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Morris Minor

Published: 1st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor

Buyer Beware

  • Exterior panels rust most readily on the trailing edges of the front wings and along bottoms of the doors. The condition of the structural elements should be of far more concern - check especially the front chassis legs, central crossmember, leaf spring hangers (especially rear), inner sills and A-post both for rust and poor, cheap repairs.
  • Less critical but a useful haggling point is rust at bottom of the bootlid, in the trough at the rearmost extremity of the boot and all floorpans.
  • Mechanical parts for the later cars are cheap and readily available, but the situation for side-valve and 803cc engines is not so good and rebuild projects should be viewed with caution.
  • Oil leaks are not uncommon on all A-Series engines, but if substantial quantities of oil are seeping from the bellhousing, it may be simply that the crankcase breather is blocked.
  • Engines are also notoriously rattly, often down to worn tappets or timing chains. Both are cheap and easy to replace.
  • A gearbox that jumps out of gear on the overrun is likely to need rebuilding. One with a noisy first gear can slog on for ages. If clutch judders on take-off, check that the engine steady bar is attached and doing its job.
  • New trunnions on old kingpins are unlikely to last too long, so check receipts carefully if you are paying tops for a car that’s been ‘sorted’.
  • Good secondhand trim is becoming scarce. Everything is available new for modest prices, but it can add up so do your sums carefully if you need (or want) to make extensive changes. Front seats collapse but new webbing is cheap and easy DIY replacement.
  • Traveller wood that’s been filled, painted or bodged needs as much as £2000 to have it all replaced. It’s a professional job too unless you were good at woodwork at school.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Not fast but fun due to fine handling and tuning potential

  • Usability: 3/5

    Moderate performance but ok. Estates are very practical

  • Maintaining: 5/5

    Superb support; plus is a DIYer’s dream

  • Owning: 5/5

    As cheap as chips plus appeal to all classes and pockets

  • Value: 4/5

    Top cars can be dear. Cheapies a liability so choose carefully

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Lord Nuffield hated it, his company neglected it and nurse Gladys Emmanuel stereotyped it, but the Morris Minor rose

The Morris Minor is full of contradictions. Designed almost entirely by the radical Alec Issigonis during WW2, his modern styling cloaked a state-of-the-art independent front suspension incorporating torsion bar springing, a delightful rack-and-pinion steering mechanism and a brand new flat-four engine. Yet while the production versions retained the advanced suspension and steering, they were saddled by an antiquated old slogger of an engine that had been cribbed from Ford decades ago (but which did at least bring the virtue of reliability). Derisively described as ‘a poached egg’ by company boss Lord Nuffield and subsequently starved of money for serious development, it nevertheless began by appealing to innovation-hungry buyers and ended up the darling of a conservative market who effectively thwarted the company’s attempts to kill it off until 1971. Despite this incredible 23-year production run, to the uninitiated a 1971 car appears little changed from a 1956 offering. Yet the few major changes that were implemented under that familiar skin have important implications when it comes to considering a Minor for the role of daily driver in the 21st century.

Which model to buy?

This all depends on the use you intend to put it to. MM cars with their side-valve engines are not only rare, but probably too sluggish for regular use: 27.5bhp equates to a top speed of 60mph and a whopping 36 seconds just to hit 50mph from rest. There was no heater option, and visibility out of the split screen is particularly poor in the wet. The 803cc Series II of 1952 was an unhappy marriage of small capacity and low gearing that saw top speed unchanged, but did at least reduce the 0-50mph dash to around 26 seconds… The Minor 1000 of September 1956 is a more usable beast, with a capacity hike to 948cc combining with a better gearbox and taller back axle to make 70mph a realistic proposition, cutting the 0-50mph time to 18 seconds but still taking nearer 30 seconds to crack the yardstick 60mph. The one-piece curved front screen, introduced at the same time, is also a big advantage for regular use, affording as it does much better visibility! But without a doubt, if you plan to use your Minor on a regular basis then you will appreciate the added power of the 1098cc engine introduced in October 1962. It was still badged as a Minor 1000, but the allimportant figures were now down to 16 seconds, 25 seconds and 77mph. The other major considerations are actual body type. The saloons were available in both two and fourdoorvariants, although choosing between them really comes down to personal preference and finding the best car on offer in your price bracket. The Traveller is arguably more practical and stylish, offering a large and easily-loaded luggage bay and commanding a premium of up to 25 per cent over equivalent saloons. The ash wood that is such a feature of the model is not merely cosmetic though, and long-term ownership demands more annual maintenance if the cost of replacing the frame (£2000 or more) is to be delayed. The convertibles are also extremely practical and desirable. The biggest thing to watch out for here is that you are not paying top money for a converted saloon. There is nothing wrong with such vehicles providing the work has been carried out properly, but you should beable to negotiate a price reduction of around 20 per cent compared to the factory-built equivalent.

Behind the wheel?

Morris Minors vie with MGBs for the title of most practical classic

For a small car, the Minor has ample room for four adults. The high roof and thin pillars impart an airy feel, and the high sides induce a feeling of security rather than claustrophobia. The basic seats are comfortable enough, although some people will find the low backs and lack of lateral support tiring on long journeys. The seating position and layout of the controls is generally very easy to get comfortable with however. The Minor’s road manners were a revelation in 1948, and they are still a pleasure today. The rack and pinion steering is so light and precise that it is a soughtafter item by all manner of special builders and racers. The torsion bar independent front suspension is also a delightful piece of design, even if the leaf-sprung live rear axle is somewhat cruder and liable to tramp, especially on tuned cars. Rear seat passengers can travel in relative comfort, thanks to the placing of their bench seat ahead of the rear axle. On rough roads, the back end can hop around if driven hard through the corners, but it is generally easy to catch and correct.The brakes were hydraulically operated drums all round from the outset. Again, theyare adequate for the engines they were mated to. If they are less than inspiring, then replacing worn drums with a new set will improve matters, but the 8in front drums introduced with the 1098cc engine increase the swept area by a massive 23 per cent, making a disc brake conversion necessary only on heavily modified cars.

