Alice’s Wonderland is in Arundel

 

First registered by dealers Parkinson Polson and Co Eastbourne, chassis number 895 was one of just 16 Morris Six models built with the limousine body and records show it is the last one on the road, certainly in the UK. If ever a car and an owner match these two are perfect, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump they ‘go together like pies and carrots’. Peter Mylton-Thorley and the Cowley built beauty called Alice complement each other; Peter knows how to maintain and drive the 85 year old Morris and is rewarded with a great experience every trip.

Powered by a 17.7hp six cylinder engine (later used in the Morris Isis) coupled to a three speed crash gearbox without power steering this is not the car for a novice. It is a big car with all the detailed pieces you could possibly want.  Foot starter and accelerator in the centre of the three pedals forces you to think before you even move; the ignition advance and retard in the centre of the large steering wheel means driving is anything but straight forward. Peter has looked after Alice for the past ten years’ previous to that he has enjoyed a Rolls Royce 20/25 from 1932 and a 1911 Edwardian Austin 15 so adapting to the Morris was not an issue for him.

Peter drove the short distance to find somewhere with space to photograph the Morris and it was brilliant; a push on the upside down choke and the 2468cc motor jumped into life. 1st gear went in with a small growl as the car was still cold and away we drove no fuss into second and a slight whine from the differential, it really was an experience. This car was fitted with four wheel drum brakes and a warning sign is on the rear below the bumper to warn those with inferior brakes that the Morris could stop quickly. Looking around the dash with its real wood and old fashion dials there is plenty to comment on in such a small area. Starting from the passenger side, there is a pewter match and pipe holder that when flipped open contains a striker plate inside; this would be for the chauffeur I assume. The large dial alongside is the speedo and the two smaller ones oil pressure and amp metre. Nearest to the driver is a large time clock which still keeps perfect time today. The two knobs at the base of the dash are ignition and lights. The cylinder above is the dash light; in 1928 there was no back lighting in the gauges.

The advertising brochure for the Morris boasted many state of the art engineering and electrics (for the time) including an electric horn, in addition to the bulb type. Windscreen wipers operated via a small electric motor above the screen, headlamps with driver operated manual dip, a radiator thermometer, petrol gauge outside on top of the tank and shock absorbers. The first owner from Wimbledon paid a healthy sum for the time of £410 1s 6d but got a lot of car in return.

Most limousine bodies of this time were coach built by specialists, a large plaque inside the suicide rear doors make it clear the Cowley factory supplied the body for Alice. The rear seat passengers enjoyed a spacious area with plenty of leg room. Cushions fixed to the roof pillar allowed the weary traveller to rest their head and the rear window blind (lowered via string by the driver) kept bright light at bay. Bakelite ashtrays and a smokers hatch reminiscent of a less politically correct time. With wind down windows and interior roof light it must have been a nice place to travel in the supple leather seats and trim panels topped with dark wood.

The exterior is typical of the decade with running boards and an extra fuel can.  Look closer and the windscreen opens outwards for ventilation and the sunshade above is adjustable with lovely chrome fixings. The original luggage trunk sits over hanging the rear lights, the dome top opens on hinges and inside is fully lined. The finish is bright and suits the Morris perfectly, the yellow is complemented by gloss black above and below; the Lucas headlights try to dominate the front view, competing with the brass radiator surround.

The Morris Six production ran for two years 1928/29 and aside from the rare limousine three variants were produced but none in huge numbers in comparison with other models. Maintenance is regular but Peter informs me not over complicated.  Alice has 68 grease nipples ‘I have found every one of them’ he insists. I think he is being modest, these old machines require a lot of knowledge and previous experience is essential to avoid hours of head scratching.  Certainly Peter will have passed all this information on to his son who being an engineer and car restorer himself has no problem finding his way around the car.

I would have happily spent all day with Alice; she is a fine piece of historical motor engineering, built with quality materials by craftsmen in the same year Alexander Flemming discovered penicillin and Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Peter plans to take the Morris Six Limousine to a few classic car shows next year; he is great fun to talk too and would love to tell you all about her. My thanks to Peter for his time, being a fan of coach built automobiles having a ride out in Alice was ‘wonderland’ for me.