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Morris Minor MM 2-door saloon
|Production||1948–71; 1,368,291 produced|
|Assembly||Cowley, Oxford, England
|Designer||Sir Alec Issigonis|
|Body and chassis|
|Wheelbase||86 in (2,184 mm)|
|Length||148 in (3,759 mm)|
|Width||60 in (1,524 mm)|
|Height||60 in (1,524 mm)|
|Kerb weight||1,708 lb (775 kg) (four-door saloon)|
The Morris Minor is a British car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948. Designed under the leadership of Alec Issigonis, more than 1.3 million were manufactured between 1948 and 1972 in three series: the MM (1948 to 1953), the Series II (1952 to 1956) and finally the 1000 series (1956 to 1971).
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 October 1953 and panel van and pick-up truck variants from May 1953. It was the first British car to sell over one million units and is considered a classic example of automotive design, as well as typifying "Englishness".
The Minor was conceived in 1941. Although the Nuffield Organization was heavily involved in war work and there was a governmental ban on civilian car production, Morris Motors' vice chairman, Miles Thomas, wanted to prepare the ground for new products to be launched as soon as the war was over.:115 Vic Oak, the company's chief engineer, had already brought to Thomas' attention a promising junior engineer, Alec Issigonis, who had been employed at Morris since 1935 and specialised in suspension design:85 but he had frequently impressed Oak with his advanced ideas about car design in general.:114 Issigonis had come to Oak's particular attention with his work on the new Morris Ten, which was in development during 1936/7. This was the first Morris to use unitary construction and was conceived with independent front suspension. Issigonis designed a coil-sprung wishbone system which was later dropped on cost grounds. Although the design would later be used on the MG Y-type and many other post-war MGs the Morris Ten entered production with a front beam axle. Despite his brief being to focus on the Ten's suspension, Issigonis had also drawn up a rack and pinion steering system for the car. Like his suspension design this was not adopted but would resurface in the post-war years on the MG Y-type, but these ideas proved that he was the perfect candidate to lead the design work on a new advanced small car.
With virtually all resources required for the war effort, Thomas nonetheless approved the development of a new small family car that would replace the Morris Eight. Although Oak (and Morris's technical director, Sidney Smith) were in overall charge of the project it was Issigonis who was ultimately responsible for the design, working with only two other draughtsmen.:60 Thomas named the project 'Mosquito' and ensured that it remained as secret as possible,:117 both from the Ministry of Supply and from company founder William Morris (Lord Nuffield), who was still chairman of Morris Motors and, it was widely expected, would not look favourably on Issigonis' radical ideas.:63
Issigonis' overall concept was to produce a practical, economical and affordable car for the general public that would equal, if not surpass, the convenience and design quality of a more expensive car. In later years he summed up his approach to the Minor; that he wanted to design an economy car that "the average man would take pleasure in owning, rather than feeling of it as something he'd been sentenced to" and "people who drive small cars are the same size as those who drive large cars and they should not be expected to put up with claustrophobic interiors.":121 Issigonis wanted the car to be as spacious as possible for its size, and comfortable to drive for inexperienced motorists. Just as he would with the Mini 10 years later, he designed the Mosquito with excellent roadholding and accurate, quick steering, not with any pretence of making a sports car, but to make it safe and easy to drive by everyone.:302
Issigonis' design included the same ideas he had proposed for the Ten before the war::121 independent suspension and rack and pinion steering, plus the continued use of unitary construction. In the case of the Mosquito, Issigonis was inspired by the Citroën Traction Avant,:121 a car he greatly admired, and he proposed using torsion bars on each wheel, as on the Citroën, rather than the usual coil spring system. The French car, launched in 1934, had also been an early example of the use of rack and pinion steering.:61
Nearly every feature of the Minor served the joint aims of good roadholding and maximum interior space. For example, Issigonis specified 14-inch (360 mm) wheels for the Mosquito. These were smaller than any other production car of the time (the existing Morris Eight had 17-inch (430 mm) wheels).:121 These small wheels reduced intrusion into the cabin space and minimised the car's unsprung mass, giving better ride comfort and stability. For the same reasons, the wheels themselves were placed as far as possible towards each corner of the Mosquito's floorpan. The same went for the placement of the engine, as far as possible towards the front of the engine compartment.:95 Most cars of the time had a front beam axle, which forced the engine to be mounted behind the front axle line. While this meant that, with only a driver on board, the weight distribution was fairly even, when laden with passengers, cars often became severely tail-heavy, leading to unstable handling and oversteer. The new Morris's independent suspension meant there was no front axle, allowing the engine to be placed low down and far forward. Putting the Mosquito's engine in the nose meant that the car was nose-heavy when lightly laden, leading to superior directional stability, and when fully laden it achieved nearly equal weight balance, so handling and grip remained good regardless of the load carried.:62 Placing the engine further forward also maximised cabin space.
