Carshow Outtake: 1956 Morris Isis – Not A London Bus, Honest

1956 morris isis2You are probably familiar with the old adage about waiting for a bus for a seemingly inordinate amount of time, and then due to the combination of timetabling, traffic and customers, 2 or more coming at once. Always true, always frustrating.

1956 morris isis 5

I posted a feature on the 1955 Morris Oxford Traveller estate back in Station Wagon week last month, and mentioned the six cylinder Isis version of the car. If you saw the post, you’ll remember that there were no photographs of the Isis. That was simply because I hadn’t got any.

And, then a week after that post went up, I saw one but two Isis (Isises, Isi, Isisi, Isisum – just what is the plural of Isis?) saloons in exactly the same place as I saw the Traveller last year. Spooky, or what?

Isis oxford

Looking at the cars, it is obvious that all the wheelbase extension is ahead of the windscreen, and there simply to accommodate the six cylinder engine. This was the BMC C series engine, which was designed by the old Morris Motors Engines Branch in Coventry to replace previous Morris and Austin engines with a standard BMC one, in a similar way to BMC using the smaller A and B series on the smaller cars.


The C series was an OHV design, with a long stroke format, with a four bearing crankshaft. BMC had planned an overhead camshaft version, planned for Wolseley, and a twin camshaft version, destined for Riley but these never came to pass.

1956 morris isis6

Initially, and in these feature cars, the C series a 2.6 litre, and was a pretty disappointing engine, offering little over the B series, as the weight outweighed much of the performance benefit. As used in 1954, the engine was giving around 85bhp. The four bearing crankshaft limited the power that could be developed from the engine and the speeds the engine could reach.

1956 morris isis 7

The engine was bored out to 2.9 litre in 1959 for the Austin A99, Wolseley 6/99 and famously the Austin Healey 3000, and power was up to 112 bhp.

A seven bearing crankshaft version was developed in 1967, primarily for the MGC but also used for the last saloon application for the engine – the Austin 3 Litre (aka the Land Lobster). This car has another parallel with the Isis – the Austin 3 Litre was a long wheelbase development of the smaller Austin 1800 Landcrab. But even in this form, the C series was heavy and under powered to its competitors, with a great reluctance to rev. It added little to the MGC over the MGB except some more understeer.

19856 morris isis4

Effectively, the C series was replaced by the 2.2 litre six cylinder version of the E series developed from the Austin Maxi engine. It was also supplanted by the fact that the large saloons sold through the brands within BLMC that came from BMC, such Austin, Morris and Wolseley, were themselves supplanted by cars like the Triumph 2000, Rover 2000 and compact, prestige badge wearing imports.