WOLSELEY 6/80 REVIEW

Forever associated with stiff upper lip postwar British police films, the Wolseley 6/80 really is well worth seeking out.

‘Long, low and graceful. It fits the Ritz entrance. Doormen stand slightly straighter when it glides up.’

So which car of the late 1940s inspired that bizarre piece of advertising copywriting? Cadillac, Rolls-Royce? No, the Wolseley 6/80.

Yes that very car which to some resembled a bloated Morris Minor with a traditional Wolseley grille stuck on the front when it was introduced alongside that very car at the 1948 Motor Show. The line-up also included a Morris Six, which shared the Wolseley’s larger bodyshell and six-cylinder 2215cc overhead cam engine, though with only one carb, but lacked the Wolseley’s refinements, and, dare we say, presence. The 4/50 was a four-cylinder version of the car but with a shorter bonnet and 1476cc four-cylinder version of the 6/80.

The big Wolseley won a massive fanbase among the police, where its relatively good handling and top speed were very useful. Rather than ‘standing straighter’, many an errant driver would cower into their seat at the sight of the big Wolseley looming up behind.

The car continued in production until 1954, when 25,281 had been produced.

VITAL STATISTICS

ENGINE 2215cc/6 cyl/OHC

POWER 72bhp@4600rpm

TORQUE 101lb ft@2200rpm

MAXIMUM SPEED 80 MPH

0-60MPH 24 sec

FUEL CONSUMPTION 20mph

TRANSMISSION RWD, four-speed manual

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

ENGINE

Almost a work of art in itself, the cars’ overhead-cam unit is a joy to hear not that hard to work on.

There was one problem that probably led to the death of more of these vehicles than any other – the original valves were really not up to the job. In 1952 the engine was altered, with changes to the cylinder head and waterways, which is felt by those in the know not to have really helped.

There is an easy solution to the problem – to have hardened valves fitted. The Wolseley 6/80 and MO Club - which performs miracles in helping keep the cars on the road, now has stainless steel valves available and can provide a secondhand cylinder head and block. Pistons are shared with the Wolseley 4/44 and available from Shropshire-based FW Thornton.

BODYWORK

As the Nuffield Organisation’s first venture into monocoque construction these cars were extremely strong. The most significant rot area is the bottom of the A-post which is difficult to rectify.

The area where the sills meet the outer edges of the floor needs serious checking, as does the floor around the front mountings of the spring hangers.

Wings can corrode, particularly at the edge where repair sections. Body panels are in extremely short supply, and only available secondhand.

MIND YOUR TRUNNIONS

The torsion bar, twin telescopic damper (except for the lever arm variety on a few early cars) suspension is relatively straightforward. Currently unavailable are the lower suspension trunnions, which need careful greasing to live long term. You might be lucky with something secondhand. The cars have Lockheed brakes and most parts are available.

AUSTRALIA

As we’ve mentioned, many 6/80s went Down Under and the British Wolseley 6/80 and MO Club (which you MUST join) has a huge Aussie contingent, with which it works very closely in sourcing new and used components. Many a Wolseley bit has recrossed the seas!

OUR VERDICT

Even saying the name ‘Wolseley’ brings back a lost, respectable world of tea and a nice scone, and here is probably the greatest example of the marque. Beautifully built and appointed, the car cars are supremely imposing, sound magnificent – the overhead-cam engine was based on an Hispano-Suiza design. The sight through the split windscreen along the imposing bonnet is akin to rounding a corner and finding the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

A 6/80 will give 80mph to the brave, or at least has little problems in modern traffic, and the torsion bar suspension provides half-reasonable handling for a car of this size and era.

No classic really has more presence the cars have excellent club support and their one-time Achilles heel, valve problems, have long been cured.

Sadly we can’t report a nationwide network of 6/80 specialists but the car does have fantastic club support. Buy one and join them!

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