1937 Morris 10/4 – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

There’s a charm that comes with cars of the 1930s. It was a time when the UK was bustling with car companies, each one trying to be better than the next. New technologies were being investigated and applied, new design ideas were being put into place and as such, new cars seemed to be everywhere, and from all manner of manufacturers. It was a golden time for motoring, but of course, World War 2 put a pause to all of that when conflict broke out in ‘39. As we all know, it was a war that would be ongoing for some six years. In that time, almost all automotive production came to a halt – companies, automotive or otherwise, were all drafted in to help with the war effort. Furthermore, metal that would have been used for cars became exceptionally valuable. 

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And that’s what makes cars like this little Austin 10/4 so special. It would have been just two years-old when the war broke out. But, it managed to survive the country-wide destruction of the war, it managed to avoid being used for its metal and then on top of that, it’s survived through to today. It is now an 87 year-old car. Of course, it’s in need of some love, having been hidden away in a garage from 1972, but still, it’s in remarkable condition. Even the crank handle is still in place. 

What is it? 

What you’re looking at here is a 1937 Morris 10/4. The Ten was introduced in 1933 to compete in the 10hp British car market. The Ten Four, or 10/4 if you prefer, was released in 1934 at the same time as the Ten Six. It featured a strengthened chassis, revised engine mountings and the gearbox gained a synchromesh to smooth out the drive. Furthermore, the four-cylinder petrol engine was given a power hike to the dizzying figure of 27.5hp. 

This car seems to be quite special, in that it appears to be a sliding head saloon, which has a sloped back, in-built spare wheel, suicide front doors and as the name would suggest, a sliding roof. It’s rare to find a Morris 10/4, let alone one in this configuration. 

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Being a ‘37 model, it is two-tone in colour (this was optional from ‘35), though of course, you’d want to look at getting fresh paint at some point. It looks to be complete though, which is a bonus. And the seller states that the car comes with lots of spares including another gearbox and another engine that’s been stripped, as well as a number of boxes full of parts. It seems someone had hopes of restoring this little car at some point. 

Why is it a project? 

Well, the poor thing clearly hasn’t turned a wheel for a long, long time. The current vendor states that the car has been ‘indoors’ since 1972, though whether or not it was on the road immediately prior to that is unknown. Wherever it has been stored, it seems to have been free of any moisture, because the car looks remarkably straight and solid. 

The best way to look at this little Morris would be as a complete project. While it doesn’t, at first glance, seem to be suffering from terminal rot, there is absolutely no doubt that the engine will need a rebuild, the electrics will need to be renewed, all the rubber components will be shot, the body needs paint and the interior needs a complete re-trim. 

Is it worth doing it? We think so. The car looks so very honest, and depending on how it looks after a wash, we’d be tempted to do an ‘oily rag’ restoration – that patina is hard earned, and if it’s not too bad, it would be worth preserving. This seems like a very honest little car, and that aspect of it should be saved by a sympathetic hand, rather than just renewing every nut and bolt. 

Five things to look for:

1) Chassis

With cars of this vintage, the body will rust away at the same rate as the underside, or at least it should in most cases. This car looks pretty solid, but you still need to get under it to check the condition of that chassis. If it’s turned to dust, it could be game over before you even start. 

2) Suspension

The car looks to be sitting quite low at the back. This could just be the ground it’s on, or the leaf sprung suspension may have given up or worse, broken/corroded. Get under it to see what’s what. 

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3) Parts

What parts does the car come with, and between them and the car itself, will you have enough to put the 10/4 back together? At the very least, do you have everything to take measurements if you need? 

4) Trim

You need the car to have as much trim as possible, even if it’s past its best. Old trim is more useful than no trim. You can use it as a template, as a colour guide and as a general basis for how best to restore the car’s interior. 

5) Paperwork 

The vendor states that they’re awaiting a new style V5, and at the same time, it’s unknown if the car will retain its registration, or if it will be issued a new one by the DVLA. You need to find out what the score is. 

What should you do with it?

This beautiful little car has done so well to survive for so long that we think it would be wrong to do anything other than simply restore it. But as we said above, we’d go for that ‘oily rag’ restoration, as to take everything off, paint it and make it shiny and new would steal so much of the car’s essence. You want to try and keep some of the age and some of the patination that this car has earned over its near 100 year life. Get it running, give it a clean up, service all the mechanicals, replace the rubber and the wiring, then clean it as best it can be cleaned. Job done. 

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