Morris Marshal Road Test

Road test and analysis of the Morris Marshal
(From an article in the Australian magazine WHEELS, January, 1958)

Any enthusiast worthy of the name will spot the close similarity between the recently introduced Morris Marshal and its stablemate, the Austin A95.

As we pointed out in our last issue, this car is the first confident flutter of the Australian company’s autonomous wings. In other words the first time they have deemed it prudent to depart from English design, and to restyle - and even to rename - a car specially for this country.

Rationalised production of the B.M.C. Australian models makes sound commonsense. Spare parts supplies, integrity of design, economy of production, and and many other benefits accrue from a wider use of body panels and mechanical bits common to both Austin and Morris.

So, much as we liked the torsion bar suspension on the Oxford and Isis, and despite the mellowed respect we had for their rack and pinion steering systems, we welcome this Austin-ised version of the newest addition to the Morris range!

Roomy but nimble

The first thing we noted, after piloting the long (15 ft. 1 in.) car through Sydney’s congested traffic is that it is a genuinely roomy car without the size limitations which hamper the rather cumbersome Detroit-Styled "big” cars. By this mean that the Marshal is slim enough to slink through traffic and is compact enough to find itself a parking spot without too much delay.

Just as important, perhaps, is that this new Morris has the power to take it ahead of the traffic streams; the urge to “GO” which makes it a two to one favourite at most traffic light stops. It has, too, a nicely thought out selection of gear ratios which allow the driver to romp through traffic without bothering to use the lever except for stops; or alternately to hurry through the gears and to outpace most other sedans in sight.

Mixed feelngs

But although we have so far been heaping praise on the Marshal, we must confess that we concluded the road test with mixed feelings. On the merits of the car itself, our test drivers were unanimous - on its faults we found ourselves divided.

For example, our lanky editor lowered his six feet into the driving seat, knocked off 250 fast miles and came back with nothing but praise for the comfort of the driving position. Another driver, shorter in the legs and therefore forced to drive with the seat closer to the wheel, frowned rather heavily when he got into the car, noted that the seat tilts back a little too much for his personal comfort, and complained rather bitterly because the huge steering wheel sat in his lap and hampered his leg movements.

He thought that the seating position could be improved upon, preferably by lowering the bench seat by two inches.

All "Wheels" drivers agreed, however, that additional padding in the squab of the seat would be welcome.

In other less Important criticisms we also found ourselves in agreement. The plastic top of the dash panel is not - we think - a very good idea. On the test car, It had an aura of shoddiness and was beginning to show signs of distortion. Its life, as a piece of decorative elegance, is in doubt.

Silly Trafficator…..

A more powerful criticism is our brickbat aimed straight at the man who decided to install a stubby traffic indicator lever. It is unquestionably too short. Certainly it cannot be operated while the driver has both hands on the steering wheel - and who wants to flick a lever which is tucked awkardly away under the steering wheel?

Block instrument escutcheons do not dazzle in sunlight; clear, indirectly lit dials are a boon for night driving. Starting is by means of ignition key at right

The position of the handbrake also met with a mixed reception from our test drivers. One driver felt it was reasonably placed - to the left of the steering column - but he has long arms. Other drivers found that when starting uphill, they were forced to execute a rather ungainly manoeuvre, which not only proved a chore but also unsighted the traffic in the road ahead. Moving the handbrake to the left by perhaps four inches would make things right for everybody.

Its position apart, though, the handbrake is a genuine emergency brake! It operates positively and firmly, pulling the heavy car up quite abruptly if required and locking the rear wheels at 20 m.p.h. if full use is made of its leverage.

Another small but annoying point about the Marshal was that when the driver’s side ventipane was open, any sudden or careless twirling of that big steering wheel tended to result in skinned knuckles.

On the credit side, however, there is much to be said for the Marshal. It is, as we have said, an exceptionally roomy car. Even with the front seat at the extreme rear of its adjustment there is still generous leg room for the passengers in the back.

