Cobh Rambler: Wolseley 16/60

A properly old car is a rare sight in Ireland these days.

All exterior images: the author

It has been about five months since my partner and I moved from Suffolk, England, to the town of Cobh on the south coast of Ireland. While Cobh is only a few miles(1) to the east of Cork city, it retains very much its own identity thanks to its location on Great Island, which is linked to the mainland by just a single road and rail line (and a ferry) . It is a delightful place and we are very much enjoying our new home and surroundings.

For me, our relocation marked a return to my native country after almost forty years living in the UK. While away, I observed the extraordinary changes in Ireland, both economic and social, and have taken great pride in the advances the country has made, in particular its recovery since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, when the country was brought low by the grossly irresponsible behaviour of a small number of bankers and property speculators. After a tough few years, Ireland resumed its impressive growth and is once again a prosperous and successful country.

Although not immune to ‘first-world’ problems, it is an immeasurably better place than the country I left in the early 1980s, a time when low levels of economic growth and high taxation made life difficult even for those on decent earnings. A consequence of this was that new cars were an expensive luxury and many ‘old bangers’ were kept going more or less indefinitely, held together by a mixture of ingenuity, string, luck and prayer, facilitated by the lack of any mandatory roadworthiness test regime(2).

The roads of present-day Ireland are filled mainly with smart, modern vehicles. Toyota is the top-selling marque, with a total of 16,051(3) sales in 2022. Hyundai was runner-up with 12,709 sales, but its Tuscon crossover(4) was Ireland’s best-selling vehicle in 2022, its 6,432 units accounting for more than half the marque’s total sales. Ford, once the market leader in Ireland, languishes in sixth place, its sales falling a precarious 32% year-on-year to just 5,072 units in 2022.

Properly old cars are a rarity on Irish roads these days, so I was surprised and delighted to spot the subject of today’s piece in town recently. It is a Wolseley 16/60, the genteel upmarket cousin of BMC’s (overly) long-serving ‘Farina’(5) saloons, sold between 1959 and 1971.

The 16/60 was launched in 1961, replacing the 15/60 with a modest increase in the B-series’ engine capacity from 1,489cc to 1,622cc. To improve stability, front and rear tracks were widened by 2″ (51mm) and the wheelbase was lengthened by 1″ (25mm) to 100″ (2,540mm). Externally, the only noticeable change was the elimination of the 15/60’s prominent tail-fins in favour of a horizontal top line to the rear wings.

The Farina models represented BMC badge-engineering at its absurd zenith. They were offered as the Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford, MG Magnette, Riley 4/68 and the Wolseley 15/60. Each featured its own unique front-end styling, but there was precious little else to distinguish one from another. The Wolseley was actually the first to be unveiled, in late December 1958, with the others following at monthly intervals into 1959 in Austin, MG, Morris and Riley order.

The Austin was nominally the entry-level variant, with the Morris a micro-step above in the hierarchy, the price difference between them being less than a tenner. The MG and Wolseley were respectively the ‘sporting’ and ‘luxury’ variants, with the Riley sitting uneasily somewhere between them, but more expensive than either. In truth, all these variants existed merely to give the supposedly fiercely tribal individual marque dealerships metal to sell. BMC had been formed in 1952 but, after almost a decade, the group had made little progress in addressing the internecine rivalries that would continue to hinder its progress for years to come.

Following the 1961 facelift, all Farina variants shared the same enlarged four-cylinder engine, with a bore of 76.2mm and stroke of 88.9mm, and an 8.3 to one compression ratio. The MG and Riley’s sporting credentials were burnished by virtue of twin SU H4 carburettors in place of the single HS2 unit fitted to the others. This lifted the power output from 61 to a heady 68bhp.

In its April 1964 issue, Small Car(6) magazine published the findings of possibly its most pointless Giant Test ever, where it pitched the five Farina saloon variants against each other. Much of the ‘test’ was concerned with aesthetic details and the reviewer preferred the simpler lines of the Austin and Morris variants “because they don’t suffer from chromium indigestion or fin flatulence.”


