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Morris Minor

Published: 17th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buyer Beware

  • Exterior panels rust most readily on the trailing edges of the front wings and along the bottoms of the doors. These are largely cosmetic problems, though do not underestimate the cost of professional body repairs and paint which may overrule a cheap restoration.
  • 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 poorly executed repairs.
  • Less critical but useful as a haggling point is rust at the bottom of the bootlid, in the trough at the rearmost extremity of the boot itself and in the floorpans.
  • Mechanical parts for the later cars are cheap and readily available, but the situation for sidevalve and 803cc engines is not so rosy 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, then it may be simply that the crankcase breather has become blocked.
  • Engines are also notoriously rattley, often down to worn tappets or timing chains. Both are cheap and easy to replace.
  • A gearbox that jumps out of gear on the over-run is likelyto need rebuilding soon. One with a noisy first gear can slog on for ages. If the 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 a premium for a car that has 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 that have collapsed will ruin your enjoyment of a Minor, but new webbing is cheap and replacing it an easy DIY job.Modifications such as disc brakes, a bigger 1275cc engine or telescopic damper conversion will command a price premium on anything but a concours contender.
  • If the wood on your Traveller has been filled, painted or otherwise bodged, budget on as much as £2000 to have it all replaced. It’s a professional job too unless you were very good at woodwork at school.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Not fast but always fun due to fine handling and tuning potential

  • Usability: 3/5

    Moderate performance but ok for town use. Estates are very practical

  • Maintaining: 5/5

    Superb aftermarket and specialist support, plus is a DIYer’s dream

  • Owning: 5/5

    As cheap as chips to run plus appeal to all classes and pockets

  • Value: 4/5

    Top cars can be dear. Cheap ones a rotting liability so choose carefully.

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Lord Nuffield hated it, and dubbed it ‘a poached egg’ but the fun and versatility of the 60 something Mor ris Minor is still food for thought today

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, simplicity economy and sheer character. Now gertting on for 40 years since its demise the appeal of the Morris Minor is as strong as ever – perhaps more so given our current economic climate! Small wonder then that the Morris keeps finding new followers. If you’re after an economical classic that’s classy yet classless and can easily be upgraded for modern use, cheaply, then you have to give the ‘poched egg’ provides serious food for thought.

Which model to buy?

Like the VW Beetle, to the unitiated all Moggies look much the same. However what model you decide upon all depends on the use you intend to put this car too. MM cars with their side-valve engines are not only rare, but really far 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, especially 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 a neck-snapping 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 pretty 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 an 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 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 body type. The saloons were available in both two and four -door variants, 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, 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 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 be able to negotiate a price reduction of around 20 per cent compared to the factory-built equivalent. Opinions are divided in this office but overall the Traveller just gets the nod!

Behind the wheel?

A good r unabout, you’ll ditch that Fiesta!”

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 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 plus there’s some added adjustment to the seats if you get your spanners out. 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’s a lesson to many modern cars. 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 with zeal around if driven hard through the corners, but it is generally easy and good fun to catch and correct. The brakes were hydraulically operated drums all round from the beginning. Again, they are adequate for the engines they were mated to but have little in reserve for today’s use. If you find them 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 almost 25 per cent, while rear unuts from the Riley 1.5 are usefully larger. A disc brake conversion is widely available but necessary only on more heavily modified cars although a brake servo is a good fitment even on standard systems.

The Daily Option?

You’ll wonder why you haven’t one already

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 relaxed they are not; small wonder that the Ford Sierra-based five-speed gearbox swap is proving so popular despite a £1500 price tag. Add a later, lustier 1275 A-Series engine and you have a perfect classic for today.Overall refinement isn’t great but a sound insulation kit makes the Minor more than bearable on faster roads. Minors are nicely frugal though, struggling to return any less than 35mpg unless really knackered. Luggage space is huge on the wonderfully versatile Traveller, but less generous on the saloon. The rear seat back can be laid down flat if needed though, giving asurprisingly practical space for the occasional large load, although the Traveller (and the van or the extremely rare pick-up) are satisfyingly versatile and such good second car runabouts that you’ll ditch that Fiesta! 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 metalsprung 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 reto fitting, something that was never offered by Morris during production!

Ease of Ownership?

Classics 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, welcoming and efficient. All this must, however, be tempered with our usual proviso that cars of this vintage are more maintenanceintensive 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 or the front wheel may collapse. 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 shaft. You will also have got through at least two sumps full of oil by the time a modern car’s 12,000 mile change rollsaround, 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. Overall though, a Mionor is no harder to maintain than any other classic of its era and requires no special tools. For a more indepth look at Minor maintenance, see last month’s issue where the range was subject to our new Superservice series.

Timelines

1943

Mosquito prototype designed by Alec Issigonis is first run, soon to be fitted with a new flat-four style engine.

1948

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

1950

1952

Merger of Austin and Morris to create the British Motor Corporation results in the 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 aluminium for sides and rear roof section.

1954

Facelift includes a new grille and repositioned sidelights. Inside, the round speedo is enlarged and moved to the nowiconic central position. Minor 1000 arrives with single-piece screen. An engine enlarged to 948cc together with a better gearbox and axle ratio make a genuine 70mph car.

1960

One millionth Minor is produced; first British car to reach this milestone Power boost from 1098cc engine, better axle ratio and revised gearing (’62).

1963

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

1965

Starter is combined with the ignition key, threespokesteering wheel gives way to plainer two-spoke plastic affair.

1969

The charming convertible is discontinued, while saloon car production continues until November 1970.

1971

The last ever Morris Minor – the long-serving Traveller is built in April although the vans survived a little longer.

We Reckon...

If you ever needed proof that you don't need an E-type or Ferrari to have some real classic car fun, then take a spin in a Morris Minor. Apart from an original Mini, we gaurantee that you’ll enjoy more smiles per mile than just about anything else! Add the car’s simplistic design and ease of spares and repairs and you’ll wonder why you haven’t a Minor on your drive already, doing what this car has been famed for over the six decades; earning its keep!



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