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Morris Minor

Morris Minor Published: 19th Jul 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
Morris Minor
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Why not own a...? Morris Minor

Having egg on your face is always a bad thing. Derisively described as ‘’a poached egg’, by company boss Lord Nuffield ,the Morris Minor rose above his hatred of the car and survived for almost a quarter of a century, endearing itself to millions over the years with its practicality, implicity economy and sheer character.

The never ending appeal of the Minor is as strong as ever after 70 years. Car enthusiasts of all ages and gender have made them part of the family and lifelong friends irrespective of the size of their pockets and status and it’s easy to see why. This family Morris is totally classless and fun to own despite an only modest performance.

Throw in easy-peasy DIY home care and unbeatable support from specialists and owners’ clubs and a Minor makes a great choice as a starter classic as well as an ideal first car for learner and young drivers after their first classic, too. Lastly, don’t ignore the major Minor! The Wolseley 1500 and the sportier Riley 1.5 is based on the original ‘Mosquito’ design and was intended as its logical development. Just try one for size!

Model choice

With a shade under two million Minors made up until its demise in 1971 and a good survival rate there’s a wide choice around. The most interest centres around the trendy convertible Tourer and the pragmatically practical Traveller while commercial vans and pick-ups have soared in appreciation (in values and interest) over the last couple of years. The saloons are the most plentiful with the two-doors preferred over the family friendlier four-door – probably due to their style more than anything else.

All are reasonably roomy four/ five-seaters, the Tourer rag top is one of the most charming chop tops ever made, while the Traveller still makes a handy holdall and a viable second or school run car.

For the majority, the hunt starts with the mid 50’s ‘1000’ as it has a more acceptable engine performance although many earlier ‘split screen’ versions have had their 803cc engine replaced by the pokier 948cc unit by now. The newer the Minor the better it became boasting not only improved performance with the 1098cc engine but also handling and visibility, together with more interior space although condition counts the most when buying. And watch out for convertibles converted from a saloon. Done properly – beware, many aren’t – there’s nothing wrong with this practice but they aren’t worth as much as a genuine model.

What is decidedly dodgy are fake Million Minors. In vivid lilac-paint the Morris Million (to give this Minor its correct title, apparently according to the MMOC) of 1961, was built to celebrate a million of them being produced.

Officially only 350 were made (30 LHD) to mark the first British car to break to break millionth sales barrier. Apart from the distinctive hues, other special features included unique wheel embellishers special ‘1000000’ badges and an interior boasting white leather seats with black piping. With prices now pushing up to £30,000 – thanks to recent sale by Minor guru Charles Ware – you need to ensure that you are getting a genuine car – go to minormillion.co.uk for expert help.

On less serious note, such is the scope and ease of improving one that there’s precious free totally original Minors around. On the other hand, many of the upgrades such as better brakes, lights, seats and so on only go to make this car even more usable.

Fancy something else? The Wolseley and Riley we cover elsewhere but there’s a light commercial range comprising of a small van and pick-up that was almost a new vehicle in its own right because whereas the ‘passenger’ Minor was of monocoque construction, the O-Type LCVs featured a separate chassis plus a more modern rear suspension embracing telescopic dampers. Its steel rear body is a separate unit, jutting up to the cab with just a rubber seal in between.

To cope with their load rating of 6 and 8cwt, an ultra low 5.3:1 rear axle ratio was employed plus LP917 wheel rims which are 4.5inch size. Versions made in the late 1950s, used by the GPO (General Post Office), also wore awkward but practical rubber front wings. All the commercials featured a plainer (if that’s possible) styled bonnet, sans side flutes compared to the passenger car.

Don’t be shocked to see certain models bearing an Austin badge as well! These were made in the 1960s and differed with Austin-badged hub caps and a traditional Austin fluted grille.

There’s a veritable cottage industry of Morris Minor specialists and this includes companies which can make you a ‘new’ one to your spec which may prove to be the best policy if you intend to keep yours for a long time. Charles Ware is perhaps the best known for this (www. morrisminor.org.uk), the breadth of improvements and bespoke builds are quite amazing – you really can make a Morris Minor to suit you!

