Just before Christmas B.M.C. announced a second Farina-styled car, following the introduction, at the last Earls Court Motor Show, of the ingenious Austin A40 with body devised by the same famous Italian stylist. This new car is the Wolseley 15/60 and by next July we can expect to see the same body pressing used for the M.G. Magnette, Austin A55 and the 2.6 Riley.
The new body is lower, wider and longer than its predecessor and prominent tail-fins are a feature, emphasised by a drooping side “flash” and large rear light clusters in which these fins terminate. A truly commodious luggage boot is provided, its capacity of 19 cu. ft. being an increase of 8 cu ft. over the boot on the former Wolseley 15/50. The lid raises automatically under torsion-bar action, à la Borgward, and the boot is illuminated when the lid is up by a small lamp on the rear bumper.
The roof line is low and typical of Farina, the roof overhanging the rear window. The bumpers are typically Italian and devoid of prominent over-riders. The Lucas headlamps are faintly hooded and the dummy Wolseley radiator is set considerably ahead of the real cooling element to give an impression of power.
Apart from its revised styling and duo-tone or one-colour finish, this new Wolseley has some good points not apparent at a casual glance. For example, stainless steel is used for the window surrounds, the doors have push-button handles and safety locks within to render children immune from sudden ejection onto the road, and at night the intensity of the direction-flashers is automatically reduced as the sidelamps are switched on, an excellent and thoughtful feature. The throttle of the S.U. carburetter is connected to the accelerator by rods with nylon joints, the leads to the electrical junction-box pull-off without need to unscrew them, and the heater is controlled by two simple and neat facia knobs, clearly lettered. All four trailing doors open a full 90 deg and the deep-backed seats are upholstered in smooth, cool leather-cum-leathercloth over foam rubber. The bonnet props open and releases automatically, and the 10-gallon petrol tank is accommodated between the back seat and the luggage boot. The spare wheel is located under the floor of the boot and its container winds down to give access, luggage remaining undisturbed. The interior lighting is rose-tinted, to make the Wolseley’s occupants look fit and bronzed!
Technically the car is unchanged, except that the wheelbase has been reduced by 2-3/4 in., to 8 ft. 3-1/4 in. The B-type 1,489-c.c. B.M.C. engine with 8.3-to-1 compression-ratio develops 55 b.h.p, so that if the 15/60 designation is cheating, at least it balances the B.M.C.’s former modesty in respect of the 15/50! If criticism of the new styling may be ventured it is that the small 14-in. wheels appear too deeply and rather too obviously recessed in the slab body sides and that we abhor tail-fins. Cars sell on appearance these days and it is very sensible to employ the best possible styling, but the purchaser must not overlook the fact that new bodies and new designations can be used to mask out-dated components.
A brief run in one of the prototype 15/60s a week after they had come into being showed light steering, some roll, a good floor-lever gear-change, but considerable noise at 60 m.p.h. Indicated maxima of 45 m.p.h. in second gear and over 60 m.p.h. in third gear were within the compass of the engine, and the driving position and forward visibility were excellent, the latter faintly marred on the off side by the rim of the steering wheel. The view of the plain bonnet-top is undistinguished and not a bit Wolseley-like, and we really do not approve of a wood facia and fillets in conjunction with modern pressed-steel mono-construction. Safety factors are generous interior padding, non-dazzle above the facia, and a dished steering wheel. The gear-lever jumped out of third gear and its knob came away in the hand, shortcomings excusable in at prototype car. The roadholding inspires brisk driving and the Girling brakes function with their customary efficiency. The half horn-ring is as blatant as the horn it sounds. The right-hand handbrake is excellent. — W. B.