We enjoy the Morris Cowley and put it fully to the test
1 DAILY DRIVING
Bullnose Morris owners are a hardy and adventurous lot, and many still use their cars on a regular basis. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, assuming you’re not planning on many (or any) fast roads. A Bullnose on a motorway would be rather frightening, and not just for its own occupants. But stick to minor roads and shorter distances, and steer clear of rush hour, and the Cowley is perfectly practical for shopping runs and general jaunts. You will need a second, more modern machine for more involved journeys, but keep a Cowley for the times when you want to turn a mundane trip into something more fun.
2 IN THE SERVICE BAY
There’s nothing complex about the Cowley’s engineering – even the fuel system is simply gravity-fed, with the fuel tank placed up high in the engine bay allowing petrol to just trickle into the basic carburettor. If you’re mechanically savvy, then you shouldn’t find anything to test you. Even if you’re not that handy with tools, this presents a great opportunity to learn, on something much less complicated than a more recent vehicle. Your biggest test may be finding parts – which is where joining an organisation like the Bullnose Morris Club will pay dividends, as you’ll be able to tap into the expertise of its members.
3 ON THE SHOW CIRCUIT
Well, this is a no-brainer. What self-respecting classic car show wouldn’t welcome a Bullnose Morris? Whether you’re exhibiting individually or as part of a group, a car like this would be fully embraced by organisers and punters alike, because it’s a truly historic vehicle. Visitors will delight in a machine that they’re unlikely to encounter anywhere else and only a very few will remember as an old car in everyday use. And if you can form up a display with part of a club group, so much the better – it’s a great way to show off just how many variations of Morris Cowley and Oxford were built. You’ll get no peace and quiet from curiosity all day.
4 THE LONG WEEKEND
Here’s where restrictions apply. If there’s just two of you, and you’re not venturing terribly far, then go ahead. You’ll be snug in the two-seater cabin, and your luggage can sit in the rear dickey seat cavity. It’s surprisingly commodious in there, and there’s always the further option of a rear-mounted trunk. However, if you plan on more than a couple of people, monitor the weather forecast carefully and limit yourself to summer adventures, for that rear dickey seat is the only option. And it can fast lose its novelty in a sudden cold rain squall. The lack of any locks may be a problem too. But would any modern car thief have any idea how to start one of these anyway?
5 THE B-ROAD BLAST
This is where a vintage vehicle truly comes into its own. It’s the ideal environment, because B-roads were what this car was built for, so it’s the closest you can get to reliving the typical 1920s driving experience. A gentle amble (rather than a blast) down country lanes, at a speed more suited to the Morris’s capabilities, age and handling characteristics, will be more comfortable for everybody involved. You’ll feel just as unstressed as the Bullnose. Newer cars may bunch up behind you eventually, but you’ll find that most drivers will be quite delighted to find themselves temporarily stuck behind something of such character and interest.
The sidevalve started life as an upgraded Hotchkiss copy of an American Continental. Coupé bodywork means a long tail. Two people can squeeze into the dickey seat. Accommodation for two inside. US-style centrally-mounted gearstick and handbrake wasn’t usual practice for UK cars.
The Bell and Parks families for all their assistance with this article. This 1926 ‘matching numbers’ original spec Morris Cowley is currently for sale for £19,200.
■ Contact Keith Parks on 07766 795665