As proposed by Issigonis, the engine itself was also radical, being a water-cooled flat-four unit. One of Miles Thomas's few restrictions on the Mosquito project was that it had to have an engine that would not fall afoul of the British horsepower tax, which taxed cars under a formula relating to their engine cylinder bore. At the same time, Thomas wanted the car to appeal to the all-important export markets, which had no such restrictions, and generally favoured larger-engined cars. Issigonis' solution was the flat-four engine which could easily be produced in two versions – a narrow-bore 800 cc version for the British market and a wide-bore 1100 cc version for export.:123 Both versions would use identical parts, except for the actual cylinder blocks (which could still be produced on the same machinery) and the pistons. The flat-four layout reduced the overall length of the engine, further increasing potential cabin space, and reduced the car's centre of gravity for improved handling.
The engine was to prove a step too far for the Mosquito project. As the car approached completion in 1946 the war was over and the need for secrecy was both no longer necessary and impossible to maintain as more and more Morris staff and executives had to be involved to start production. Many were pessimistic about the radical car's prospects and especially the huge cost in tooling up for a design that shared no parts with any existing Morris product. Lord Nuffield himself took a strong dislike to both the Mosquito and Issigonis, famously saying that the prototype resembled a poached egg.:63 Nuffield's preference was to continue production of the conventional Morris Eight, which had been very successful pre-war, with some minor styling and engineering improvements. He particularly objected to the Mosquito's expensive and unconventional engine design. Whatever Nuffield's personal views, it was looking increasingly unlikely that all of the Mosquito's radical features could be implemented while maintaining an acceptable final purchase price and without incurring too much setup costs at the Cowley factory. There was also the matter of timing – there was a big rush by British manufacturers to get new models to market following the end of the war. It was known that Austin was working on an all-new but conventional car which would be launched in 1947. The Mosquito was proposed for launch in 1949 and that deadline was appearing increasingly unlikely due to the untried nature of many of the car's features. The Morris board insisted on launching the Mosquito at the first post-war British Motor Show in October 1948.
Several of Issigonis' proposals were reviewed – first the all-independent torsion bar suspension was changed for a torsion-sprung live rear axle and this was then substituted by a conventional leaf sprung arrangement. Proposals by Thomas to offset the cost of making the flat-four engine by introducing sporting MG and upmarket Wolseley versions of the Mosquito were rejected and it became clear that the only way to overcome the personal and financial obstacles to the project was to adopt a lightly revised version of the Morris Eight's obsolete sidevalve engine.:129 Thomas resigned his position at Morris Motors over the debacle.:66 Despite the changes the fundamental principles of Issigonis' concept – a spacious cabin, small wheels at each corner, a forward-placed engine, rack and pinion steering and independent torsion bar front suspension – remained.
While Thomas had been battling for the Mosquito's future Issigonis had been settling the car's styling. Although in his later career he would be known for very functional designs Issigonis was heavily influenced by the modern styling of American cars, especially the Packard Clipper and the Buick Super.:62 A new feature was a low-set headlamps, integral with the grille panel (Issigonis had originally sketched hidden lamps concealed behind sections of the grille, but these were never implemented). The original Mosquito prototype, which drew Lord Nuffield's "poached egg" comment, was designed with similar proportions to pre-war cars, being relatively narrow for its length. In late 1947, with Cowley already tooling up for production, Issigonis was unhappy with the appearance of the car. He had the prototype cut lengthways and the two halves moved apart until it looked "right".:128 The production model was thus four inches (10 cm) wider than the prototype and, in keeping with Issigonis' design principles, this further improved interior space and roadholding. It also gave the car distinctive (and recognisably modern) proportions – contrast with the Austin A30, launched in 1952 but still recognisably pre-war in size and proportions). The last-minute change to the design required a number of workarounds – bumpers had already been produced, so early cars had ones cut in half with a four-inch plate bolted between the join.:129 The bonnet had a flat fillet section added to its centreline and the floorpan had two two-inch sections added either side of the transmission tunnel.:68
The last change made was to the car's name. It was widely expected that the Mosquito codename would also be the name of the production model, but Nuffield disliked it and Morris's marketing department wanted a reassuring name for what it worried would be an innovative, radical car that would be difficult to sell to a cautious public.:66 Instead the car was named the Minor, in reference to the Morris Minor of 1928, which had introduced a number of innovative features and had been the first four-wheeled car to sell for £100.