Their next favourite was the Wolseley because its “traditionally vertical grille (with the illuminated badge which reads Wolseley but spells ‘police’ to most of us) is slightly less ugly than the other two fancy ones.” However, the reviewer took exception to the “two unnecessary supplementary horizontal slots on either side of the grille” and was especially offended by “those ghastly backward slanting chrome beading strips running from headlamps to wheel-arches” which “belong to the school of contemporary American dodgem art at its worst and are enough to make an aesthetically-minded purchase prospect turn away in horror.” Stinging criticism indeed, but the Magnette fared even worse, with “that travesty of the old MG radiator shape which comes close to winning a prize in our view for being even uglier than the Wolseley.”

Perhaps time is a great healer, but I actually found the Wolseley rather charming. This particular example was not in pampered ‘concours’ condition but was nevertheless remarkably smart, with no obvious corrosion and consistent maroon paintwork. Its chrome trim was all present and correct with little sign of deterioration. Discretion prevented me from peering too closely inside but the walnut dashboard and leather(ette?) seats appeared to be in respectable shape. It is clearly still in service as an everyday driver and I had previously spotted it elsewhere on the island.

In its prime, the Wolseley would have had a top speed of 81mph (131km/h) and a 0 to 60mph (97km/h) time of 24 seconds. Overall fuel consumption was around 25.2mpg (11.21 l/100km). Quite apart from the Wolseley’s charm, one can reasonably argue that it represents motoring at its most sustainable. The energy and materials used in its manufacture some sixty years ago continue to be amortized over its very long service life. That must go a long way to countering its relative fuel-inefficiency compared to its present day equivalent. In any event, I was very happy to see it and look forward to speaking to its owner and finding out more about it if the opportunity presents itself.

Author’s note: The title of this piece (courtesy of DTW’s editor, Eóin Doyle) is a reference to our local association football club, Cobh Ramblers F.C. The club’s most famous alumnus is Roy Keane, who went on to play for Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland national team.

(1) I really must get into the habit of saying kilometres, now that we’re very much back in the EU.

(2) Vehicles between four and ten years’ old now need to pass a mandatory NCT biannual roadworthiness test, which becomes annual when the vehicle is over ten years old.

(3) Sales data from

(4) Ironically, Irish people often refer to crossover and SUV-type vehicles as ‘Jeeps’ despite that marque having a negligible presence in the market, selling only 41 vehicles here in 2022.

(5) Named after Battista Farina, the Italian carrozzeria who designed it for BMC.

(6) The forerunner to Car Magazine.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

63 thoughts on “Cobh Rambler: Wolseley 16/60”

  1. I wonder does the Wolseley radiator badge still illuminate on that example? There were quite a few Farinas around in daily use in late seventies, and I remember being fascinated with that detail as a kid… I think it was only the Wolseley which ran to such decadence, though!

  2. And thanks for enlightening me, Daniel – I didn’t actually realise that using “Jeep” as a generic catch-all for 4×4 utility vehicles was a specifically Irish thing! Maybe it’s because there never were many actual Jeeps here…

    1. Oh yeah, it’s true. Up here in the north we even refer to the PSNI’s Land Rovers as ‘Peeler Jeeps’.

    2. Not so… Here in Portugal it’s also pretty common, although newer generations are transitioning to SUV-speak.

    3. It is not, Michael.

      Around here, we still do the same, after decades trying to educate ourselves. We spell it Jipe.

      But how can we? As, as Jamie kitman once wrote, ‘they are neither sporty nor useful, although they are vehicles’

  3. That April 1964 “Small Car” article sounds proto-DTW. I agree with at least part of their conclusion – the honest and modestly adorned 1961 Oxford VI is as close as it gets to an English Peugeot 404.

    I only wish BMC had applied the same thoroughness to their cars’ design and development as the people in Sochaux, and replaced the whole lot with something decent and rear wheel drive by 1968 at the latest.

    1. Robertas Parazitas

      Beyond the Peugeot 504 (and maybe the 1968 3rd gen Nissan Skyline), what else would have been a suitable rear-wheel drive template for BMC to follow?

    2. Bob – “Beyond the Peugeot 504 (and maybe the 1968 3rd gen Nissan Skyline), what else would have been a suitable rear-wheel drive template for BMC to follow?”

