Archive : BLMC Unveils the six-cylinder 2200

By Julian Mounter
Motoring Correspondent

Morris 2200
Morris 1800 Mk3

With a streak of inspiration now rarely demonstrated in the British motor industry, British Leyland’s Austin-Morris group today launches a new and revised range based on the popular, but hitherto rather stodgy, 1800 model.

By giving thn car a six-cylinder 2.2 litre engine, the group has extended its life considerably; by competitive pricing it might also have guaranteed the range wider appeal and better sales. The 1800 unit is retained, but the Wolseley 18/85 version has been dropped, as have the S versions of both cars.

So the range is now
Austin/Morris 1800
Austin/Morris 2200
Wolseley Six

With its enormous space, excellent road holding because of front-wheel drive and comfortable hydrolastic suspension, the 1800 has always been good value on paper. But its roughness of character often seen as inconsistent with what is expected of a “big” car: smooth power and a really unfussy, quiet ride.

The six-cylinder engine has changed all that. lt has added the qualities of smoothness and high performance to those of good roadholding and ride. I would therefore thoroughly recommend the six-cylinder models to anyone with £1,370.63 to spend on a big car, or £1,520.63 to spend on the more luxurious Wolseley.

The 2200s are £300 cheaper than the Triumph 2000, only a few pounds more than the new Victor 2300L and a lot cheaper than some of the imported big cars. The Wolseley, in my opinion, becomes one of the finest £1,500 cars for the big family. It is only £22 more than the 18/85S which it replaces, but offers much, much more.

Even the 1800 is improved slightly. The gear change is made more positive with rod operation, the interior has been cleaned up and the exterior styling made less fussy. One particularly welcome change is the placing of the handbrake between the front seats. The heater controls have been changed and mounted closer to the driver and the ignition switch incorporates a steering column lock.

Acceleration of the new six-cylinder cars is considerably quicker than that of the ordinary 1800s. 0-60 mph can be achieved in about 13 sec, compared with 17 sec, and 0-80 mph comes down to 24 sec from 35. The penalty is that the cars are more thirsty. British Leyland says that at a steady 30 mph, 36 mpg can be achieved with the 2200 and Six, compared with 42.7 mpg with the 1800. In fact consumption in ordinary driving will be considerably less in both cases.

Morris 2200
Morris 2200
Keith Adams


  1. Instead of going to all this trouble the 1800 should have been replaced by the Pininfarina 1800 styling exercise from the late 60s. With a smooth 6 cylinder engine and Hydragas suspension it would had the right ingredients to be a superb car.

  2. ” British Leyland says that at a steady 30 mph, 36 mpg can be achieved with the 2200 and Six, compared with 42.7 mpg with the 1800. In fact consumption in ordinary driving will be considerably less in both cases. ”

    I love their optimism on quoting mpg figures based upon a “constant 30mph”. I’m guessing that the 2200 drank like a fish?

    I remember a friend of my brother’s taking a driving test in a Wolseley 6; the steering lock was so poor that the examiner wanted to fail him on reversing around a corner. Fortunately, the examiner agreed to drive the car and found that it was incapable of following the line of the curb and agreed to pass him!

    Is it just me, or does the front end of the 1800/2200 look startlingly like that of the MINI Countryman? Okay, the 1800/2200 is the infinitely better looking car, but there’s a strong resemblance.

  3. So its 1972 and you have just developed a new 6 cylinder engine. Do you a) stick it into a new executive car planned for launch a few years later (SD1) that could use the engine in volume, or b) do you re-engineer a rather ugly, poor selling car that the market doesnt understand, has been on sale for nearly 10 years and that will only use a handful of the units a year? Answers on a post card.

    • For once (and somewhat belatedly) I think BLMC’s approach in this could be appreciated: an older, less than vital model might just be the perfect spot to find out if this new engine is good enough to use in their upcoming executive model.
      Just a pity nobody in Britain cared to consider this realistic possiblity, saving a nice amount of money developing that other new six cilinder. Probably because it was a BMC design, it couldn’t be used for a Rover, even though it turned out to be rather good…

  4. I would guess that it might be a uniquely BMC/BL approach: Rather than identify a need first and then develop an engine to suit, why not first develop and an engine and then wonder what on Earth to do with it?!

