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Morris Minor

Morris Minor Published: 11th Feb 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
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Half a century on since its demise and yet after all these decades there’s still no better, pragmatic, practical fun-filled classic around than this marvellous Morris

There isn’t another classic like the Morris Minor – and there probably never will be. Available with a range of engines and body styles, the Minor is served by a brilliant club and a band of excellent specialists – and, thanks to a host of upgrades, it’s possible to run one of these charming machines on an everyday basis. The ideal starter classic for new drivers, the Minor offers practicality, affordability, ease of maintenance and certain style which appeals to a wide audience. Can this include you?

Timelines

1948 Morris Minor launched powered by a frankly lethargic 918cc side-valve taken from the old Morris 8.

1952 Merger of Austin and Morris to create the great British Motor Corporation results in the better 803cc A Series OHV engine being fitted to create the Series II Minor.

1953 Wood-framed Traveller estate added to range, using the same shell as the saloon but with dedicated aluminium for sides and rear roof section.

1954 Facelift includes new grille design, repositioned sidelights. Inside, the circular speedo face is enlarged and also moved to the central position where it remained.

1956 Minor 1000 arrives with engine enlarged to 948cc together with a better gearbox and axle ratio make it genuine 70mph car that’s now identified by with single-piece screen.

1960 One millionth model made; first British car to reach milestone celebrated by special Lilac coloured limited edition of which 3500 were made (beware of fakes).

1962 Lustier 1098cc engine, better axle ratio and revised gearing.

1963 Claphand wipers are moved to park on the left. Larger front and rear lamps with separate amber flashers fitted.

1965 Combined ignition key/starter, three wired-spoke steering wheel gives way to two-spoke plastic design.

1969 Convertible sadly discontinued, while saloon production continues until November ’70.

1971 Last ever, the Traveller is built but vans and pick-ups survived in service until 1978 with GPO.

Driving

They’re a lot more fun than those Nurse Gladys Emmanuel looks would have you believe. They aren’t quick – the 803cc unit is too slow for modern use – though the 1098cc models are quite brisk enough in town. All handle quite brilliantly for what they are, with sharp turn-in, beautifully responsive steering and predictable oversteer if pushed, especially if it’s wet. The drum brakes work well enough too – in fact, we’d argue that a Minor is probably the ideal vehicle in which to learn how to control a car at low speeds in safety.

A fair chunk of cars are now upgraded with better brakes (front discs with or without servo assistance is most popular route) and a 1275cc engine and it really turns the Minor into a perky performer that’s much happier on today’s roads, especially if the gearing is raised or a five-speed gearbox is substituted.

Best models

All are great fun but it’s the convertibles which hold the most charm although don’t expect MX-5-like civility and refinement! As a working classic the estate Traveller takes some beating but folks are now also looking at the commercial variants which were made long after the normal range was discontinued. Any pre-1000 model is best left to the purists and although the 948cc unit (which powered the first Sprite) is the sweetest engine, the later 1098cc unit is markedly the brisker.

Modded Minors are worth considering as many will incorporate the types of mods you well may be contemplating but major mods (some cars have Fiat twin cams and Rover V8s fitted!) are a matter of taste. Speak to an owners club for advice.

Prices

There’s a noticeable split here. The Tourer rag tops command the most money, the best proud of ten grand. In contrast, a comparable saloon can sell for half this amount with the Traveller, and most commercials somewhere in between. Millionth Minors have been known to sell for big bucks (close to £30K!!) but before you sign on the dotted, ensure it’s not a fake and it takes an expert to sort one. Sympathetically altered cars may carry a premium as will bespoke builds such as Charles Ware’s wares but major modded Minors may be difficult to shift at any price.

Verdict

Utterly classless and unpretentious Morris Minors worm their way into your life like a loved pet and living without one doesn’t seem quite the same. In other words, by all means buy a Morris Minor but don’t be surprised if it becomes part of the family. Also the club social scene is second to none – another reason owners keep a hold of their Moggies.

Major minors

Ever considered a major Minor? The larger, roomier Wolseley 1500 and the sportier twin carb Riley 1.5 was designed to replace the original in the late 1950s but instead was given to these more upmarket marques. They have a similar character to the Minor and sport the larger 1.5-litre B Series engine and a luxurious interior yet values strangely lag enough to make one a tempting alternative

Junior minors

The junior Minor pedal car has returned after almost 30 years. Similar in size to the better known Austin J40, the Junior Minors are hand-built each carrying their own chassis numbers and available in Oxford Blue, Old English White and British Racing Green. Minor specialist East Sussex Minors (ESM) is looking after the sales, with prices at £2950 (inc VAT), which just about gets you a half decent saloon! However , these miniature Minors will be collectors’ items

Top five faults

General

Watch for converted saloons into drop-tops. Done properly is quite okay, but such conversions are passed off as genuine cars and similarly charged! You can have a brand ‘new’ Minor made by the likes of Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre to your own spec which could be a cost effective move in the long run. Many cars are uprated to some degree so best check the workmanship

Body

There’s a good chance a middling Minor is hiding structural corrosion somewhere. Rear chassis extensions, suspension hangers and front chassis legs let go as does the front crossmember – the rest is fixable though. Woodwork on Travellers is structural so needs checking with care and watch for bodges. Repair sections available but can cost £2000 plus professionally fitted

Engine

Few worries here thanks to robust design but can become noisy and smoke profusely when worn. Rattles are usually the tappets or camshaft wear and engines ideally need an unleaded cylinder head conversion. Replacement engines are attainable enough and overhauling can be done with engine in situ for DIY owners. Marina/Midget 1275 unit works a treat

Modifications

Moggies respond well to tweaks, if done right. Five-speeds are popular but unless the 1275 unit is used or existing engine is uprated makes ‘fifth’ almost useless due to lack of guts – a taller axle ratio can be a better solution. Front discs work well but some advise only having the servo work the front brakes. Generally, owners are only after mild, intelligent modifications

Running gear

Trunnions and swivel pins wear out. At the rear, check leaf springs are ok especially the front mountings. The brake master cylinder resides inside the chassis rail consequently it suffers. Gearboxes and axles can be noisy and only 1098cc cars have good a supply. Car stalls with clutch disengaged? It could be crankshaft thrust washer wear meaning a strip down



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