Estimate: £13,000 - £15,000
The Morris Cowley Bullnose was part of a huge motoring shift here in the UK. Little did William Morris know, but his ‘light car’, which would be made available with a number of guises, would prove to be one of the most popular of the time and would be the car that would mobile many. It was a sturdy machine, with ample power meaning it had commercial applications, too.
The Morris Cowley was originally launched in 1913, before being updated to the car you see, here handsome Bullnose model, in 1919. By this stage, the engine had been through a number of evolutionary changes. Initially it was a White & Poppe unit, which was then replaced by the Continental engine. However, when production of that engine came to an end, the Hotchkiss engine was used. This engine, in 1,548cc four-cylinder guise generated 11.9hp, and would go on to be the most popular choice amongst the 150,000 or so cars built.
Available in a number of different body styles such as open-top two-seater, four-door and two-seater with dickey, the Morris Cowley could be all things to all drivers. However, the Doctor’s Coupe was arguably one of the most desirable models. Unusual with its dickey seat and one side door arrangement, this is the model we have available for auction here.
This particular Morris Cowley has a fascinating history, with various owners listed on the green and buff log-books. Registered new in Poole in 1925, the car was chosen by its owner due it being known for being one of the quietest vehicles of the time! At this point, believed to be up until 1960 and what we can gather from the supplied paperwork, the car was in excellent and unrestored condition.
The car was bought by well-known rally driver and car dealer of the time, Joe Huxham. Joe, who was something of a larger than life character decided that the Morris Cowley would be the perfect car to gift his son, Peter, on his 21st birthday. Included with the sale of the car is a newspaper clipping of the story - news was different back then, evidently.
They say you should only buy a used car from either an old lady or a vicar. Well, in the case of this Morris Cowley, it’s very much the latter, as that was the direction in which Peter went. He regularly used the car over the next twenty-five years, and going off the general condition of it, he didn’t race or rally in the same way his father did!
In 1985, the car was sold on. Looking at the frankly exceptional condition of the car (which we’ll explore in more detail below) we can only assume that the car underwent some sort of restoration. The paint has the shine and lustre of a car a quarter of its age, while the interior looks to have been barely sat in. The engine, under that winged bonnet, gleams bright red.
The current owner bought the car earlier this year, from a previous owner of some 20 years, and while he is incredibly fond of it, there are personal reasons that preclude him from keeping it, and as such, he has made the ever difficult decision to make way for a new custodian.
As one can imagine, this isn’t the kind of car that has a fully stamped service book. Instead, the condition and the fact it is some 95 years both serve as a tangible demonstration of this car’s upkeep. That said, there is some paperwork with this Morris Cowley, though it errs more on the side of historic than being anything relating to the maintenance.
There is of course a present V5. There is a newspaper cutting and photograph as mentioned above, along with a charming letter from the person who bought Peter Huxham’s Austin 7, which he sold to make space for the surprise arrival of the Morris Cowley. The writer of the letter remarks how he saw the “gift” when collecting the Austin!
The old bluff logbook and green logbook are still with the car, as is a file in which there are various snippets of history about the car both in specific and the model in general. There are photos of the car at various events, too. Including a rally with a group of chaps dressed as Santa! There is an original workshop manual, a parts manual and a wealth of owner’s club literature.
Remarkable. That’s the adjective we would have to use when talking about the compact cabin of this Morris Cowley. It’s also a part of the car that gives further credence to the notion of it having been restored, as it looks far newer than 95 years old! The carpets, leather and fabrics are all in wonderful condition and free from any damage, rips or sagging. The headlining is in good order, including where it has been tacked to the wooden frame of the car. No stretching or rips. Even the storage netting above is still taught.
The dials are all present and functional, though while the odometer reads just shy of 4,000 miles, we would anticipate it’s higher - mainly because it’s a four-digit odometer. The bakelite switches are all present and correct and operate with a pleasing ‘clunk’. The steering wheel is in good order, though does show some signs of age in the form of the odd scratch and chip, but nothing that detracts from its presentation or function.
