The Wolseley Hornet

The Wolseley Hornet – Vintage car of the early 1930s.

There were two Wolseley Hornets, the first was constructed from 1930 to 1936 so strictly speaking, it is a vintage car rather than a classic car. The second incarnation was built in the 1960s. The 1930s Hornet appeared in a few films of the time but nothing particularly of note.

The manufacturer was actually Morris Motors who had acquired Wolseley Motors Ltd a few years earlier.

The pre-war Hornet was available as the Hornet (2 door and 4 door versions) and the Hornet special. Both had overhead cam engines and it was effectively a Morris Minor with a 1300cc 6 cylinder engine instead of the 4 cylinder of the Minor. It was created from the minor engine by adding a couple of cylinders. This engine in turn became the basis for the 6 cylinder MG engines.

The Hornet saloon looked very much the typical ‘Al Capone’ gangster style of car from the 1920s but the special was a more sporting version. Prior to April 1932, the Special was created from the saloon by various coachbuilders. The radiator was slatted, the dynamo vertically mounted, a 3 speed gearbox and I think that the acellerator pedal was bizarrely mounted centrally. The special was powerful enough to be used as a racing car.

From April 1932, Morris sold the special as a chassis only vehicle and thus appeared in many forms, including the swallowtail and beetle backed versions. The Hornet chassis was essentially an extended version of the minor bur the special chassis was given 12 inch brakes and the engine was changed to a chain driven cam version which made it shorter. It was also fitted with a second carburettor and an oil cooler. The radiator was no longer slatted.

For 1934, the chassis of the Hornet Special was stiffened by adding an underslung rear axle and cross braces. The radiator was changed yet again and the engine design was changed to a crossflow version. In 1935, a completely new engine was developed which was more powerful and had a 1600cc capacity plus guess what – a new radiator!