Morris Minor

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This article is about the motor car manufactured by Morris Motors Limited from 1948 to 1972. For the Morris Minor manufactured by Morris Motors Limited from 1928 to 1933, see Morris Minor (1928). For the 1980s pop band, see Morris Minor and the Majors.
Morris Minor
Morris Minor MM.jpg
Morris Minor MM 2-door saloon
Manufacturer Morris
Production 1948–71; 1,368,291 produced
Assembly Cowley, Oxford, England
New Zealand[2]
Designer Sir Alec Issigonis
Body and chassis
Class Subcompact car
Layout FR layout
Wheelbase 86 in (2,184 mm)[3]
Length 148 in (3,759 mm)
Width 60 in (1,524 mm)
Height 60 in (1,524 mm)
Curb weight 1,708 lb (775 kg) (four-door saloon)
Predecessor Morris Eight
Successor Morris Marina

The Morris Minor is a British car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948.[4] Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured between 1948 and 1972 in three series: the MM (1948), the Series II (1952) and finally the 1000 series (1956).

Initially available as a two-door saloon and tourer (convertible), the range was expanded to include a four-door saloon in 1950, a wood-framed estate (the Traveller) from Oct.1953 and panel van and pick-up truck variants from May [5]1953.


Alec Issigonis' concept was to combine the luxury and convenience of a good motor car at a price affordable by the working classes. The Minor was a roomy vehicle with superior cornering and handling characteristics. Internal politics inside BMC, the owner of Morris, may have led to the limited North American sales.[citation needed] The Minor prototype had been known as the Morris Mosquito.[6] Manufactured mainly in Cowley, Oxfordshire, the Minor became Britain's first million seller,[7] and was exported globally. Production continued in Birmingham, England until 1972 (for the commercial variants and estate only).

The very first production Minor is to be found, often on display, at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, Warwickshire, England. Lord Nuffield, the founder of Morris Motors is said, according to the information board that accompanies the car, to have so detested the car he called it a "poached egg" because of its distinctive shape. The car on display was originally used as a press car and then sold. Morris re-acquired the car in 1961 in exchange for a Minor Million, one of the limited number of special Minors built to mark the production of the millionth Morris Minor. The display car has also featured in the British popular television detective series, 'Miss Marple'. The last Morris Minor (commercial) was assembled at Stoke, Nelson, New Zealand in 1974.[citation needed]

The Minor has been described as typifying "Englishness",[8][9][10][11][12] a "British icon" and a "design classic".[13]

Minor MM[edit]

Morris Minor MM
Morris Minor MM (low-lights) 1950 moving.JPG
Morris Minor MM 2-door Saloon
Production 1948–53; 250,962 produced
Body and chassis
Body style
Engine 918 cc Morris Sidevalve I4
Wheelbase 86 in (2,184 mm)[15]
Length 148 in (3,759 mm)

The original Minor MM series was produced from 1948 until 1953. It included a pair of four-seat saloons, two-door and (from 1950) a four-door, and a convertible four-seat Tourer. The front torsion bar suspension was shared with the larger Morris Oxford MO, as was the almost-unibody construction. Although the Minor was originally designed to accept a flat-4 engine, late in the development stage it was replaced by a 918 cc (56.0 cu in) side-valve inline-four engine, little changed from that fitted in the 1935 Morris 8, and producing 27.5 hp (21 kW) and 39 lbf·ft (50.3 N·m) of torque. This little engine pushed the Minor to just 64 mph (103 km/h) but delivered 40 miles per imperial gallon (7.1 L/100 km; 33 mpg-US). Brakes were four-wheel drums.[15]

Early cars had a painted section in the centre of the bumpers to cover the widening of the production car from the prototypes. This widening of 4 inches (102 mm) is also visible in the creases in the bonnet. Exports to the United States began in 1949 with the headlamps removed from within the grille surround to be mounted higher on the wings to meet local safety requirements. In 1950 a four-door version was released, initially available only for export, and featuring from the start the headlamps faired into the wings rather than set lower down on either side of the grille.[16] The raised headlight position became standard on all Minors in time for 1951.[16] From the start, the Minor had semaphore-type turn indicators, and subsequent Minor versions persisted with these until 1961.[7] An Autocar magazine road test in 1950 reported that these were "not of the usual self-cancelling type, but incorporate[d] a time-basis return mechanism in a switch below the facia, in front of the driver".[16] It was all too easy for a passenger hurriedly emerging from the front passenger seat to collide with and snap off a tardy indicator "flipper" that was still sticking out of the B-pillar, having not yet been safely returned by the time-basis return mechanism to its folded position. Another innovation towards the end of 1950 was a water pump (replacing a gravity dependent system), which permitted the manufacturer to offer an interior heater "as optional equipment".[16]

When production of the first series ended, just over a quarter of a million had been sold, 30 per cent of them the convertible Tourer model.

