Last year CCCR was commissioned to restore and update a Wolseley 15/60 saloon. A much maligned and forgotten gem from the BMC stable.
A Typically underpowered British saloon from the 1960's with sloppy handling and poor brakes to match and with a fair number of shared parts bin components, however it has a sort of endearing 'Captain Mainwaring' class respectability about it and the interior design and finish is nice enough. Due to its rarity you do find yourself walking around a car like this taking note of its bright work, beautiful wooden dash housing cream clocks and the lit up grille badge brings a touch of 30's art deco!
CCCR's remit was to thoroughly rework the old girl bringing the Wolseley bang up to date dynamically as a driving machine but also incorporating what is expected in a modern vehicle connectivity to the outside world that works and is audible! So with the colour change came the bare metal respray which found some welding requirements once the paint was stripped, a re-trim and a serious power hike along with suspension and brakes to match. Our clients initial idea to me was to install a modern power unit such as a Ford Zetec however I was uncomfortable with this idea and felt that we could achieve a good power hike using a power unit from within the BMC stable. By doing this it would help drive development costs down and keep a nice period feel to the engine bay and the familier noise of the BMC B-series. So in went a tuned MGB engine with electronic ignition and a five speed close ratio gear box further helping not only acceleration but top end cruising speed. Because within the remit the vehicle had to retain a virtually standard appearance we even had to figure out things such as keeping the original gear stick to the floor!
Suspension brakes and steering were completely changed to the point where we built a completely new front suspension system from the ground up recalculating all the geometries to ensure scrub radius ackerman angle etc etc were all correct. The interior was sound deadened everywhere and a power amplified surround sound system with blue tooth connectivity installed using the original classic radio face plate. With out going into too much detail it was a epic project that took a lot of R&D to get right but within a year or so the car was completed but during that time it had taken the eye of one Martin Buckley who in the classic car world is one who really takes a interest in classic saloons feeling they are much maligned over exotica. He asked could he drive it with the possibility of producing a article on the car? after confirming this was okay with the owner Martin was handed the keys. The article that followed was a absolute pleasure for the CCCR team to read. We did not expect it to read badly because we were confident the car we had created was good but to read a column from a highly regarded highly experienced jornalist essentially saying we had created his idea of a perfectly updated classic saloon in such glowing terms made us all feel satisfied that our approach to such projects is correct and helps varify our workmanship. Praise indeed for all who work soo hard at CCCR all year round.
We would like to thank Classic and sports car for kindly allowing us to reprint the text below first published in Classic and sports car in February 2019
Far from being the misguided disaster I predicted the Wolseley16/60 'restomod' project I wrote about in this column a year ago has emerged as a wonderful device. I was intrigued to revisit it, having finally I managed to blag an hour behind the wheel before it goes off to its no doubt thrilled owner, I'm more than happy to eat humble pie on this one. First of all it looks totally stock. Not lowered, and no silly wheels or any other clues. The fact that this unassuming 1968 family saloon is effectively as new visually (rather than yet another self consciously scruffy 'rat rod') only adds to the surreal charm of a car that would usually be more at home in a village fete display than than the outside lane of the M4. Jon Wills of Cotswold Classic Car Restorations tried to persuade his customer to at least have the original steel wheels widened but the man was having none of it; his idea was simply to create a replica of the Farina 16/60 he drove around his families farm as a teenager albeit suitably updated for 'modern' use with seat belts,alternator, decent headlights and 'at least 100bhp' as an overtaking safety margin rather than in the interests of road burning. In fact the resulting vehicle, in its beautiful maroon and cream livery, is hilariously quick; 150bhp from a 2.1 litre MGB engine is getting on for three times what it had originally, but the point is this is still a four cylinder B-series. When it would have been all to easy to slam a V8 into the poor thing to get the extra power this lump fits perfectly and is fully in the spirit of what the car really is and was. Not that any Wolseley ever went like this. You have wheel spin infirst, second and third and a surge of power that keeps on coming in fourth and top long after the speedo has run out of numbers.Running twin SUs it still sounds like a B series too, the uneventick over from the lumpy cam the only real give away. So now, where once any hatchback could burn you off, the 16/60 just keeps on coming in a flurry of rorty urge like a Lotus Cortina with a blue rinse. To be honest ninety feels like enough on a wintry afternoon in December but it sprints up to that speed in
short order. I suspect 120mph would be very possible, plod gearing and aerodynamics allowing. The only way we will ever know is with the help of a sat nav (or a coppers speed gun) as there is not even a rev counter to help you make a calculated guess. Neither is the Wolseley the intractable monster the enginespecification suggests. In fact, in your saner moments, it will takefourth cleanly from low speeds in a beautifully nifty Mazda MX5 gearbox. A stick that curves back slightly in a swans neck to exit closer to the seats than the original BMC lever is perhaps the onlyvisually break with originality.You probably would notice anyway because it still has the properBMC plastic knob. the latter detail one of many things thecustomer (who is shy and doesn't want his name mentioned) wasvery specific about during this build. Another instance was his request for a column flasher (rather thana floor dip button) but it still had to use the classic BMC stalk withthe green bulb in the end. This sort of thing eats up lots of hours oftrail and error. On the other hand the fact that the 16/60's shell wasso amazingly rust free helped keep some sort of lid on the costs.As Jon Wills says fitting this engine, an off the shelf item from Moss, was in some ways the 'easy' bit. Less straight forward wasthe task of getting the Wolseley to stop and handle: to merely say that MGB front suspension and brakes were 'grafted on' does not really take account of the fact that there is less shared BMC genetics between these Farina saloons and the B than you mightthink. But it has been well worth the effort as the 16/60 feelsamazingly capable and unscary on the road. Thicker anti roll bars and poly bushes have cured the wallows (without destroying theride) and the MGB steering rack feels just right in that theWolseley steers faithfully without being a freakish go cart. On it'sskinny tyres it is a hoot to drive in the wet (or dry for that matter)where you can slide about to your hearts content and the consternation of other motorists who cannot compute the idea of adrifting Wolseley. The only thing it really lacks is an LSD.The interior thankfully looks as standard as the body but nifty touches like a period push button radio with blue tooth and an app on the ignition that allows you to advance or retard the timing get you one foot in the modern world. My original concern was that it was a shame to tamper with such an original and beautifully preserved example of an admittedly boring car. Yet the work has been done to such a good standard and is so sensitive to the feel and character of the original Wolseley that nobody could have a serious problem with it. To me it is an absolute specimen of what an up rated classic should be.