In what might very well be a verbatim transcript of a period road test, legendary road-tester Archie Vicar takes a closer look at the 1975 Wolseley 18-22 and considers its chances in the market of the time.
The article (“Another new car from Wolseley!”) first appeared in the Hemel-Hempstead Evening Post Echo (September 30, 1975). Douglas Land-Windermere is credited for the original photos. Due to termite-damage, the original images have been replaced by stock photos.
As Wolseley motors enters its fourth quarter century (founded in 1901) it is a distinct pleasure to see it mark the occasion by the presentation of this fine car which will no doubt help take the venerable marque forward into the late 70s and thus also help it
compete in what is an increasingly competitive market.
Traditionally the car for Plod, Wolseley have always been renowned for their road-holding and endurance and, of course, the straight-six engines found under the regal bonnet of vehicles like the 6/80. Formerly under BMC control, and now a part of the modernised British Leyland group, Wolseley’s latest offering replaces the much-loved Wolseley Six but it carries over the important features of front-wheel drive and the same four and six-cylinder engines. As such, the 18-22 clearly pays homage to the cars used in police service for many a long year.
So, the important question now is what the 18-22 is like to own and drive. It may say “Wolesley” on the nose and side, steering wheel and boot but is it a Wolseley underneath too?
It is certainly a distinctive car showing that Wolseley is keen to challenge the likes of the awkward Citroen CX which has been on sale for most of this year not to mention the boxy and thirsty Peugeot 604 (dread car!). Wolseley have cleverly positioned the 18-22 between the Ford Cortina and Ford Granada in terms of size and luxury.
The 18-22 is a little smaller than a Vauxhall Victor FE too – and somewhat bigger than a Viva so one can see that the Wolseley is positioned so as to attract customers willing to pay a little more for quality and luxury and who are prepared to sacrifice a little exterior length. On the inside, the plush Wolseley punches above its weight: de luxe velour upholstery and wood-effect trim combine to create an ambience of remarkable opulence, far beyond the austerity of BMW’s drab and boxy 520 (dread car!).
Wolseley customers will appreciate details such as the well-placed and commodious ashtray, smart radio (standard!) and comfortable, broad seats which more than outdo the hard furnishings of Mercedes’ cars. So, in terms of its static characteristics, the 18-22 more than upholds the traditions of the venerable Adderley marque.
Readers might be wondering about the name: it pays respect to Wolseley’s naming convention by consisting of two two-digit numbers. The 18 refers to the 1800 cc engines available and the 22 refers to the 2200 cc engines available though any 18-22 may have either a 1800 or a 2200 engine under the stylish bonnet. The 2200 is a six cylinder engine, of course. And the 1800 is a modern push-rod four, for drivers keener on economy than on performance. Both cars are available with a four-speed manual but a Borg-Warner automatic is planned for October. I tested the six-cylinder manual.
I took the Wolseley on a touring route starting in West Butterwick (near Scunthorpe), on to Hatfield, north to Rawcliffe Bridge, to Goole, Goole Fields and Swinefleet by the mighty Humber estuary and then up the Trent back to West Butterwirk. It is a lovely touring route, by the way with many opportunities for sampling local food and beers. The Half Moon afforded a good place to stop after a long morning’s driving and their ales make up with quality what they lack in range (not unlike Wolseley, one might say, but a Wolseley version of the Allegro is planned) .
Broadly, the 18-22 is a smooth and comfortable car, exceeding Citroen’s wallowy standards by a country mile and also offering a choice of a six where the French make do with a four. There is a touch of understeer at higher cornering speeds – a draw with the Citroen.
Wolseley’s 18-22 has a gearbox which could do with some revision though the flexibility of the four and six mean drivers won’t need to stir the ‘box too much. The fuel consumption is acceptable too – the shortness of the road-test meant I was not able to check up on Wolseley’s figures. Wolseley claims 28 mpg and I would not be moved to disagree.
All in all, the 18-22 is a remarkable car: both modern and traditional and very much the car to light the way for Wolseley’s resurgence.