A 1,098 cc-engined tourer tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1950 had a top speed of 58.7 mph (94.5 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–50 mph (80 km/h) in 29.2 seconds. However, the 918 cc engine did 0–60 mph in 50+ seconds.[7] A fuel consumption of 42 miles per imperial gallon (6.7 L/100 km; 35 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £382 including taxes.[17]

Minor Series II[edit]

Morris Minor Series II
Morris Minor Series II four-door saloon
Production 1952–56
269,838 produced
Body and chassis
Body style
Engine 803 cc A-series I4

In 1952, the Minor line was updated with an Austin-designed 803 cc (49.0 cu in) overhead valve A-series engine, replacing the original side-valve unit. The engine had been designed for the Minor's main competition, the Austin A30, but became available as Austin and Morris were merged into the British Motor Corporation. The new engine felt stronger, though all measurements were smaller than the old. The 52 second drive to 60 mph (97 km/h) was still calm, with 63 mph (101 km/h) as the top speed. Fuel consumption also rose to 36 miles per imperial gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 30 mpg-US).

An estate version was introduced in 1952, known as the Traveller (a Morris naming tradition for estates, also seen on the Mini). The Traveller featured an external structural ash (wood) frame for the rear bodywork, with two side-hinged rear doors. The frame was varnished rather than painted and a highly visible feature of the body style. Commercial models, marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up were added in May 1953.[18] Rear bodies of the van versions were all steel. The 4-seat convertible and saloon variants continued as well.

The Motor magazine tested a four-door saloon in 1952. It reported a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h) and acceleration from 0–50 mph (80 km/h) in 28.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 39.3 miles per imperial gallon (7.19 L/100 km; 32.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £631 including taxes.[19]

Engine: 1952–56: 803 cc A-Series inline-four, 30 hp (22 kW) at 4,800 rpm and 40 lbf·ft (54 N·m) at 2,400 rpm

A horizontal slat grille was fitted from October 1954,[20] and a new dashboard with a central speedometer was fitted.

269,838 examples of the Series II had been built when production ended in 1956.[20]

Minor 1000[edit]

Morris Minor 1000
Morris Minor 1000 1958.jpg
1958 Morris Minor 1000 2-door saloon
Production 1956–71; 847,491 produced
Body and chassis
Body style

The car was again updated in 1956 when the engine was increased in capacity to 948 cc (57.9 cu in). The two-piece split windscreen was replaced with a curved one-piece one and the rear window was enlarged. In 1961 the semaphore-style trafficators were replaced by the flashing direction indicators, these were US-style red at the rear (using the same bulb filament as the brake lamp) and white at the front (using a second brighter filament in the parking lamp bulb) which was legal in the UK and many export markets at the time (such as New Zealand). An upmarket car based on the Minor floorpan using the larger BMC B-Series engine was sold as the Riley One-Point-Five/Wolseley 1500 beginning in 1957: versions of this Wolseley/Riley variant were also produced by BMC Australia as the Morris Major and the Austin Lancer.

Minor Million[edit]

In December 1960 the Morris Minor became the first British car to sell more than 1,000,000 units. To commemorate the achievement, a limited edition of 350 two-door Minor saloons (one for each UK Morris dealership) was produced with distinctive lilac paintwork and a white interior. Also the badge name on the side of the bonnet was modified to read "Minor 1,000,000" instead of the standard "Minor 1000". The millionth Minor was donated to the National Union of Journalists, who planned to use it as a prize in a competition in aid of the union's Widow and Orphan Fund. The company, at the same time, presented a celebratory Minor to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, but this car was constructed of cake.[21]


The final major upgrades to the Minor were made in 1962. Although the name Minor 1000 was retained, the changes were sufficient for the new model to be given its own ADO development number. A larger version of the existing A-Series engine had been developed in conjunction with cylinder head specialist Harry Weslake for the then new ADO16 Austin/Morris 1100 range. This new engine used a taller block than did the 948 cc unit, with increased bore and stroke bringing total capacity up to 1,098 cc. Although fuel consumption suffered moderately at 38 mpg, the Minor's top speed increased to 77 mph (124 km/h) with noticeable improvements in low-end torque, giving an altogether more responsive drive. Other changes included a modified dashboard layout with toggle switches, textured steel instrument binnacle, and larger convex glove box covers. A different heater completed the interior upgrade, whilst the larger combined front side/indicator light units, common to many BMC vehicles of the time, were fitted to the front wings. These now included a separate bulb and amber lens for indicators while larger tail lamp units also included amber rear flashers.

