History of the Morris Minor

Although the Morris Minor was first introduced by Morris Motors Ltd in 1928 to compete against the Austin Seven, the model from which the Traveller is derived began its development life as the “Mosquito” in 1942.

Designed by a small team led by Alec Issigonis (probably better known as creator of the Mini), the Mosquito was radically different to the typical motor car of that time, in that it used a unitary body construction, instead of a separate chassis, and included advanced features such as independent front suspension.

It’s interesting that when the car finally went into production in 1948, very little had changed in its appearance from design concept to reality, except for two rather significant things. Firstly, it was now called the Morris Minor (probably in order to appease Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, who had never favoured the car’s radical design, and had actually delayed its entry into production!), and secondly, it had gained 4 inches in width! This was due to an eleventh hour decision by Issigonis
“to get the proportions right”, as he later put it.

A prototype was sawn lengthwise into two halves, and these were then separated, and the gap adjusted until Issigonis was satisfied with the new width! Unfortunately much of the tooling for the bodyshell had already been done at this stage, so to reduce the amount of re-work a flat metal strip was inserted in the roof pressing, and the bonnet was given a raised centre insert to accommodate the extra 4 inches. The ramifications of this last minute design change went beyond the bodywork – large quantities of bumpers had been produced, and as these were now too narrow, they were cut in half and a 4 inch steel fillet inserted in order to avoid wastage! (Remember, the Second World War had not long ended).

The Minor was launched at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show and was the star attraction in the small car sector; its clean, modern styling and technical ingenuity put it ahead of not just its immediate rivals, but also many larger saloons.

Two versions were available: a 2 door saloon (priced at £358), and the slightly more expensive convertible (or Tourer).

The 4 door saloon was introduced in 1950, and this was followed by the Traveller in 1953. The Minor’s versatility was further shown in its LCV guise (light commercial vehicle), especially in the light van and pick-up variants, the former being much favoured by Royal Mail (or the GPO as it was then known). The cars were built at Cowley, although the LCVs were eventually switched to the Morris Commercial Vehicles site in Birmingham.

Such was the appeal of the Minor that over 1.6 million vehicles were built over its 23 year life-span. Production finally ceased in 1971 with the Traveller and light van being the last Minors built.

Model Variants

There are essentially 3 models reflecting the Minor’s development.

Series MM : 1948 – 1953
918cc side valve engine
Early ‘low-light’ models had headlamps in radiator grille
Due to pressure from the USA the headlights were moved to a higher position in the wings, where they stayed until production ceased

Series II : 1952 – 1956
Smaller but more powerful 803cc overhead valve (A-series) engine replaced 918cc unit
Traveller introduced in October 1953, with wooden (ash) frame and aluminium panels

Minor 1000 : 1956 – 1971
Larger 948cc version of A-series engine, along with new gearbox, provided much improved performance
Curved one-piece windscreen and various bodywork changes (thinner side pillars and larger rear window) led to more modern appearance and better visibility
In 1962 the Minor 1000 was upgraded with the more powerful 1098cc engine to provide better performance and more relaxed cruising
The last improvements were in 1964 and were confined to a two-spoke steering, revised seats and switch-gear, and the replacement of the “pull-start” button with a combined starter / ignition switch.

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