COAL #6: Morris Oxford VI – Middle Class Badge Engineering


Ah, the Morris Oxford. As with many other cars I still think this is one beautiful car. Look at the picture above. Pinin Farina did well. The proportions are good (overhangs not too big in relation to the rest of the car), the lines are good, the rear wing top that begins in front of the rear wheel, the downward middle chrome strip, the dignified green house.

This was one of the cars which was not bought because I was a hardcore enthusiast for the type; I was not. I just wanted to experience this, a proper middle class British car typical of the sixties. That is a valid reason for me. I like to find out how they would be to drive, to own. Why people are enthusiastic about them. Not all cars; in most popular cars I have no interest. A car will sit higher on my score card if it is an underrated model, British, looks good, not too expensive, is not produced in giga quantities. The problem is that the list of cars I want to try has not become shorter!

When in the ’80s I had my first Sunbeam Chamois, I frequently attended meetings of the BMC & Rootes Club. Apart from the social side of it, I saw the variety of cars attending. There were many cars I found interesting but as a poor student I had only eyes for reachable cars. One of those was the four door four cylinder BMC Farina. This was a very popular car in the UK and Europe in the late 50s and 60s.



BMC, BMH, Leyland, BLMC, BL? Yes it gets a bit confusing. The UK were very good at confusing car makes and names.
1952 – BMC: was the first instance, a car agglomeration formed in 1952. It was the merger of Austin and Morris. MG, Riley and Wolseley belonged to Morris so also became part of the new British Motor Corporation.
1966 – BMH: When BMC bought Jaguar in 1966 the new name became British Motor Holdings.
1961 – Leyland: was a truck maker which bought (Standard-) Triumph in 1961, and Rover in 1966.
1968 – BLMC: came about when BMH and Leyland merged in 1968, forming the British Leyland Motor Corporation.
1975 – BL: after nationalisation in 1975 the name changed to British Leyland.
In the 80s more changes came along, Jaguar left the conglomerate (to be bought by Ford a couple of years later), the name changed to Austin-Rover and finally to Rover. It was bought by BMW which sold it to a couple of entrepreneurs (new name: MG-Rover) who could only keep it alive for five more years. Still not the end, Rover was sold to China but the name Rover is not used anymore. MG is also in Chinese hands now and is gaining success in Europe as a supplier of cheap but decent electric cars.


Austin A50 Cambridge left, Morris Oxford series III right


Austin had a medium sized sedan in the mid 50s– the Austin A50 Cambridge. Medium sized for the UK, in the US it would be seen as a small or compact car. Morris had the Oxford. In 1958, both were replaced by one design styled by Pinin Farina. This style of four door sedan was based on his earlier design for the Lancia Flaminia, and later was used by more car companies: the Peugeot 404 and Fiat 1800/2100/2300.
Austin called their new version the A55 Cambridge which became the A60 Cambridge a few years later. Morris versions were the Oxford V and Oxford VI. There were also MG, Riley and Wolseley badge-engineered versions. The earlier versions had higher fins at the rear and different grilles. Basically all Austin, Morris , MG, Riley and Wolseley Farina cars were the same with only a few differences: grille, dashboard, rear lamps and badges.


Inviting, big, comfortable leather seats (Rob’s car)


A friend, Matthew, had been the second owner of a A60 Cambridge for 15 years. Around 1985 I had a lift with him in his car and was surprised how cosy and comfortable it was. Large upright leather seats and Peugeot 404 like view over the two front wings. A large rear trunk. Very much a car of an older generation when comfort was important. The car felt solid, well built and reliable. It was a new feeling for me. It was a typical, quintessential British car. You could wear your top hat in this car. What would it be to own, daily drive such a car?


Badge engineering in all its glory! From left to right: Austin A60 Cambridge, Morris Oxford VI, MG Magnette Mk IV, Riley 4/72, Wolseley 16/60


The lovely time of selecting, searching and finding a car could begin.

Most cars on the market were of the later, post 1961 type. In the last year(s) of the cars they had been cheapened a little, no more leather but vinyl. This was something that you could see at other car makes as well. For example Jaguar had the Mk2 Saloon, in its last years it got rid of the big bumpers and leather was replaced by vinyl. I would not want that.

From brochures it is nice to pick out which version I would like best. And what color(s). But in the real world around me not many cars were or came up for sale. If I wanted a car soon, there was not much choice. MGs and Rileys were almost non-existent, Wolseleys were around but I could not find an affordable one.