Local stylists have given the car a few individual touches which are both pleasing and distinctive. There is a symbolic boomerang across the front grille, a sloping bonnet, small replicas of field marshals' badges as insignia, an attractive new front grille, and aluminium "comet tail" flashes along either side.

Inside there is a new dashboard with a black facia panel, and a bench seat replacing the twin semibucket seats of the A95. (We are pleased to note this modification following our rather caustic comments of last month).

We drove the Marshal when it had some 2,000 miles on the clock and was just getting nicely free for fast road work. The test course took in a wide range of conditions from straightout sticky mud to high speed touring in inky darkness on black tarmac.

We found it a lively, docile, extremely quiet car; with a reasonable appetite fond fuel, exceptionally good headlights and well placed driving controls.

If we criticised the position of the handbrake, we have nothing but praise for the foot controls. The clutch, brake and accelerator are an on the same plane so that it is possible to slide one's foot from the throttle to the brake and back with a minimum of movement and a maximum of speed.

Other praiseworthy features include the wide opening doors, the surprisingly accessible motor, and the flat floored boot with the spare wheel conveniently tucked underneath and lowered by means of the starting handle. The tools are clipped into place on a shelf at the back of the boot formed by the top of the petrol tank.

Excellent cruising range.....

This, by the way, holds no less than sixteen gallons, and gives the Marshal a cruising range which is, not to our knowledge, bettered by any other production sedan in Australia!

With its silky smooth engine, fast four-speed gearbox, and faultless handling qualities the Marshal is well equipped for the fastest kind of touring.

Accessible and neatly installed, the 6-cyl B.M.C. engine unwinds smooth, silky power right up through its range.

It is in fact a delightfully untiring car to drive! On tarmac its silence is of the kind that invites normal conversation between passengers regardless of whatever spot on the dial the speedometer needle is covering. On gravel there is some body drum, but the more than adequate suspension compensates for it.

We liked the car's ability to cope effortlessly with severe corrugations and for some obscure reason appears to have less axle “hop” than the A95. We were unable to bottom the front suspensionat any stage of our test, and our only complaint concerning the pronounced degree of understeer is in connection with the resultant tyre howl on corners when travelling at moderate speeds on bitumen.

Tropical-type downpours occurred during much of our test; turned normally dry roads into quagmires. Car responded delightfully through everything, completed test in amazingly clean condition, proving good aerodynamics pass mud OVER not all over!'

Although no contender for fuel economy stakes the Marshal returned 26.7 m.p.g. for moderately fast cruising cruising, and a less attractive 18 m.p.g. when driven punishingly hard.

Its top speed is about what we had expected, and is certainly faster than most Australian main roads allow. We made five runs over the measured quarter mile and recorded exactly the same time for each - 10.2 seconds. This is equivalent to 88.2 m.p.h. On these occasions the speedometer was showing 90 m.p.h. Later, though, under more favourable conditions at night, we managed to unwind the car until its speedometer was reading 96 m.p.h. - possibly a genuine 92 m.p.h. – and very fast motoring from 2.6 litre family sedan.
When cold, the brakes are amply powered to match the Marshal’s performance, but, regrettably are susceptible to fade; and although the recuperation period is quick, the fade is certainly beyond average. The road wheels are slotted for extra air cooling - and whilst this helps, it does not cure the problem Pedal pressures, however, are light and the evenness of the brakes when applied fiercely is commendable.

The Marshal's rear wheel at 80 m.p.h. Note small amount of dirt on body; slots for brake cooling. Unfortunately, brakes still fade.

To Sum Up:

Undoubtedly a car of character and one which sets you apart from the herd. Is smooth, silent, and tremendously powerful - very like an A95 to drive, but sufficiently different to make it necessary for you to try both before choosing. Needs development in several details, but safe, pacy, long-striding car, ideal for distances and rough back roads and with a huge touring range. Essentially a man's car, and one with semi-sporting flavour; but looks nice enough and handles sweetly enough to please women also. Should prove to be durable.

