Resembling an invalid chair,
the second car built by the Wolseley factory was a remarkable
design. Apparently very simple, the Wolseley Autocar No. 1
featured independent rear suspension and back to back seating for
two adults - however none were sold at the £110 asking price due
to potential customers preferring four seaters.
In the same year the
company's founder Wolseley himself passed away, Wolseley cars
built it's first Austin designed 4 seater. The car featured a
single horizontal cylinder, wrap around radiator tubes and a chain
drive to the rear axle. This car was later entered in the spring
1900 Thousand Miles Trial winning its class, after which replicas
were offered to the public at £270, the first production Wolseleys.
The next major development
came in 1901 when Vickers Engineering and Hiram Maxim purchased
the motor-manufacturing side of Wolseley for £12,400 and
capitalised it as a new company.
The Wolseley Tool and Motor
Car Company Ltd. Herbert Austin was given a financial stake in the
new company in return for his patent rights, and he stayed on as
The Wolseley Tool and Motor
Car Company Ltd was active in motor racing and profitable until
1903 when production reached 800 cars per year.
After this point five years
were to pass before the company returned to profit, even with the
patronage of Queen Alexandra.
Herbert Austin finally left
Wolseley in 1905 to found his own company, AUSTIN and the
Directors appointed J.D. Siddeley (Later of Armstrong-Siddeley) as
Siddeley's first move was to
purge the old horizontal engine designs of Austin along with the
expensive racing programme.
This left only the more
modern Siddeley designs, and from then on Wolseley motor cars were
sold as Wolseley-Siddeleys.
In 1909 Siddeley left
Wolseley for Deasy, and late in 1911 the Siddeley name was dropped
to avoid confusion with Siddeley-Deasy (Later Armstrong-Siddeley).
The period saw some
interesting products from Wolseley, including in 1910 motor
sleighs for the Ill fated Scott Antarctic expedition and the
Deutsche Antarktische Expedition.
1912 saw what was
probably the most unusual vehicle ever, the two wheeled Gyrocar
sponsored by the Russian Count Peter Schilovski.
Along with these oddities,
Wolseley produced cars, double decker buses, taxi cabs, lorries
and power boat engines.
By 1913, Wolseley was
one of the largest makers in the UK, with 5500 workers producing
nearly 5000 vehicles per year.
In 1914 shortly before
the First World War the company officially became Wolseley Motors
Wolseley spent the great war
years making mainly aero engines complete planes and Aeroparts
There was also a small number of trucks, and large numbers of Arms
After the armistice, Wolseley
was left with 13,000 workers and a potential output of 20,000 cars
per year. £1.7 Million of stock was issued to finance the
re-equipping of the factory for peacetime production and sales
offices were opened in many parts of the world.
Unfortunately the post war
demand for the expensive Wolseleys did not match expectations,
even though production of 12,000 cars made Wolseley the biggest
Wolseley struggled on until
1925 suffering from enormous annual interest charges of £140,000
and a public who preferred the cheap Morris Cowley and Ford Model
In 1926 the receivers
disclosed the company was bankrupt to the tune of £2 million, one
of the most spectacular failures in the early history of the motor
William Morris purchased the
ailing company for £730,000 early in 1927, beating off competition
from great rival Herbert Austin and General Motors.
A strong motivation for the
purchase being the cylinder OHC engine and the extensive engine
experience of the Wolseley engineers needed to expand the Morris
range up market. This 6 cylinder engine spawned 4,6 and 8 cylinder
variants, and the was the basis of the later OHC MG engines.
However, the Wolseley company was still allowed a degree of
autonomy, and continued to produce unique Wolseley vehicles while
drawing on the expertise of the Morris in making pressed steel
1930 saw introduction
of the famous Wolseley Hornet
1932 saw the
introduction of the illuminated radiator badge that was to be the
hallmark of the marque until the end of production in 1975.
After the end of war
hostilities, the first Wolseley cars off the production line were
of pre-war designs. The 10hp, Series III, and one new model - the
Wolseley 8 which was an upmarket version of the Morris Series E.
The Wolseley 8 ushered in the
final loss of Wolseley's autonomy, where new Wolseleys were to be
modern Nuffield body designs with traditional Wolseley front ends
The new Wolseley 4/50 and
6/80 of 1948 were both of monocoque construction and based
essentially on a scaled up Morris Oxford MO. The Wolseley 4/50 and
6/80 featured new OHC 4 and 6 cylinder engines respectively -
shared only with the Morris Six variant. However post war
austerity meant the plush pre war Wolseley interiors were a thing
of the past.
