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
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.