Robert Greenfield's 1958 Morris Isis Series II

My Isis was first registered in 1958 and I bought it in 1998 from Mr Steele, a retired farmer close to Darfield on the Canterbury plains. He had kept it in storage for 18 years, but he was more interested in (and had restored) military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers! It was a bit rough around the edges but it was complete and solid with no rust. A bonus was that it had quite good upholstery, however there was some accident damage at the front (fixed cheaply) and two of the doors had been stoved in a bit, possibly side-swiped by some farm machinery.

In 1998 I already had 3 cars and I probably shouldn't have bought another. However, in the nick of time and quite by chance, a friend of mine enquired if I still had OXCART (a light green series II Oxford with a personalised plate) for sale, and a deal was struck: some cash and a dilapidated Oxford III woody traveller in exchange for Oxcart, then we went out and looked at the Isis (this cash + some more was then used to buy the Isis). The owner wanted quite a lot of money for it (especially for a young man impoverished by buying 1950s Morris Oxfords and Cowleys), but he made me a very special cash deal for it. I think he must have done this because I was young and interested in restoring an old car. Incidentally, Mr Steele told me that he decided to store the Isis back in the early 1980s because the trade-in offered by a car dealer was so low that it was not worthwhile selling!

Twin carbs and aircleaner from Wolseley 6/110.

It wasn't too hard to get back on the road. A friend and I got the engine going and it ran OK after a chuffing exhaust was traced to a misaligned rocker/pushrod. New brake hoses and seals were fitted in the wheel cylinders, new frost plugs fitted, a new condenser and a set of points, new brushes for the generator and starter motor and it was taken to the testing station for a Warrant of Fitness. It passed!

Not too long afterwards one of the new frost plugs popped out and I didn't notice until I got home (the new temperature sender didn't work!). I nearly cried. There was smoke coming out of the oil filler cap and it didn't smell or sound very nice. I told a mechanic and he asked me if the paint on the engine had turned black. It hadn't, so he informed me that it wasn't too bad. I replaced the wayward frost plug (it was the one at the end of the block, of course) and the engine ran OK, but now it used lots of oil and smoked like a chimney.

I decided to get the engine condition assessed. The head was starting to crack and some valves were a bit dodgy, 20thou oversize pistons were required, a camshaft lobe was damaged; the crankshaft, however, could stay at standard size. There was only one set of pistons available in NZ for a 2639cc C-series at 20thou oversize and these were for an Austin-Healey 100/6. I reasoned that as the camshaft needed attention I might as well get a slightly 'hotter' profile for it. The compression ratio worked out at 8.7:1. The original manifolds were in poor condition, so I fitted replacements from a Wolseley 6/99 along with a pair of rebuilt 1.5inch SU carbs in place of the original single 1.5inch SU. I also fitted a diff with a slightly taller ratio (3.9:1) compared to the standard 4.1:1. Later on I fitted a Petronix ignition module to replace the points and condenser - it fits entirely under the distributor cap, so it looks right; this also completely cured the poor starting and running on.

Out on the highway..

The Isis earned the nickname of 'The Guzzler' after a friend learned that its engine was neary twice as big as the one in the Oxford. This nickname has stuck but it is not unreasonably heavy on petrol.

The Guzzler has taken us many places, including up to New Plymouth where we now live, and it has had one trip back down south to Christchurch, Arthurs Pass and Golden Bay. It goes up hills deceptively well for what other drivers probably think is an 'old Oxford' and can cruise comfortably at 100km/h with plenty in reserve. It has quite powerful brakes (much better than my Oxford or Cowley) and handles well, but it is not designed for fast, agressive cornering with that heavy engine up front! It is also very handy for towing trailers.

Photo of engine bay shows twin 1.5inch SU carburetters and Wolseley 6/110 air cleaner set-up. Also position of windscreen washer bottle has changed - old bracket can be seen behind and to the right of the air cleaner.

Robert Greenfield.