      How about the West Midlands’ own 1963 Triumph 2000? It matched the Oxford and Cambridge’s external dimensions almost exactly, had a useful 150mm more wheelbase, and was a few kilos lighter than the BMC cars – and 55kg lighter than the ADO17 1800!

      The Triumph was intended to be sold with 1.6 and 2 litre capacities, but the smaller engine ended up in the Vitesse as Standard-Triumph had no problem selling every 2000 they had the capacity to make.

      To bring further shame on BMC, there was a spate of new progressively-engineered rwd medium/large saloons around 1966-67: Fiat 125, Volvo 144, Rekord C, Victor FD. By that time the ADO17 1800 had been in production for nearly two years, intended to be an Oxford and Cambridge replacement, but ending up as a big and heavy car that was too compact for its own good.

      BMC’s money might have been best spent on a rapid re-work of the 1800 to make it more imposing – that’s exactly what Triumph did with the 2000 / 2.5PI for October 1969. The Antipodes-only Austin X6, applying similar thinking, arrived over a year later.

      And while I’m playing armchair product planner, BMC should really have had the courage of their convictions and dropped the entire Farina medium-sized range no later than March 1967, when the Wolseley 18/85 completed the ADO17 set. This would be predicated on an A and B series engined Maxi arriving around that time – perfectly feasible if Harriman hadn’t insisted on the all-new E-series engine and associated troublesome transmission.

      Instead, owing to Harriman’s utter imbecility and Issigonis’ obduracy, Austin-Morris were still producing forties and fifties relics in the first years of the 1970s.

    3. Robertas Parazitas

      Broadly agree. Also with the Maxi or ADO17 itself being Maxi-sized (if not a shade smaller) at the start, which in theory would have led BMC to notice a similar ADO17/X6-sized void to be filled as was the case in real-life with Maxi filling the void between ADO16 and ADO17. Especially given the wide chasm between the Maxi-sized ADO17 and the 3-litre white elephant, if the latter is still under development.

      It is only the specifics am not sure about, the suspension choice for the rear-wheel drive cars based on what BMC investigated appears to boil down to the alternative IRS looked at for the MGB or sticking with Hydrolastic via the 3-litre and EX234 prototype. Commonality with the MGB or B replacement should have been important, could a case have been made for a smaller rear-wheel drive saloon model like the Skyline derived 1968 Laurel.

      That is on the assumption they did not already have a suitable conventional suspension arrangement to work with for the saloon via the Nuffield mechanicals, which could be carried over or been updated along similar lines as the 125 that underneath carried over quite a bit from the 1300/1500 (the Arrow and Marina being vaguely similar in that respect).

      As for the existing ADO17 1800 particularly the X6, if sticking with FWD there was potential for it to receive an end-on gearbox as was planned for ADO16 at one time early in development before a change in circumstances led to both hastily using the Mini’s gearbox arrangement. OTOH the original ADO17 prototype was itself rear-wheel drive.

    4. Bob, again, in Australia, after looking at how the market was going, some engineers made a wide body Farina Freeway by adding 5 inches (125mm)down the middle. This brought the width of the car up to wider than the Holden, and the same as the new Ford Falcon. Because there was no suitable longer rear axle available, a new independent rear suspension was developed using trailing arms and torsion bars. The after hours project incensed management and they ordered the car destroyed. Another ‘what if’ toadd to the BMC story.

    5. Fascinating, and unknown to me at least. Thanks for sharing, David.

    6. David Walker

      Thanks for the link, YDR9’s IRS being salvaged from an earlier Morris Major II prototype also caught my eye.

      A better picture is starting to emerge as to what was in BMC’s cupboard regarding its IRS options and thus within their ability to produce for the rear-wheel drive cars.

