During July two twins were conceived by the B.M.C.—the Austin A99 and the Wolseley 6/99. We do not think we are wrong in describing these newcomers as twins for, although they have been given distinctive names, they had the same coming-out party. Moreover, from some extremely comprehensive technical data issued by their parents, we find that in comparing them under no fewer than 230 headings only eight differences are apparent — ignoring some unhappy errors in compilation which, for instance, credit the new Wolseley with 53 forward speeds and a road speed as high as 356 m.p.h. at 1,000 ft./min. piston speed!
The factors, then, which distinguish 6/99 from A99 are confined to half an inch on the length and width, the provision of a reversing lamp, switches for fog-lamps (which are not, however, fitted as standard), a cigar-lighter, additional ash-trays and an extra monotone paint shade, while this is the heavier of these almost-identical twins, by fractionally over 1 cwt. The twins, however, have different faces, that called A99 resembling an A55, that of the 6/99 showing signs of heredity.
Both these new B.M.C. cars have C-series 112-b.h.p. six-cylinder, 83.8 by 89-mm., 2,914-c.c. engines. Three-speed gearboxes are normally fitted, controlled by steering-column levers, and it is interesting and encouraging to discover that this normally mediocre transmission is lifted well out of the rut by the provision of our old friend the freewheel, which locks automatically at speeds just above 30 m.p.h. by German Porsche synchromesh in the gearbox, and by a Borg-Warner epicyclic overdrive functioning in second and top gears and engaged automatically by easing off the accelerator. The maxima claimed in the five speeds are: first, 30 m.p.h.; second, 57 m.p.h.; overdrive second, 83 m.p.h.; top, 94 m.p.h.; overdrive top, 102½ m.p.h. at 3,750 r.p.m. An alternative is Borg-Warner fully-automatic transmission, which we feel sure Desmond Scannell will be astonished to see weighs nothing whatsoever — according to data handed to us by the B.M.C.!
Another extremely interesting feature of these B.M.C. A99 and 6/99 cars is the provision of a rather specialised braking system, obviously carefully planned with the operation of these 100-m.p.h. saloons in modern traffic conditions constantly in mind. This system uses vacuum-servo assisted Lockheed 10 ¾-in. discs at the front, 10-in. drum brakes at the back, with the addition of an equaliser, the purpose of which is to ensure that after a given pressure has been applied all additional braking force is transferred to the front brakes, thus preventing the rear wheels from locking with normal loads on dry roads. This could be a worth while step forward towards safer control on wet or icy roads, and we look forward to testing it in due course. A light is provided on the facia which warns of loss of servo assistance. Incidentally, Lockheed’s publicity hand-out suggested that the Wolseley was the first large-series production family saloon to have front disc brakes, the Citroen DS and ID models, which have had their front wheels braked by discs of another make for some years, being disregarded.
Otherwise, these new B.M.C. models are conventional cars, with coil-spring and wishbone i.f.s., half-elliptic back springs, anti-roll bars front and back, cam-and-peg steering, and well-appointed Farina-styled leather-upholstered six-seater saloon bodies. The price of the A99 is £1,148 12s. 6d., or £1,185 9s. 2d. with push-button radio, both prices inclusive of purchase tax. The automatic gearbox version is priced at £1,219 9s. 2d. The 6/99 is priced at £1,254 17s. 6d., £1,291 14s. 2d. with radio, and £1,325 14s. 2d. with automatic transmission, inclusive of purchase tax.