The Wolseley 6/80 (or more correctly Wolseley Six Eighty) was introduced to the public for the first time at the 1948 Motor Show held at Earls Court.
This was Wolseley`s first brand new post-war car (along with the smaller 4/50) and not only featured a vehicle of unitary (monocoque) construction, but one which also incorporated an entirely new engine, which itself was designed, tested and put into full production within one year of its original concept.
The basic shape of the 6/80 never changed throughout its entire life, and although there were some obvious Trans-Atlantic features such as split-windscreen and column gear-change - The 6/80 still retained several pre-war items such as side-opening bonnet and massive upright traditional Wolseley grill.
Production of the 6/80 commenced in October 1948 at the old Wolseley works at Ward End Birmingham. However, only 19 cars were built at the midlands plant before production was moved to Cowley near Oxford. Here, 6/80 production resumed in March 1949, and continued until the car was replaced by the Wolseley 6/90 of BMC in October 1954. The engines for the Wolseley 6/80 were produced at the Morris Engines Branch in Coventry.
The new engine fitted to the Wolseley 6/80 is regarded by many as quite a feat of engineering. Fed by means of twin SU carburettors with electric choke from an electric fuel pump fitted onto the bulkhead, this straight six cylinder 2215cc OHC unit featured a camshaft driven by gearing and vertical shaft at the front of the engine (as opposed to a chain or belt) which produced 72bhp @ 4,600 rpm.
It is important for any prospective 6/80 purchaser to be aware that some engines were known to have experienced cases of the exhaust valves burning out after what might be considered a relatively low mileage.
There has always been much engineering debate as to why some engines were affected and other units not. It would seem a fair comment to say that a combination of how the valves and their guides operate within the engine, combined with the specific materials they were manufactured from, and the kind of use the vehicle received probably resulted in this issue.
Any engine (regardless of manufacturer) which is allowed to overheat will also create additional cylinder head problems. Had the manufacturer seen fit to incorporate a temperature gauge as standard equipment, then early indications that the engine was getting too hot would have been spotted by the driver well beforehand.
The earlier engines were designated as the Series I, but towards the end of 1952 a redesigned cylinder head and cooling system were introduced, incorporating enlarged waterways, and valves which were slightly longer and designed to work at an improved angle. This later engine became known as the Series II, and commenced with engine number 20,301.
The good news is that any Wolseley 6/80 engines unfortunate enough to have experienced any valve problems will probably by now have already been rectified. In many cases owners had their valves `Stellited` - a process also used by the Police, which entails valves being coated with an extremely hard and virtually indestructible coating
In addition, for the benefit of its members The 6/80 & MO Club has commissioned the remanufacture of exhaust valves for both Series I and Series II engines in high grade stainless steel. It is still possible to find a genuine low-mileage car where no additional engine work has been carried out; however, if previous owners have maintained their cars well (as they often did years ago) then there may not necessarily be any cause for concern.
Opinion differs as to whether the Series II engine was actually an improvement over the Series I unit. Without doubt, a 6/80 with a well maintained and properly tuned engine will give its owner countless hours-and miles of immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction.
The gearbox was a 4-speed unit with no synchromesh on 1st gear, and operated by column change. The gearbox oil level could be checked by means of a dipstick situated inside the car beneath the front carpet. A Borg & Beck 9" clutch was used on the 6/80 operated by rod and linkage from the clutch pedal which was fully adjustable.
At the back end the car benefited from a live rear axle with hypoid-bevel final drive. Suspension on the 6/80 was by means of torsion bars, with twin telescopic dampers at the front and single telescopic dampers and semi-elliptic springs at the rear. Very early cars used lever arm dampers which had the facility to be topped up with oil in-situ.
The trunnion and swivel-pin set up of the front suspension was common to many other vehicles of the time - although in the case of the Wolseley 6/80, was probably over-engineered to some degree to cope with the weight towards the front of the car. As with any set-up of this design, the key to reducing any wear in the trunnion internal threads and swivel-pin external threads is to ensure they are greased at the prescribed servicing intervals.
Even when this appears to have been carried out satisfactorily, blocked grease-nipples and the failure for the grease to find its way around every component can reduce the life expectancy of these items.