The wood cappings on the sides and on the one door are all varnished to a high standard, the foot-long oil gauge is still dash-mounted and functional, and the dash even still has the pipe holder - a most period accessory! The glass is free from damage or chips, and the two opening windows function, as does the split opening windscreen.
Around the back, the most charming feature of this Morris Cowley, the fold out dickey seat, is again in excellent order. Opened by the use of two large keys, the seat folds back, opening up space for two passengers. The carpets are in excellent order, as is the seat covering both on the upper and lower sections. The parts of the wood frame that become exposed by opening the seat have been carefully painted, preventing any rot from setting in.
In the case of this car, the pictures truly do speak a thousand words, so we’ll avoid writing another thousand here. What we will say is that this car is wonderfully presented and has clearly been cared for. The first thing we noticed, other than the pleasing shine from the paint and brass, was the detail. Things such as the leather wrapping around each leaf spring. Details that show a car has been loved.
The flowing wheel arches and matching running boards are free from corrosion and damage, and the black paintwork is in generally good order, having a couple of touch ups here and there. Bodily, the blue paint is largely free of any flaws or issues, much like the black vinyl top, which is still tight and gives no hint to any underlying issues with the wooden frame. On that note, edges and parts of the frame that are exposed behind panels etc have all been painted or treated, further quashing any concerns of rot. There seems to be nothing of concern to note.
The black bumpers are in good order, and so too are the black solid wheels, including the side-mounted spare. All the wheels a shod in recent, period correct rubber. On the passenger side of the car sits a more modern battery box along with a delightfully period Shell petrol can.
The brightwork on the car is exceptionally presentable. Largely brass, it’s got some age to it, but no significant damage other than one small ding on the lowermost part of the bullnose grille. Other than that (and we think it adds a bit of authenticity to the car) the rest of the brass is excellent. So too are the fixings, hinges and so on. The original, oft missing calorimeter still sits proudly atop the grille.
The underside of the car maintains the same condition of the topside. The wood in the floors looks good, the chassis solid and well-painted, the suspension as mentioned is wrapped in leather to protect it and keep it lubricated. There are no signs of any leaks or of any corrosion. Honestly, it’s almost as good as new under there.
Open the winged bonnet and you’re treated to a clean and tidy engine bay, complete with ignition leads that have been number labelled. The current owner explained that the car had been sent to a mechanic and friend who relished the opportunity to go through the car and give it a freshen up. As such, the carb was stripped and rebuilt with a service kit, new plugs were fitted, the magneto was checked and the contact breakers were cleaned and re-set. The oil was changed, the timing was checked, the fluids elsewhere were checked and as such, the car now starts on the button. Yes, this old machine has electric start, though there is a crank handle should you need it - though hopefully not.
The car runs and drives without any faults to be seen. There is no smoke, there is no heavy smell of fuel. We observed the car driving for a number of miles and it trundled along quite happily, reaching speeds of 30 or so. The trafficators still function, flipping out and illuminating to alert other road users. Though for those who miss them, there is a brilliant ‘awoogah’ horn that should do the trick!
The steering is as direct as expected, and the brakes (Which are 4 wheel brakes, indicated by the red triangle on the rear of the vehicle), are lever operated, and although take some getting used to, are adequate for the little car. The gearbox, which is a non-synchro three-speed manual with reverse again takes some getting used to, but when you do, it functions without flaw.
The vintage Morris Cowley is a rare thing. Not just because of its age, but also because of its condition. It’s a wonderfully presented thing, but one that is ready to go and ready to be driven. This isn’t a car you need to be delicate about - it wants to be driven. If you’re looking for a car to attend shows, to use on vintage rallies or to simply use for idle Sunday drives, there are few more charming than this.
Clearly a car that has lived a life with no shortage of care and attention, this has to be one of the finest of its sort. The only way we could see it being bettered would be by an example in a museum. But this one isn’t in a museum, it’s here, it’s on the road, running, driving and ready for its next adventure. An adventure that, should you secure the winning bid, could be with you.