Mini Markup: 1968 Wolseley Hornet MkIII – $17,500
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“Badge Engineering” is the practice of offering the same basic product with slightly different features under different brand names. The practice is most prevalent in the Automotive world, where manufacturers attempt to amortize platform development costs over as many models as possible. In the U.S., enthusiasts are familiar with how General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler badge-engineered car lines are based on their respective car divisions. Across the pond, British Motors Corporation (better known simply as “BMC”) took badge engineering to a whole new level across its Austin, Morris, MG, Austin-Healey, Riley, and Wolseley brands.
Arguably the most egregious example of BMC’s badge engineering was in the iconic Mini. While BMC sold the vast majority of Minis under the Austin brand, BMC marketers also offered upscale versions such as the Riley Elf and the Wolseley Hornet. To our knowledge, neither Riley nor Wolseley cars were ever officially sold stateside, so we would love to learn the story of how this Maroon 27K 1968 Wolseley Hornet for sale on Craigslist in Stoneville, North Carolina (Greensboro) made it to these shores. With only 27K original miles, this example presents as a nice low-mileage, right-hand-drive, survivor-quality example.
Currently offered for $17,500, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is in line with the one-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for Mini Copper Mk11’s built between 1967 and 1970 on which the Hornet is based upon. By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the badge-engineered Mini featured here:
Released in 1961 as more luxurious versions of the Mini, both the Wolseley Hornet and the Riley Elf had longer, slightly finned rear wings and larger boots that gave the cars a more conventional three-box design. The wheelbase of the Elf and Hornet remained at 2,036 mm (80.2 in), whereas the overall length was increased to 3.27 m (10.7 ft). This resulted in a dry weight of 638 kg (1,407 lb)/642.3 kg (1,416 lb) (rubber/hydrolastic suspension) for the Elf and 618 kg (1,362 lb)/636.4 kg (1,403 lb) for the Hornet. Front-end treatment, which incorporated each marque’s traditional upright grille design (the Hornet’s grille with a lit “Wolseley” badge), also contributed to a less utilitarian appearance. The cars had larger-diameter chrome hubcaps than the Austin and Morris Minis, and additional chrome accents, bumper overriders and wood-veneer dashboards. The Riley was the more expensive of the two cars. The name “Wolseley Hornet” was first used on 1930s saloon, coupé, sports and racing cars, while the name “Elf” recalled the Riley Sprite and Imp sports cars, also of the 1930s (Riley’s first choice of name “Imp” could not be used as Hillman had registered it). The full-width dashboard was a differentiator between the Elf and Hornet. This dashboard was the idea of Christopher Milner the Sales Manager for Riley. Both the Riley Elf’s and Wolseley Hornet’s bodies were built at Fisher & Ludlow under their “Fisholow” brandname. Plates in the engine compartment on the right side fitch plate bear evidence of this speciality. Very early Mark I versions of both cars (e.g. press photo of 445MWL) had no overriders on the bumpers and a single piece front wing (A-panel and wing in one piece, no outside seam below scuttle panel) that was soon given up again, allegedly due to cost. The Elf’s and Hornet’s special bumper overriders first appeared in 1962. Early production Mark I’s also had a combination of leather and cloth seats (Elf R-A2S1-101 to FR2333, Hornet W-A2S1-101 to FW2105) whereas all later models had full leather seats. Mark I models were equipped with single leading shoe brakes on the front. In 1966 the Heinz food company commissioned, from Crayford Convertibles (Crayford Engineering), 57 convertible Hornets to be given as prizes in a UK competition. Many are still on the road as of 2020.
Both the Elf and the Hornet went through three engine versions. Initially, they used the 848 cc (51.7 cu in) 34 bhp (25 kW) engine (engine type 8WR) with a single HS2 carburettor, changing to a single HS2 carburettor 38 bhp (28 kW) version of the Cooper’s 998 cc (60.9 cu in) power unit (engine type 9WR) in the Mark II in 1963. This increased the car’s top speed from 71 to 77 mph (114 to 124 km/h). Therefore, Mark II cars also came with increased braking power in the form of front drum brakes with twin leading shoes to cope with the increased power output. Both Mark I and Mark II featured four-speed gearboxes (three synchromesh gears) with the original, long gear lever, a.k.a. “magic wand” type. Automatic gearboxes became available on the Mark II in 1965 as an option. The Mark III facelift of 1966 brought wind-up windows and fresh-air fascia vents. Concealed door hinges were introduced two years before these were seen on the mainstream Mini. The gear selecting mechanism was updated to the “Cooper” type, (which also gave a welcome increase in engine location due to the remote housing extension being directly bolted onto the back of the differential housing) as seen on Mini 1000 cars of the time. The 850s retained the “magic wand”. Automatic gearboxes were available to the Mark III in 1967 again. Full-four synchromesh gearing was eventually introduced during 1968. 30,912 Riley Elfs and 28,455 Wolseley Hornets were built. Production of both models ceased in late 1969.
The Twin-Cam YouTube Channel provides this modern day look back at the Wolseley Hornet and parent company BMC’s quest for badge-engineering most of its products:
This 1968 Wolseley Hornet MkIII for sale is definitely not a car you will run into every day, especially in the U.S. and in such low-mileage, survivor condition. If you love vintage Minis but dare to be a bit different, this Hornet may be the conversation piece you’ve been looking for.
If you are serious about buying this Wolseley, you can start the conversation by contacting the seller directly through their Craigslist ad. When you connect, please remember to mention you saw their Hornet MkIII featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
Show or go: What would you do with this 1968 Wolseley Hornet MkIII for sale? Please comment below and let us know!