splateagle shot this 1972 Wolseley six and its admirer in the town of Dalry. This is one of the famous/infamous BMC ADO 17 (“Landcrab”) family of cars, Issigonis’ bold initiative to bring the stuffy, old-school British saloon into the modern world of mini-skirts, starting with the 1964 Austin 1800. Fwd, hydrolastic suspension, inertia brake proportioning, and an unusually stiff (and roomy) body structure made it one of the most advanced cars of its time, almost a British Citroen DS, which clearly inspired it. We can’t do the whole huge ADO 17 story on this busy summer morning, but let’s just say it had a few shortcomings.
The Wolseley six was the beneficiary of BMC Australian ops, which created the 2.2 liter OHC E-series engine, as first used in the ADO 17-derived Austin Tasman and Kimberly. These were groundbreaking cars too, being the first ever to have a transverse six. Great shot, and I’ll leave it to our experienced commentators to fill in the juicy details of these fascinating cars.
This car really makes me think of cinematic stereotypes. It’s easy for me to imagine a flustered Terry-Thomas careening around London in this car, driving desperately in order to keep an appointment for high tea with the Duke and Duchess of Withwickshire.
Wow. Terry Thomas. Now there’s a name and gap-toothed face I haven’t thought of in decades! Right!
a very misunderstood series of cars,technicaly years ahead of there time but hampered by unconventional and unpopular looks that were an aquired taste to say the least but paul your spot on facinating and very good cars please go to austinroveronline to read the full facinateing story of thease misunderstood cars
The six-pot motor had a very small bore and long stroke, in order to fit between the front wheels, so I don’t think it was the best engine ever built. I have no personal experience of the six, but spent a lot of time in early and later Landcrabs, and went from being a sceptic to a true believer.On narrow roads that were straight in a lateral sense but not in a vertical sense, these cars could maintain a speed that very few of their contemporaries could match. Of course you had to put up with second-rate detail-design and build quality.
I remember doing an engine swap on my first one, having bought a second hand engine/transmission unit. The bearing for the transfer gear between engine and box was damaged – cracked outer ring – so I pulled the bearing from the spare transmission and that was the same. Tried to buy one, but the BMC dealer didn’t stock it, so had to re-use the best looking one I had.
The saying about the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon cars was they had a top speed of 90mph, but they would do 90mph on any road thanks to the hydrolastic suspension.
Does the 6 sit north south or east west?
“transverse” = “east west”
Missed it before I got to the last line.
And it was an inline 6 right? Is this the only other example of an inline 6 FWD other than a Suzuki Verano in automotivedom?
Verona no? though wasnt there a car with a transverse I-5 too?
Got the name wrong, so help me 😉 I just remember how low powered that I6 was in the Suzuki. And Marko was the Volvo transverse mounted?
All front-wheel-drive Volvos since the 850 (except the 1st generation S40) have used either transverse I5 or I6 layouts. I’m sure there’s some Volkswagen-Audi Group car that utilized that configuration somewhere in the world as well, considering how keen they were on 5-cylinder engines at one point and the mind-boggling amount of brands and models they offer worldwide.
I’m trying to rack my brain but that’s all I can come up with. Seems like there are actually more transversely mounted V8s than there are inline fives and sixes.
I only asked because transversely mounted inline 6 engines tend to give cars large turning radiuses. I wasn’t going to ask about 5s because they tend to be so rough running and rarely used outside a few brands.
Sorry, I was replying to both you and CARMINE – should’ve been more clear…
Not sure of a transverse VAG inline 5/6 cyl, they did have V5 & V6 in that layout though.
The Golf, Jetta, New Beetle, Passat and Transporter use the 2.5 L I5 in a transverse position. And VW has the VR6, which is a super-narrow-angle V. Not sure if the VR5 is still being used.
Oops, there is a reason I said I wasn’t sure! I should have remembered the T4/T5 Transporter, but in my defense, no other VW sold here has had the I5, they usually have the 2.0 then jump to the VR6. The VR5 seems to have finished around 2004.
Yeah, Volvo made a big deal out of how the inline six had to be specially designed for transverse applications. As I recall, they claimed they chose that layout, rather than a transverse V6, because the inline engine offered more crush space in front.
