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Morris Minor

Published: 7th Jan 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buyer Beware

It doesn’t matter how good a Minor looks on the surface, there’s a good chance it’ll be hiding structural rot somewhere, because they rot from the inside out and many cars have been fi xed on a rolling-repair basis. Thanks to excellent panel availability,  you needn’t be too concerned about sourcing replacement parts.

The Traveller’s woodwork is structural and an MoT fail point. Some owners try to bodge it because renewing it all costs at least £2000. Look for softening wood and discolouration. Ideally it needs checking every year and re-varnishing every two years to keep it in good shape.

The rear spring hangers are one of the most important things to look at because repair is diffi cult. The front cross-member is another known rot spot.

LCVs used a separate chassis, a fairly stout affair although it has a fair amount of rust areas that need to be checked by crawling underneath.

Finding original replacement doors for any Minor is diffi cult. Vans, pick-ups and four-door saloons used the same doors as each other, while a different version was fi tted to Tourers, Travellers and two-door saloons.

The synchros are the fi rst thing to go with any Minor gearbox becoming noisy and jumping out of gear, especially second. The only model that has reasonably good gearbox parts supply is the 1098cc car. A Midget gearbox, is the same unit, by the way.

Suspension and steering trunnions and swivel pins at the front wear out, unless they’re greased at least every 3000 miles or three months – although twice as often as this, if possible, is desirable. If they’re allowed to wear enough, the swivel pin will pull out of the trunnion altogether and the wheel can fall off as a result.

Drum brakes all round was the norm for all Minors, and if in good condition the system is okay for the job. Many have been upgraded to disc brakes at the front. The brake master cylinder lives underneath and the front suspension has to be partly dismantled to remove it.

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If you’re looking for a practical, hard working classic as a daily driver, or even business tool, the Morris Minor Traveller, van and pick-up tick all the right boxes

The ‘working’ Morris Minor is 60 yet its appeal is as strong as ever. By working, we mean the Traveller estate and the light commercial vehicle range (LCV) of vans and pick-ups – some of which were even badged as an Austin! That may sound sacrilegious to some fans but whatever badge these Minors with more mettle wear, they make great runabouts that can be used daily to ease the dredge of commuting quite successfully.

WHICH MODEL TO BUY?

Opting for a Traveller over a Minor saloon and even the much-loved trendy Tourer is one of the smartest moves you’ll make. For a start they have a style all of their own and are very practical and versatile with it, making them ideal as a classic runabout.

The light commercial range comprises 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 a separate unit, juts 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 late1950’s used by the GPO also wore awkward but practical rubber front wings. All the commercials featured a plainer (if that’s possible) styled bonnet, sans side fl utes 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 fl uted grille.

Austins were badged 6 & 8cwt while the Morris equivalents were known as the ‘quarter ton’ before being known as the SIII to denote its extra carrying capacity,

Mechanically, they gained the same improvements as the passenger cars such as the 948cc and 1098cc engines although when new they were detuned with a lower compression ratio to use lower grade fuel but most we suspect have been converted to normal tune by now. Travellers can be had for around £3500 upwards with really nice ones perhaps double this; a rare split screen is up for sale at £18K at Cotswold Classic Cars. Vans and pick-ups are commanding equally strong money due to their rarity, especially the Austin versions, of which a Marina van duly followed.

What’s best for you? It’s a matter of taste really but remember the LCVs are extremely spartan. The Traveller is a great family hack, the LCVs good little workhorses, ideal for small trader or business after something different for local deliveries.

BEHIND THE WHEEL?

If you’ve never driven a Minor then you don’t know what all the fuss is about, do you? The real joy of Minor motoring comes not from its speed (because it has very little) but from the car’s handling and nimbleness.

Anybody who has seen that old Fifth Gear programme with ex-F1 driver Tiff Needel drifting a Minor about, can’t fail to be impressed. The Morris boasts a front suspension design not unlike the E-type and was way ahead of its time. Add modern grippier and slightly wider standard radials and the car can happily survive on modern roads although the brakes ideally should be modernised either by discs (far preferable) or simply by harder linings and a servo to lighten the pedal pressure.

Apart from the original sidevalvers, any Minor is quite adequate for the cut and thrust of urban motoring although the 1098cc range (48bhp) is the best choice. The lower gearing of the Traveller and even lower on the LCVs needs addressing, either by a fi ve-speed gearbox (see Improvements section) or a taller geared rear axle ratio. 

