Wolseley 18/85

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A luxury version of B.M.C.’s 1800, the Wolseley 18/85, has been announced with power steering as standard equipment and Borg-Warner 35 automatic transmission as a £94 option. The price of the Wolseley with a four-speed box is £1,040.

Minor external changes and the traditional Wolseley grille identify the new model, the interior being improved by a full-width walnut facia panel, with individual cubbyholes, and the instrumentation in matching circular dials. On automatic versions the control lever is facia-mounted by the driver’s right hand.

One of the biggest criticisms of the 1800 has been the low-geared steering, though all production models now have a better ratio. The introduction of power steering, which will predictably be available on other models soon, has enabled the manufacturers to increase the ratio still further so that at 3-1/2 turns from lock to lock it feels almost direct. A very compact pump, working off the end of the dynamo, provides power impulses as the wheels are turned, a torque-activated pinion being mounted on a sliding member integral with the rack.

Borg-Warner transmission has been chosen in preference to the Automotive Products system used in Minis and 1100s because it is more compact—the overall depth is no greater than the block height when manual transmission is fitted, even though the gear train runs in its own oil and has to be separated from the sump. To reduce dimensions, the torque converter has been redesigned and it transmits power from the crankshaft to the gear train by means of a Morse “Hy-Vo” chain, eliminating the idler gear. Cables are used instead of rods to change gear, making right or left-hand drive applications particularly simple. Helping to counteract the extra power absorption, the engine is slightly more powerful producing 85 b.h.p. net.

Cars were made available for pre-announcement testing in Wales over a strenuous route crossing the Cambrian Mountains where power steering came into its own on the Tregaron-Abergwesyn road, 12 miles of the most tortuous track one may ever find. A driver has to work hard to maintain any respectable average and the lightness of the steering was a great asset, though on the first car, with manual transmission, the power steering pump failed after five miles of hard going. If the manual car felt rather underpowered, the automatic version was distinctly sluggish and the route did nothing to underline the virtues of the transmission. It is hard for a driver to master the whims of the gear-changing gremlins since the Lock-up hold position (useful for selecting intermediate) automatically secures and holds low gear if the speed falls below 24 m.p.h. before power is applied, so we much prefer a system with full manual over-ride. Upward changes are not cushioned so well as with other versions of the B-W 35, either due to the new type of torque converter or snatch in the chain. It must be said that technical difficulties had to be overcome in applying automatic transmission on a transverse front-drive layout and for town work, or gentle touring, the system will have appreciable advantages and is no doubt a good commercial proposition in the Wolseley range—B.M.C are hoping to fit it on 60% of the cars produced.

The excellent handling and braking capabilities of the 1800, coupled with comfort and carrying capacity, power steering and automatic transmission should make the Wolseley a well-balanced family touring model.—M. L. C.