MMMMM... The PER­FECT

The 10M rep­re­sented a huge ad­vance when it was launched. Nick Larkin’s in the driv­ing seat

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving -

Here is a car that could melt the cold­est mod­ern clas­sic devo­tee’s heart, or at least give them a very pleas­ant sur­prise. Many might con­sider the Mor­ris 10 to be a relic from the era of Ge­orge Formby’s lamp post lean­ings, skinny chil­dren play­ing on bomb­sites and new semi-de­tached houses in Sur­rey ad­ver­tised for £560. But they might not have no­ticed the let­ter M at the end of our test car’s ti­tle.

Launched in 1938, the Se­ries 10 was like some­thing from the space age com­pared with its pre­de­ces­sors, and a car that can still be hap­pily driven to­day. Most im­por­tantly, the 10M was Mor­ris/Nuffield’s first foray into uni­tary con­struc­tion. It also sported a close sis­ter en­gine to the XPAG unit that would power var­i­ous MGs and live on in the Wolse­ley 4/44 un­til 1956. An en­gine for which you can ac­tu­ally still find spares to­day.

The car’s styling is a beau­ti­ful col­lec­tion of sub­tle curves and a proud, slightly slop­ing ra­di­a­tor grille. Open the rear-hinged ‘sui­cide’ door, set­tle into the driver’s seat and look around. This car is orig­i­nal in­side, right down to the seat leather. Even the door trims breathe an equal sense of age.

Now we love a nice slab of brown Bake­lite and this car brings it on in a big way – the en­tire dash­board is made from this early plas­tic and ex­tends to the in­te­rior win­dow sur­rounds, too. In­cor­po­rated into the dash are two ash­trays plus a pair of large knobs, each of which ac­ti­vates a wind­screen wiper. There’s also a win­der for the for­ward open­ing wind­screen and an ig­ni­tion switch em­bed­ded in the light con­trol.

In­stru­men­ta­tion is com­pre­hen­sive, with two cir­cu­lar clus­ters, one for the speedome­ter and the other with gauges mon­i­tor­ing charge, oil pres­sure and fuel, but not tem­per­a­ture. You do get a clock, though.

Tug on the starter pull switch and the en­gine fires quickly and set­tles down to a thrum. Have a grap­ple with the long spindly gear lever, de­press the lighter-than-you’d-think clutch, find first gear, and you’re off. Un­like many of its con­tem­po­raries, the ’box has four speeds. First is low but ex­cel­lent for hill starts, and sec­ond is well-spaced enough to get you off those round­abouts. Third is tall and flex­i­ble and you are soon into fourth. Here, the car will hap­pily bowl along at 50-55mph, with a lit­tle more in re­serve if nec­es­sary.

The over­head-valve en­gine feels flex­i­ble and will­ing, though you won’t get flies in your teeth if you drive with the wind­screen open and it’s wise to take a run at hills. It’s a beam axle car, and long springs help to make the ride sur­pris­ingly good, and the han­dling, aided by an anti-roll bar, is fine for the late 1930s, with eas­ily con­trol­lable un­der­steer.

The 10M gen­er­ally goes where you want it to in sharp bends and those springs sap up ex­ces­sive body roll. The steer­ing wan­ders slightly but is eas­ily kept in check. There’s no sense you are fight­ing with the wheel.

Hy­draulic brakes mean the car stops rea­son­ably quickly, though an­tic­i­pa­tion is the name of the game. Vis­i­bil­ity isn’t bad as you look along the bon­net, en­joy­ing the Mor­ris 10M for what it is – one of the best small fam­ily cars of its era. It’s a pre-war-de­signed car that’s sur­pris­ingly us­able in 2017 pro­vided that you never try to in­tro­duce this lovely Mor­ris to the out­side lane of the M6.

auc­tion­eer DT Mathew­son for mak­ing the Mor­ris 10M avail­able to us. The car sold in the firm’s Fe­bru­ary sale for £5995, in­clud­ing fees. see www.math­ew­sons.co.uk or call 01751 474455 for de­tails of forth­com­ing sales. The 10M has a hand­some side pro­file, with flow­ing wings and lots of de­tail. it looks good for what was a rel­a­tively cheap car. The 10M will bowl along at 55mph but it wouldn’t take kindly to be­ing thrashed. what’s that, dad? That, my son, is a semaphore traf­fi­ca­tor – a turn di­rec­tion in­di­ca­tor. THANKS TO

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