The revolutionary Morris Minor (the prototype was called Mosquito) was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show on 20 September, 1948. Named for an earlier Morris Minor (1928) car , it was the work of a team led by Alec Issigonis, who later designed the Mini.
This year will be the 60th anniversary of the Morris Minor launch. It will be held at Stanford Hall in Lutterworth, Leicestershire on the 21st/22nd June 2008. Organised by the Morris Minor Owners Club.
Sir Alec became famous for his creation of the Mini but he was really proudest of his participation in designing the Morris Minor. He considered it as being a vehicle which managed to combine many of the luxuries and conveniences of a good motor car with a price suitable for the working classes, while the Mini, introduced in 1959, was a spartan mode of conveyance with everything cut to the bone. The Morris Minor, when compared with competitor products in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, excelled as a roomy vehicle with superior cornering / handling characteristics.
Internal politicking inside manufacturer BMC (British Motor Corporation) may have led to the limited American sales of the Minor.
Over 1.6 million were eventually produced, mainly in Cowley, Oxfordshire, and exported around the world, with many variants of the original model. Production continued in Birmingham through to 1971, with the commercial variants and Traveller, and it remains a well loved and collected vehicle. It also became a popular basis to build a Hot rod on, because of the Transatlantic styling that resembles a late 1940's Chevrolet. It was also lightweight and rear wheel drive, with the possibility of swapping in (among many other engines) the Rover K-Series engine or the Fiat Twin Cam.
The original Minor MM series lasted from 1948 until 1953. It included a pair of 4-seat Sedan (car), 2-door and 4-door, and a Convertible 4-seat Tourer. The front Torsion bar suspension was shared with the larger Oxford MO, as was the almost-Unibody construction. Although the Minor was originally designed to accept a flat-four engine, with four distinctive gaps in the engine bay to accommodate it, late in the development stage it was replaced by a 0.9 L (918 cc/56 in³) side-valve Straight-4 producing 27.5 hp (21 kW) and 39 lbf·ft (53 N·m) of Torque. This little engine pushed the Minor to just 64 mph (103 km/h) but delivered .
Early cars had a painted section in the center of the bumpers to cover the widening of the production car from the prototypes. This widening of four inches (102 mm) is also visible in the creases in the Hood (vehicle). Exports to the United States began in 1949 with the headlamps removed from within the grille to be mounted higher on the Fender (vehicle) to meet safety regulations. These became standard on all Minors for 1951. When production of the first series ended, just over a quarter of a million had been sold with a surprising 30% being the convertible Tourer model.
A tourer tested by the British magazine The Motor (magazine) in 1950 had a top speed of and could accelerate from 0- in 29.2 seconds. A fuel consumption of was recorded. The test car cost £382 including taxes.
Minor Series IIEdit
In 1952, the Minor line was updated with an Austin-designed 0.8 L (803 cc/49 in³) overhead valve A-Series engine replacing the original sidevalve unit. The engine had been designed for the Minor's main competition, Austin's A30, but became available as Austin and Morris were merged into the British Motor Corporation. The new engine felt stronger, though all measurements were smaller than the old. The 52 second drive to 60 mph (97 km/h) was still calm, with 63 mph (101 km/h) as the top speed. Fuel consumption also rose to 36 mpg (6.5 L/100 km).
An estate version was introduced, known as the Traveller (a Morris naming tradition for estates, also seen on the Mini), along with van and pick-up versions. The Traveller featured an external structural ash (wood) frame for the rear bodywork, with two side-hinged rear doors. The frame was varnished rather than painted and a highly visible feature of the bodystyle. Rear bodies of the van versions were all steel. The 4-seat convertible and saloon variants continued as well.
The grille was modified in October, 1954, and a new dashboard with central speedometer was fitted. Almost half a million examples had been produced when the line ended in 1956.
The Motor (magazine) magazine tested a four door saloon in 1952 and reported a top speed of and acceleration from 0- in 28.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of was recorded. The test car cost £631 including taxes.
- 1952–1956 - 803 cc A-Series Straight-4, 30 hp (22 kW) at 4800 rpm and 40 lbf·ft (54 N·m) at 2400 rpm
The car was again updated in 1956 when the engine was increased in capacity to 0.9 L (948 cc/57 in³). The two piece split windscreen was replaced with a curved one-piece one and the rear window enlarged. At the same time the semaphore-style trafficators were replaced by the more modern flashing direction indicators then becoming the norm for the UK market. An upmarketcar based on the Minor floorpan but with larger BMC B-Series engine was sold as the Riley One-Point-Five/Wolseley 1500 beginning in 1957: a version, with tail fins added, of this Wolseley / Riley variant was also produced in Australia as the Morris Major.
In 1961 the Morris Minor became the first British car to sell over 1,000,000 units. To commemorate this event, a limited edition of 350 two-door saloons were produced with distinctive lilac paintwork and a white interior. Also the badge name on the side of the bonnet was modified to read "Minor 1,000,000" instead of the standard "Minor 1000".
The Minor 1000 gained an even larger engine, 1.1 L (1098 cc/67 in³) in 1962. It could now reach 77 mph (124 km/h), yet consumption was down to 6.2 L/100 km (38 mpg). Other modifications included a new dashboard layout (a lidded glove box on the passenger side, an open cubby hole in front of the driver), a different heater, plus new, larger tail/flasher and front side/flasher lamps.
Van versions were popular with the Post Office (United Kingdom), and some of these had front wings made of rubber, in order to cope with the sometimes unforgivingly busy situations in which they were expected to work.
During the life of the 1000 model, the car began to seem dated, and production declined. The Tourer was deleted in 1969, with the saloon line gone the next year. 1971 was the last year for the Traveller and commercial versions. Nearly 850,000 Minor 1000s were made in all. The car was officially replaced by the Morris Marina, which replaced it on the Cowley production lines, but for the management of what had, by 1971, mutated into the British Leyland Motor Corporation, the Morris Marina was seen primarily as a 'cheap to build' competitor to Ford's top selling (and in many respects conservatively engineered) Cortina, rather than as a replacement for the (in its day) strikingly innovative Morris Minor.
- 1956–1962 - 948 cc A-Series Straight-4, 37 hp (28 kW) at 4750 rpm and 50 lbf·ft (68 N·m) at 2500 rpm
- 1962–1971 - 1098 cc A-Series Straight-4, 48 hp (36 kW) at 5100 rpm and 60 lbf·ft (81 N·m) at 2500 rpm
Morris Minor todayEdit
Today the Morris Minor and 1000 are amongst the best served classic family sized cars in the old vehicle movement and continue to gain popularity. The enduring affection for the "Moggie" ("Moggie" is also a common British nickname for an undistinguished cat) or "Morrie" (as it is often known in Australia and New Zealand) is reflected in the number of restored and improved Morris Minors currently running in Britain. In addition to more powerful engines, desirable improvements necessitated by the increase in traffic density since the Minor was withdrawn from volume production include the replacement of the original equipment drum brakes with discs.
- Official Morris Minor Owners Club website
- A forum for all a-series driven cars
- Website of the Morris Minor club Kent branches regional rally