Like many other car manufacturers at the turn
of the century, William Morris's engineering background stemmed
from bicycle and motorcycle manufacture. By 1910, however
he had designed a light car that could be produced cheaply
and in quantity; two years later WRM Motors was formed with
offices in Oxford and a a factory in nearby Cowley. The first
Morris produced was the Morris Oxford. Its radiator design
later gained the nickname "Bullnose".
Models were first made in 1913 using the White
& Poppe engine and production continued until the early years
of World War One.
After the war the Cowley model made its appearance
using an American engine known as the Type U Continental.
Few of these were made (1,450) and there followed a generation
of Oxfords and Cowleys using an engine based on the Continental
design made by Hotchkiss et Cie (later taken over by Morris).
These engines became Morris engines but are
generally referred to as the Hotchkiss type). At first a common
chassis, radiator and engine were used for both Oxford and
Cowley with the Oxford taking the role of the deluxe model.Changes
and modifications were made from time to time. The 1922 season
saw the last of the engines with the dynamos mounted above
the gearbox, and by 1923 season the 13.9 hp engine had been
dropped as an option to the 11.9 hp engine for the Oxford.
By 1924 the Borden ignition control had been dropped and a
taller radiator fitted to the Oxford. Balloon tyres replaced
the earlier beaded-edge type. 1925 and front wheel brakes
were available on the Oxford involving the use of a reverse
Elliott front axle and larger 12 inch brake drums. Other changes
to the Oxford f that season included the fitting of a Lucas
vacuum windscreen wiper, a longer chassis for all but the
two seater and coupe models, and a 13.9 hp engine made standard.
Oxford and Cowley vehicles had the Calormeter temperature
device fitted and pleated upholstery in place of the original
button pattern. 1926, the Cowley was available with front
wheel brakes and a tie bar added between the two front dumb
irons. Oxford had the Barker dipping headlamp system and 19
in x 13 in wheels except on Saloon and Cabriolet which had
larger 20 in. x 4 in wheels. This was the last year of the
The Morris Oxford was thus born, a two seater with 1,018cc
four cylinder engine and a rounded radiator that earned the
car the nickname of 'Bulletnose' due to a shape similar to
a .303 rifle bullet-this was shortened to 'Bullnose'. The
first example appeared in early 1913 and by the following
year the Oxford range had expanded to include drophead coupe,
sports and van bodied versions.
Although production naturally ceased with the advent of World
War I, Morris himself then went to the USA where he purchased
3,000 1.5 litre engines from Continental of Detroit- for less
than half the price from an English company. The deal later
proved uneconomic for Continental and Morris had copies made
by Coventry based Hotchkiss, deliveries commencing in 1919
for what was now a two model range- a basic model, the Cowley,
and the similar but better equipped Oxford. It was also in
1919 that WRM Motors was liquidated and replaced by Morris
Motors. Initially, the company made large losses due to stock
of unsold cars but a bold policy of price-cutting realised
a reversal of fortunes; in 1921 sales rose from 66 in January
to 377 in March, rising to a peak of 54,000 sales in 1925.
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