Wednesday December 5, 2018
In the late 1950s, an Oxford Series IV Traveller owner was the sort of chap or chappess who knew their position in life; pipe-smoking, Mrs. Dale’s Diary on the BBC Home Service and regarding the music of Lonnie Donegan as a threat to civilisation. Of its rivals, the Ford Consul Mk. II Farnham and the Hillman Minx Estate were too flamboyant, and the Vauxhall Victor F-Type Estate was associated, in the minds of quite a few Morris drivers at least, with spivs and skiffle musicians.
As for a converted Austin ½ ton van, that would represent social death in fashionable East Cheam circles – you might even be drummed out of the Rotary Club and shunned at Whist Drives.
If you wanted a medium sized estate that was smart yet dignified, the Morris was the ideal car. And seeing the truly magnificent 1959 Almond Green and Old English White example owned by Martin Hamilton is akin to being in a reconstruction of a Rank Look at Life travelogue.
The Oxford Series II debuted in 1954 -
- and the Traveller, as with previous post-war Morris estates, featured part-timber construction. The saloon was facelifted in 1956 as the Series III and in the following year saw the launch of the Traveller Series IV with an “all steel” body for ‘greater strength, lightness, endurance’ and four side doors. Autocar praised the Morris as ‘a versatile, solidly built car with a large measure of inbuilt quality, well suited to the family driver whose transport considerations come before sheer speed’.
The Pininfarina-styled Oxford replaced the saloon in 1959 but the Series IV Traveller was available until 1960, retaining its semaphore trafficators until the end of production. Survivors are now very seldom encountered, and Martin came across his Morris ‘in April 2016. It was in average condition – not a wreck or a basket case – but it turned out to be worse than I thought’.
As is so often the case ‘little rust bubbles’ hinted at other issues, and ‘the bodywork proved to be the greatest challenge, especially the inner and outer sills and the floor’. One unusual detail is the floor-mounted gear lever but as the Morris Oxford & Cowley Historian of the 6/80 & MO Oxford & Cowley Club - http://www.680mo.org.uk/ - Martin has found that this is common to the surviving examples. He has also replaced the B-Series power plant with ‘what is effectively a new engine from a Wolseley 1500’.
Today, Martin is now concentrating ‘on the detailing’ of the Traveller; ‘I drove 80 miles to Phoenix trim in Devon to buy the rear door seals and almost gassed myself as without said seals, exhaust gasses are sucked into the car!’. Today, the Oxford goes by the nom-de-Morris of ‘“Hercules" because when I bought "him" he looked like the daily driver of a rag and bone man - and he's always nagging me to do things!’.
However, for those readers who are familiar with Steptoe and Son, it will be immediately apparent that the Traveller is far too smart for the environs of Oil Drum Lane. Indeed, “Hercules” looks as though he belongs in the original brochure – a testament to both its inherent quality and its justifiably proud owner.