Behind the wheel

Like the Mini and Fiat 500 ( both covered in this issue) of the same era, the Morris Minor proves that you don’t need lots of power to have fun. That willing A-Series engine (948cc being sweetest, later 1098cc more willing), allied to a slick gearbox and crisp, predictable handling makes this family car a joy to drive at any speed and certainly teaches you all about rear-wheel drive control at walking pace!

Stepping out of your modern, you also need to respect the all drum brake set up but these can be easily upgraded, if desired – a brake servo and better linings is a good starting point.

You’ll find that many of the Minors that you’ll view won’t be completely standard as a good number now sport 1275cc engines, five-speed transmissions and better brakes and, unless you are a stickler for originality, are all worth having as it makes this great car even better, particularly on longer jaunts.

What makes the Morris Minor so endearing – then and now – is its sheer usability. All versions are family friendly while the Traveller makes a fantastic holdall that with suitable mods (1275cc engine, Marina brakes etc) can make a decent daily driver on modern roads.

Making one better

As we commented earlier, it’s rare to find a totally standard Minor because they are easy to improve and nine times out of ten they are worthwhile deviations from standard – such as a disc brake with servo conversion. Suspension can be uprated in various stages from mild to wild, but uprated damper and springs suffice for many owners, perhaps with harder bushes where appropriate, topped off with wider wheels and tyres (the commercial ones are slightly bigger than standard and keep it looking original). Many cars run with the later Marina or perkier Midget 1275cc engine and it makes out-of-town motoring and overtaking much easier.

Five-speed gearboxes are also pretty popular fitments but be aware that the car won’t pull that extra taller ratio using the engines in standard tune; you need around 60-65bhp (best using the 1275cc unit) to make it effective which is why a taller axle ratio, say from a Marina or MG Midget might make a better compromise.

Other worthy upgrades include an alternator, better lights, superior seats, hotter heaters – the list is lengthy as a browse through the excellent MMOC magazine will reveal!

What to pay…

Minors are making major money. A Million model recently sold for £30,000 while a 6cwt van, undergoing a full nut and bolt restoration by Minor specialists West Riding Classic Cars, will be put up for sale once finished for a fiver under £27K! This is sure to push up prices across the board. Happily, saner more attainable models are there for the taking at under £10,000 for most Tourers or Travellers, with Saloons usually half the cost meaning £4000 will net a good example while not concours, sound enough to spend time and money on it. The Series MM models (1948-53) are becoming very collectible however and can break the £10K barrier, especially if it’s a convertible with Series II not trailing far behind. It’s the split screens you see!

Buying Tips

General

Unlike the early Mini estates, the Traveller’s woodwork forms part of the structure, so was an MoT fail point if it rots out, and although replacement panelling is readily available, putting this right can cost more than £2000 fitted as getting this timber right can be a complex business.

It’s possible to convert a two-door into a drop-top. Done properly okay, but such conversions are passed off as genuine cars and similarly charged, so check with care.

Running Gear

Trunnions and swivel pins wear out. A new kingpin leg costs some £75. At the rear see the leaf springs are ok especially the front mounting. The brake master cylinder lives inside the chassis rail consequently it suffers. Master cylinder resides inside chassis rails and usually neglected. Brake adjusters seize.

Gearboxes and axles are noisy and only 1098cc cars have good supply of replacements. Car stalls when clutch is disengaged? It could be the crankshaft thrust washer wear meaning a block strip.

Engine

Tough and tolerant generally. Look for oil leaks and when hot, remove oil cap and check for fuming and smoking. Rattles can be tappets or camshaft wear.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • Unique timeless character
  • Wide choice, mostly inexpensive
  • Easy to maintain at home
  • Terrific club and specialist support
  • Fun to drive and own
  • Unfairly overlooked Riley and Wolseley derivatives


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