Morris Major

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For the Morris Major automobile produced in the United Kingdom from 1931 to 1933, see Morris Major (1931 to 1933).
Morris Major
Austin Lancer
1963 Morris Major Elite (22907099900).jpg
Morris Major Elite
Manufacturer BMC Australia
Production 1958-1964
Assembly Victoria Park, Australia
Body and chassis
Class Sub-compact
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Related Wolseley 1500/Riley One-Point-Five
Engine BMC B-Series engine, 1489 & 1622 cc
Transmission 4-speed manual, synchromesh on 2,3 & 4

Series I - 86 in (2,200 mm)

Series II & Elite - 92 in (2,300 mm)

Series I - 151.75 in (3,854 mm)

Series II & Elite - 161 in (4,100 mm)
Width 61 in (1,500 mm)
Curb weight

Series 1 - 904 kg (1,993 lb)

Series II & Elite - 956 kg (2,108 lb)
Successor Morris 1100

The Morris Major and Austin Lancer are passenger car models that were produced by BMC Australia between 1958 and 1964.

Series I (1958 to 1959)[edit]

The Morris Major and Austin Lancer were introduced in March[1] 1958,[2] designated DO1101 and developed from the contemporary Wolseley 1500 and Riley One-Point-Five models [3] then on sale in the United Kingdom. The Major and Lancer, along with the Wolseley 1500 were produced at BMC Australia's Victoria Park plant [3] at Zetland in Sydney, Australia and were unique to that country, having around 98% local content. Australian produced Wolseley 1500s were also given the DO1101 model code.[2]

The Morris Major/Austin Lancer/Wolseley 1500/Riley One-Point-Five all shared the same core design which had originally been developed as a possible replacement for the ever-popular Morris Minor by BMC's in-house design team at Longbridge, England. That plan was abandoned due to the Minor's unwavering appeal with the buying public and a Wolseley version was instead unveiled in 1957, followed by the Riley.

DO1101 was a lightweight, close coupled saloon incorporating the front torsion bar/rear leaf spring suspension, floor pan and accurate rack and pinion steering from the Morris Minor. These automotive "quadruplets" were powered by the famous B series power unit (I4,) of 1489 cc, mated to an MG Magnette type 4-speed manual transmission with floor mounted selector. All were equipped with large, heavy duty drum brakes - by Lockheed for the Wolseley, Morris and Austin and Girling for the Riley. This formula resulted in a popular small-to-medium family car with lively performance, robust build and road manners that were quite above average for the time. The Major and Lancer, as distinct from the sportier and more luxurious Wolseley/Riley cars, shared a similar level of appointment, finish and engine tune with contemporary Morris and Austin models. Although comparatively modest, the Major/Lancer had a generally high level of comfort and quality: it was a modern car offering sound value. The sporting potential of the Major/Lancer was recognised almost immediately and specially prepared cars were raced into the early 1960s.

Morris Major Series I
Austin Lancer Series I
Wolseley 1500

Series II (1959 to 1962)[edit]

The Morris Major and Austin Lancer Series II models, designated DO1115, were released in July [4]1959.[5] The Series I Morris Major / Austin Lancer had sold reasonably well and was profitable to build due to greatly offset tooling costs and extensive use of shared components. However, BMC Australia quickly invested in the thoroughly re-engineered and subsequently better received Series II. Thenceforth, the Australian cars became quite distinctive from their siblings.

Outwardly, the cars were now longer by 9 inches (229 mm), including an extended wheelbase, tailfins and new front sheet metal. Series II's styling seems to have been more inspired by American ideas and, to many eyes, this gave the cars a more handsome appearance. Several updates to the original design were introduced, many of these changes intended to make the cars more suitable for the tough Australian driving conditions, and to bolster its competitiveness with top selling rivals such as Holden and Volkswagen. The suspension was strengthened, extra reinforcement of the chassis was added and the interiors were given a front bench seat in place of buckets, ventilation and demisting ducts and a new instrument cluster. Series II's engine retained its single SU HS2 carburettor/SU fuel pump and received a modified oil sump to afford greater ground clearance. Early Series I rear axle units had acquired an unfortunate reputation for major failure in service - for Series II the axle and differential were duly modified, however, the experience had proven rather costly in terms of brand image.

The Series II received highly favourable reviews from the motoring press of the time, with its sweeping array of detail improvements, its enhanced handling characteristics and attractive pricing earning much praise.

Morris Major Series II
Morris Major Series II
Austin Lancer Series II

Morris Major Elite (1962 to 1964)[edit]

The Morris Major Elite, designated YDO1,[6] was introduced in March 1962.[7] It replaced the Series II models, supplanting the Austin Lancer range completely due the recent rationalisation of BMC Australia's dealer network: there were now "BMC Dealers" only rather than separate outlets for each BMC marque. It was ultimately seen as unnecessary to distribute two versions of the same vehicle, though a "Series III Lancer" had been considered right up to the Elite's introduction. A 'new' Lancer equipped similarly to the forthcoming Elite was detailed in a motoring article by Trevor Davis writing in The Age as late as February 20th, 1962,[8]but this was probably only a short 'run-out' series.

The Elite was powered by the enlarged 1622 cc engine [9] with greater performance, this version employing a Zenith VN type carburettor and Goss mechanical fuel pump. Telescopic rear shock absorbers, stronger fine spline axle shafts[10], seat belt mounting points and uprated front suspension rubbers featured among other technical revisions. A visually striking facelift was achieved with only minimal changes to sheet metal; this constituted chrome window surrounds, a new full width radiator grille closely resembling that of the Mk VI Morris Oxford, and a "rocket" colour flash on the tailfins. Timely updates to basic equipment level included a fresh air heater/demister, duo-tone paint in various new plain and pastel colours, brighter interiors with redesigned seats and a windscreen washer.

The price was also lowered from the previous Series II listing, making this already highly competitive Major an outstanding value in the somewhat volatile auto market of 1962. The perky "Morris Elite" held an impressive share of total BMC Australia sales at the time, and warranty claims were the least for any of their models then to date. YDO1 production ceased by February[11] 1964 when the model was replaced by the Morris 1100[12]

Morris Major Elite
Morris Major Elite


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 213
  3. ^ a b BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 40
  4. ^
  5. ^ BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 76
  6. ^ BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 214
  7. ^ BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 201
  8. ^
  9. ^ BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 62
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ BMC-Leyland Australia Heritage Group, Building Cars in Australia, 2012, page 132

External links[edit]