  5. Paul / John I guess the people behind this strategy were the same who decided to develop a diesel Princess for the Mini Cab market. I cannot understand why you would target this segment of the market, whilst ignoring the mid sector of the company car market which I am sure could have been tempted from their Granada’s by a 5 speed gearbox and a 2 Litre 6 cylinder engine.

    As for the SD1 Triumph designed / built 6 cylinder engine, I think the issue was trying to avoid a conflict with the Unions at Canley above anything else.

  6. I’m guessing that by the time they built this they knew that the Princess wasn’t too far away and getting a new engine into limited production would allow them to iron out it’s faults. Still it’s a bit strange that they made no cosmetic changes to the land-crab, surely any kind of restyling would have been worth a punt. The Australian Kimberly looked much better, and was already in production.

  7. Feels a lot like another engine BL didn’t need at the time – just like the Stag V8. NB it would be designed and launched before the oil crisis so fuel economy wasn’t such a big deal, I suppose. And it seems to have performed a useful role in Australia and S Africa where they didn’t use the b-series or the Rover straight six, prefering instead the e-series.

  8. It wouldn’t surprise me if the 2200 would have been too small for the SD1’s svelte bonnet. I know the 2200 was a six cylinder version of the 1500 E-4 but anyone remember how bulbous the Allegro’s bonnet had to be to accommodate the 1750?

    Besides, the SD1 had enough reliability issues without adding an extra problem in the guise of E-series head gasket gremlins!

  9. In the motor trade,the 2200 series often came into workshop for engine crankshaft thrust washers to be replaced. Was poorly engineered from that perspective but boy the engine always sounded great in the 2200 series cars, of course the engine was a maxi 4 cylinder with 2 extra cylinders basically.
    Still I used to love the car to bits but I never owned one regrettably. Those were the days!

  10. I still have a Wolseley Six and yes the engine is very smooth. My question for the engineers who signed it off for production was why didn’t you change the final drive ratio? After 10 years I still get to 35mph in fourth then press the clutch looking for another cog. I can understand why they didn’t attach the 5 speed Maxi box (too delicate) but a big 6 cylinder engine has gallons of torque so all they needed was a diff with a 20% higher final drive ratio. Job done. Even the bean counters would have approved

  11. @ Spencer Hall

    I wouldn’t be too concerned – both my Accent LCII 5 speed and the related Kia Rio are just as bad in 2005/2010 respectively. The Kia might as well have a three speed box. First is so low it’s only useful halfway up Porlock Hill – I tend to go 2-3-5 and fifth is possible at 33mph if you are gentle and it’s flat. 40mph is 2000rpm which is actually a smidgen *worse* than an old Humber Sceptre I! I keep looking for 6th even though I have never driven a car with 6 speeds (other than the Sceptres).
    It’s depressing that we’ve gone backwards since Landcrabs walked the earth.
    And it’s not as if the Kia is gutless either 1400cc 16v with 94/97hp depending on tune and probably more in there.. But the transmission ratios are so ridiculously low.

  12. While the narrow-angle V6 never progressed to becoming a working prototype like the related narrow-angle V4 did, how would either engine have fared in ADO17 bearing in mind the 1.1-1.2 V4 put out 75 hp compared to the 68 hp 1.5 E-Series that formed the basis of this 2200cc E6 engine?

    Additionally though the narrow-angle V4/V6 engines were to be mounted longitudinally had it reached production, would ADO17’s gearbox have coped with the extra power?

  13. I always liked the Wolseley Six, a very comfortable car and with a beautiful interior and an unstressed six to make driving pleasurable. I know it would affect the car’s liking for petrol, but specifying the Six with an automatic transmission would make the car even more cossetting on a long journey. Not a perfect car, it was quite thirsty, heavy to drive without PAS and the styling wasn’t well liked, but a more left field and relaxing alternative to a Triumph 2000 or Rover P6.

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