat. Riding comfort is about average and the car corners well on dry roads. It has good brakes and quick steering. The interior finish is better than on the usual run of small cars, and will engender pride of ownership. The car tested was made available bv the manufacturers, Nuffield (Aust.) Ptv. Ltd.

Wolseley 1500 Quick Specifications

Engine: Four-cylinder, o.h.v.; bore 73,025mm., stroke 88.9 mm., capacity 1489 c.c.; compression ratio 7.2 to 1; max. b.h.p. 50 at 4200 r.p.m,; max. torque 74ft./lb. at 3000; semi-down-draught SU carburettor, SU electric fuel pump, 12v. ignition.
Transmission: Single dry-plate 7.5in. clutch, four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on top three; gear ratios - first, 13.56; second, 8.25; third, 5.12; top, 3.73; rererse, 17.73 to 1; hypoid final drhe, 3.7 to 1 ratio.
Suspension: Independent in front, by long torsion bars; semi-elliptics at rear; piston-type hydraulic shock-absorbers all round.
Steering: Rack-and-pinion; turning circle, 32ft. 11 in, left, 34ft. 3in, right.
Wheels: Disc-type, 14in. diameter; 5.00 by 14in. tyres.
Construction: Unitary.
Brakes: Lockheed hydraulic, 93.5 sq. in. lining area.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 7ft. 2in.; track, front 4ft. 2 7-Sin., rear 4ft. 2 5-16in.; length 12ft. 8in., width 5ft. 1 in., height 4ft. 11
Weight: 18.4 cwt. (unladen), Fuel Tank: 7 gallons.
Wolseley 1500

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Also see:

Fredrick Wolseley
Wolseley Car Brochures
The History of Wolseley
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