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