Eight cheers

It took C. S. Ananth a marathon effort to restore this 1935 Morris Eight tourer

In the early 1930s, the big four of the British car industry (Morris, Austin, Singer and Hillman) were unnerved by Ford's spirited foray into the market for cars with an 8hp tax rating. Belonging to this class, the competitively-priced Ford Model Y (made for markets outside the United States from 1932 to 1937) successfully wooed small car lovers in Britain and raked in the pounds. A few goldmarks (German currency before 1948) and francs also came into the Ford coffers. Galvanised by its parent company's ambitious plans for Europe, Ford Germany treated the manufacture of Model Y as a priority. Known as Ford Koln, it was however, not a money-spinner. The Model Y was received with a similarly lukewarm response in France, where Ford Societe Anonyme Francais sold it as Ford 6 CV.

The Model Y was offered, under different names of course, in Australia, Japan and a few other non-European countries as well. But nowhere did it achieve the same success as in Britain. Ford's gains on British soil would have been greater, if Morris had not offered any resistance. The Morris Eight it launched in 1935 with dimensions and contours similar to the Model Y's, enabled the British car major to wrest the advantage from Ford.

The Morris Eight could not counter the Model Y's reputation as a 100 pound saloon, but it bewildered potential buyers with an array of body styles. The Ford Y came as two-door and four-door saloons and also a 5 cwt van. But anyone who had decided on buying a Morris Eight Series I (1935-37) had to take his pick from two-door and four-door tourers, two-door and four-door saloons and a 5 cwt van.

The Model Eight Series I had another thing going for it — a well-appointed, classically designed dashboard. This factor gave the car an edge over its British competitors in the small car segment, especially the Austin 7.

C.S. Ananth, who has restored his two-door 1935 Morris Eight Series I tourer with painstaking effort, points out that the “bird-in-flight” dash resembles the ones in the early MG T cars, considered a benchmark in dashboard styling.

Ananth picked up the Morris Eight in 2000 and outsourced its restoration. “The engine (Morris UB series 918cc four-cylinder side-valve) was re-bored, but nothing else was done to reclaim the dilapidated car.” Generally, Ananth gets in touch with a reputed owners' club of a car model he tries to restore. But the Morris Eight was improved without such help. “A wealth of information on the Internet helped.” The job took more than two years. “We had to fabricate a shopping list of parts.”

Ananth could not believe his luck when he discovered that B.M. Lal had a set of tyres that were known to suit Morris Eight cars. Apparently, these tyres had come from a Kerala-based company Premier which is no longer in the business. These brand-new tyres hug spoke wheels, a feature unique to the Series I. “Subsequent series of Morris Eight came with disc wheels,” says Ananth, who is pleased to see this iconic British car finally back in the pink of health.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:10:58 AM |

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