Cowley’s Carriage for Upper Management

Filed under: Classic News |
Wolseley 6-110 mk2Saved from the ‘Demolition Derby’ this Wolseley screams style without shouting; subtly saying ‘look at me’. Admire we should, for this was Wolseley’s prime auto.

Alongside its sister, Austin A99 Westminster, the first of the larger ‘Farina’ designed Wolseley’s arrived just prior to the swinging sixties in the form of the 6/99. Badge engineering had taken hold at BMC but the Wolseley owner expected and received that little extra, a high spec version of what was already a very stylish and well finished model. Its C Series, straight six of 2912cc was lifted from the Austin Healey, offering just over 100bhp and just under 100mph, pulling 3470 lbs of unit-construction, pressed steel. Column change for manual or automatic, with overdrive on 2nd and top standard on the three-speed manual. At £1,255 the Wolseley was £106 more than the Austin and the Cowley workers fitted the marques bespoke grille with auxiliary lamps. The model enjoyed distinctive exterior paint colours whilst inside quality leather trims, veneer door capping’s and a dash with extra gauges to be admired through the deep-dish steering wheel. In late 1961 the 6/99 enjoyed an upgrade and the 6/110 became available at £1,343 but those admiring the new car through showroom windows would have noted very little change.

Engine options BMC’s C Series trusty 3.0 litre upgraded over the years and by 1964 produced 120bhp and over 100mph pulling over 1.5 tons of WolseleyUnder the familiar exterior came a host of features the Wolseley owner would appreciate, including engine upgrades that increased output by a further 20bhp. Along with a floor mounted gear-shift, the driving experience was enhanced by a longer wheelbase and rear suspension improvements. The following year, options included air conditioning and power steering; the result was 10,800 units sold up until 1964. In May that year the 6/110 Mark 2 was announced and continued with a floor mounted gear change but the four speeds came without overdrive as standard, this was a £51 option. Further improvements to the suspension and upgrades to Wolseley’s already premier interior (picnic tables and reclining seats) were added, plus the road wheel size was reduced to 13inch. The 6/110 had peaked with its Mark 2 which offered luxurious comfort, handled well and topped 100mph; no wonder it became the Met Police’s favourite ‘criminal catcher’ of the era. Launched at £1,179, around 13,300 left the showrooms by 1968 but the UK’s motoring industry had begun to implode, BMC took over Jaguar in 1966 and became BMH. The last 6/110 Mark 2 left the production line just prior to the birth of British Leyland which in turn spelt the beginning of the end for the great marque of Wolseley.

Mystery Mark 2

Repairs completed and the 6110 panels are masked for several coats of primer, the boot and bonnet where completed separatelyThere is little doubt that this 6/110 Mk 2 was hidden away from the public eye for many years and this may well have saved 899UJO from the short oval track. Along with its cousins from other BMC marques, the Farina design was desired by the banger brigade for their strength and durability and most had been consumed by the 1980s. What we do know is the Wolseley Register has no knowledge of an older Mark 2 chassis, first registered in Oxford, 22nd September 1964. Its registration area code ‘JO’ was often used by the factory, one might speculate it may well have been a BMC press car. Old MOT certificates confirm its was still in use by 1997 but two years later 899UJO was placed into a lock up by Conrad Parr in Somerset. As a member of the Cambridge Oxford Owners Club he met with the 6/110’s eventual saviour in 2008; fellow enthusiast Adrian Trevorrow finally took custody of the Wolseley in 2011 on the condition that the car was put back on the road. Having spent his career within the classic car restoration business, paint sprayer Adrian confirmed ‘I decided it was time to get the car back on the road, refurbishing and saving an early chassis Mark 2 was rewarding by making it presentable and roadworthy again.

A section of grille opens to accommodate a starting handle and the famous Wolseley badge illuminatesI was on a tight budget, though I was in a good position as I could use the workshop in the evenings and at weekends during 2012’. Having photographed the car five years later I must report the final result is way above ‘presentable’ level. At some point in history the lower half of the Wolseley’s panels had endured several coats of hand painted cream, Adrian returned the car to a complete ‘Maroon B’ finish. On the mechanical front, he dropped the sump and removed 14 years of silt etc which was almost near to the oil pickup, replaced most of the hydraulic system, flushed out the tank and carbs, replaced coolant hoses, fitted a new dynamo and tyres plus an exhaust’. Whilst under the ownership of Conrad, 899UJO was viewed by one interested purchaser who was turned away once his hobby of banger racing became apparent; it would however be the very same group that would need approaching to complete the Wolseley. Adrian explained, ‘I sourced the chrome I needed through some banger driver contacts and also an interior, the only one I could get was out of a Vanden Plas, without those people I wouldn't have been able to return the 6/110 to the road. Saved from the demolition derby, then saved by the banger racers, 899UJO spent 3k miles with Adrian in which time it met up with former owner Conrad and was admired at classic shows and rallies before changing hands again.

