The Wolseley Motor Company came into Morris ownership in 1927 after William Morris personally acquired the ailing firm from the receiver for £730,000. By the spring of 1928 Wolseley had designed a four cylinder OHC engine for the new Morris 'baby' car which was to compete head to head with the Austin Seven and was to be launched in October 1928 at the Olympia Motor Show in London. The Minor engine was a shortened four cylinder 847 cc version of a six cylinder power unit of 1271 cc which went on to power the first of a new model range of Wolseley cars named the Hornet.
The Hornet was launched in April of 1930 with just two models, a Fabric Saloon (£175) and Coachbuilt Saloon (£185) with bodies identical in appearance from the scuttle rearward to those of the two similarly named Morris Minor saloons. Inside, the cars were more luxuriously equipped than their cousins from Cowley and the length of the car was extended to 11 feet and 1 inch in order to accommodate the longer six cylinder power unit. Both Hornet models were fitted with Lockheed hydraulic brakes while the SWB Minors continued with cables.
Surprisingly the saloons were modified and relaunched in September 1930, just six months after their arrival in the market place. The body was enlarged to allow more room inside the car altough the original smaller bodied models remained in parallel production for a while. A pair of two seater Hornets were also launched for 1931, an open car, the Semi-Sports and a Coupe. By the late summer of that year the six cylinder OHC engine was modified to enable the camshaft to be driven via chains from the crankshaft instead of through a bevel gear arrangement via the armature shaft of the dynamo, this item now being being re-positioned in a more conventional place alongside the engine. The Hornet went on to become arguably the most popular six cylinder British car of the thirties.
Like the M.G. 8/33 Midget or 'M' Type the Wolseley Hornet has very close family ties with the Morris Minor. The following short article and some of the accompanying photographs relate to the early (Vertical dynamo drive models) Wolseley Hornet and primarily covers that short period in 1930 and 1931 when these cars were manufactured.
The author has yet to see a surviving 1930 or 1931 Hornet saloon. If a reader knows of the existance of such a vehicle please contact the PWMN.
Modern images of these early Hornet saloons are rarer than rocking horse ......! So many thanks to Paul Harris who dug out this 1971 image of CLF 333, a 1931 model car, which still survives according to the U.K. DVLA! Let's hope it retained its original body. If anyone knows of this cars current whereabouts, please contact the PWMN.
WANTED: Scanned images of 1930 and 1931 Hornet brochures to display here.
Page Last Updated 29th October 2016
Apologies for the quality of the low resolution images above.
All bar two of the cars displayed in this gallery are Hornet Specials and one of the two Saloons is currently undergoing conversion to a two-seater. Just a handful of 1930 or 1931 Wolseley built Saloons have survived.
All images courtesy of LAT Photographic - click on thumbnail to enlarge.
November 1930 Hornet Semi-Sports
April 1930 Hornet Coachbuilt Saloon
September 1930 Hornet Coachbuilt Saloon