The Morris Minor was a popular economical and affordable car of the late 40s to the mid 60s. It is associated often with ‘Ted and Doris’ gently motoring round country lanes, oblivious to the fact that they are only travelling at 20 mph is causing a traffic jam …
Ah, the Morris Minor. The beloved vehicle of Nurse Gladys on the TV programme ‘Open all Hours’. That was kind of the image that this car had, along with the typical once a week Sunday driver holding everyone up. The original certainly wasn’t built for performance and its 900 cc engine could send the car along at a dizzying 64 mph and took almost a minute to wind up to that speed. Happily, that was well suited to the conservative 1950s family man or granny as such an acceleration at least would not give them a nosebleed. Although travelling flat-out might! From 1950, if you were posh … or a softie … you could have a heater! But that was an optional extra.
Joking apart, the Morris Minor (or Moggie Minor in British slang) was a decent vehicle that handled well. It was designed to be affordable and economical. It was both. The first series (MM) was capable of over 40 to the gallon. The engine was a modest 900 cc affair. The headlamps were low and fitted alongside the grille within the radiator grille trim, giving it an air of the 1930s US hillbilly pick up trucks. Ironically, it was thanks to US laws that the headlight position was raised in 1949 so that it could be exported to the States. From 1951, all new Morris Minors were of the ‘highlight’ type.
An interesting feature to not on the first series Morris Minor was the presence of a body panel coloured bit at the centre of the bumper. The prototype had been built and tested and Morris were ready to swing into production. Parts had already been mass-produced, including the bumpers when the chap who designed it, Alex Issigonis declared it was too narrow so the vehicle was sliced in half and a 4″ wide central panel welded into place. The cutting of the bumpers was disguised using a fillet of steel matched to the car colour. Once the original stock of bumpers was used up, new ones were made properly.
The Series II Morris Minor initially had a smaller and more efficient engine. The MM (series I) spec cars were produced until 1953 although the Series II spec was officially introduced in 1952. Series II saw the introduction of the estate version, the Morris Minor Traveller with its varnished wooden (ash) frame, hence its nickname ‘the Woody’. That merits a page all of its own. Series II also saw a change from the ‘cheesegrater’ grille to what was perceived as a more modern one. The front sidelights were moved out of the grille trim at the same time and the car did look a bit less like something from the 30s!
The subsequent Morris Minor was known as the Minor 1000 instead of the Series III. Why? You guess! Try engine capacity as your answer. It was actually a 948 cc jobby that powered the Minor 1000 but hey, what’s 52 cc amongst friends? The two piece front windscreen became a single curved piece of glass and finally, they got round to getting rid of the semaphore style indicator flippers that popped out from the side. Yes, the Morris Minor 1000 finally had indicator lights! In 1962, the next big change was made. The name was retained but the engine this time was the 1098 cc unit with its characteristic whine. The car lost popularity amongst grannies, probably because it now caused them to have nosebleeds as they shot along winding country lanes at a top speed of 77 mph!
In 1961, the Morris Minor became the first British car to sell a million. A limited edition of 350 lilac painted vehicles with a white interior were produced. Nice. The Minor 1000 badge was replaced with a Minor 1 000 000 badge too.
The demand gradually declined for this great little vehicle and it was phased out, the tourer/convertible was stopped in 1969, the saloon in 1970 and finally the van and Morris Minor Traveller in 1971. Replaced by what? The Marina. Nuff said.