I was going to say Daewoo Magnus and Holden Epica, but I see the Epica is a newer version of the Magnus; and the Magnus was sold in the US as the already-mentioned Suzuki Verona. Hideous cars all (and the ADO17s) – perhaps there’s an unspoken automotive rule that says if you launch a transverse-6 it must have compulsorily-ugly styling?
In Edinburgh no less. I had a bit of a funny feeling seeing the store fronts and living space above. The clean looking sandstone is a nice change.
Very rare car over here the landcrab 6 was sold in Kimberly/Tasman form but the shocking reliability put most of them off the road early in life and finding one today in the wild is quite a feat. The O series was also available with 4 cylinders in the Austin Maxi and were oil burners from new.
My brother-in-law still had his late Father’s Tasman in the barn until recently. His Father, who died around 10 yrs ago I think, stopped driving the Tasman years earlier in favour of a twin-turbo ’86 Toyota Supra. I never met him, but his car choices indicate he must have been a man of extremes…! I haven’t asked what happened to the Tasman, but given that every other car BIL and his parents ever owned is still on the farm somewhere, I assume the Tasman is too. If it were a better car I might care where it is, but yeah, nah.
I wish cars like this were just as plentiful, cheap and durable in the US as old Slant-6 Darts or W114 Benzes. Wouldn’t that be a lot of fun? AFAIK, no ADO17 car was ever even exported here officially…
Doesn’t really make sense, since BMC/BL was selling the Austin America in the US at the time. The America and the Austin 1800 probably looked virtually the same to the casual observer, yet the 16 chassis was noticeably smaller and underpowered-er… I’m sure it still would’ve failed miserably, but at least a few might have hung around and made superb CC’s one day.
I have never seen one of these before, and I like it. It has a certain awkward dignity I find appealing.
Johnny, if you look for Triumph Mayflower on google images, you’ll see the automotive archetype of awkward dignity.
Aside from the above-mentioned VW models, I think most of the VAG inline 5 cars were longitudinal. I know the Audi 100 used a north-south 5cyl; my family owned one in the 90’s.
I do like these landcrabs though. It may not be conventionally pretty but it’s got more than enough character/interestingness to make up for it. Too bad we didn’t see any in the USA.
I don’t think this is a Wolseley Six. Its actually an 18/85 which is the Wolseley version of the Austin 1800. Its a better car actually, as the six cylinder was not the best engine BL made, being just a Maxi engine with 2 extra cylinders and a hobby of eating driveshafts.
The 18/85 on the other hand was a very reliable car with few real flaws. The interior was better than the later six, as they either had a MBtex like vinyl called Ambla or genuine leather, as well as real wood on the doors as well as the dashboard.
The six on the other hand had black headlamp surronds and trim, vinyl door cards without wood, and seats uphostered in that fuzzy fabric that GM used on headlinings throughout the ’80s. Needless to say its hard to find a ‘6’ with a decent interior 40 years on, while the 18/85 with its lighted grille badge, dual armrested leather seats, and slabs of walnut everywhere keeps soldiering on.
Hmm….memory is truly a dangerous thing and you have got my mind spinning now.
I owned a 1969 18/85 then a 1972 Six and I am remembering some of the things you mention as being correct but some not.
My Six definitely had the cheapo brushed nylon seats and they were ugly and fragile, the sun rotted them away on the top of the back seat but my car also had real wood door cappings and dash board, and the lighted grille, as did other Sixes I drove so I think you may be off there.
Also, I think the black headlight surrounds was a function of later model years as my 1972 I am ALMOST certain had the chromed units but, as I said, memory is a dangerous thing and I can’t be 100% sure I am correct here. I do know a friend’s father had a slightly later Wolseley Six, I think a ’73, and it did have the black bezels for sure.
Anyway, minor details notwithstanding, the Landcrab was an awesome car. I hated their looks as a kid but I bought my ’69 as a 12 year old banger “just to get me through Winter” after spending all my money traveling around Europe and 3 years later it was still going like a train. Now I think they are beautiful. Then again, I am starting to like the look of the Pontiac Aztek now so what do I know?
By today’s standards they were very utilitarian inside and the ergonomics were appalling (you needed very long arms to reach the heater controls and 1st gear if you had the seat all the way back, which you probably would as there wasn’t great legroom) but for the times they were a dramatic step forward (along with their smaller 1100/1300 and Mini siblings) compared to the Cambridge/Oxford that they were designed to replace.
