ENGLISH AS PORK PIE AND A PINT
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.
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.
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.
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