Factory methods of the vintage era No. 9: Morris

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In the summer of 1927 the famous bull-nose radiator of Morris Cars had become flat-fronted but otherwise the mechanical specification of the popular Cowley and Oxford models was virtually unchanged.

They were very definitely in mass-production at the Cowley factory, even in vintage times. Thus the dispatch hall always held a stock of around 500 cars, cleared in a couple of days to agents avid for delivery, for there was, in mid-1927, a waiting list of several weeks before delivery could be obtained. This in spite of production running at some 335 cars every day. Of these, about two-thirds were Morris-Cowleys, the remainder Morris-Oxfords, with the larger 15.9-h.p. Oxford well represented. Customers, as is the case with Rolls-Royce today, could, if they wished, see how the cars were assembled.

Chassis were assembled on production lines, to which the necessary components were brought as required, rear axles with their torque tubes being assembled on their own special platforms, and the frames, after the axles had been fitted, rolling forward on “slave” wheels, into the paint booths, where they were inverted and spray-gunned with black paint.

The power units, each one complete with gearbox, starter motor, universal joint and accessories, came from the great Morris engine works at Coventry on a fleet of Scammell 6-wheeled lorries, 50 of these being employed and each one carrying 50 engines. The engines were brought to the assembly lines on little 4-wheeled trolleys, a small crane lifting the power units off the trolleys, which an empty Scammell then took back to Coventry for another batch of engines to be mounted on them.

After the engine was installed in the chassis, its sparking plugs screwed in, and the propeller-shaft coupled to the universal joint, the pressed-steel dash with its electric wiring was fitted, and the chassis was ready to receive its test body. A squad of fifty testers took every chassis on the road and any that did not pass their scrutiny were returned to the reject department for attention— perhaps as many as 70 or 80 chassis would be there at one time, for adjustments and corrections of various kinds.

The wheels had arrived at the assembly-lines ready stoved, which is why “slave” wheels were used to roll the chassis through the paint-spray tunnels, and one man fitted some 800 tyres a day, before the completed wheels were sent sliding down ramps, to be stacked beside the assembly-lines.

After the chassis had passed their road-test successfully, they were washed and cleaned and sent to the body shop for the bodies—2-seater, tourer, saloon and coupé—to be fitted.

The bodies were then painted and on a dozen conveyors passed, sixteen cars to a conveyor, through the vast drying oven, where hot air was directed over them by electric fans. The line was moved very slowly through the oven, which could accommodate as many as 200 Morrises at a time, by a 3-h.p. electric motor geared down 13,000 to 1, so that the shaft driving the conveyor took 25 minutes to complete one revolution. As each car was baked to a hard, glossy finish its wheels tripped a plate under the track, causing a red light to glow and a bell to ring outside the drying oven, whereupon a man would open the appropriate door and a car would roll out—at the rate of approximately 2,000 every week. Even in 1927, mass-production had taken hold! — W.B.