The cars : Morris 2200 HL (1975) – and some six-pot Morris predecessors

Chris Cowin remembers the last six-cylinder car to bear a Morris badge, and looks at some other six-cylinder Morris cars of the post-War era.

For many years such a model wasn’t offered in Britain, but things differed in the southern hemisphere.

Morris 2200 HL: The six-cylinder Morris story

Morris 2200 HL
The Morris 2200 HL of 1975. The last six-cylinder Morris car

In March 1975 the new 18-22 Series was launched by British Leyland. It included seven models of which one – the Morris 2200 HL – joined the select group of six-cylinder Morris cars of the post-War era.

Though not for long, as the evolution of the 18-22 Series into the Princess range in September 1975, which involved the deletion of Austin, Morris and Wolseley branding, resulted in the Morris 2200 HL enjoying only one month of life per cylinder – as a consequence, it’s reported only 1650 were built.

Morris 2200 HL
A range of three Morris models formed one wing of the seven car 18-22 Series of 1975, alongside three equivalent Austins and the range-topping Wolseley

It was one of three Morris models in the 18-22 Series, the others being the base Morris 1800 and the Morris 1800 HL, as pictured above. There were three equivalent Austin models in the range, and the range-topping Wolseley saloon. None went by the name Princess when new, it should be emphasized, that name only being pulled out of the archives when the 18-22 Series was hastily re-launched and re-named in late 1975.

With 2227cc, the transversely mounted ohc E-Series engine of the Morris 2200 HL developed 110bhp. Transmission was through a four-speed manual box, rather disappointingly when Austin Maxi and Allegro could offer five speeds, or a Borg Warner three-speed automatic.

Unlike the preceding Morris 2200 ‘Landcrab’, which was identical except for badging to the equivalent Austin 2200, an effort had been made to differentiate the Morris models in the 18-22 Series. They shared the bonnet pressing of the Wolseley model, with a raised centre section, and its quad headlight arrangement, while the Austin received Peugeot-like trapezoidal lights, which would have looked a bit silly in combination with the traditional grille fitted to the Morris and Wolseley.

Nose job

As seen in those pictures, a notional radiator grille was fitted to the Morris 2200 HL, 1800 HL and 1800, vaguely evocative of Morris cars of yore. Few people noticed, but on the Morris this grille was broader at the bottom than the top, which was the inverse of the Wolseley arrangement. It of course lacked the Wolseley’s central illuminated emblem, but had a Morris badge in flowing script at bottom right.

Somebody has probably calculated what those function-free grilles and accompanying raised bonnet did for the drag coefficient of the supposedly wind-cheating wedge.

However, apart from this Morris-specific front end (which some compared to the snout of TV’s Pink Panther-mobile), there was nothing else except badging to separate the Morris models from the equivalent Austins, and thus the Morris 2200 HL from the Austin 2200 HL. They tended to be advertised as a duo, though at that stage were distributed through separate arms of the still-split Austin Morris UK dealer network, which was a major reason this badge engineering was thought to be necessary.

Morris 2200 HL
The Morris 2200 HL was powered by the six-cylinder, transverse, overhead cam 2227cc E-Series engine with single overhead camshaft. It had twin SU carbs. This was the same installation as the Wolseley saloon

With the 18-22 Series only lasting six months before evolving into the Princess, the Morris 2200 HL was – like all the other cars in the Series – only marketed in the UK, export sales not having commenced before the changeover. It’s believed a few base (non-HL) Morris 2200 cars were built for Police use and the like…

But what of earlier six-cylinder Morris cars?

Morris Six

The 1948 Morris Six saloon. Most buyers preferred the Wolseley version
The 1948 Morris Six saloon. Most buyers preferred the Wolseley version

The first to appear after World War 2 was the Morris Six of 1948, looking like a Morris Oxford MO with a stretched bonnet, which it was. Its Nuffield developed VC22M engine with 2215cc developed 70bhp.

It lived rather in the shadow of the similar but twin-carb Wolseley 6/80 (popular with the Police) and was not a sales success with only 12,400 built in five years, the majority for export, before it was dropped in 1953.

