2018 is a year where many vehicles celebrate milestones, with one of the most famous being the Morris Minor. The iconic car is turning 70 and the significance of this classic motor can’t be understated. Not only was it the first British car to sell over a million units, it came to signify the essence of ‘Englishness.’ It laid the groundwork for other popular classic cars like the Mini Mark I. We’re looking back at the history of the Morris Minor in honour of its 70th milestone.
A secret project
In 1941, the Vice Chairman of Morris Motors, Miles Thomas, wanted to prepare for a post WW2 world. A young engineer called Alec Issigonis had caught the eye of the chief engineer and Issigonis came to Thomas’ attention. Issigonis’ work on the 1936 Morris Ten impressed the Vice Chairman and he approved the creation of a small family car. This was during a time when there was a government ban on civilian car production, so the project continued in secret.
Codenamed ‘Mosquito,’ the car was kept from the Ministry of Supply and from company founder William Morris. Issigonis aimed to design a practical and affordable car for the public. He added independent suspension and rack and pinion steering to ensure the car had good handling. Small wheels were meant to provide more interior space and a water-cooled flat-four engine was also proposed.
However, the car didn’t meet the standards of William Morris and he thought the prototype looked like a poached egg. Thomas resigned over the debate, but ultimately, Issigonis’ vision came to fruition. The Mosquito name was changed to Minor as a reference to the 1928 Morris Minor.
Debut and success
The Morris Minor debuted at the 1948 British Motor Show at Earls Court in London. It came with a 918 cc side-valve inline-four engine that meant the car could only reach 64 mph. In 1950, a four-door version was released and came with raised headlights that would become standard issue for future models.
The Series II came out in 1952 and featured an Austin-designed 803 cc A-series engine. An estate version was also introduced in the same year, with it being known as the Traveller. This version stood apart from other Minors because it featured an ash wood frame on the body. The final update came in 1956 with the introduction of the Minor 1000. The engine capacity increased to 948 cc and featured a two-piece split windscreen.
Today, the Morris Minor is one of the most popular classic cars on the market. Affectionately referred to as a ‘ Moggie,’ the Minor represents British ingenuity. Its design is one of many reasons why the Minor has been around for so long.
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