Five Clas­sic Tri­als Morris Isis Trav­eller

An eight-seater that’s loaded with char­ac­ter and ca­pa­ble of 80mph – there are many rea­sons for rec­om­mend­ing the Isis Trav­eller to any­one who thinks that the Mi­nor is a bit too ubiq­ui­tous

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

The Morris Isis Trav­eller is a fondly-re­mem­bered pass­port to far-off salad days – a time when its name con­jured up noth­ing more sin­is­ter than pic­ture-post­card images of the western reaches of the River Thames in the Cotswolds. The cud­dly styling – from the cur­va­ceous bon­net to the slightly mad­der Mi­nor Trav­eller-style ‘woody’ rear half – will make any­one smile. Lots of chrome, or­nate badg­ing and an im­pos­ing front grille all ar­rest the on­looker’s gaze, but let’s open the driver’s door, clam­ber inside and see what’s what.

Ev­ery­thing is big in here, from the bouncy seats to the cream steer­ing wheel – com­plete with a horn ring that’s big­ger than most mod­ern car steer­ing wheels – and the gear lever, which looks like it’s been lifted from a rail­way sig­nal box. The hand­brake lives on the right-hand side of the driver’s seat and the rear doors seem to be miles away. You can’t see the pull-down sev­enth and eighth seats at all – they sit hid­den away be­hind the rear bench, fac­ing back­wards.

For a car that gave lit­tle change from £900 when new, the Isis isn’t ex­actly over-en­dowed with lux­ury touches – there are no glove­box lids and the car­pet over mats are rub­ber. That said, the in­stru­ments are grouped to­gether in two cir­cu­lar di­als in the mid­dle of the dash – one con­tains read­outs for tem­per­a­ture, charge, oil pres­sure and fuel, and the other houses the speedome­ter, which in­cor­po­rates a tiny clock. Switches for the starter, lights and var­i­ous other func­tions are laid out in a neat row un­der the in­stru­ment pane, though some are quite a stretch away from the driver – he or she would prob­a­bly ap­pre­ci­ate it if the front seat pas­sen­ger would turn on the wind­screen wipers from time to time!

Ac­ti­vate the starter and the big 2.6-litre C-se­ries engine booms into life, echo­ing around the spa­cious cabin like a Phil Spec­tor wall of sound. Ease the col­umn gear lever to­wards you and into the non-syn­chro­mesh first and you’re re­warded with a mu­si­cal wail as you pull away from the kerb. Quickly down into sec­ond, then back into third as the speed picks up. Once you’re up to your cho­sen cruis­ing speed, slot the lever back into fourth. There’s a colos­sal amount of torque here and the engine pos­i­tively glides to its up­per lim­its in top from as lit­tle as 20mph. It will hap­pily cruise at 65mph with­out strain.

Not that the driver can just sit back and let this hap­pen – there’s an abun­dance of un­der­steer to tackle, and there is the dis­tinct feel­ing that you have to wrench that big steer­ing wheel when ne­go­ti­at­ing sharp bends. All the while, the rear end strug­gles to catch up as it floun­ders in a sea of body roll. Un­like its Morris Ox­ford sta­ble­mate, too, there’s no rack-and pin­ion-steer­ing. Thank­fully the car gives in shortly be­fore your bi­ceps do!

On the plus side, the steer­ing wan­ders rather less than you’d prob­a­bly imag­ine, the gearchange qual­ity is good and the 11-inch drum brakes are sur­pris­ingly good. Even the clutch isn’t too heavy. Clearly, the Isis scores well on the im­por­tant things. But as eight­seater es­tates go, this one ma­jors on be­ing ut­terly charm­ing.

isis is good for 80mph, though prefer­ably on a straight road un­less you are feel­ing brave. There’s plenty of power and loads of low-speed torque.

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