      Palmer via Riley – Coil Springs (were Vauxhall influenced by Palmer when developing the FD and FE?)
      BMC A – Trailing Arms and Torsion Bars
      Moulton – Hydrolastic
      MG – Watts or Panhard

    7. Keeping Morris RWD with MG and Wolseley and letting Austin do FWD appears stronger now, as an option. The RWD platform would have lived on, being developed over time. Just like Toyota’s Crown, Nissan’s Cedric, Mercedes Benz, and GMOpel. With the ‘B’ series transforming along evolutionary lines, through ‘O’, ‘M’ and ‘T’ series there would have been an accompanying inline six and a platform to use it. One with an internationally required IRS.
      Yet another series of British motor industry ‘what-ifs’. From the largest motor industry in the world, post WW2, and the envy of all, to today, where the largest UK owned car company is, what?, Ariel?, Caterham?, Noble?

    8. In an armchair role would ideally reduce portfolio down to Austin, MG and possibly Vanden Plas prior to the latter being reduced to a term level upon taking over Rover. There might be some short-term value in retaining Morris a bit longer to prevent traditional owners superstitious of FWD from going elsewhere, while gradually being side-lined in favour of Austin as in some respects the embracing of FWD (especially those featuring hatchbacks) establishes new niches at a time when the lines between segments were not quite so clear cut during the 1960s.

      Size wise ADO17 as intended would be of approximately similar dimensions as the Simca 1100 and Maxi or straddling between the than ill-defined C and D segments, which suggests there was room for a duo or even a trio of rear-wheel drive saloons to slot above without the smallest rear-wheel drive saloon overlapping with the Simca 1100/Maxi-sized ADO17.

  4. Well done for finding anything original to say about these cars. There is very little information out there about them compared with some vehicles. I wouldn’t want one but I love the fact they existed. The various brands could be assimilated with trim level such as Ford’s L’ GL etc. Austin basic, Morris L, etc clearly Riley was meant to be the top of the tree with the most luxury and more powerful engine, shared with the MG. I too left Suffolk this year. Best wishes in your new home.

    1. The Australian cars, of course, came available with the ‘Bluestreak’ six, a ‘B’ series four with another two cylinders. The Australian-only 146 cubic inch/2.4 litre six-cylinder engine produced 80bhp/60kw.In typical BMC form, being gifted a six cylinder version of the ‘B’ series four didn’t mean they would use it, so they didn’t. It weighed less than 50 lbs more than the four and all the ‘B’ series tuning stuff applied, but it had ‘Not invented here’ against it. An otherwise unmodified MGB was fitted with one and was very fast but was vetoed for production so that the 240 lbs (!) heavier ‘C’ series could be shoehorned in to make the MGC. This quickly understeered into market failure despite the complete redesign of the suspension which wouldn’t have been needed with the Bluestreak.
      How would a Wolseley 24-80 have been received in Britain and Europe?×4096

    2. The Blue Streak Six in the Farina B based Freeway and 24/80 brings to mind the attempt at an experimental C-Series 6-cylinder Magnette, imagine a more capable Magnette or even an Oxford/Magnette-derived Farina B equipped with the lighter Blue Streak Six.

      One with the ability to make the heavy C-Series surplus to requirements by featuring limited-run Twin-Cam, followed later by more mass production OHC and bigger displacement developments before the tooling was completely clapped-out.

    3. The Blue Streak six in the Freeway and 24/80 only developed 80bhp, compared with 61 for the single carburettor 1622cc B-series, and 68 with twin carburettors. This suggests a soft tune, as was the Australian way at the time. Unfortunately for BMC-A, comparably-priced Holdens, Fords, and Chryslers had far larger engine capacities, at least as options in the case of the first two.

      As far as suitability for the UK goes, if there was a call for more power, an easier solution would have been to emulate the Riley Riviera and Silhouette conversions produced by Wessex Motors of Salisbury. The 4/68-based Riviera used an MGA engine, the later 4/72-based Silhouette got its replacement 1.8 litre engine from the MGB. Both conversions were very thorough, with braking and suspension upgrades, and were reasonably priced given the increased performance and the extent of work involved. And yet the take-up was hardly worth the effort; 15-20 Rivieras and just three Silhouettes.

      This suggests that those who sought performance went elsewhere – the mid-size Farinas were not seen as “drivers cars” and were probably never intended to be.