  • 1956–62: 948 cc A-series inline-four, 37 hp (28 kW) at 4,750 rpm and 50 lb·ft (68 N·m) at 2,500 rpm
  • 1962–72: 1,098 cc A-series inline-four, 48 hp (36 kW) at 5,100 rpm and 60 lb·ft (81 N·m) at 2,500 rpm

Decline and replacement[edit]

During the life of the Minor 1000 model, production declined. The last Convertible/Tourer was manufactured on 18 August 1969,[22] and the saloon models were discontinued the following year. Production of the more practical Traveller and commercial versions ceased in 1972, although examples of all models were still theoretically available from dealers with a surplus of unsold cars for a short time afterwards. According to Newell (1997), 1.6 million Minors were made in total and Wainwright (2008) even claims that 1,619,857 Minors of all variants were ultimately sold.

The Minor was officially replaced on the Cowley production lines by the Morris Marina (ADO28), which was developed primarily as a response to Ford's top-selling (and in many respects, conservatively engineered) Escort. Building a mid-sized car capable of volume sales (particularly in the lucrative fleet-buying market) was becoming increasingly key in generating healthy profit margins, and was an issue BMC had consistently failed to address in the past.[23] The Marina was developed under the watchful eye of British Leyland management, and used a floor plan and running gear deliberately similar to the Minor to streamline production changeover and minimize the financial outlay associated with chassis development and retooling.[24]

The spiritual successor to the Morris Minor was arguably the ADO16 Austin/Morris 1100 range, which had been launched in 1962 and aimed at the same small family-car market (and actually replaced the Minor in some export markets such as Australia and New Zealand). The crisp styling, hydrolastic suspension and innovative front-wheel drive system (itself a "scaling-up" of the Mini principle) made ADO16 a worthy successor to the (in its day) strikingly forward-looking Minor. However, due to the British Motor Corporation's commitment to both the Morris factory at Cowley, and Austin plant at Longbridge – in addition to a healthy demand for both products – production of the two cars continued in parallel for nearly ten years. Ironically, production of ADO16 only outlasted that of the Minor by three years or so, before being axed in favour of the innovative, export-oriented yet under-developed Austin Allegro in 1974.[25]


Despite the four major updates of the Minor in its 23-year production run, very few actively designed "safety features" were ever engineered into the Minor's design. Provisions were made for seat belt fittings in the early '60s, but the rigid structure of the car's monocoque body made it dangerously unabsorbent to impact.[citation needed] For a short time in 1968, the thickness of the steel used in the bonnet and doors was decreased from 1.2 mm to 1.0 mm to act as a form of crumple zone, but as the wings continued to be made of 1.4 mm mild steel, the modification was pointless and ineffectual and was reversed in 1969 as it increased passenger compartment crush in collisions.

The Mark II model changed from the "lowlight" model to comply with Canadian lighting standards, with higher and brighter headlights to increase visibility in fog and during dark Canadian winters.

Australian models, and tourer models made in Britain and exported to Australia, featured safety glass windscreens and safety glass windows, to comply with local regulations. Australian models also had blinking indicator lights in addition to the standard trafficator arms on the indigenous Minor 1000.

Morris quarter ton van and pick-up[edit]

Morris Quarter Ton Van & Pick-up
Morris 6 Cwt Van - Flickr - exfordy.jpg
Morris 6cwt Van
Also called
  • Morris 6cwt/8cwt Van & Pick up
  • Austin 6cwt/8cwt Van & Pick up
Production 1953–73[18]
Body and chassis
Body style

Closed van and open flat-bed ("pick-up") versions of the Minor were built from 1953 until the end of production. They were designed for commercial use with small businesses, although many were also used by larger corporations. Van versions were popular with the General Post Office, the early versions of these (to around 1956) having rubber front wings to cope with the sometimes unforgiving busy situations in which they were expected to work. Both the van and the pickup differed from the monocoque construction of the Saloon and Traveller variants by having a separate chassis. They also differed in details such as telescopic rear dampers, stiffer rear leaf springs and lower-ratio differentials to cope with heavier loads.