Production began at Ward End
in October 1948 with 99 4/50s, 19 6/80s and 5 Morris Sixes being
built before January 1949 when production was shifted to the
Nuffield works in Cowely.
1952. saw the
introduction of the 4/44, a sleek Gerald Palmer designed vehicle
saw a return to the more sumptuous Wolseley interiors of the past.
The new 4/44 was the last to use the 1250cc XP Nuffield Engine (as
in the MG TD) This was a result of the April 1952 merger of
Morris and rivals Austin into the British Motor Corporation and
the rationalisation on the use of the Austin engines for all new
1954 introduced the
new Gerald Palmer designed 6/90 prestige model, a replacement for
the 6/80. The 6/90 is considered to be the final Nuffield Wolseley,
being unrelated to any Austin, although it shared body styling
with it's Nuffield stablemate the Riley Pathfinder. The 6/90 was
also the first car to feature the new 2639cc BMC C series engine.
In 1956 the last of
the Wolseley/Nuffield powered vehicles rolled off the production
line, with the 4/44 being replaced by the outwardly similar but B
series powered 15/50.
April 1957 saw the
introduction of the Wolseley 1500 powered by the B series engine.
Other than the 1500 the body was only shared with the Riley 1.5
Noted for its performance, particularly in the Riley version, the
1500 was a luxurious low cost 50s GTi.
In 1958 BMC adopted a
new corporate style created by the Italian House Pinin Farina -
partly to quell the infighting between the rival Austin and Morris
The first BMC Farina was the
A40, which was never produced in a Wolseley variant. This was
closely followed by the larger Wolseley 15/60 saloon, a square
replacement for the curvaceous Palmer designed 15/50. Available in
Wolseley, MG, Riley, Morris and Austin variants, the series was
badge engineering in the extreme. Each marque was differentiated
by their respective nose treatment - confined to grille and
bonnet, as well as different trim levels suitable for the market
positioning of each marque.
1959 saw the Wolseley
6/99 replace the range topping 6/90. The new 6/99 drew on the main
mechanical components and body engineering of the Austin A95 -
thus signalling the final end of the Nuffield Wolseley.
The 6/99 had all the basic
dimensions increased over the A95, and a more powerful version of
the C-series engine. Despite appearances, the `Big Farinas' shared
no body or mechanical parts with their smaller 4 cylinder 15/60
kin and the increase in body dimensions gave the Big Farinas'
somewhat better proportions.
The `Big Farina' was
available in three marques, Austin, Wolseley and later as Vanden
Plas Princess 3L (and later 4L with a Rolls Royce 4L Engine), all
variations on the same basic shell. The differences between these
prestige models were more expansive that those permitted with the
smaller 4 Cylinder Farinas, with differences in bonnet, front and
rear wings, grille, front panel, lighting and trim.
1961 dawned with the
arrival of the mini derived Hornet, featuring an enlarged boot,
tiny wing fins and a traditional Wolseley grille. Far better
trimmed than the standard minis, the Hornet and her sister the
Riley Elf brought luxury to the small end of the car market.
1962 saw the birth of
the eternal BMC 1100/1300 range from the drawing board of Alec
Issigonis, designer of the Morris Minor and Mini. However the
Wolseley variant did not hit the streets until 1965, it replaced
In 1967 the Wolseley
18/85 appeared, which has been described as simply a better
trimmed Austin 1800.
1968 marked the end of
the big Farina, with the last 6/110 MK II - a direct descendent of
the 1958 6/99 (plus 2 inches of wheelbase, 10 bhp and a plushier
interior). There was no replacement model and the large prestige
Wolseley was consigned to the history books. However the Farina
styling still struggled on with the smaller Wolseley 16/60,
Another Wolseley Six would
appear briefly between 1972 and 1975.
1968 also had other
implications for the future, with BMC and Leyland merging to form
British Leyland at the request of the British government.
The seventies began with the
gradual winding down of the Wolseley marque as British Leyland
concentrated on its other core brands. There were only two new
Wolseley models introduced in the early part of the decade, the
Wolseley Six replacement for the 18/85 - essentially the 2.2 OHC
litre six from the Austin Maxi squeezed into the 18/85 shell, and
the Wolseley Wedge 18/22. The Marque then marched model by model
1969 End of the
1971 End of the 15/60
1972 6 cylinder
version of the `land crab' the Wolseley Six replaced the 18/85.
1973 End of the
1975 End of the
The final outing of the once
proud Wolseley name was on the shortlived Wolseley `wedge' 18/22.
and its sister Austin and Morris variants in 1975. The entire
range simply became known as `Princess' in 1976, and for the first
time in 79 years there were no Wolseleys in the showrooms.