Monday July 2, 2018
The scene – a warehouse somewhere in London docklands, circa 1953. A gang of ne’er do wells, as immediately recognisable by their scowls, black shirts and white ties, have stolen a several crates of kippers and are making their getaway in a Ford V8 Pilot acquired that very day from a bombsite motor trader. Suddenly, the driver sees in his rear view mirror a large black saloon bearing an illuminated “Wolseley” badge and a “police” sign across the grille.
Villain 1 – Lawks a lumme! It’s the law, and no mistake!
Villain 2 – Stone the flipping crows!
Cut to inside the police car:
The Inspector (resplendent in his best trilby hat) – Use the bell Sergeant!
There now ensues a tremendous chase assisted by under-cranking the camera to make the Pilot and the 6/80 look as though they are travelling at Warp Factor 10. Suddenly, the hoodlums crash into a pile of boxes that have been conveniently stack at the side of the road – proof, if further proof were really needed, that crime does not pay. Cue the closing credits.
When the 6/80 made its debut in the autumn of 1948 it was the flagship of the Morris and Wolseley new post-war line-up. It was handsome in a dignified yet dashing way, it was extremely well-appointed with fog lamps, a telescopic steering column, leather upholstery, a heater and a clock as standard equipment and under the bonnet was a 2.2 litre six-cylinder engine.
The top speed was a reasonable 85 mph and when the 6/80 was replaced by the 6/90 in October 1954 it had gained a place in the most respectable circles. That vast radiator grille and tasteful interior informed all and sundry that you had ‘arrived’. After all, when the Wolseley was parked ‘outside a house, you can place its owner as a man whose standing with his neighbours is high’ claimed the Nuffield Group.
It has also sold in virtually twice as many numbers as its cheaper Morris Six MS stablemate; possibly because the 6/80 offered such excellent value for money.
However, the main reason why someone of my vintage is so familiar with this great motor car is due to the influence of cinema. It did not matter if the black and white picture being screened on afternoon BBC2 was formerly a major attraction at your local Gaumont or a B-feature that was shot in two weeks on an approximate budget of 11/9d – the long arm of the law was bound to arrive in a 6/80.
This reflected the Wolseley’s extensive use by constabularies across the UK See Video Below (the London Met. was using them into the 1960s) and such is my association of the 6/80 with filmic law enforcement that I am always surprising to encounter one that is finished in a colour that is not black.
All which is another reason to re-watch Saber of London, Scotland Yard, The Challenge - See Video Below (yes, that really is Jayne Mansfield driving the Jaguar Mk. VII) and many other fine programmes and features. The ultimate police 6/80 film is probably Town on Trial -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICT2J6HWp98 – but to devotees of classic cinema and classic cars the sound of a bell on the bumper of a big Wolseley is as essential an ingredient of a great narrative as a cameo from Sam Kydd.