In 1895 the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Company asked Herbert Austin, who had worked for them in Australia, to design a car with which they could enter the motor business.
The result was a tricar fitted with a, flat-twin engine, inspired by the French Lion Bollie. Four-wheeled prototypes appeared in 1899, and a 3 3/4 hp single-cylinder example competed in the 1000 Mile Trial of 1900. A horizontal engine was a feature of all Wolseleys until 1905. But Colonel Siddeley, a Wolseley director and importer of French cars, insisted that vertical-engined Siddeleys or Wolseley-Siddeleys appear alongside the old horizontal engined models, a compromise that probably hastened Austin's departure, when he started building vertical-engined cars under his own name.
After he left in 1906, models were known variously as Siddeleys, Wolseley-Siddeleys or Wolseley/Siddeley liaison lasted until 1910 with large four and six-cylinder cars prevailing.
During World War One Wolseley built the ohc Hispano-Suiza V8 aeroengine under licence, so it was no surprise to find this camshaft layout on their 1.3 litre 10hp model after the war. Other variations on the same theme were the 12 hp and 15 hp models; in 1925 the 10 developed into the 11/22, while the ohc layout was replaced by a cheaper side-valve layout for the 16/35, which superseded the 15 in the same year.
Although a new ohc six, the 16/45, appeared in 1927, the company had gone bankrupt in the meantime, being snapped up by William Morris in the face of opposition from Herbert Austin. It was not long before the Wolseley-inspired ohc began appearing in the contemporary MG and Morris models, the 1928 Wolseleys being a 2.7 litre straight-eight and a four-cylinder 12/32. The 21 /60, a six, followed, being a Wolseley edition of the Morris Isis.
A significant event of 1930 was the appearance of the ohc 1.3 litre Hornet, while larger six- and eight-cylinder cars were also available. Although the Hornet was later increased to 1.4 litres,1936 was the last year of the ohc Wolseleys. Pushrod-engined replacements included the Super Six and 1.8 litre 14/56.
The post-war era saw the Morris-inspired ohv 8 and 10, while the four-cylinder ohc 4/50 and the six-cylinder 6/80 reverted to the old Wolseley tradition, the latter power unit being shared with Morris. However, the 4/44 of 1953 used a detuned MG TD engine, though rationalization was reflected in the 1500 of 1958, in effect an expanded Morris Minor. A variant of the Mini, the Hornet, appeared in 1962, while plusher versions of the fwd 1100 and 1800 models displayed the famous illuminated radiator badge, a feature of the marque since 1933.
(Vintage European Automobiles)
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