Thanks to its massive side windows, visibility is excellent and the squared off rear makes parking so simple. That square cut stern also means maximum space effi ciency while the van-like twin doors is preferable to the usual tailgate used on estates, especially when carrying longer loads.

Comfort is tolerable for short journeys and that basic trim is super easy to keep clean. There’s a decent amount of storage space in the dash (some earlier models of the 1950s featured lidded compartments).

Vans are quite capacious and make a good unusual business tool where you’ll certainly be noticed although rear visibility is restricted due to the tiny rear windows used. No such problems on the lovely little pick-ups!

OWNING AND RUNNING?

Few classics are as conventional or simplistic as a Minor to maintain. There’s nothing to fox and foil the average home mechanic and thanks to a starting handle, setting the ignition and tappets is a doddle – a fl at battery due to inactivity is not a problem either!

You’ve got to keep the front suspension well lubricated; EP oil is the recommended medicine but grease is the easier to apply. Original lever arm dampers can be topped up but are prone to leaking and many of the recon units you fi nd on sale don’t last long.

The biggest concern is keeping rust at bay so regular checking and dousing with rustproofi ng such as Waxoyl is essential.

The Trav’s timber frame needs a careful watch and regular coating to protect it; speak to a specialist on the best varnish to use.

Talking of costs, as popular as the Traveller was – well over 200,000 sales in 18 years – BMC, in its infi nite wisdom, lost money on the car because it was much dearer to make than the saloon…

THE DAILY OPTION?

Many Minors are used for daily driving duties, especially Travellers although it pays to add some modern mods to make it more suited to today’s merciless roads.

The brakes are a good place to start with a front disc upgrade. Marinas have been robbed of theirs but, bolt-on conversion kits are available from Minor specialists. Some utilise Ford Sierra components and it’s a mod well worth around £600 fi tted.

Handling benefi ts from uprated dampers. You can fi t modern telescopic types, but it’s not strictly necessary for everyday road driving. Wider rims (the commercials have slightly wider rims as standard, incidentally but are they still fi tted?) fi tted with good quality radials make a world of difference.

A bit more pep helps and there’s no shortage of tuning gear on offer. Due to there being more around, many simply, sensibly opt for a bigger engine like the 1275cc unit from a Marina or (65bhp) Midget without effecting insurance costs.

Lower geared than the Minor saloons, the Traveller, and in particular the commercials, cry out for better gearing. The fi ve-speed Ford Sierra gearbox is the most accepted answer but it doesn’t ‘pull’ well enough unless engine power is upped – okay with a 1275cc engine however.

All are quite noisy at higher speeds so better sound insulation is advisable and although it spoils originality, better seats and a smaller steering wheel improve comfort a lot. Other good swaps include two-speed wipers, brighter headlamps, alternator… Check out the MMOC magazine as the list goes on and on!

Timelines

1948

The Morris Minor, codenamed Mosquito, made its début 60 years ago as the Series MM, but otherwise known as the ‘low-light’ car due to the Minor’s headlamps being mounted low down in the grille. It’s one for the purists and parts are diffi cult to come by.

1953

The Minor Traveller (estate) is launched. Effectively it’s a down-sized Morris MO design which was also launched the same year. The Minor shared a lot of its make up, including the quirky structural timbered estate bodyshell.

1956

1959

Wider opening doors are incorporated to ease entry and egress, plus there’s more foot space between the clutch and transmission tunnel at long last together with detail trim changes. A combined inlet/exhaust manifold for faster warm ups is fi tted to the engine.

1962

The anticipated 1098cc model arrives complete with the larger 1100cc A-Series engine, also seen in the ‘Spridget’ and 1100 saloons. Larger brakes, a closer ratio, stronger gearbox is fi tted. At last there’s proper fl ashing indicators replacing the original semaphores.

1972

Apart from another change in engine air cleaner design, a fresh air heater, and the clap hands changed to parallel wiper style, the car remained little changed until production ceased in 1971 with LCVs and Traveller 1972.

We Reckon...

The Traveller has always been our must-have Minor thanks to its sheer usability and practicality. Now you have to add the long overlooked LCV range, especially if you have a small business and want to project an eye-catching image. A Minor is the perfect answer as well as a business partner to rely on.



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