By John Hanson and Rod Ward
This book is mostly the story of William Morris, who embarked on making cars in 1910, having started out, like so many entrepreneurs of the period, repairing and building bicycles. Morris and Herbert Austin both gave their names to famous British car marques, but they were very different characters. Austin was a talented engineer who just wanted to make cars, profit being a secondary consideration, (though always gratefully received). He could be seen every day on the shop floor, and was always concerned for his workers’ welfare. William Morris, on the other hand, had just two evening classes in engineering to his credit, and making a profit was his driving force. Once established in business, he was rarely seen out of his private office, and following two failed early partnerships he trusted no-one. He never asked for advice, and he would certainly never act on any advice he was given. Morris was not a sociable man; he had few friends and his extreme political views alienated many of his contemporaries. He introduced modern mass-production techniques to British car manufacture, building popular family cars for two generations, along the way taking over many of his suppliers, as well as competitor firms Wolseley and Riley. His Nuffield Organisation lost its independence in 1952 when it merged with Austin to form BMC, though the Morris name was still applied to (inexpensive) cars made by successor organisations until 1984. At that point British Leyland, rationalising their store cupboard of brands, killed off the Morris marque.