The Austin version was okay but there were some things I did not like, it had fake wood on the dash and the grille had a too fine mesh. Morris did it better. The grille had thick horizontal bars. Rear lamps were more upright. Dash was a good looking metal with a pretty segment of copper/gold looking weave.


For Sale! How I found my Oxford


On the trailer to my home


Then someone in the club put up a black 1965 Morris Oxford VI for sale. It was a manual originally but was converted to automatic (with the lever on the steering column). It did have some rust on chassis outriggers, but the seller told me he would repair this before the sale. It all looked very good to my eyes: a good version, a good color combination (black paint with a red leather interior), an automatic (something I had no experience with before), rust free chassis plus a new yearly test ticket. Plus it was cheap because the paint was not very good – it had localized resprays and touched in areas. The chrome was only reasonable but what would you expect for the money?


 The farmer rented out the first half of this shed to me. Excellent as a hobby workshop


I liked the car. It was pretty slow though, I got used to using the column mounted lever to manually change gear as waiting for the auto took too long (I later found out the kickdown never worked). It was very different to other cars I was used to, these were much more sporty (Imp, Mini, Herald). But that was okay. It was a restful car, not a dynamic puppy. It was pleasing to sit on the big comfy seat and have that big steering wheel with the chrome horn ring and nice steel dashboard in front of you. Everything on the car seemed of a decent construction. There was plenty of room everywhere, in the trunk, the interior, and under the bonnet to access and maintain all engine ancillaries in the engine bay.


The nice, simple dashboard of an Oxford VI (Rob’s car)


Another Oxford owner (Rob) lived in my small town and owned a twin version. Same colour, same interior. How rare / special was that? His car differed only because it had a manual gearbox. Plus the fact that his car was in a near showroom condition. This was quite remarkable because Rob had painted the car in his own home garage, using spray cans only. He had a friend living nearby who had a Riley 4/72. This was another version of the Oxford, with (you guessed it) a different grille, dashboard and rear fins. It was also a bit quicker having twin carburetors. The three of us went to an English Car Rally together. Our cars definitively were seen as cars from an older generation, classic cars. Only enthusiasts would drive these old barges.


At the English Car Rally. Rob’s car on the left, Riley 4/72, my car and a Mini Clubman Estate. And lots of Spitfires, Minis, MGs, etc etc


I used the car for quite some time to drive to my work. It lived on the street, never in the garage. Despite that it would always start without problem. Speaking of problems, I cannot remember anything going bad. The car received its maintenance (which incorporated many grease nipples). Wait, I lost a fan blade once. It was a four bladed metal fan. A local specialist in British cars had one new but I thought it was too expensive. A few phone calls to other owners resulted in buying a second hand one cheap.

The Oxford was chosen as transport for a weeks holiday in the South of the UK. Our friends, a couple like us, joined us, 4 in the car. We stayed at some very nice farm Bed & Breakfast addresses. The car trip was uneventful in itself, the car did what it had to do without issues, comfortable and just about fast enough.


What better car to drive in Oxford Street than an Oxford?


We visited London. Back then there was no centre Low Emission Zone which require a Congestion Charge, where one has to pay £15 per day just for the pleasure of being able to drive through London. Ignoring warnings of heavy, difficult traffic I wanted to drive through the historical centre, Trafalgar Square, Regent Street and picture my car in the famous London Oxford Street of course! It proved pretty difficult to find a spot where I could stop for a while AND having an Oxford street sign visible. This is not possible anymore, these streets are only for buses and taxis now.


Regent Street, London



Elsewhere in London we met a real Curbside Classic, another twin of my black Oxford! I had not seen an Oxford (or any other Farina) in the wild for years, here in the UK it was still possible to come across one.


an oldie in a sea of “modern” cars


Most car owners would be pleased by having a car without worries, being reliable and not needing special attention. However I am not one of those. After two or three years I got a little too bored with the car. It did what it had to do, always started, was not too expensive on fuel, did not need expensive maintenance. It always looked a bit shabby though, would benefit from better paint, door and window rubbers were over their best (old and leaking) which resulted to the carpets needing replacement, better bumpers would be nice.

However I decided not to invest in the Oxford, instead to try something else. I sold the Oxford to a club member who promised not to scrap the car. According to the registration office, he still owns the car.


Parked next to my Triumph Herald


Ten years later, Rob (the other black Oxford owner in my town) decided to sell his car. He asked me to help, I made a few pictures and put the car for sale online. It was quickly sold, which was to be expected as the car was in a very good condition.


Rob’s car


Rob’s car


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