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Morris Minor

Published: 12th Aug 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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The Morris Minor is not only a fi ne classic, it can also be turned into a bit of a hot rod

The Morris Minor is an unusual candidtate for this regular series of go-faster tips because a good many owners are avid tuners and improvers without even knowing it thanks to accepted owners club modifications carried out on standard cars increasingly filtering through to standard cars.

Of course, thanks to the Minor’s mechanical make up you can go from mild to wild easily and still retain the car’s charm, character and reliability. Here’s how!


Mechanically, the Minor is super easy to repair and rev up – it’s rust that makes the Morris a worry. Ensure that the main structure, including bulkheads, floors and rear suspension location points are in sound order. Rear chassis extensions suspension hangers and front chassis legs go as does front crossmember but the rest is mostly cosmetic and easily repaired or replaced with new panels.

Traveller’s woodwork is structural as you probably know and an MoT fail point. Annual checks are essential; look for softening wood and discolouration The oily bits are super simple; chief concerns are the front suspension trunnions and kingpins.

A new kingpin leg costs some £75 but will also improve the handling. The brake master cylinder lives inside the chassis rail and is easiy overlooked.


Usually in this section we start off with usual tuning tweaks and leave engine swaps until last, but with the Minor it’s one of the first and easiest steps to painless power.

One of the most common performance upgrades is also the one that’s been around the longest, slotting in a 1275cc A-Series unit, as fitted to the contemporary MG Midget. These are available reconditioned or for around £900 or you can pick up one from an autojumble for hundreds.

The best bit is that most classic insurers won’t load your premium if you keep the unit standard because they
realise the lack of availability of the earlier 948cc and 1098cc engines. You don’t have to run on the Midget’s twin carb set up and the stock Minor carb can be retained (although a 1.5in carb is a better bet), along with the exhaust manifold if you wish to keep an original Minor look although performance will suffer, a bit as will using a 1275 block topped with a 1098 ‘top end’.

Standard Marina 1300 engines are hens’ teeth these days but a transverse engine can fit so long as the ‘longitudinal’ parts are substituted or modified – your specialist or an owners club will advise.
For many, just the added bhp and more importantly, torque of a normal 1275 will more than suffice. However, there’s 100bhp potential with this excellent unit which can be bored out to 1360cc or even 1380cc plus can be supercharged if you like.

Up top even for the standard 1098cc engine you can improve performance by fitting a stage 1 head, for £367 from tuning outfits like although the first steps are upgrades to the air and exhaust systems such as a K&N filter, Midget exhaust manifold and so on.

For camshafts, there’s a wide choice but the Midget tune type is as good as any for many drivers as it provides useful poke but doesn’t make the engine too racey and hard to drive in traffic.

Even if you are not upgrading the engine performance it’s still worth fitting a electronic ignition system for longer service life and specialists will sell you kits that range from a simple ‘breakerless ignition to a full house electronic distributor along with an upgraded coil but this is only needed on highly tuned engines. For instance, a Standard Road Electronic Distributor, together with a Unipart GCL211 High Output Coil for just under £100 is good value.

Ultimate performance comes in the shape of another engine and anything has been shoehorned into Minors over the decades, including meaty V8s. Fiat Twin Cams were also popular some 20 years ago but now folks look to the Rover/MG K Series, or the Ford Zetec engines as easier more accessible alternatives.

Specialists have been marketing a K-series upgrade for the Minor since 1997. The JLH kit includes special parts such as a new bell housing to attach the engine to the gearbox, plus there are parts to upgrade your Minor’s cooling system. JLH has produced track-day Minors, with the 1.8 K-Series engine, that boast 185bhp on tap, doing 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, with a top speed of no less than 130mph!

A 2.0-litre Ford Zetec engine and fitting are available and like the K Series unit, are dirt cheap to buy – say £100. With a fitting kit, you are good to go for around £500!

You’ll then need to mate this engine to a Ford Type 9 five-speed gearbox, to quite well; twin on DB4, triple on the later cars handle the extra power and give much better suited intermediate ratios as further bonus.

Fitting the evergreen Ford box of ratios can be worthwhile but not always. According to JLH Minors, it’s only worth doing if the engine is uprated so it can successfully ‘pull’ the higher ratio. Minors with a 1098 engine will be giving up to 48bhp and too little to take advantage of the fifth gear, it contends adding the higher ratio cog is nigh on useless on anything other than a motorway where the engine will be near its rev limit to sustain progress and you need to go down a gear or two on an incline and as a result use the 1098 motor more than if you had the standard box. Many owners rarely go over 50mph anyway so the fifth gear is pretty academic, JLH reckons. A better solution is to fit a 3.9 or 3.7 diff or go for a more powerful motor like the 1275cc, believes Jonathan Heap. You can buy a modified Ford Sierra five-speed gearbox for your Minor from at a cost of £1425 with a nut and bolt fitting kit.


In its day the Morris Minor was one of the tidiest handlers on the road so let’s start with the brakes which is essential if you have upped the power greatly and mandatory for many insurers.

Front discs are a must. Now that later Marina 1.8 ones have all but dried up, dedicated fitting kits or a Sierra conversion is the way to go at around £650. A servo is optional and some advise owners to try without first. Some Minor experts also advise fitting a servo to the front wheels only so seek advice first.

With the suspension it’s a case of how far do you want to go? Uprated telescopic damper conversions, thicker torsion bars, anti tramp bars and even more sophisticated rear suspensions complete with disc brakes are all attainable… but for most sedate road driving better dampers and good quality modern radial tyres will do the trick after ensuring that the front king pins and trunnions are in good order.

A relatively cheap upgrade is to fit telescopic shock absorbers, in place of the lever-arm originals. You can have a new front suspension handling kit fitted from around £250, which includes telescopic shock absorbers, from http://www.morrisminor. A front anti-roll bar from the same company costs £169. If you want, you can even replace the major front suspension component, namely the torsion bar, using a new crossmember and wide-bottom A-arms, with http://www.jlhmorrisminors selling a complete new suspension kit for £740.

At the rear, a Marina rear axle can be fitted (which also means better brakes), telescopic rear dampers, MGB rear springs (or uprated parabolic) anti tramp bars… it depends how much modded your Minor now is!

Classic Motoring

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