In late 1934 Lord Nuffield introduced a new range of "Specialisation built" cars for 1935. Among these was a new small car to replace the Morris Minor; to be sold in the UK and around the world, with the exception of Australia, as the Morris 8.
For the Australian market Morris Industries Export Ltd, in Cowley, a company owned solely by Lord Nuffield at that time, decided that this 8 hp vehicle would be called the Morris 8/40 and that the 'Two Seater' model would be marketed as a 'Roadster'.
Research to date has failed to reveal why Lord Nuffield decided on the Morris 8/40 name solely for the Australian market.
Although often today referred to in Australia as the Morris 8, advertisements and articles of the time from newspapers and magazines from around Australia show that the Morris 8/40 name, variously written as 8'40, 8/40 or 8-40, was used for all Pre-Series, Series I, Series II, and Series E, 8 horsepower vehicles sold in Australia.
It is commonly believed that the '40' represented the fuel consumption of 40 mpg at 40 mph (but may refer to 40ft.lbs torque) and the '8' naturally signified 8 horsepower RAC rating.
The Morris 8/40 was introduced to Australia in early 1935 and was sold in various forms until 1948, at which time the saloons and tourers were replaced with the Issigonis-designed side-valve Morris Minor: which initially used the same engine as the "8".
State to State
Prior to the establishment of BMC Australia, each state had its own distributor of Morris products, being:-
Victoria - Lanes Motors Pty Ltd, 89 -105 Exhibition St, Melbourne;
New South Wales - York Motors Pty Ltd, 101-111 William St, Sydney;
Queensland - Howards Limited, 317-327 Adelaide St, Brisbane;
South Australia - Motors Limited, cnr Flinders St and Gawler Pl, Adelaide;
Western Australia - Comet Motors Ltd, 918 - 920 Hay St, Perth
Tasmania - H.C. Heathorn & Co. Ltd, Hobart and Launceston
Between the Wars, in order to support a strong local coachbuilding industry, Federal Government laws required that for every car imported Completely Built Up, two chassis without bodies had also to be imported.
Most of the State distributors assembled and finished the vehicles that they sold, using bodies supplied from one or more of the Australian coachbuilders, often, but not always, located near to the distributor's assembly plant.
There were many coachbuilding companies in Australia at the time, most of which built bodies for various car brands. The main companies known to be involved in building bodies for the Morris 8/40 were:
Victoria: Ruskin Motor Body Works (Dudley St, West Melbourne) built most of the Morris 8/40 bodies for Lanes in Melbourne and Motors in Adelaide. They made bodies for Series I, Series II and Series E roadsters, tourers, saloons and vans, as well as coupe and roadster buckboards (utilities).
James Flood (Stanley St, West Melbourne) also made some bodies for 8/40s, but it is not known to what extent.
New South Wales: Smith & Waddington (Parramatta Rd, Camperdown), Modern Motor Body Works (Hurstville) and P&R Williams (Wentworth Ave, Sydney) are understood to have built bodies for Morris 8/40s, including some very special models like dickey-seat roadsters, four-door tourers and Airline-style saloons.
Queensland: Hope's Body Works (Doggett Street, Fortitude Valley) built vehicle bodies for Howards Limited.
South Australia: There were three motor body builders in Adelaide who built Morris 8/40 bodies. Gilbert Motor Bodies Pty Ltd built all the SI tourers; J.A.Lawton & Sons (Port Rd, Kilkenny) built coupe Series E and Z utilities; while T.J. Richards & Sons (Leader St, Keswick) built "All Steel" Series E Roadster and Tourer bodies.
Western Australia: Bryans' Motor Body Works (Hay St, East Perth) made special-bodied Morris 8/40s for Comet Motors, also in Hay St.
Due to the geographic distribution of coachbuilders in Australia we ended up with a number of body styles unique to Australia.
Although the Morris 8/40 was based on English Morris 8 components, there were generally several notable differences between the Australian and English vehicles.
For example, the English Roadsters and Tourers had small air vents in the lower scuttle adjacent to the foot wells and had trafficators just rear of the door hinge posts. With the exception of those built by the Hope Body Works, the Australian cars had neither.
Hope's did include similar air vents on their cars, but for Australian conditions the vent opened backwards so that cooler air was drawn in through the car and exhausted out of the side vents.
The rear side curtains on the early 8/40s and the Richard's bodied cars were fitted outside of the hood frame, whereas the English cars had the side curtains inside the frames. The Australian vehicles generally had a "boomerang" shaped front bumper bar, although some vehicles built by Lane's Motors of Melbourne have a plain straight front bumper.
According to the Motors Limited records all of the Morris 8/40 Series Es sold before the war were assembled with Australian-built bodies (probably with CKD components). Most were built by Ruskin. Some Utilities were built with bodies by F.C. Pengilly, O.C.T. Richter, Gilbert Motor Bodies, and James Flood Pty Ltd.
Following the Second World War rolling chassis were again imported from the UK, for assembly of Roadsters, Tourers, Utilities and Vans built with Australian bodies. It is known that T.J.Richards of Adelaide and Hope of Brisbane built Tourer bodies for a few years after the war. From late 1947 Saloons were again sold, but were fully imported, assembled in the UK.
The Morris 8/40 set sales records across Australia, as did the Morris 8 around the world, establishing itself as the preferred small car. Initially the Roadster was by far the biggest seller in South Australia, but by late 1938 sales of the Tourer exceeded those of the Roadsters. Sales of Saloons were fairly steady throughout the pre-war years; Buckboard (Utility) sales and chassis sales increased gradually throughout the period.
In early 1949 the first Morris Minors (Series MM) were sold in Australia, with the last Morris 8/40 Series E being sold around the middle of the year. However, the 8/40-based Commercial Series Z (5cwt) vans, Utilicon vans (station wagons) and utilities continued in production until about 1953.
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