History/Production

Although not officially unveiled to the public until September 1948, the Morris Minor had been on the cards already for several years. As far back as 1943, Sir Alec Issigonis was refining the car that would eventually become the Minor. The car was originally named Mosquito and even at the early sketch stage it bore a remarkable resemblance to the final product. The most obvious visible difference is how narrow the Mosquito was compared to the Minor, but under the skin another fundamental change was the replacement of the flat-four Jowett engine for the athsmatic 918cc side-valve.

About to go into production, Issigonis had one of the eight pre-production Minors cut in half down the middle and a four inch strip welded in to counter his worry that the Morris was just too narrow. Sir Alec airily described the decision “I wasn’t very happy with the final version of the Morris Minor. So I went to the shop one evening and told the mechanics to cut it in half”. The fact that every Minor right up until production ceased in 1971 carried this flat strip across the bonnet probably owes more to saving the cost of retooling rather than any more whimsical theory. To keep costs down, the already-purchased bumper blades were cut in half and a fillet inserted and only when these ran out were new ones that fit the full width of the car then designed. These first Minors limped their way to a top speed of just 64 mph, rather fortunate considering the tiny drum brakes. That said, the monocoque design coupled with rack and pinion steering and small 14 inch wheels meant that the Minor handled quite well, and the motoring press of the time loved it.

In these austere post-war years Britain was desperate for foreign money and so over three quarters of production was exported. Surprisingly, given their diminutive size, many of these Minors found homes in America. However, the US had strict laws regarding the height of lights, so the original grille mount headlamps moved up to the top of the wings. By the time this change was carried over to all cars in 1952, over a quarter of a million Minors had rolled off the production line. The ‘Series II’ heralded a new overhead valve engine of a meagre 803cc and what would become probably the most recognisable Minor was born, the ‘Traveller’.

Posted in History/Production

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