The commercials versions were initially marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up with a Series III designation applied from 1956.[18] The names Morris 6cwt Van and Pickup was used following the introduction of the 1098cc engine in 1962 [18] and 8cwt versions were added in 1968.[18][26]

With Austin and Morris both part of BMC, the Minor-based Morris commercials were also marketed as the Austin 6cwt and Austin 8cwt.[27]

Morris Minor today[edit]

Morris Minor rally at Brooklands, Surrey

Today the Morris Minor and 1000 are among the best-served classic family-sized cars in the old vehicle movement and continue to gain popularity. The enduring affection for the "Moggie" (also a common British nickname for an undistinguished cat, or a Morgan) or "Morrie" (as it is often known in Australia and New Zealand) is reflected in the number of restored and improved Morris Minors currently running in Britain, Australasia and in India. In addition to more powerful engines, desirable improvements necessitated by the increase in traffic density since the Minor was withdrawn from volume production include the replacement of the original equipment drum brakes with discs. Other important upgrades include the 1,275 cc (77.8 cu in) version of the A-series engine, derided by Morris Marina enthusiasts as a key reason why many Marinas were scrapped, and the similarly sized Nissan A engine, which shares all common dimensions to the Morris Minor engine, except piston size. Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson once stated that the Morris Minor is Britain's Volkswagen Beetle (although this was stated in a derogatory way rather than favourably). There is still a great parts backup for these cars, and parts are cheap compared to modern day cars.

Replacement panels for the Morris Minor were still being made in 2002 by the Durable Car Company in Sri Lanka.[28]


  1. ^ Davis, Pedr (1986), The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, Australia, p. 337 
  2. ^ Webster, Mark (2002), Assembly: New Zealand Car Production 1921–98, Birkenhead, Auckland, New Zealand: Reed, p. 1, ISBN 0-7900-0846-7 
  3. ^ Cardew, Basil (1966). "Review of the 1966 Motor Show". Daily Express (London: Beaverbrook Newspapers). 
  4. ^ "60th Birthday Celebration at British Motor Industry Heritage Centre, Gaydon". UK: Morris Minor OC. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Paul Skilleter's book "The world's supreme small car Morris Minor"
  6. ^ Skilleter, Paul (1993). Morris Minor (The World's Supreme Small Car). London: Osprey Publishing. pp. 16–35. ISBN 0-85045-931-1. 
  7. ^ a b c Willson, Quentin (1995). The Ultimate Classic Car Book. DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7894-0159-2. 
  8. ^ Pender, Karen (1995). The Secret Life of the Morris Minor. Goldmanstone, Dorset, UK: Veloce Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 1-874105-55-3. 
  9. ^ The Morris Minor, thought to typify Englishness, was first launched in London in 1948 From Daily Mail
  10. ^ The Morris Minor: A British miracle Strange to say for something that acquired a reputation for essential Englishness
  11. ^ Kathryn Hughes The Guardian, Saturday 6 December 2008 Article history quote: But if the Morris has a tendency to diminish physically as the years progress, culturally it has been busy laying down rich stores of fat. Indeed, so identified has the car become with a particular reading of Englishness
  12. ^ Prince Frederick (29 December 2009). "Fifty-one, but still a Baby". The Hindu. Morris Minor models, believed to “typify Englishness”, were in the ascendant 
  13. ^ Nominate England's greatest icon, (from BBC Quote: "Design classics like Alex Issigonis' Morris Minor car could be competing alongside great artworks like Constable's Haywain and pieces by JMW Turner"
  14. ^ a b c d Barry Anderson, Building Cars in Australia: Morris, Austin, BMC and Leyland 1950–1975, pages 204 to 208
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b c d "Morris Minor Four-Door Saloon (road test)". Autocar. 20 October 1950. 
  17. ^ "The Morris Minor tourer". The Motor. 23 August 1950. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ray Newell, Morris Minor, 60 Years on the Road, pages 106 to 118
  19. ^ "The Morris Minor Road Test". The Motor. 15 October 1952. 
  20. ^ a b Sedgwick, Michael; Gillies, Mark (1994). A-Z of Cars 1945–1970. p. 142. 
  21. ^ "News Summary: Morris Minor Million". Practical Motorist 7 (79): 713. March 1961. 
  22. ^ "News: Last Minor Convertible sold". Motor 3506: 52. 30 August 1969. 
  23. ^ "The cars: BMC 1800/2200 development history". AROnline. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  24. ^ "The cars: Morris Marina/Ital development history". AROnline. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "Austin Allegro". AROnline. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  26. ^ A Cwt was the short-form term for a "hundredweight" which was a pre-metric unit of weight measurement used in Britain, equivalent to about 50 kg. Use of the term in the name of a light commercial vehicle was common in Britain, and indicated the maximum load (by weight) that the van was designed to carry.
  27. ^ "Morris ¼-ton (O-Type) 1953–1971". Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  28. ^ "2002 BBC article about the company and Morris Minor". BBC News. 19 November 2002. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 


External links[edit]