The Nuffield arm of BMC seemed content to direct six-cylinder customers in the direction of the posher Wolseley or Riley cars that shared showrooms with Morris – and it was not until 1955 that another six-cylinder Morris appeared in the slightly ungainly shape of the Morris Isis.

Morris Isis

Morris Isis Traveller - offering seats for eight
Morris Isis Traveller – offering seats for eight

This came as either a four-door saloon or two-door Traveller, combining the body of the contemporary Morris Oxford models with an elongated nose intended to house the six-cylinder engine, which this time was a C-Series unit of 2639cc developing 86bhp.

The Isis Traveller pre-empted the Montego Estate by three decades in offering rear-facing seats in the luggage area, allowing the Isis Traveller to carry eight adults, three-abreast in the front. There were two series of Isis, the latter introduced in 1956 seeing styling changes in line with the Morris Oxford including tailfins, and an uprating of power to 90bhp.

Again – this model was not a sales success and Travellers were dropped in 1957, saloons in 1958. The Nuffield Organization, which continued to operate as a business unit within the larger BMC, with its own dealer network, was then content to leave the niche for a six-cylinder Morris unfilled for many years, in Britain anyway.

The Series II Morris Isis saloon offered duotone paint, tailfins and 'the best six-cylinder value in Britain'. But it wasn't popular
The Series II Morris Isis saloon offered duotone paint, tailfins and ‘the best six-cylinder value in Britain’. However, it wasn’t popular…

A gap left unfilled

When in 1959 BMC introduced a new 2912cc six-cylinder range of cars in the form of the Farina-styled Austin Westminster A99, Wolseley 6/99 and Vanden Plas Princess 3 Litre, a Morris badged version was lacking, and always would be.

So, there was a long barren period before another six-cylinder Morris appeared in British showrooms in 1972 – though, of course, the big Wolseley models stood ready to fill the gap – as did the big Austins. But Austins were distributed through another dealer channel in most markets and, certainly in Britain, many traditional Morris buyers would never contemplate an Austin.

Antipodean oddities

However, in Australia, things were rather different. Six-cylinder cars accounted for a much bigger proportion of car sales and the disappearance of the Morris Isis in 1958 left BMC Australia’s Morris dealers with a big hole in their range.

Morris Marshal

Morris Marshal - A six-cylinder Morris Britain never saw
Morris Marshal – a six-cylinder Morris Britain never saw

The solution was simply to rebadge the locally-built six-cylinder Austin A95, resulting in the Morris Marshal – an Australia-only car manufactured in 1958 and 1959, as both saloon and five-door Traveller. The Marshal was powered by a 2639cc C-Series engine.

In subsequent years. BMC Australia moved to a single dealer channel in which the Morris marque was confined to small cars, Austin to larger models – and, as a result, there was no further need for a six-cylinder Morris on the Australian market.

So, when BMC Australia introduced the Freeway in 1962 – essentially the A60 Austin Cambridge upgraded with the six-cylinder 2433cc Blue Streak engine – it came only as an Austin, although there was also an upmarket Wolseley 24/80 version. The Blue Streak engine which powered the Freeway, its name inspired by the contemporary missile system, was a ‘light six’ evolution of the B-Series which allowed it to be built on BMC Australia’s existing B-Series engine line. Although useful in Australia, it was never offered in the UK.

Morris Freeway

New Zealanders could buy a six-cylinder Morris Freeway during 1962-1965

But although Australians might have rejected the idea of a six-cylinder Morris, the Kiwis had not. In New Zealand, which imported BMC cars from Australia as well as the UK, parallel dealer networks for Austin and Morris still existed, which explains the appearance of the rebadged Morris Freeway of 1962-65, only in that market.

There were both Mk1 and Mk2 versions of the Morris Freeway, available as either a four-door saloon or five-door Traveller.

Morris Kimberley and Tasman

The Morris Kimberley and Morris Tasman came about as a consequence of the New Zealand Motor Corporation offering these 'X6' cars with either Austin or Morris badging - in line with UK naming practice
The Morris Kimberley and Morris Tasman came about as a consequence of the New Zealand Motor Corporation offering these ‘X6’ cars with either Austin or Morris badging – in line with UK naming practice

Something similar happened when the 2227cc E-Series engine was installed in Australia’s (Austin 1800 derived) X6 cars in 1970 resulting in the Austin Kimberley and its more humble companion the Austin Tasman.

