MORRIS EIGHT (1934-1948) REVIEW

Fancy a slightly different small classic? We reckon this Minor-predecessor is well worth a look

Morris Eight (1934-1948) Review

 

Compared to a modern classic, an Eight can be a daunting prospect at first. Directional control seems a touch vague, progress is somewhat stately and braking lacks a sense of urgency. Compared to some rivals though – sidevalve Fords and the Austin Seven – it was ahead of the game and once you adjust to its more gentle way of life, an Eight can be joyous to drive. You’ll never get anywhere quickly, but the more you drive one, the less that’ll bother you. 

If you’re happy to potter for long distances, a Series E is a better bet thanks to more gears and proper shell main bearings on the crankshaft.

VITAL STATISTICS

Morris Eight Series E

 

Engine                                    918cc/4-cyl/SV

 

Power (bhp@rpm)                  29bhp@4400rpm

 

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 39lb ft@2400rpm

 

Top speed                                60mph

 

0-60mph                                  37sec 

 

Consumption                            36mpg

 

Gearbox                                    4-speed manual

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

The Morris Eight replaced the original Minor in 1934. Early cars are known as pre-series, with the Series 1 introduced in 1935, and the mildly-upgraded Series 2 from 1938 – fitted with solid wheels. The Series E came in 1939, with a new enclosed radiator grille and ‘bugeye’ headlamps in the front wings. Mechanically, the cars are pretty similar. All use a 918cc, side-valve four-cylinder engine, which is simplicity itself to work on – changing a head gasket can be done in no time. If you prize originality, watch out for the later Series 2/E engine being fitted to earlier Eights, as it has a stronger crankshaft. There is no water pump, hence the tall radiator. Watch for leaks and be wary of knocks.

While body colours vary, wings are almost always finished in black. Series E Tourers (1939 only) are exceedingly rare. A common upgrade on the Series E was to use pods to fit more effective headlamps. Check the chassis very carefully behind the rear wheel. It has cut-outs for lightness, which are a perfect trap for muck hurled that way by the front wheels. They can even collapse here and the drill-outs make repair quite tricky. The steering uses a worm-and-peg box and kingpins to swivel the hubs, so you need to check for wear.

The bodywork contains wood as well as steel, with more timber on the Tourers. The Series E is mainly steel, but retains timber floors like a post-war MG. The construction is all very simple but replacing sections of rotten wood is much trickier than a welded repair to the body. The inner rear wings and doors on anything but a Series E will contain wood. On pre-E, check the back edge of the running board where it meets the sill. Be wary of leaks with a Sliding Head saloon as the sunroof’s drain tubes can get blocked.

 

ENGINE

Carburettor engines were fitted with Solex units when new, but these were notorious for starting problems and many owners have replaced them with Webers. So a non-standard carburettor isn’t necessarily a warning to look for other modifications! Poor starting may also be cured relatively easily by a swap from the original specification. 

Bosch mechanical fuel injection was a feature of the six-cylinder 220SE and 300SE/SEL models. It’s pretty reliable but is not really a DIY job when it goes wrong. Getting it fixed can often prove very expensive. Some recommend retarding the ignition timing on injected engines as a safety measure now that there’s no more high-octane leaded petrol.

Bosch mechanical fuel injection was a feature of the six-cylinder 220SE and 300SE/SEL models. It’s pretty reliable but is not really a DIY job when it goes wrong. Getting it fixed can often prove very expensive. Some recommend retarding the ignition timing on injected engines as a safety measure now that there’s no more high-octane leaded petrol.

 

RUNNING GEAR

The gearbox was three-speed until the four-speed Series E was introduced. No synchromesh on bottom of course, but check it is still present on the other ratios. The four-speed unit can easily be retro-fitted to earlier models. The cabin is a rather simple affair – seats can easily be retrimmed and there’s not a lot else to go wrong. 

Tyres aren’t always cheap, but they are plentiful. Expect to pay over £100 per corner. Deterioration is probably more of an issue than wear, so look for cracks in the tread and sidewalls. Hubcaps for the Series E are very hard to find, but later Minor and even 1100 items will fit. 

 

BRAKES

The brakes are, perhaps surprisingly for this era, all-hydraulic, though stopping power may seem shockingly lax to those used to more modern classics. All the parts are available, so make sure the car pulls up in a straight line. If it doesn’t, it may just be adjustment but could be a seized wheel cylinder. Go easy when pulling away as it is possible to snap half shafts. Some owners carry a spare as they’re pretty easy to change. Otherwise, axles rarely give much trouble, though tired bearings in the differential can create a lot of noise.

Do check the suspension springs as the leaves can break. Shackles can wear too, causing a knock as you drive. It’s always worth checking the spring hangers for rot and checking the lever-arm dampers for leaks. These can usually be overhauled .Restored Eights tend to have incorrect hoods, made in one piece rather than sections.


INTERIOR

The Morris Register supplies parts – most mechanical items are available, although some bits of trim are more difficult to find.

 

OUR VERDICT

The term ‘classic’ covers a very broad church, and any classic enthusiast really should give pre-war classic ownership a go. The Morris Eight is a deserving candidate that isn’t very often the obvious choice. 

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