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SNAPSHOT 159: 1923 Morris Cowley Tourer

If there was ever a case of ‘the right man being in the right place at the right time’, it was William Morris. The man certainly had tenacity and vision but given his difficult trading years in the first part of the last century, not a lot of financial acumen. As a Light Car manufactured with the right combination of proprietary branded parts and ancillaries, the Morris Oxford was a significant success before WWI. Stewart & Arden, the London agents helped enormously by being Morris’s London representative and with the high inflation that existed after WWI, with returning servicemen buying into a better future, business was good. Changing to Hotchkiss engines with the launch of the new Cowley, Morris hit on another winning formula, and secured his triumph when against doom-mongers advice in 1922, he slashed his prices against a backdrop of depression and despair, while others held fast and liquidated. This bold action secured Morris’s place in difficult market conditions, and because of his far-sightedness, created a well-run and energetic workforce.

Today, the Bull-Nosed Morris Cowley is still a pleasant drive, even on modern roads, certainly much better than other side-valve 1500cc cars from the early 1920s. Indeed, its popularity remains today, nearly 100 years after its introduction. While the engine is pedestrian, it is reliable, and with a good spares system, the cars are ideal for use all the year round. For many years the Cowley was termed the ‘Farmer’s Car’ in remote districts, helped by a sturdy three-speed gearbox, stout torque tube and robust rear axle. Performance was never outstanding, but the writer can attest to it being easy to drive and totally reliable. The Bull-Nosed radiator was superseded in the middle of 1926 by a more conventional shape, to the regret of many who continue to find charm and personality in its spherical proportions.


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