These cars, which in a nutshell transformed the Issigonis ‘big interior/small exterior’ concept into a ‘big interior/big exterior’ car, also went through both Mk1 and Mk2 versions during their short life, the Mk1 Kimberley having twin carbs. And a small number of those cars were sold in New Zealand badged as Morris, so any roll-call of six-cylinder Morris post-War cars should really include the New Zealand market Morris Kimberley and Tasman.

The Australians also built a six-cylinder Marina during 1973-74 with the E-Series 2622cc engine, but that (just) missed out on being a Morris – being badged Leyland Marina in both Australia and New Zealand – as was the later South African version introduced there in 1975.

Morris 2200

Morris 2200 - 1972
Morris 2200 – 1972

As far as the British market was concerned, it was 1972 before a six-cylinder Morris reappeared as the Morris 2200 – part of the ‘Mk3’ evolution of what’s now often called the Landcrab, which together with the Austin 2200 and Wolseley Six adopted the 2227cc transverse mounted E-Series engine – as pioneered in Australia two years earlier on those X6 models. (Unlike Australia, Mk3 1800 models remained available in parallel).

The 1972-75 Morris 2200 formed part of a fairly successful rejuvenation of the ADO17 range, although export sales had largely dried up. New Zealand and Ireland took a few, while the small number exported to the European continent were upgraded with the Wolseley dash and standard Rostyle wheels.

But despite being largely confined to home base, the 2200 model (Austin and Morris combined) notched up 20,000 sales in three years – with the Wolseley Six version managing another 25,000.

It helped they coincided with the ‘Barber boom’ of 1972 and 1973, when British buyers were choosing the car with the shortest waiting list. And British Leyland priced them competitively. There’d been a plan to give these Mk3 cars new sheet metal front and rear, similar to the Australian X6 Kimberley and Tasman. However, a cash-strapped company baulked at that investment, and instead made a virtue of necessity – promoting the Austin and Morris 2200 as cars made more affordable by the avoidance of an expensive styling change for change’s sake.

Where we began

Essentially the same six cylinder powertrain, still developing 110bhp – was adopted by the new wedge-shaped Morris 2200 HL in March 1975 – which brings us full circle.

Although the Morris 2200 HL disappeared in September 1975, essentially the same car lived on now re-christened Princess 2200 HL, while the parallel Princess 2200 HLS model was the successor to the Wolseley. But the manual six-cylinder cars in the Princess range suffered from issues of driveshaft wear and had to be withdrawn for a period.

Blurred parentage

When the Princess 2 range arrived in 1978 the driveshaft issue had been corrected – and a Princess 2200 HL and 2200 HLS could be obtained with either manual or automatic transmission once more.

They were now being marketed by Austin Morris Limited, a division of the new BL Cars Limited which replaced Leyland Cars in 1978. But though from Austin Morris, they weren’t Austins (in the UK) and they weren’t Morris cars either, so a six-cylinder Morris didn’t reappear. The marque was Princess in the same way that Mini was marketed in that era.

The Princess 2 2200 HL was soon dropped (six-cylinder cars suffering after the 1979 fuel price shock) but the Princess 2 2200 HLS remained in the UK catalogue until 1982. And as most export markets broke with the UK and called these cars Austin Princess either from the start in 1975, or later in life, it was possible to buy a six-cylinder Austin Princess in places on the continent during the late 1970s. Though you had to be quick as most continental markets dropped the six-cylinder Princess 2200 models long before the UK, and offered buyers a sole (Austin) Princess 2000 HL in later years.

However, a Morris Princess, certainly a six-cylinder one, didn’t appear officially. Apparently, though, some dealers in Greece, which had traditionally held only the Morris franchise, did persuade their customers the Princess was a Morris. But in any case, Greece imported only the four-cylinder models (and very few of them).

Twilight years for Morris

The future for Morris cars as a whole was looking bleak as the 1980s dawned. The Morris Ital introduced in 1980 would be the last and, although that was briefly available as a 2.0-litre automatic (as the Ital 2.0 HLS of 1980-82), that O-Series powered car had only four cylinders.

