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Homepage. This page: Original photos of a 1966 Mini-based Wolseley Hornet.

Wolseley Hornet.

Oddly, photos of pre-war Wolseley Hornet Special sportscars have turned up on a number of occasions during OCC's life, yet it took until 2018 for any period snapshots of its 1960's namesake, the Wolseley Hornet, to be found. In-period photos of its cousin within the BMC (British Motor Corporation) empire, the Riley Elf, remain elusive, although happily the car on which both are based - the Mini - features extensively.
But back to the subject of this page, the Wolseley Hornet, and in particular, a grey 1966 Hornet that belonged to Andrew Willoughby's father at the end of the 1960s.
(Please click the thumbnail to view the full-size image.)
Wolseley Hornet front view
Andrew offers the following insight into the ownership of the car featured here, and its characteristics (some by design, others due to this car's specific history with a previous owner).

A crash-prone car.

"By 1969, father was wanting to change the family car again. The A40 Farina [this features on the A40 Mk2 page, RJ] would only be seven years old but it was looking tired, and he wanted something better, so he sold it privately for just 80 pounds. Kennings in West Park, Harrogate, gladly took his 415 pounds for a three-year-old Wolseley Hornet. It was a super little car. Two-tone shiny grey paintwork. Red leather seats. And a 998cc engine that just loved to rev. As a fifteen-year-old kid, I loved screaming it through the gears on an old WW2 airfield. Later Mini 1000s were less perky, due to higher gearing, but the Hornet Mk2 was best, with a 998 engine and low gearing. On holidays we went as far away as Cornwall, and north of Edinburgh."
"It was a Wolseley Hornet Mk 2, based very much on the Mini, but with an obvious boot and the not-so-obvious longer wheelbase shared with the van. You would expect a longer floor, but instead there was a separate panel extending the floor by a few inches. I always felt it was wrong to have a central speedo, so I moved it to the driver's side. With a simple piece of aluminium, covered in red leathercloth, the speedo cable from an Austin 1100, and nineteen lengths of wire, the instruments were re-positioned straight in front of the driver. It just looked right. This was 1970, with the car 4 years old, and me aged sixteen.
Grey 1966 Wolseley Hornet
"The bodywork never seemed right, and it seemed to like crashing! Before our ownership it had been in a serious crash. All the body seams rusted continually. Seams around the wings, gutters -- any seam rusted. And eventually we found why it cornered better around left-hand bends than right. In the crash, one of the rear suspension radius arms was bent and not replaced. Then there was the steering. In the impact, the driver was thrown against the steering wheel and bent the steering column. Eventually the pinion in the 'rack and pinion' steering decided it had had enough, and snapped! As a sixteen-year-old, I had to learn how to drop the front subframe and remove the rack and pinion. Then learn how to strip the assembly and fit a replacement pinion, secondhand of course, from a rusty old Mini rack left in the rain."
"A great car to drive but everything went wrong. Wings were replaced, as were sills, brakes, petrol pump, starter, dynamo, and as a young teenager I didn't always appreciate that cheap pattern parts were not always the best quality. Engine mountings and clutch all needed replacing. But also the accidents continued. It grew a long deep scrape down one side when left in a pub car park. A lorry shunted it from behind when dad stopped at roadworks. When I was seventeen, a Police sergeant on point duty waved me on but forgot to stop traffic from the other road. And one evening, a car just pulled out in front of me. None of this was serious, but it just seemed to attract bumps. Eventually, and approaching a hundred thousand miles, I popped an eleven hundred engine in and resprayed the car grey with a red roof. It would be eleven years old when it was replaced by a Hillman Imp. But the rear subframe was original, and all the brake pipes too. So many repairs meant everything had been oiled so many times, so less rust underneath."
Thanks for the write-up Andrew, very entertaining, there's no substitute for reading about old cars as experienced by owners first-hand, when they were current - or near-current - models. Unsurprisingly, a check of DVLA shows no sign of MWT 679D still being in existence. Andrew would go on to own an example of the similar Riley Elf, and photos of that car now appear on this page.
Return to Page 20 in the motoring photographs archive, or visit the main index here.

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