      As I write this, I have a speculative mental notion of a Freeway-based Vanden Plas Princess 2½ litre. I’m not aware of any attempt at Vanden Plas-ification of the Farina Cambridge, even with the four-cylinder engine. Perhaps the Vanden Plas brand[1] was too precious to Lord and Harriman, its creators, to be sullied by such an incorrigibly mediocre car.

      [1] As distinct from the long-established coachbuilding business.

    4. Robertas, “precious”? I am just astounded by how little regard Lord’s BMC had for any of the brands’ legacies, especially in the case of Riley.

      I don’t see how the Austin Westminster based Princess, other than merely avoiding overtly tasteless crassness, illustrates a fundamentally different approach to Vanden Plas.

    5. gooddog – The Vanden Plas brand was instigated in 1960 with the Princess 3 litre and the re-branding of the 7/8 seat Princess limousine. Any Kingsbury built or trimmed cars previously had been branded as ‘Austin’ or ‘Princess’. It reads as a clear rejection by BMC’s Austin-centric management of Wolseley and Riley – both Nuffield nameplates – as range topping premium brands to compete with Rover, Humber, and the lower-end Jaguars and Daimlers.

      It’s perhaps comparable to DS or Cupra, introducing a new brand with a link to earlier heritage, and it worked rather effectively at first as the Vanden Plas 3 Litres sold around half the number Wolseley achieved with the 6/99 and 6/110, despite much higher prices. The Princess 1100 was a masterstroke, but it succeeded because the base car really was good enough to carry off the ‘compact luxury’ image.

      I mentioned George Harriman. He seems to have been at least complicit in the elevation of Vanden Plas from a builder of cars for mayors and mourners, to BMC’s premium, yet badge-engineered marque. Harriman instigated development of the disastrous Princess 4 Litre, a car he probably thought Len Lord would like. In the end Lord – nearing the end of his life, and with no executive authority – had to tell Harriman to cease production forthwith before the huge quantity of unsold and broken down 4 Litre Rs being stored at an aerodrome near Aylesbury became public knowledge.

      With the 4 litre R disaster shortly followed by the formation of British Leyland, it’s a wonder that the Vanden Plas name continued, serving a number of different purposes, for so many years thereafter.

    6. Robertas, when the Blue Streak was being developed, the old-style Holden engine was producing only 75bhp, so 80 would have seemed quite adequate to the BMC engineers. A soft tune that was smooth-running but torquey was a good fit for the early sixties. Unfortunately the target moved; the 1948-vintage Holden six was about to be replaced by a new short-stroke design with 100bhp as the base offering – this at a time when the new Chrysler Valiant (in the same market segment) produced 145bhp! Combined with the by-then-dated Farina styling, the Austin Freeway and Wolseley 24/80 never really had much impact; a nice Fifties car in the Sixties. If only the Blue Streak had appeared five years earlier!

    7. Thanks Robertas, your explanation helps fill in some important missing gaps in my understanding, I went to Wikipedia to learn more but unfortunately remain confused because mentions the failed Jaguar Mark X as a “threat”, but neglects to mention the Rover P6 3500 V8, which I suspect is where the sales actually went. But Rover lost its independence in 1967, so who actually made a profit in the British executive car segment during the 1960s… Mercedes? Opel?

    8. gooddog, I think the VdP Princess and Mark X cost twice as much (£2k sticker price) as ‘ordinary’ executive cars like large Vauxhalls (Crestas) and Fords (Zephyrs), which cost £900 in the mid-‘60s. A Jaguar Mark 2 cost about £1,300 in comparison. Smaller Jaguars, and Rovers and Triumphs would have dominated the market above Vauxhalls and Fords.

      I’d classify a Mark X or VdP Princess as midway between mass-produced executive cars and Rolls-Royces. Its an odd (and small) market niche.

