Classic Morris Minor

Published on June 28, 2010   ·   No Comments

Before the Mini Alec Issigonis designed the Morris Minor, a car with just as much charm.

Morris Minor was at its prettiest as a convertible Photo: ALAMY
Here’s a good test of your personality: do you have a weakness for the Morris Minor? Because it’s mighty hard to warm to anybody who doesn’t harbour a sneaking affection for this darling of a car.
It’s one of those ageing plodders you might consider a bit of a duffer yet remains a national treasure. Like Shirley Williams, say, or Emile Heskey. True, you could complete the crossword and enjoy an afternoon snooze by the time the old lump hit fifty (28.6 seconds).
No, not Heskey, he’d take longer to sneeze. But if burning off wide boys at the lights is your thing then such a tweed-skirted old girl is probably not for you.
This is a car for which the tartan picnic rug was invented. It was virtually a job requirement of maiden aunts to drive a “Moggy”, preferably in the middle of a meandering lane, very slowly, while turning up her hearing aid for the Archers. It’s no coincidence that the demise of matron saw the end of the Minor.
If all this sounds patronising, it is unintentional. The Morris, more than a red Ferrari or yellow Lamborghini, would put a smile on my face if I found one unexpectedly snoring in my garage.
That’s because it would never try to be upwardly mobile, even if its movements were a little more Ronaldo-esque. Drive a 3-series BMW and people think “he/she couldn’t afford a 5 Series.” Drive an old Minor and they think: “what a characterful old car. I bet I’d like the owner.”
And this applies to other variants. Far from uglifying the design, the convertible is even prettier. And then there is the Traveller with its lovely ash pillars. In white it so resembles a Tudor cottage you expect smoke out of a chimney rather than the exhaust: where are the roses round the door?
From the Minor’s birth in 1948 to burial in 1969 (’71 for the Traveller) it was as familiar a feature of the British landscape as strikers at the factory gate. But as often with our heritage it owes much to abroad.
It was designed by Izmir-born Alec Issigonis, who later conceived the Mini. Inexplicably the Minor was to be called the Mosquito, as if such a gentle motor could ever be a blood-sucker.
Instead it provided roomy, reliable transport for a post-war generation whose previous car had been Shank’s pony or at best a sidecar; in 1952 it cost £631, including taxes. This was our Volkswagen Beetle, without the marching band music and unfortunate moustaches.
So while it was less iconic than the Mini it was arguably more important. Such was its popularity that in 1961 it became the first British car to sell a million units, putting it up there with the Fiat 600.
Key changes to the Minor included saying goodbye to split-screens and delightful semaphore “trafficators” that popped out from the side. Later versions could reach the heady speed of 77mph. It was a tortoise much loved; not a claim always levelled at its replacement, the Marina.
Enthusiasts in Britain, Australasia and India are served by an inexhaustible supply of parts. Oh, and goodwill: the Minor was a major car.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/classiccars/7817448/Classic-Morris-Minor.html

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