The Daily Option?

Driving a Minor can cause you to re-evaluate your view how a classic should be used

Morris Minors vie with MGBs for the title of most practical daily classic. Certainly the power and handling of a 1098cc car fitted with radial tyres makes it perfectly feasible as your only transport. The higher gearing on these cars also makes them feel less stressed when cruising with the traffic flow although refinement isn’t hardly a forte with this car. They are nicely frugal though, struggling to return any less than 35mpg unless it’s really knackered. Luggage space is huge on the wonderfully versatile Traveller, but less generous on the saloon. The rear seatback can be laid down if needed though, giving a surprisingly practical space for the occasional large load. As with any classic being considered for regular use, there is always a trade-off between character and practicality. 1965 saw some character dialled out with the deletion of a separate starter knob, a switch from gold to black paint for the speedo and the loss of the metal-sprung steering wheel, but the boot became selfsupporting ( surprising how useful this is when carrying shopping in the rain!) and the wipers (repositioned in 1963) clear far more of the screen. Static front seat belts were an option, but inertia reels can be retro-fitted both front and rear. Other modest upgrades that can make it a more pleasurable daily drive include switching pre-focus headlamps to sealed beam items or, if you don’t mind the fact that they look slightly different, the far better illumination that comes with halogen conversions. You might also want to add flashing indicators to the job list – they were only fitted at the factory to home-market cars from late 1961. And if you plan to use your Minor all year round, then be aware that the fresh-air heater fitted from April 1963 is better than the previous re-circulating type, but only just! On the other hand, the popularity of the Minor is such that you can now buy a heated rear screen for retro fitting, something that was never offered by Morris during production!

Ease of ownership?

Classic cars don’t come any easier than the Minor. They are sturdy, conventional cars that are ideally suited to DIY maintenance. With the possible exception of the brake master cylinder, everything is readily accessible and your biggest problem with spare parts (for the later cars at least) won’t be finding them, but choosing between the many specialists vying for your custom. And if that weren’t enough, you can add to that mix an Owners’ Club that is vibrant, very welcoming and efficient. All this must, however, be tempered with our usual proviso that cars of this vintage are more maintenance-intensive than a modern offering with its disposable sealed-for-life components. Fitting an electronic ignition eliminates the chore of maintaining the contact breaker points, but those trunnions still need lubricating ideally every three months or so. You can get sealed universal joints for the propshaft and tie-rod ball joints for the steering, but sticking with nipples and reaching for the grease gun every 3000 miles will extend their service life, while the 6000 mile service should also include such tasks as checking the valve clearances, lubricating the dynamo and the pedal shafts. You will also have got through at least two sumps full of oil by the time a modern car’s 12,000 mile change rolls around, but at least it will be regular 20/50 stuff instead of some over-priced synthetic. None of this is meant to imply that the Minor is a maintenance nightmare, rather that the combination of an old design that encourages you to drive it like a modern car does mean that service intervals roll around far more quickly than for many classics that cover only minimal miles each year. Minors will soldier through years of neglect, but keeping on top of the servicing will make the whole experience far more enjoyable in the end. And if you want the practicality of the Traveller, don’t forget that rubbing down and re-varnishing the wood should be a bi-annual chore. Rather less onerous is the requirement to keep the drain holes in the channels below the sliding rear windows free from obstructions.



Mosquito prototype designed by Alec Issigonis (who of course went on to design the Mini) is first run, soon to be fitted with a new flat-four style engine that never made production


Morris Minor goes on sale, most forming part of the UK's export drive. Now powered by lethargic 918cc side-valve taken from the Morris 8.


Four-door saloon Minor introduced along with new raised headlamp position that goes on to become standard across the range.


Merger of Austin and Morris to create the great British Motor Corporation results in the 803cc A Series OHV engine being fitted to create the Series II Minor.


Wood-framed Traveller estate added to range, using the same shell as the saloon but with aluminium for sides and rear roof section.


Facelift includes new grille design, repositioned sidelights. Inside, round speedo is enlarged and moved to the central position.


Minor 1000 arrives with single-piece screen. An engine enlarged to 948cc together with a better gearbox and axle ratio make it genuine 70mph car.


One millionth model made; first British car to reach milestone. 1098cc engine, better axle ratio and revised gearing (1962).


Claphand wipers (a throwback to the split screen) are moved to park on the left. Larger front and rear lamps with separate amber flashers fitted.


Combined ignition key/starter, three-spoke steering wheel gives way to plainer, duller two-spoke plastic affair.


Charming convertible version is sadly discontinued,while saloon production continues until November 1970.


Last ever Moggy, the long-serving Traveller - is built in April but vans and pick-ups survived in service until 1978 with GPO.

We Reckon...

Driving a Minor for the first time can cause you to re-evaluate your view of how a classic should be used. A well-sorted car with the right mechanical specification will handle well, accelerate briskly and cruise without fuss, and it will do it day in, day out for years on end. That Noddy styling evokes a smile form virtually everyone who sees it, not least the lucky soul behind the wheel. The Minor regularly tops the polls as Britain's favourite classic, and it thoroughly deserves its position at the peak. Just try one and you’ll love it.

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