William Morris, using his own money purchased Wolseley Motors at auction for £730,000, possibly to stop General Motors who subsequently bought Vauxhall

Wednesday 9th February 1927

William Morris, using his own money purchased Wolseley Motors at auction for £730,000, possibly to stop General Motors who subsequently bought Vauxhall. Other bidders beside General Motors included the Austin Motor Company. Herbert Austin, Wolseley’s founder, was said to have been very distressed that he was unable to buy it. Morris had bought an early taxicab, another Wolseley link with Morris was that his Morris Garages were Wolseley agents in Oxford.Morris had tried to produce a 6-cylinder car and not been successful. He still wanted his range to include a light six-cylinder car. Wolseley’s 2-litre six-cylinder 16-45, their latest development of their postwar Fifteen, “made a deep impression on him”. Morris incorporated a new company, Wolseley Motors (1927) Limited, he was later permitted to remove the (1927), 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 MG and Riley common bodies and chassis, namely the 4/44 and 6/90, which were closely related to the MG Magnette ZA/ZB and the Riley Pathfinder respectively. 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 Austin 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, a variant of the six-cylinder Austin 1800, the Austin 2200. It was finally killed off just three years later in favour of the short-lived Wolseley 18-22 series saloon, which was based on the Leyland Princess (also known as the 18-22 series) and never even given a clear name, being badged just “Wolseley”, and sold only for seven months until that range was renamed as the Princess. Today, the Wolseley marque is owned by Nanjing Automobile Group bought as part of the assets of the MG Rover Group. Note that the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company continued trading, and continues today as Wolseley plc.

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