The Wolseley Motor Company was a British automobile manufacturer founded in 1905. After 1935 it was incorporated into larger companies but the Wolseley name remained as an upmarket marque until 1975.
The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company Limited was founded in Sydney, Australia in 1887 by Frederick York Wolseley. After moving the company to Birmingham, England in 1893, his Works Manager Herbert Austin started experimenting with motor cars, producing the first one in 1895. During the winter of 1895-96 he made his own version of a design by Léon Bollée that he had seen in Paris. Later he found that another British group had bought the rights so Austin had to come up with a design of his own. In 1895 the Wolseley Autocar No. 1 was revealed, it was a three wheeled design (one front, two rear). It featured independent rear suspension, mid engine and back to back seating for two adults. It was not successful and none were sold. In 1901 the automobile division was spun off (with financing from Vickers) as an independent concern in Birmingham. Austin managed the new Wolseley company for a very short time before resigning to form his own concern, the Austin Motor Company, in 1905. Wolseley motor cars were made in Great Britain from then until 1975, being among the very first British cars put into large-scale production and actually leading the car production figures during the Edwardian period. Wolseley purchased the Siddeley Autocar Company, with founder John Davenport Siddeley in charge. Siddeley (later Baron Kenilworth) took control of the merged concern, renaming the marque Wolseley-Siddeley until his resignation in 1910. He went on to manage the Deasy Motor Company, which became Siddeley-Deasy. This later merged with Armstrong-Whitworth to become Armstrong-Siddeley. During World War 1, Wolseley lorries were supplied in large numbers to the British Army in France and Wolseley aero engines contributed to the success of the Royal Flying Corps. Car production resumed in the 1920s and then, in 1927, following financial difficulties, the company became part of the group owned by William Morris, later Lord Nuffield. Wolseley cars continued in steady production from then on, filling a slightly ‘up-market’ slot aimed at being a cut above the popular makes. There are many Veteran and Edwardian Wolseleys in museums and some take part in the annual London to Brighton run each November. But Wolseleys aren’t just museum pieces, for there is still a great number of later cars in regular use. Some motorists have given up the ‘rat race’ of modern cars and now use one of these ageless classic Wolseleys for everyday transport. For many years the Wolseley name was associated with the Police force – the last model to be used being the late-’60s Wolseley 6/110, a large Farina-styled saloon. Many people will remember the Ealing Studios films of the 1950s such as The Lavender Hill Mob and Whisky Galore, which often featured the Series III 18/85 saloons and the later 6/80 and 6/90 in Police trim. Some of our members have ensured that the Police livery has been preserved on the appropriate models. The distinctive illuminated radiator badge was first introduced in 1932 and continued right up to the end of Wolseley production, when the last car to bear the famous Wolseley badge – a 2200 ‘Wedge’ – left the factory in 1975. Thus ended 80 years of production of one of Britain’s finest luxury motor cars.
Wolseley Motor Company
The company officially became the Wolseley Motor Company in 1914. It also began operations in Montreal and Toronto, Canada as Wolseley Motors Limited. This became British and American Motors after World War I.
In 1918, Wolseley began a joint venture in Tokyo, Japan with Ishikawajiama Ship Building and Engineering. The first Japanese-built Wolseley car rolled off the line in 1922. After World War II, the Japan venture reorganized, renaming itself Isuzu Motors in 1949. Today, Isuzu is part of General Motors.
Wolseley grew quickly selling upmarket cars, and even opened a lavish showroom, Wolseley House, in Piccadilly Circus. Finances were strained, however, and the company faced receivership in October, 1926.
Wolseley was purchased by William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield for £730,000 in 1926. Other bidders included General Motors and the Austin Motor Company. Morris renamed the company Wolseley Motors and consolidated its production at the sprawling Ward End Works in Birmingham.
In 1935, Wolseley became a subsidiary of Morris’ own Morris Motor Company and the Wolseley models soon became based on Morris designs. It became part of the Nuffield Organisation along with Morris and Riley/Autovia in 1938.
After the war, Morris and Wolseley production was consolidated at Cowley, and badge engineering took hold. The first post-war Wolseleys, the similar 4/50 and 6/80 models, were based on the Morris Oxford MO. Later, Wolseleys shared with Riley common bodies and chassis, namely the 4/44 and 6/90.
Other badge engineering exploits followed at BMC. In 1957 the Wolseley 1500 was based on the planned successor to the Morris Minor. The next year, the Wolseley 15/60 debuted the new mid-sized BMC saloon design penned by Pinin Farina. It was followed by similar vehicles from five marques within the year.
The tiny Wolseley Hornet was based on the Mini but the booted body style was shared with Riley as the Elf. Finally, a version of the Morris 1800 was launched in 1967 as the Wolseley 18/85. The Riley marque, long overlapping with Wolseley, was retired in 1969. Wolseley continued in diminished form with the Wolseley Six of 1972, but it was finished just three years later with the single-year Wolseley 18-22. Today, the Wolseley marque is owned by the MG Rover Group.
List of 1930’s Wolseley vehicles
• 1934-1935 Wolseley Nine
• 1935-1936 Wolseley Wasp
• 1936-1937 Wolseley 10/40
• 1936-1939 Wolseley 12/48
• 1939-1939 Wolseley Ten
• 1930-1936 Wolseley Hornet
• 1927-1932 Wolseley Viper
• 1930-1935 Wolseley 21/60
• 1933-1935 Wolseley Sixteen
• 1935-1936 Wolseley Fourteen
• 1935-1935 Wolseley Eighteen
• 1936-1938 Wolseley 14/56
• 1937-1938 Wolseley 18/80
• 1935-1937 Wolseley Super Six 16HP, 21HP, 25HP
• 1938-1939 Wolseley 14/60
• 1938-1939 Wolseley 16/65
• 1938-1939 Wolseley 18/85
• 1937-1939 Wolseley 16HP, 21HP, 25HP
• 1928-1931 Wolseley 21/60 Straight Eight
List of post-war monocoque Wolseley vehicles
Wolseley long used a two-number system of model names. Until 1948, the numbers reflected the vehicle’s power output in units of horsepower as defined by the RAC and as measured . Thus, the 14/60 was rated at 14 hp (RAC) for tax purposes but actually produced 60 hp (45 kW). Later, the first number equaled the number of cylinders. After 1956, this number was changed to reflect the engine’s displacement for four-cylinder cars. Therefore, the seminal 15/60 was a 1.5 L engine capable of producing 60 hp (45 kW). Eventually, the entire naming system was abandoned.
• 1948-1953 Wolseley 4/50 (Morris Oxford MO)
• 1952-1956 Wolseley 4/44 (MG Magnette ZA/ZB)
• 1956-1958 Wolseley 15/50 (MG Magnette ZB)
• 1957-1965 Wolseley 1500 (Riley One-Point-Five)
• 1965-1974 Wolseley 1100/1300 (Morris 1100)
• 1967-1971 Wolseley 18/85 (Austin 1800)
• 1958-1961 Wolseley 15/60 (Austin Cambridge)
• 1961-1971 Wolseley 16/60 (Austin Cambridge)
• 1961-1969 Wolseley Hornet (Mini)
• 1948-1954 Wolseley 6/80 (Morris Oxford MO)
• 1954-1959 Wolseley 6/90 (Riley Pathfinder)
• 1959-1961 Wolseley 6/99 (Austin A99 Westminster)
• 1961-1968 Wolseley 6/110 (Austin A110 Westminster)
• 1972-1975 Wolseley Six (Austin 2200)
• March-October 1975 Wolseley 18-22 (Austin Princess)