So, even though the Morris marque had another decade to go, a six-cylinder Morris was something consigned to the history books in September 1975.

Or was it? Some would argue the Marina is a Morris even when it doesn’t bear a Morris badge and, as mentioned above, you could still buy an automatic-only six-cylinder Leyland Marina III 2600 in South Africa in 1979, equipped with the E-Series 2622cc inline six.

Not a Morris. But it's a Marina. South Africans could buy a six-cylinder Leyland Marina Series III 2600 in 1979.
Not a Morris. But it’s a Marina. South Africans could buy a six-cylinder Leyland Marina Series III 2600 in 1979
The Morris Kimberley (left) and Tasman. Six-cylinder cars which were marketed with Morris as well as Austin branding in New Zealand.
The Morris Kimberley (left) and Tasman. Six-cylinder cars which were marketed with Morris as well as Austin branding in New Zealand

Written with reference to: ‘The Cars of BMC‘ by Graham Robson.

Chris Cowin
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  1. The E6 was always a good engine, high fuel consumption aside. It was the sort of engine that was suited to driving at a steady 70 mph on the motorway with very little engine noise, and in the Wolseley Six( both models) and Princess 2200 HLS you had seats like armchairs to add to the feeling of unstressed driving. Buy the car with PAS and automatic transmission and it was limousine like.

  2. I remember that in the early Sixties some neighbours had a dark green Isis estate, they used it to tow their caravan, and I sometimes got a lift to school with them in the Isis.

    It was the first automatic transmission car I travelled in regularly. Column change, so three abreast seating in the front. Nobody had heard of seatbelts back then…!

    • A few big old cars was a bench seat with enough for 3, usually with a hand brake on the right of the seat & a column shift.

      • Yes – on the Morris Isis as referred to above the handbrake was to the right of the (British) driver between seat and door. The gearchange was on the steering column on the Isis Series I, but apparently on the Series II it was on the floor – but again to the right of the driver by the door (like some Rileys). This allowed three abreast seating although the car was the same modest width as the Morris Oxford (Series II and III) so you needed to be good friends : )

      • Not just big cars, my father’s Renault 4 had a bench seat at the front, and I’ve sat in the middle as a young child! The gear lever and handbrake were under the dashboard, so plenty of room LOL.

  3. Morris would have probably been better off had they produced OHV Six in the immediate post-war period before the C-Series.

    Post-BMC after the 2.6-litre C-Series appeared and leaving the task to the Australians (and also indirectly to the Japanese via the 2-litre six-cylinder Nissan J engine), they missed out on not producing a 2.2-2.4-litre Six. Which could have filled the void left by the 2.2-litre in the Morris Six and Wolseley 6/80, some 16-18 years before the 2.2-litre E6.

    • Yes BMC had a gap in their engine range for many years between the B & C series, though the 2.2 litre Austin engine was still used in the Gypsy, FX4 & some of the commericals.

      • If one thinks about it did BMC miss a trick by not developing a six from the B-Series and a four from the C-Series early on, in order to better cover gaps in their engine range?

        On the face of it the idea would be a pointless duplication, however in reality it would actually be complimentary and allow the larger 1798-2997cc four/six-cylinder B-Series engines to gradually displace the 1759-2912cc four/six-cylinder C-Series.

        Also find it unusual that BMC never attempted to develop either the B-Series or C-Series into something suitable to relace the post-war 2.2-2.6-litre Austin four, whose roots were inspired by the pre-war 216 Chevy Stovebolt.

        • I remember elsewhere wondering which engines could have been made from the existing engines.

          If I remember right the A-series owes a bit to the GM Stovebolt.

          • Some would state the A-Series was a “clean sheet” design, even though it owed much to established Austin engine design practise that drew a bit fromthe 216 Chevy Stovebolt.

  4. The interesting thing is the E6 used in the Princess and the ADO17 was based on the more recent E series engine, introduced in 1969, than the older B series or the A. IN 1750 form, this had made the Maxi a much more refined car, and maybe Leyland saw adding another two cylinders and expanding the engine to 2.2 litres was worth the risk. It did pay off as this was a very refined engine and while not the most powerful in its class, was a good engine for long journeys.

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