    9. Charles – some prices from June 1964:

      Vanden Plas Princess 4 Litre R: £1995
      Austin Westminster: £995
      Wolseley 6/110: £1180

      Daimler 2 1/2 Litre saloon: £1647
      Ford Zodiac Mk.III: £1029
      Jaguar Mk.2 2.4: £1389
      Jaguar Mk.X 3.8: £2067
      Humber Super Snipe: £1512
      Humber Imperial: £1796
      Rover 3 Litre Saloon: £1708
      Vauxhall Cresta: £974
      Mercedes Benz 220b: £1995
      Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud 3: £5632

      And from the same month:

      Austin Cambridge: £737
      Morris Oxford: £747
      MG Magnette: £900
      Riley 4/72: £921
      Wolseley 16/60: £853

      The Austin 1800 cost £96 more than the £737 A60 Cambridge saloon. Worth it, but there was the techno-fear factor, exacerbated by well-publicised ‘teething troubles’.

  5. Great article Daniel, thank you! My favourite subject; BMC and its many marquees. I could talk forever about them!

    That does look like a charming car though, very likeable. It’s a contemporary of the original Cortina isn’t it?

    Have to laugh too at the 5 marques doing the work of 3 (at best).

  6. Good morning all and thank you for your comments. Here are the five different front-end treatments, image from the Giant Test:

    1. Thanks for sharing! I didn’t fully realise the actual difference in the Wolseley’s and the Riley’s until seeing them together there. Definitely prefer the Wolseley.

      Of the top two, which one’s the Morris and which one’s the Austin?

      Now for the inevitable ‘what I’d have done is’…3 brands only, Austin, MG and Vanden Plas. And I say that as someone who prefers Morris over Austin. Maybe even just Austin and MG, with Vanden Plas as the top trim level on the Austins.

      Looking at those front ends, I think it you took the Wolseley’s, replaced its grill with an MG one while retaining that narrow upright shape, and ditched those vents on the sides of the grill for the flat surface, you’d have a decent looking motor for the day. If I have time I might even photoshop something up.

    2. Hi JCC. Austin, then Morris, if I recall correctly. Oddly, I previously thought the hierarchy had Morris at the bottom of the BMC range, but I’ve no idea why I thought so.

    3. Without seeing the five together without that, I would not have thought the MG, Wolseley and Riley all had distinct bonnets and grille surround panels. Mind you, the Wolseley was the only ‘fancy Farina’ I saw as a kid; Jim’s parents had a 24/80 (a 16/60 with the Blue Streak B-series six).

    4. Please can we just have the 404? This is doing my head in! Sedan, 7-seater estate, pick-up, coupe, convertible – one model designation and numerous great body types must be better that one body, mediocre mechanicals with five labels!

  7. I never realised that they widened the tracks when they face-lifted the Farinas. Last time I saw one on the road I was struck by how narrow it was. A pity you didn’t show the registration, which would have told us if it was an Irish car or a classic import from the UK, as many of these old-timers are.

    1. Hi Mervyn. It was on a ‘ZV’ plate, so I think that makes it an import?

    2. Yes, these were only issued to imported cars which already qualified as classics. Most original Irish Farinas were parked up in fields or orchards and left to rust away in the 80s .

    3. BMC didn’t just widen the tracks, they also stretched the wheelbases of all the Farina cars in 1961 and gave them much-needed power increases.

      A40. October 58. Mk.II 1961: +3bhp. Wheelbase + 90mm.
      A55. March 1959. A60 1961 : +6bhp. Wheelbase + 27mm.
      A99. 1959. A110 1961: +18bhp. Wheelbase + 51mm.

      To over-simplify somewhat, all three rwd Farina cars were developed with rather too much haste, carrying as many non-visible parts as possible from the A35 and pre-Farina A55 Cambridge and A95/A105 Westminster. The legacy fl0orpan pressings compromised interior space, so the platforms were substantially re-worked after the event to realise the potential of the longer and wider Farina superstructure.

      The rework may seem like muddled thinking, but Len Lord was a man in a hurry, and there was an awful lot going on at BMC in the late fifties and early sixties.

    4. That was the problem with these cars, they were based on the pre-Farina A55 Cambridge, rather than the superior pre-Farina Morris Oxford. Essentially, Len Lord was the problem.