All in all I think my 18/85 was probably the best car I’ve owned in terms of the use I got out of it for the least amount of money spent. Mind you, it drank fuel (by today’s standards) and the Six barely got over 20 mpg (Imperial).
Happy memories anyway, so thanks for the photo Paul.
Yup, it’s an 18/85. The Wolseley Six as the others have mentioned above had the 2200cc six cylinder E Series. Yes it was used in the Tasman/Kimberly but wasn’t developed in Australia though.
The E was designed for the Maxi as a 1.3 and 1.5 litre OHC four or 2 litre or 2.2 litre six. When they dropped the 1.3, that left them only with an odd-sized 6 of 2.2 litres.
What all these engines had in common was they were worse engines than the old 1800cc B Series in the 18/85 (especially the twin carb S version) they were supposed to replace.
Yes the 1800s were ugly despite the last-minute Pinifarina styling rescue attempt.
But sow’s ear to silk purse>>>
The same platform led to the last Wolseley, the Six AKA The Wedge, which was a stunner:
Wasn’t this the car that Clark Griswold backs into Stonehenge in European Vacation?
Close, that was the usual LandCrab, same body, but different badge/grille.
OK, this is starting to drive me crazy. People keep saying the car pictured is an 18/85 but I’m still not convinced.
As I posted above, I’ve owned both models and was pretty sure MY Six had chrome headlamp bezels.
So, now I’ve been trawling the web for Six pictures and whilst it is true that the vast majority of them have the black bezels, I did find several with the chrome ones. Not only that, I found a pic of a Six the same colour as mine with the black bezels and it just didn’t look like my car, reinforcing my belief that mine had chrome bezels.
Now, it is also entirely possible that the cars I have found pics of may have had the black bezels replaced by chrome ones either by choice or necessity, as could mine have been replaced by a previous owner. But then, so could those of the car pictured, right?
So, all I would say is this….the car pictured MAY be an 18/85 but it actually could yet be a Six. There is no way to be sure.
Checkout the (cars) button on arolonine. the model histories are complete and a very good read.
Ha! ‘awkward dignity’ just about sums up the UK itself these days! All of Issigonis’s designs and indeed most of what BL produced was mediocre. The boffins didn’t understand that what people in the UK wanted were miniature versions of US cars, RWD, sprung suspension, a trunk and an inline engine. It wasn’t until the mid ’70s that Joe public was ready for such cars as the VW Golf (even then they sold poorly in the ultra conservative UK)
The age old problem here is that the populace likes solid cars like BMWs and Volvos yet they are forced to drive Smart cars the Neo- Marxist green lobby!
Hi SimonAlberta – I think there is a way to tell a Six from an 18/85. It’s not just the chrome vs. black headlamp bezels; the 18/85 only had one cut-out per side behind the horizontal chrome side-grilles, while the Six had two, maybe for extra cooling? Can be hard to tell on dark cars, but they would show on light colours, as in this wonderful 70s gold/baby cack example.
Thank you for solving the mystery. Yes, I think you are correct. I have studied dozens of pictures and it does appear that the Six has double vents whereas the 18/85 only has the singles, but you do have to peer closely on the darker cars.
The photo you posted is EXACTLY like my 1972 six, same colour and same CHROME bezels so at least it pretty much confirms my memory is not yet quite seized.
So, the white car in the OP is, as has been stated, an 18/85….er….probably.
and Jimmy – yes I agree Issigonis did as much harm as good. BMC design was in the hands of a crank e.g. his deliberately uncomfortable interiors ‘to keep people awake while they’re driving’; minimalist dashboards with no space for a radio because he didn’t like them in cars (see pic of an early Landcrab) ; when tackled about the poor ergonomics for women he said he ‘didn’t want bloody women driving his cars’ anyway!
But not correct to say UK buyers rejected modern design: the 1100 (AKA Austin America) was UK best seller or runner up throughout most of the 60s.
What undid them from the 70s on, as well as all-round incompetence, was the unusual UK market where many people have fleet cars as a tax dodge.
So that would make the featured car a 4-cylinder “18/85” rather than a “Six”.