In 1959, the new Wolseley 6/99 took over from the well-known 6/90, which meant a complete change of design direction for the big-Wolseley model range. For more than 25 years, from the mid-1930s, all large-engined Wolseleys had been based on Nuffield Organisation designs (sometimes being no more than badge-engineered Morris cars), but the new 6/99 was actually a badge-engineered Austin instead.
The basis of the Wolseley 6/99 was the Austin A99, which has already been desribed in the appropriate Austin section - this car itself being a replacement for the A95/A105Westminster of the 1950s. In all major respects except for front styling, trim and equipment, the Wolseley 6/99 was identical with the Austin A99. The odd thing was that the Wolseley was assembled at Cowley, while the Austin was built at Longbridge! Austin production was later moved to Cowley.
Whereas the superseded 6/90 had been a close relation of the Riley Pathfinder/Two-Point-Six model, with which it shared the same separate chassis-frame, torsion bar front suspension and smoothly-styled four-door shell, the new 6/99 had a unit-construction monocoque four-door body/chassis unit, with styling credited to the Farina organization. Compared with the old car, the 6/99 was much squarer, bulkier and more spacious in the passenger cabin, and naturally (for the period) there were tail-fins to give the same 'Farina' identity as was to be found on the smaller-bodied B-Series Farina-styled saloons.
Like the Austin A99 version, therefore, the Wolseley had coil-spring independent front suspension, half-elliptic springs at the rear, with front and rear anti-roll bars to provide handling stability. There were Lockheed front disc brakes (the 6/90 had always had drums) and rather vague cam-and-lever steering. The entire driveline was corporate BMC C-Series equipment, including the 2.9 litre overhead-valve six-cylinder engine (which was noticeably more powerful than the 2.6-litre unit used in the 6/90), and there was Borg-Warner automatic transmission as an option, but the principal mechanical innovation was a new manual transmission.
For the Austin A99 and the Wolseley 6/99 BMC had developed a new all-Porsche-type-synchromesh three-speed gearbox, which was backed by a Borg-Warner overdrive which worked on top and second gears. The overdrive was brought into operation by pulling on a lever which was centrally mounted under the front parcel shelf; it could be brought into operation above 30mph, once engaged, by releasing the throttle momentarily, and could be 'kicked out' by fully depressing the throttle pedal.
The Wolseley cost £1,255 in 1959, compared with £1,149 for the Austin, and the extra price was justified by the fitment of a special Wolseley front grille, flanked by auxiliary lamps (but without bonnet scoop, unlike the Austin) and by distinctive colour schemes, a wooden veneer facia (with different instruments and controls from the Austin), plus more plushly constructed and trimmed seats (leather-covered) and other furnishings. There was a deeply dished steering wheel, and the gear-change was on the steering column for manual or automatic transmission cars. In just over two years the Wolseley sold as well as the Austin until replaced by the improved 6/110 for 1962.
Wolseley 6/99 specification
Produced: Cowley, 1959-61. 13,108 cars built.
General layout: Unit-construction, pressed-steel body-chassis structure, in 5-seater, 4-door saloon car style. Front-mounted engine driving rear wheels.
Engine and transmission: BMC C-Series engine, 6-cylinder, ohv, in-line 2,912cc, 83.34 x 88.9mm, 103bhp at 4,500rpm; 158lb ft at 2,000rpm; 3-speed gearbox, all synchromesh; Borg-Warner overdrive standard on top and 2nd gears; optional Borg-Warner automatic transmission; live (beam) rear axle with hypoid-bevel final drive.
Chassis: Independent front suspension, coil springs, wishbones and anti-roll bar. Cam-and-peg steering. Rear suspension by half-elliptic leaf springs and anti-roll bar. Front disc and rear drum brakes. 7.00-14in tyres.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 9ft 0in; front track 4ft 6in; rear track 4ft 5.25in; length 15ft 8in; width 5ft 8.5in; height 4ft 11in. Unladen weight (approx) 3,415lb.
Distinguishing features from previous model: Entirely different car from superseded 6/90 models, with monocoque and Farina body style.
Typical performance: Maximum speed 98mph; 0-60mph 14.4sec; standing 1/4-mile 20.4sec: overall fuel consumption 19mpg.
Launch Price: £1,255
Derivatives: The Austin A99 was mechanically identical and shared the same monocoque, but had a different nose style and lower-grade trim. Both cars were superseded by the Austin A110/Wolseley 6/110 models in autumn 1961.
Fate: Discontinued in 1961 and replaced by the 6/110, which used the same basic design.
Source: "The Cars of BMC" - Graham Robson (Motor Racing Publications, 1987)