    5. Mervyn – The Magnette only got the rev-counter post-1961. The first Farina MGs got a particularly nasty binnacle almost certainly cobbled together to use up left over Magnette ZB instruments – just awful compared with the stylish Gerald Palmer original:

      The Riley’s was much better; the driver could easily imagine they were behind the wheel of an Alvis or Bristol:

      After 1961 the MG got a cheapened version of the Riley’s dashboard, without the timber surrounding the instruments.

    6. I have a feeling – can’t find anything to confirm it – that the round instrument Magnette dashboard came later than the 1961 Mk.IV revision.

      Possibly rationalisation for parts supply reasons?

    7. ‘Len Lord was the problem’ – so true, Mervyn. The more I read of BMC history, the more I wonder why on earth the man was knighted, let alone raised to the peerage. Might have been different if I’d been advising Her Majesty – dream on! 🙂
      It must have been quite expensive to rework those inner panels once production has started. Yet good on them for doing it, making the best of a bad start.
      IIRC the pre-Farina Cambridge was the second unitary Austin after the A30, so the Longbridge engineers would have been feeling their way to a certain extent. The platform would probably have been overbuilt for the size of the car – in fact much the same weight as the Oxford II which was 9″ longer and 4″ wider than the A50. I remember Dad’s Oxford II always felt a bigger car than the A50. Morris had more experience with unitary shells, but of course Lord would never have countenanced using the Oxford platform. Pity. I wonder if history would regard these differently if they’d been built with the traditional Morris torsion bar/rack and pinion front end?

  8. I think tests such as the one ‘Small Car’ carried out are actually useful in determining exactly what the differences are between such similar cars, and whether the more expensive ones are worth the extra outlay. A similar exercise involving, say, Fabia, Ibiza, Polo and A1 could be illuminating.

    1. As a prospective owner back in the day (albeit under-age and under-funded) you had to buy the MG or Riley versions in order to get the twin SUs and the rev-counter.

    2. Mervyn – The Magnette only got the rev-counter post-1961. The first Farina MGs got a particularly nasty binnacle almost certainly cobbled together to use up left over Magnette ZB instruments – just awful compared with the stylish Gerald Palmer original:

      The Riley’s was much better; the driver could easily imagine they were behind the wheel of an Alvis or Bristol:

      After 1961 the MG got a cheapened version of the Riley’s dashboard, without the timber surrounding the instruments.

  9. Some time in the mid 1990s Car magazine ran a feature on affordable older saloons/bangers. Even then the Farina cars looked dated beyond charming and so rather unappetising. This is even more true today. In contrast, 60s Alfas and Citroens, for example, still have enough underlying merit to justify the argy-agro required to keep them mobile. It´s nice to see these cars now and again but they are for me at least, museum pieces and not something one might really wish to get embroiled with. And horse-hair/straw upholstery stuffing smells vile. You can smell it by sniffling around the window apertures, standing outside the car. It has a biscuity, damp quality and no continental cars had it. What was it? Old thatching material?

  10. Oh dear, another reminder that time passes ever faster. It seems only yesterday that these faintly depressing beasts were ubiquitous on the roads of GB, outnumbering everything else. The vast majority were Oxfords & Cambridges, the latter particularly popular with travelling salesmen on account of the vast boots in which they could store their wares. They were remarkably reliable, too, good for 100,000 miles before needing a de-coke (and how many DTW followers know what one of those is?!)

    But it doesn’t get away from the fact that they represented BMC at it’s most introspective. The Riley version was the rarest – no Riley aficionado would be seen dead in one and the MG cognoscenti were similarly dismissive of the Magnette. The Wolseley had some appeal to those who still drove around wearing a trilby and sucking on a pipe. Most ended up being destroyed in banger racing (as several survivors still do) so there is a certain piquancy in the sight now of a rare daily user. And top marks to the owner(s) who have managed to ensure that the impact on the planet of this particular plundering of its resources has been not far short of negligible. Let’s hope Daniel manages to unearth the story in due course…..

  11. Gosh, if the Small Car reviewer had mentioned ash trays or a boot full o’ booze, i could’ve been persuaded this was from A Vicar Esq. indeed, lets hope Daniel can find the owner to reveal his story

  12. The chromium indigestion and tail-fin flatulence of the BMC Farinas, on top of the inferior first A55 Cambridge underpinnings and rebadges were taken together quite a downgrade from the pre-Farina Oxfords and Palmer MG/Wolseleys.