All 6/80s used Lockheed hydraulic braking systems incorporating twin-leading shoes on the front wheels and single-leading shoes on the rear. The 10" brakes were more than capable of stopping the 25cwt Wolseley 6/80 efficiently, but because the brake drums and hubs are all one unit, a hub-puller is required to remove the drums when changing brake shoes.
Tyre pressures were stipulated at 22 psi for the original 6.00 -15 inch cross-ply tyres. Steering was by Bishop cam steering box and incorporated six (3 pairs) of track / tie rod ends and a transfer box on the passenger side beneath.
The Wolseley 6/80 was available in various paint options - Black, maroon, green and grey. The green varieties and some greys were produced in metallic finish. The so called` moonstone grey` was more of a beige type colour, whilst although never listed as an option some 6/80s appear to have been turned out in white. Maroon was withdrawn for several years probably due to its tendency to bloom and fade, but was reinstated towards the end of production.
Twin fog lamps were fitted at the front, a built in reversing light was incorporated into the rear number plate lamp (the lights have to be on first for this to work) and when the boot was open a red warning light attached to the inside of the boot-lid would shine to the rear. Overriders were fitted to front and rear bumpers as standard as well as a flip-up type fuel filler cap.
The external door handles, (all 4 are different) boot hinges and windscreen centre pillar were manufactured from Mazak composite alloy. Consequently, the chrome finish on these parts suffered from severe pitting even after a fairly short period of time. Internally, being a Wolseley, the 6/80 benefited from leather seats, wooden dash and door cappings and full carpets throughout.
The car was fitted with a heater which was upgraded later in production, and one-speed electric windscreen wipers. Instrumentation consisted of speedometer, clock, ammeter, fuel, and oil pressure gauge. The one instrument the 6/80 could have really done with - a water temperature gauge was never fitted by the factory. It was left to the discerning owner to fit one of these himself if he wanted to keep an eye on the 6/80`s tendency to overheat.
The dashboard also incorporated warning lights for ignition, main beam and for when the electric choke was in operation. The dash knobs and steering wheel were made from a light plastic material which had a tendency to disintegrate when subjected to long periods of sunlight and damp. Two courtesy lights in the rear passenger compartment operated automatically via plunger switches in the centre door pillars.
Over the years of its production, there were many variations in the colours of the interiors. Although brown, red, green and grey seemed to be the norm, some cases of white, beige and even dual-tone interiors have been discovered. Likewise, whilst usually a green car would tend to have a green interior, and a grey car a grey one etc - this was not always the case.
It would appear that to reasons only known to themselves the fitters on the production line would sometimes fit a "different" interior. Whether this was for experimental purposes, or simply to use up an excess of a certain trim colour that needed shifting, will never be known.
Early Wolseley 6/80s can be recognised from their later counterparts by certain external and internal features. Very early cars for example had no separate side lights and the headlight surrounds were painted without chrome rims. Circular rear light lenses were fitted in the very early days. The door handles were of a ribbed design with no escutcheon plates.
The external badges on either side of the lower bonnet initially read "Six Eighty" as opposed to the later scripts which read "Wolseley Six Eighty". Inside, the seats were of a separate bucket type prior to the split-bench on the later versions. (Some cars were produced with bench seats for possibly reasons as stated in the internal variations.) The glove compartments lacked lids, and the door inner panels were fitted with door-pulls instead of arm-rests.
The dashboard itself curved down at the ends, and the ammeter, fuel and oil pressure gauges were in different positions to the later cars. There was also a blind fitted to the inside of the rear screen. One other feature that the very early 6/80s had was a fuel cut-off device. This was fitted because of the post-war "Pool" petrol which had a tendency to allow engines to "run on" even when the ignition was switched off.
There is no doubt that the Wolseley 6/80 made a great deal of money for the Nuffield organisation. It was a top of the range vehicle which was a fast car in its day and would exceed 80 mph under favourable conditions. Between 1948 and 1954 a total of just over 25,000 cars were produced of which 14,000 went to the home market. The remainder were exported to various countries around the globe but mostly to Australia.
In the UK, including the dreaded purchase tax, in 1948 a new Wolseley 6/80 would have cost £767 8/4d - by 1952 the price of the car had risen to £1,121 10/ -
The very last Wolseley 6/80 made - a grey car, was delivered to H. Beart & Co. Ltd in Kingston-upon-Thames Surrey.