Based heavily on the Wolseley 1500, the Morris Major along with the Austin Lancer was first introduced to Australia in April 1958. That the 3 cars were near identical is not suprising, given they all originated from the same factory!
The development of the new models was undertaken as BMC needed to find a replacement for the venerable Morris Minor. All three naturally shared near identical mechanicals too, although forward of the A pillar, including the bonnet and grille, was unique to the Morris, while the Wolseley and Austin shared all sheet metal components.
In October 1959 the Series II was released (while the Wolseley 1500 was dropped), the new iteration having the body work stretched so that it could incorporate small tail-fins, an ever popular styling feature of the 1950's. The re-style gave both the Morris Major and the Austin Lancer a family resemblance to the larger Farina designs, and meant picking the difference between the two was now a case of identification via the grille and badges.
An added side-effect was that the boot also grew in size, making it a far more practical proposition for the travelling family. The new Major also afforeded a greater operating range, the fuel tank capacity being increased from seven to nine gallons, and importantly the BMC engineers also developed a steel shield to help protect the tank from underside damage.
The cars quickly developed a stellar reputation for reliability and durability, and even a hint of sporting prowess given their appearance in the 1960 Armstrong 500
. To many people's suprise, a Morris Major would place 4th, it being driven by Peter Manton and Barry Topen. In 5th place was an Austin Lancer driven by George Spanos and Leo Taylor. The Morris Major would also place 9th, driven by Brian Muir and Jim Smith, and 11th place when driven by Rod Murphy and John Calloway.
In 1961 BMC began the rationalisation of their dealer network, along with their model line-up. Having two near identical cars compete in the same market segment was no longer practical, and so the decision was made to drop the Austin.
The final iteration of the Morris Major came in 1962, the new "Elite" model featuring the B-series 1622 cc engine (as fitted to MGA's
) along with a stronger drive train, revised suspension, new wider grille, tail-fin flash and an updated interior. Production would finally come to an end in 1964 when BMC released the wonderful Morris 1100
, the Morris Major Elite's very worthy successor.
Morris Major Release / Morris Major Elite (2 tracks)
BMC Announces The New Morris Major and Austin Lancer
BMC's announcement of the new Morris Major read as follows..."The Morris Minor now has a big brother - the Morris Major, a four door, four seater, 1 1/2 liter family saloon. The Major has established two "firsts" It is the first Morris to come from B.M.C.'s new production line at its 13 million pound plant at Victoria Park, near Sydney, and is the first new Morris to be marketed in Australia before being introduced in Britain.
The Major is 2 1/2 inches longer than the Minor, half an inch higher and two inches longer. It has 541 c.c. greater engine capacity, four cubic feet of extra luggage space, bigger brakes and a slightly larger fuel tank.
The new Austin family saloon - the Lancer - was also introduced in Australia last month. The four door, 1 1/2 liter liter Lancer seats four people, is compactly designed and has the performance of a much bigger car. It has a top speed of eighty miles per hour and when cruising, runs up to 40 miles to the gallon.
The Lancer, also is the first Austin to come from B.M.C.'s Sydney production line, and is released in Australia before its introduction to Britain. The Lancer has a power- to- weight ratio of 2.8 b.h.p. to one cwt. And a rear axle ratio which gives the impression of overdrive in top gear.