WILLIAM RICHARD MORRIS was born on the 10th of October 1877. His father, Frederick Morris was a clerk in Oxford and his mother, EmilyAnn Pether was the daughter of a farmer. William was the eldest of 7. His family moved to Oxfrord in 1880 and he was educated at Church School in Cowley until 1892 when at the age of 14 he left to take a job repairing bicycles.
In 1901 William Morris described himself as a “Practical Cycle Worker and Repairer”; two years later he was able to say “Motor Repairs a Speciality”, and in 1905 he owned a car of his own, was operating a successful car hire service, and was toying with the idea of building a car of his own from parts made by specialists but designed by himself.
W.R.M. Motors was registered in 1912 with W.R.Morris as the Managing Director and sole ordinary shareholder. The first production model (1913) - the Morris Oxford Light car- was a two seater with an 8.9hp engine priced at 165 pounds. The premises were an assembly plant, practically all the components being manufactured elsewhere to specifications and upon jigs supplied by W.R.M.Motors Ltd. Engines, gearboxes and carburetters came from White and Poppe of Coventry, axles and other components from W.G.Wrigley & Co. of Birmingham, wheels from Sankey, while bodies were made in Oxford by the old established coach building firm of Raworth.
So popular was the original car that by January 1914 the catalogue offered no fewer than 6 variations, including a coupe and a delivery van, and Morris was planning another model-the Morris Cowley to be. Although production of this car commenced - using largely components of American manufacture (including the engine, which was 11.9hp) - the war proved a serious setback. The factory was turned over to munitions production and it was while engaged in this that methods of “flow-line” assembly were introduced.
In 1919 the use of the original 8.9hp engine was discontinued. Both the Morris Oxford and the Morris Cowley were thenceforth fitted with the 13.9hp and 11.9hp engine respectively which were now being manufactured for Morris at Coventry by the Hotchkiss Company.
For 1927 the bullnose gave way to a flat radiator, giving improved cooling and an appearance more in keeping with the times. The Cowley and Oxford continued in production side by side and the range of models was increased. The 16hp Morris Oxford and 18hp Light Six appeared in 1927/28 and at the same time development was going on upon a small car. The basis of this car was a Wolseley – designed engine of 8hp with an overhead camshaft. (Morris had acquired Wolseley Motors in 1926). In 1929 the Morris Minor was launched. It sold for 125 Pounds and claimed 50 mph and 50 mpg.
Following the slump of 1929, Morris decided to produce a car that would sell for 100 Pounds. The engine of the Minor was changed to a side valve in order to bring the price down and in 1931 the company was able to advertise a car for 100 Pounds which did 100 mph and 100 mpg, both of these feats having been actually performed – the one at Brooklands with a supercharged version of the car and the other at about 15 mph on a road circuit between Birmingham and Coventry.
Apart from the Minor, the Isis had been developed in 1929/30 period and four other cars were developed between 1929 and 1932. The 16hp and 25hp Oxfords were next to appear, together with the Morris Ten, and in 1933 Morris were able to offer cars of 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 25hp, all, except the 16hp, being available as saloons, coupes and tourers.
William Morris’s services to his country had been recognised by the conferment of a barony in 1934 and in 1938 the first baron Nuffield was created a viscount. The original small Morris motors had expanded into the vast Nuffield Organisation producing Morris, Riley, Wolseley and MG cars as well as Morris commercial vehicles. In 1939, on the 22nd May, the millionth Morris car was completed and less than four months later September saw the cessation of car manufacture and the factory at Cowley turned over to munitions of war once again.
This page is a work in progress.
Morris Register of NSW Inc