Meanwhile, the Landcrab’s distinctive appearance proved another sales challenge. The company’s technical director, Alec Issigonis, told the press: “The style? I don’t approve of the word. He tends to date a car.” Accordingly, the “traditional” 18/85 grille and walnut veneer interior accentuate rather than distract from the lines described as minimalist.
Still, the Wolseley was a car with many virtues and the S option, introduced in August 1969, further enhanced its appeal. For £1323, £61 more than the standard 18/85, the discerning motorist got twin SU carburettors, bigger disc brakes, a revised intake manifold and a high compression cylinder head, giving him achieved a top speed of nearly 100 mph. In addition, the S differed from the standard model by a discreet crest and a side stripe.
Somewhat oddly, the newly formed British Leyland suggested the 18/85S was the perfect Landcrab for the King’s Road plateau. An advert featured a hip young couple reveling in Wolseley ownership and enjoying “the kind of car that manages to stay young without losing any of the good old-fashioned creature comforts”. In reality, the typical S owner was closer to Jerry Ledbetter than The good life that The Persuasives!.
The 2.2-litre Wolseley Six replaced the 18/85 in 1972 after 35,597 units were produced. Production of all Landcrab models ended in 1975.
Armitage only recently acquired its Wolseley. He says: “It’s really comfortable, and I think the dash-mounted gear selector is in the right place. As for the audience reaction, most people who have seen the S love it. It’s also worth noting that while Leyland promoted the Wolseley as a large sedan, it appears Lilliputian in modern traffic.
Armitage considers the Landcrab an underrated machine, and its Wolseley is a reminder of the true potential of the 1800 family. Perhaps if the 18/85S had been available from the start sales might have been greater, but that neglects again the fact that the average middle manager did not want an ADO17. The Wolseley debuted the same year as the Ford Corsair 2000E; while the Ford looked decidedly like “Flash Harry”, it was reassuringly conventional in every way.
However, 54 years after the launch of the 18/85, it’s easy to see why the Landcrab was reputedly the favorite design of Issigonis, who had been responsible for the revolutionary Mini. Armitage’s transport effortlessly combines a sense of individuality with a certain casualness. Plus, the aftermarket Webasto sunroof allowed the Wolseley S owner to imagine themselves behind the wheel of a five-seat, four-door MGB.
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