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Morris Minor

Morris Minor Published: 19th Nov 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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More a way of life than just a car, over its 70 years, the Morris Minor became part of the family and many were given nice names as a result. What was yours called?

Any car that appealed to both nurse Gladys Emmanuel and James Bond must possess some rare qualities! The humble Morris Minor still has universal appeal, 70 years since its introduction.

Designed by the creator of the Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, the Minor was just as revolutionary when it was introduced, just after WW2. Project Mosquito was the in effect the ‘British Beetle’ and it became another bug that many were bitten and smitten by over the decades.

While the German relied heavily on its advanced design and first-class engineering, the Minor majored on homely simplicity, practicality and a wider choice of models. Both cars got it absolutely right with their respective buying bases – the difference being that, when the Volkswagen Beetle bowed out, it was replaced by the sophisticated Golf and another dynasty was created that continues today.

In contrast, British Leyland came up with the Marina (effectively an up-gunned Minor but with modern styling and bigger engines) for the discerning buyer of the 70s. It has become a classic of sorts in its own small way, but was never in the same league as the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf.

Of course, the Minor became one of Britain’s best loved classics and one of the prime movers of our hobby.

However, being respectful of what we say here lest we upset the car’s legions of fans, it would be wrong to say that the Minor was a major seller throughout its staggering 23 year run. Just over 1.6 million were made, where as BMC comfortably shifted over two million of its 1100/1300 range. This front-wheel drive design was the complete antithesis of Minor motoring, although it was admittedly marketed over fi ve brands, in a 12-year run. About the only thing the two cars had in common was the A-Series engine.

Forget the figures, what this constant rate of production meant, of course, is that the buying base for the Minor remained loyal throughout its long production run. People bought a Morris Minor because they wanted one and not some modern chinless wonder such as an Escort.

The only other cars that came close to such public affection were Ford’s Capri and the original Mini, which people-power also kept alive, long after the press had written them off as relics’

Meeting ordinary needs with a smile

Car brochures usually sex up their products but, just like the car, BMC played it straight with the Morris Minor, describing it as a car that “more than met ordinary needs”. Simply put, the Morris did exactly what it said on the tin. No more, no less.

Then, as now, Minor was the watchword for economical down-to-earth motoring. There was the charming convertible (known as the Tourer) for penny-wise poseurs, but most families went for the sensible saloon or the excellent versatile Traveller instead.

For the practically-minded owner, Minors still remain a DIY dream and many motorists cut their teeth (and skin!) learning the delights of home maintenance with a Morris Minor. And nothing beats that.

Yet, for all its pragmatism, the Minor had another ace up its sleeve and one that gives it a winning hand even today: character.

Performance was never the Minor’s strength, but the car’s handling is another matter, thanks to its torsionbar front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering – features that were decades ahead of their time and even found their way on to Jaguar‘s E-type.

Add a lightness of controls that was unheard of in a 1950’s car and it’s easy to see why Minors made excellent hacks for dads to teach spouses and off -springs the basics of driving. Many motorists stuck with the car, as it became woven into their way of life. Of course, the Morris Minor was always more Gladys Emmanuel than James Bond, but it remains bloody good fun and you don’t need gold fingers to keep one running either.

Alas, all good things come to an end and, by the late 1960s, British Leyland knew the Minor had to be pensioned off with the last saloon sold in 1972 to a Mr John Seath in Scotland. There was a public outcry, especially when owners saw the Marina that Morris had lined up to replace it.

Soon, an increasing number of owners’ clubs formed to keep the Minor alive. Today, there’s a cottage industry in specialists that can mend and even make you a new one if you have the wish and the money.

In fact, somebody did have a Minor hand-made, just like a Rolls-Royce, soon after the model’s demise. Businessman Mr Law had Morris Minors all his life and so, when it came to replace his ninth (a 1970) model, he enquired about having a local main dealer build him one from the spares shelves. Taking some 450 hours to construct (presumably the Laws didn’t know that the Minor was still being assembled in New Zealand) the final bill came to £3625.04 which back in November 1974, could have bought an XJ6 or a Stag, with change for a good holiday! Put it another way; in today’s money that’s like paying 50 grand to have a dealer build you a Ford Focus from scratch.

As GHR 800N was being hand-built at the Berkshire dealership’s showroom, Dutton-Forshaw (another name from the grave) even had two further enquiries to do exactly the same thing!

Lots of celebs have owned Minors, DJ Chris Evans perhaps the most recent, but the last word should be left to Dave Richards. He is the chap who made Subaru Imprezas cool and famous and now owns Aston Martin. When staying at his tranquil West Country hideaway, away from the fast lane of life, he uses a bog-standard Minor to get around – because, as Richards says, ‘It’s all you need’. What a better recommendation from the bloke who makes James Bond’s cars!

Remember when… 1957

The first full production year with its bigger engine and single windscreen, the Minor 1000, just like the ’50s was coming of age

Prime Minister Anthony Eden resigns, due to poor health, succeeded by Harold Macmillan who soon after crowed ‘We never had it so good’. Farage – Brexit? The Treaty of Rome cements the European Economic Community…

A typical house cost £700 but with the average wage of £10 they were not exactly affordable to the masses either. A pint of beer was around 1p but petrol cost a whopping 25p as a result of the Suez crisis but rationing was finally lifted in 1957.

On 4th October the space race was started by the USSR with its launch of Sputnik I. It was the world’s first artificial satellite. A month later, Sputnik II carrried a dog the first living being into space. Lakia survived for a couple of days.

With no Sky or videos, you had to go to the flicks for kicks and releases included Elvis in Jailhouse Rock, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Peyton Place (the first TV soap during the 1960s?) The Bridge on the River Kwai; an Xmas treat (year after year…) and the fabulous 12 Angry Men.

If the £758 new Vauxhall Victor didn’t do it for you, consider Ford’s Consul at under £550, or the just launched Wolseley 1500 which was a fancier, roomier Minor for £780? On the used front, a good ’55 Austin A50 at £525 was pretty tempting…

 

 



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