    Had they received the comparatively better Nuffield sourced underpinnings and the BMC range been pruned back to about 2 or so marques, was there enough room to better distinguish one model from the other or have one/both adopt a sleeker ideally finless Pininfarina theme (Magnette ZB equivalent of the S-Type Jaguar 420)?

    1. “Chromium indigestion and tail fin flatulence”- my Dad would have liked that! He didn’t like the American-inspired styling excesses of the late fifties, so the Farina cars were out for him anyway. And as a Morris driver since 1949 or so, he also didn’t like the Austin engineering of the Farina cars. I remember him saying “If I wanted a b—– Austin I’d have bought a b—– Austin.” He kept his Series II Oxford until 1963, replacing it with a Ford Falcon – no fins, but as it turned out a very weak front end.

  13. Thanks Daniel, that’s a nice find. Hailing from the Netherlands, we never saw many if any Farinas. Plenty of Peugeots though, so maybe I’ve confused a few. The way BMC never managed to quell the civil war between its dealer networks keeps baffling me. At some point, people must realise that they’re part of the same organisation, mustn’t they?

    Ford’s decline makes for pretty stark reading as well. As Richard Herriott pointed out a few days back, Ford essentially seemed to give up on its brand identity in its designs a good decade ago. The “new” car categories (MPVs, then SUVs) never seemed to sit entirely nicely with them somehow. Ford didn’t have its Peugeot 3008 (second gen) moment, although its efforts weren’t as awkward as the first 3008. Ford’s SUVs, though serviceable enough, (to me at least) seem to lack the “spark” that various generations of Fiesta, Escort/Focus and Mondeo did (occasionally) have.

    In the Netherlands (at least when I was growing up) “Jeep” was (is?) used for anything with off road pretensions. Not sure how it is now with crossovers and SUVs, though.

    1. Hello Tom! As an Australian I also find the ‘dealer war’ situation baffling. In my big country it seemed to settle down and they all became BMC dealers. I guess it’s one of those things you had to be there in Britain at the time to understand. But then so much of history is like that.
      I guess you would need a very wise manager to sort out combining two rival teams into one homogeneous one. Instead they seem to have had a one-eyed man with an axe to grind; something of an axe-murderer to all things Morris, one might almost say….
      With leadership like that, no wonder they never seemed to settle down.

    2. I know the rivalry seems odd, but Austin and Morris (and associated companies) were major rivals up to the merger. Even leaving aside customer loyalties, each dealer would have had legal agreements with BMC, so renegotiating those would have taken a vast amount of time and resources. In light of that, producing some different badges must have seemed a simple option. Also, I don’t think producing some badge-engineered cars is a bad way of integrating the networks.

      By the way, I hadn’t realised it, but BMC is still going. They set up a Turkish arm in 1964 and it continues to produce an impressive range of buses, trucks and military vehicles.

  14. Very enjoyable article bringing back many memories. My father had a pale blue Austin A60. Passed my driving test in it and did my courting in it when he would reluctantly lend it to me age 17. That split bench seat in the front was a godsend.

  15. I randomly came across this site, funnily enough I know the owner of this car and it is indeed his daily driver. I remember when he got it and he’s out a savage amount of time and effort to get it to that standard. He has quite the collection of cars, all needing huge amounts of work mind you

    1. Simon: Thanks for your comment and for the background info. Old cars can become something of an affliction. Still, there are worse things to develop a habit over…

    2. Good morning, Simon, and welcome to Driven To Write! I think one of those cars for restoration might be a ‘Ponton’ Mercedes-Benz 180, which would be a fantastic project.

  16. So true Eoin, certainly in thís mans case lol. That’s correct Daniel, that’s the next one he hopes to save , there’s also a Jaguar XK 150, incredibly rare SS Jaguar to name a few of the more prestige ones. Interestingly as ye mentioned above he has a Morris Oxford and a what I think is a Morris 10 too

    1. Hi Simon. That all sounds most interesting. If I may, I’ll follow up with you by e-mail.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: