MORRIS 8

ENGLISH AS PORK PIE AND A PINT

New Zealand Classic Car - - FRONT PAGE - Words: Terry Cob­ham Pho­tos: Adam Croy

Morris Mo­tors in­tro­duced a new model half­way through the 1930s, against a back­ground that was typ­i­cal of Bri­tain. The Morris 8 was hugely suc­cess­ful in Bri­tain, and cer­tainly left its mark on mo­tor­ing his­tory here in New Zealand. The car was launched at a time when un­em­ployed min­ers were march­ing from Jar­row to Lon­don to protest against un­em­ploy­ment and poverty, par­tic­u­larly in the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties of the north of Eng­land; in Lon­don, the very first pub­lic broad­casts of the BBC’S new tele­vi­sion depart­ment were now reg­u­lar; and some­where be­tween those two places, Frank Whit­tle was try­ing to put the fin­ish­ing touches on his new jet engine. Ed­ward the VIII was about to ab­di­cate to marry his US sweet­heart, and Lawrence of Ara­bia had just crashed his Brough Su­pe­rior mo­tor­cy­cle into a hedge, killing him­self.

When one con­sid­ers this car in the light of those events, it was quite a long time ago, 82 years ago, in fact.

Work­ing-class car

Morris Mo­tors was based in Cow­ley in Ox­ford­shire, Eng­land, and its new­est model was a very ‘work­ing­class’ car, in­tro­duced at a time when car own­er­ship in the UK was at a ra­tio of less than one car for ev­ery 20 peo­ple. Typ­i­cally, the Bri­tish work­ing class didn’t yet own cars, and William Morris, the en­tre­pre­neur­ial owner of Morris Mo­tors, saw that as a great op­por­tu­nity. He had al­ready built his bi­cy­clere­pair com­pany into a ma­jor ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer, and his per­sonal for­tunes had pros­pered ac­cord­ingly. It was time for him to take an­other step for­ward.

New era

The Morris 8 was de­signed for this new pe­riod. In Bri­tain, in 1935, the con­cept of the driv­ing li­cence was less than two years old, and road safety was only start­ing to be­come an is­sue. Un­til then, any­one over 17 years of age had been per­mit­ted to drive — there must have been an­ar­chy on the roads. Road ac­ci­dents had killed more than 7000 peo­ple the pre­vi­ous year, half of who were pedes­tri­ans, so sud­denly the abil­ity to stop or change di­rec­tion eas­ily was be­com­ing some­thing not just politi­cians were aware of.

How­ever, not ev­ery­one was sym­pa­thetic about the risks of driv­ing. One UK MP an­nounced in par­lia­ment that the peo­ple would just have to get used to it, as they had done the horse and cart. An­other an­nounced that, at the be­gin­ning of mo­tor­ized trans­port, dogs and chick­ens had been reg­u­larly killed by cars, but now this hardly ever hap­pened, as the an­i­mals had be­come ac­cus­tomed to the ve­hi­cles — one pre­sumes that he thought peo­ple were in the same cat­e­gory. But William Morris was a clever busi­ness­man, and he re­al­ized that a car more adapted to mod­ern times would pros­per.

Suc­cess

The Morris 8 was in­tro­duced to the Bri­tish pub­lic in 1934 at the Lon­don mo­tor show. This was William Morris’ re­sponse to the Austin 7 and the Ford

It would ap­pear that our fea­tured car was im­ported built up from the UK in 1937, al­though pa­per­work shows that it was as­sem­bled there in 1936

THE H UMB L E M OR R I S 8 - A S E NGL I S H A S A P OR K P I E A ND A P I NT. . .

Be­fore and af­ter: Hard to imag­ine it’s the same car

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