Enthusiast Enjoys Wolseley Ways

Daylight covers the Wolseley for the first time in years, complete with moving instructions written in the windscreens dustOnce an online advert in February 2015 proved irresistible, Denis Knockton took over custody of the Mark 2; a self-confessed petrol head who began with a 1937 Morris 8 saloon for his 17th birthday costing £12. 10 shillings. His classic history file contains several Wolseley’s including a 4/44 and a 15/60, whilst he currently enjoys a 15/50 in the restoration stage, alongside a lovely 420 Jaguar from 1967 plus one very original 1954 Hillman Minx. One of the first improvements Denis looked to install in 6/110 was electronic ignition to compliment his rebuilt SU carbs but his favourite contribution to its driving pleasure is the power steering. This was an unticked option box in his 1964 example, so after tracking down all the original steering box, column and combination pump and dynamo, Denis had them reconditioned. Fitment was completed by KC Classics near Chichester, specialists in all eras of historic repair and service, especially those of Farina design. Just twelve months from purchase Denis was watching himself driving the Wolseley on the TV show Masterpiece. Filmed at Parham House in October 2013, the production featured six classics with host Alan Titchmarsh persuading the contestants to guess the comparative ages of each, older or younger; they guessed right comparing a high end 1951 Delahaye 235M against the Wolseley. The 6/110’s luxury was certainly admired in 1964 but costing one third of the average house price, it definitely wasn’t a budget option.

The superb replacement interior was supplied by a banger racer, the only part of the donor Vanden Plas to surviveThe same year the first Ford Mustang arrived your Mark 2 buyer could have purchased a pair of Hillman Imps or a Lotus Cortina for less than the £1,179 Wolseley; would either have been sophisticated enough to turn heads at the local golf club? Quality and style was demanded from this branch of BMC and that’s what their clients received and sitting behind the wide, deep dished steering wheel today, one certainly feels rather ‘posh’. The cream leather seating has worn perfectly, whilst the similar coloured carpets remain unblemished allowing the walnut veneer dash and door capping’s to compliment the light interior. The addition of PAS has certainly improved the low speed manoeuvrability of what is a large and heavy classic, although once on the move its bulk becomes less apparent. The 120bhp six cylinder breezes through its four gears (although 1st is rarely required) with ample performance. Denis confesses, motorway speeds are comfortable around the speed limit and certainly nowhere near the 102mph BMC brochures boasted when new. The credit for 899UJO still being on our roads is down to the enthusiasts who firstly protected and then returned this Wolseley to its former glory. Of 13,300 produced, the oldest known Mark 2 chassis (number 24) continues to gain admiring glances in 2017; as it no doubt would have enjoyed in Oxford 53 years ago.

View from the Pilot…….

Owner Denis KnocktonDenis Knockton shares his thoughts on preserving and enjoying the Wolseley 6/110 Mark 2.

I’ve always liked Wolseley, particularly the 6/110. Although based on the Austin Westminster platform, its far more luxurious with very comfortable deep leather seats, walnut dash and picnic tables in the rear. The bonnet and front grill are also different. A good car to drive, keeps up with today’s traffic and cruises comfortably at 70mph. Being a big, heavy strong car it feels very safe, even in today’s frantic traffic. Even for a 53-year-old car, the power assisted brakes are remarkably efficient with discs at the front and drums at the rear. Although standard steering was OK for normal driving, the power assisted system makes parking and manoeuvring at slow speed much easier. Like the B series engines, the straight 6-cylinder C series are very easy to maintain. All older cars seem to need constant attention, the points cleaning, re-setting and often replacing, so I installed electronic ignition which needs little or no maintenance; I recently did a trip of 102 miles and checked the fuel consumption at 23mpg, not bad for an old 3 litre engine. I have several other classic cars but I have to say the 6/110 attracts more attention than the others put together! It’s amazing how many people’s grandad had one!