Four door Morris Marshal 5/6 seater sedan. Test car from the British Motor Corporation, Sydney
£1458/16/8d., Including sales tax. Delivery 5 to 6 weeks.
Six cylinder o.h.v., bore and stroke 79 mm. x 89 mm., capacity 2,639 cc; compression ratio 7.0 to 1 ; 1.84 b.h.p. per square inch of piston area; 85 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m.; Single Zenith downdraught carburettor, Capacities: radiator 25 pints; sump 12 pints; fuel tank 16 gals.
9" dia. clutch, 4-speed gearbox with synchromesh on upper three ratios; steering column change; open propellor shaft to hypoid differential. Final drive ratio 11/43; overall gear ratios, 12.91, 8.67, 5.61, 3.91.
Top gear m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. 18.8 - 82 m.p.h. at 2,500 ft/min piston speed,
All steel unitary construction.
I.F.S. with coil springs and wishbones; semi elliptic leaf springs and anti-roll bar at rear. Hydraulic shock absorbers, Armstrong, piston type.
4-wheel hydraulic, mechanically operated handbrake on rear wheels. Girling design. Friction lining area 193 square inches; ratio per laden ton 128 square inches.
Cam and peg; ratio 16 to 1. 3 ½ turns from lock to lock. Turning circle 37 ¼ feet.
12 volt systern. Lucas headlamps; self cancelling flashing indicators; courtesy light.
Pressed steel 15" wheels with 6.40 x 15 tyres, tubeless.
Wheelbase, 8 ft. 10 in.; overall length 15 ft. 1 in.; overall width. 5 ft. 3 ¼ in., overall height 5 ft. 1 ½ in.; track, front 4 ft. 3 in. rear 4 ft. 3 ½ in. ground clearance 7"; turning circle 37 ¼ dry weight 26 ½ cwt.

Average of test runs, 88.2 m.p.h. Fastest one way run, 91.2 m.p.h.
1st, 30 m.p.h.; 2nd, 47 m.p.h.; 3rd, 71 m.p.h.
Recommended shift points: 1st, 15 m.p.h. 2nd, 30 m.p.h.; 3rd, 45 m.p.h.
82 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m. (top gear equivalent 75 m.p.h.)
Top gear: 1 in 9.1 at steady 30-40 m.p.h.
3rd gear: 1 in 6.9 at steady 45 m.p.h.
2nd gear: 1 in 4.8 at steady 35 m.p.h.
1st gear: 1 in 3.9 at steady 26 mp.h.
Standing 1 mile, average 21.3 secs., best time 21.2 secs.
Acceleration through gears: 0-20 m.p.h., 3.5 secs; 0-30 mp.h., 5.5 secs; 0-40 m.p.h., 8.7 secs.; 0-50 m.p.h., 14.1 secs.; 0-60 m.p.h., 17.2 secs; 0-70 m.p.h., 28 secs.
Top Gear: 10-30 m.p.h.. 5.5 secs.; 20-40 m.p.h. 4.8 secs; 30-50 m.p.h. 10 secs.; 40-60 m.p.h., 11.5 secs.; 50-70 m.p.h., 11.8 secs. and 60-80 m.p.h., 22.1 secs.
Footbrake from 30 m.p.h. in neutral 1.8 secs. Fade after severe braking approximately 30 per cent; handbrake from 30 m.p.h. 6.2 secs.
10 m.p.h. (indicated) - 10 m.p.h. actual; 20 m.p.h. - 21.4 m.p.h.; 30 m.p.h. - 28.8 m.p.h.; 40 mp.h. - 38.1 m.p.h.; 50 m.p.h. - 47.1 m.p.h.; 60 m.p.h. - 56.0 m.p.h.; 70 m.p.h. - 64.8 m.p.h.
Hard driving, including all acceleration tests, 18 m.p.g.; normal fast cruising 26.7 m.p.g.
Heavy showers with muddy roads and intervals of bright sunshine. All types of road surface.