The new Morris Minor was launched at the British Motor Show at Earls Court in London on October 27, 1948. The original range consisted solely of a two-door saloon or a two-door tourer with a 918 cc engine and a starting price of £358. At the same show Morris also launched the new Morris Oxford and Morris Six models, plus Wolseley variants of both cars, which were scaled-up versions of the new Minor, incorporating all the same features and designed with Issigonis' input under Oak's supervision. Thus Issigonis' ideas and design principles underpinned the complete post-war Morris and Wolseley car ranges.:125
|Morris Minor MM|
Morris Minor MM 2-door Saloon
|Production||1948–53; 250,962 produced|
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||918 cc Morris Sidevalve I4|
|Wheelbase||86 in (2,184 mm)|
|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 early 1930s Morris Minor and Morris 8, with a bore of 57 mm but with the stroke of 90 mm and not 83 mm, 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.
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. The raised headlight position became standard on all Minors in time for 1951. From the start, the Minor had semaphore-type turn indicators, and subsequent Minor versions persisted with these until 1961. 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". 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".
When production of the first series ended, just over a quarter of a million had been sold, 30% of them the convertible Tourer model.
A 918 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. 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.
|Morris Minor Series II|
Morris Minor Series II four-door saloon
|Body and chassis|
|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. Travellers were built alongside the saloon model at Cowley minus their rear bodies. The half-completed cars were then shipped to the MG factory at Abingdon where the bodies (built in Coventry) would be mated to the chassis and the final assembly carried out. This was because the main Cowley production lines were no longer fully equipped to deal with body-on-frame vehicles such as the Traveller while the MG lines still handled these sorts of cars and had experience working with wood-framed bodies. Commercial models, marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up were added in May 1953. Rear bodies of the van versions were all steel. The four-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.
A horizontal slat grille was fitted from October 1954, as well as a new dashboard with a central speedometer.
269,838 examples of the Series II had been built when production ended in 1956.
|Morris Minor 1000|
1960 Morris Minor 1000 2-door saloon
|Production||1956–71; 847,491 produced|
|Body and chassis|
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.
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, which 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.
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. The revised engine was teamed to a stronger gearbox fitted with baulk ring synchromesh rather than the old cone-clutch type. The brakes were still drums on each corner but the front units were increased from 8 inches (20 cm) to 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter. Other changes included a modified dashboard layout with toggle switches, textured steel instrument binnacle, and the return of a glove-box cover on the passengers side (the cubby hole on the driver's side remained open). 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. The larger white-on-black speedometer unit (incorporating a warning light indicating when the oil filter was blocked) and the black plastic two-spoke steering wheel were both shared with the basic Morris 1100.
After the formation of British Leyland in 1968 the Minor was largely neglected in favour of improvements to the ADO16 and development of that model's eventual replacement, the Austin Allegro. In 1969 production of the Traveller variants was moved to the ex-Wolseley plant at Adderley Park where the van and pick-up models were already made. This freed up production space at Cowley and simplified the production chain as the Traveller's rear bodies were built at the Morris Bodies factory in Coventry. Adderley Park-built Travellers were offered in a new range of colours from the paint range that BL had introduced for 1970, including vibrant shades such as Limeflower (lime green) and Aqua (turquoise). From 1971 Minors were fitted with a steering-column mounted ignition key and a steering lock rather than the facia-mounted ignition switch used up to that point.
During the life of the Minor 1000 model, production declined – as the Mini and 1100/1300 had become BMC's best selling models by the mid 1960s.
The last Convertible/Tourer was manufactured on 18 August 1969, and the saloon models were discontinued in November 1970. Production of the more practical Traveller and commercial versions ceased in April 1971, 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 in response to Ford's top-selling (and in many respects, conservatively engineered) Cortina. Building a larger 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 hitherto. 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 minimise the financial outlay associated with chassis development and retooling.
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 10 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.
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. 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 & Pick-up|
Morris 6cwt Van
|Body and chassis|
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 commercial versions were initially marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up, with a Series III designation applied from 1956. The names Morris 6cwt Van and Pickup was used following the introduction of the 1098cc engine in 1962 and 8cwt versions were added in 1968.
As BMC's policy was to provide both Austin and Morris with complete commercial vehicle ranges, Austin-badged variants of the Minor van and pick-up were sold following the end of Austin A35 production in 1968. These featured Austin badging and the corporate Austin 'crinkle-cut' radiator grille but were otherwise identical to the standard Minor commercials, and were sold as the Austin 6cwt and Austin 8cwt.
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 and Australasia. 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 meant in a derogatory way rather than favourably). There is still an extensive 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.
Morris Minor models, believed to "typify Englishness", were in the ascendant
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