The Wolseley 18-85 was introduced in 1967 as the upmarket version of the Austin and Morris 1800s. The ADO17 cars began development in the mid-fifties with an Alec Issigonis mid-size project eventually known as the XC9000. Originally intended to use the 1500cc “B” series engine, the design grew in size such that the five bearing 1798cc “B” series engine was developed to cope.
By mounting the engine transversely as in the earlier Mini and 1100 cars and the design masterstroke of mounting the front hydrolastic displacers in a tube across the bulkhead, Issigonis’ design team created a car with immense structural strength and huge internal space within a 14′ package. The front and rear sub-frames were dispensed with due to the cars strength, allowing some weight saving.
The car was styled in the fashion of the Farina range, although Pinnin’s input into the design was just the “cow’s hips” on the rear wings. These would later develop into fins on the Austin/Morris cars but not on the Wolseley versions.
The 18/85 was launched with a re-designed nose, additional chrome trims and rubber-faced over-riders as external differences; the interior became a four wheeled gentleman’s lounge, featuring big comfortable leather seats, walnut door capping and dashboard with dial-type instruments rather than the “cheap” looking strip speedometer of the Austin/Morris versions. It even ran to the luxury of an electric screen wash motor.
The first version did not last long as the Mk II version launched in 1969, with mainly detail differences. Toggle switches were replaced by rockers; the chrome interior handles became the standard flat plastic type as in the Austin/Morris versions. Seemingly rubber window weather seals were introduced at about this point as well.
An “S” type version became available, featuring twin carburettors, a different manifold and exhaust set-up as well as racy trim strakes along the flanks.
And that really was about it until production ceased in 1974, with a bit over 35,000 cars built. In the grand scheme of things, the ADO17 was a failure in the market place. Designed to replace the Farina Cambridge range of cars, BMC lacked sufficient confidence to cease production and force the market to the successor. The ADO17 seems to be a big imposing car and the styling is definitely of the “Marmite” variety – love or hate. The 1800cc engine was deemed to be too large for the mid-range car market, which had been taken by storm by the 1600cc Cortina; and the hydrolastic suspension was held to be complex.
All in all, the car was misunderstood. Even winning the European Car of the Year award in 1965 couldn’t give it the boost required to make it a success. This was a great shame as the ADO17 in all its versions is a hugely comfortable car and rewarding to drive – it does drive like a huge Mini. The “S” models are even quite sprightly.
|Wolseley 18/85 (ADO17)
|Sir Alec Issigonis & Pinin Farina
|Mar 1967 - Mar 1972
|4 Door Saloon
|O.H.V. Transverse 4 Cylinder
|85 bhp @ 5,300 rpm
|99 lb ft @ 2,100 rpm
|4 Speed Manual & 3 Speed Automatic
|90 mph (145 kph)
|2,576 lb (1,168 kg)
|13’ 10.1" (4.219 m)
|5’ 7" (1.702 m)
|4’ 7.5" (1.410 m)
|Wolseley 6/110 (ADO53)
|Wolseley Six (ADO17)