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This is hopefully the first of a series of opinions that I may well write about the virtues of various classic cars. I am an absolute fanatic about cars of yesteryear. I don’t mean the old crocs that needed a man carrying a red flag in front of it, what I mean is the cars that were developed and which sold in their droves from the early 1950s until the 1970s. These are the cars that brought the joys of motoring to ‘normal’ people in this great land of ours. They are the true classics. The car that I love is arguably the most popular classic car in the whole world. It was the first British production car to sell more than one million examples, and came in various guises, such as two and four-door saloons, two-door convertibles, wooden-clad estates, as well as pick up and van versions. It is the car that has long been considered a joke, associated with district nurses and country vicars. It was the star of the 1948 motor show. It is the Morris Minor, known to its many fans as the ‘moggie’. The Morris Minor was the brainchild of Alec Issigonis. During World War 2 he designed a brand new concept in small car motoring, which was codenamed ‘Mosquito’. Lord Nuffield, the owner of the Morris Car Company, hated the car’s design, likening it to a ‘fried egg’. A number of changes were made and the finished car was given the tried and tested 918cc-sidevalve engine. This original, ‘MM’ series Minor is the rarest, the most valuable, and also the trickiest to own as an everyday car, principally due to the scarcity of body parts and parts for the sidevalve engine. The saloon versions of this car are unmistakable, principally by reason of the low-slung headlamps, which were moved higher to satisfy the demands of the US export market. Purists believe that this should not have happened, but as Britain was still going through austerity, the ‘export or die’ attitude meant that s
uch changes would have to be made if the country was to survive and recover. In 1952 the Series II Minor was introduced, with a number of changes, not least the implementation of an 803cc OHV engine. The deluxe specification of the car was enhanced, and included a heater, leather seats, over-riders and a passenger sun-visor. The wooden framed ‘Traveller’ was introduced in 1953. The wooden frame on the rear of this shooting brake is made of ash. It is necessary to look after it, as it is structural and can cause MOT failure if not tended to lovingly. In 1956 the Minor 1000 was introduced, with a 948cc OHV engine. The Minor 1000 is by far the most widely available and popular model, and is still to be seen, as nearly all body and engine parts are still available and are very reasonably priced (engine £300, brake shoes around £15). 1961 saw the production of the millionth Minor. This was a true motoring milestone, as no other British production car had sold one million. It also saw the first ever limited edition model. Lilac coloured ‘Minor Millions’ were produced, with white leather upholstery, and badges that sport an extra three zeros. Only 350 were produced, and only around 60 survive to this day. In 1962 the engine capacity was increased to 1098cc, adding some much-needed power without sacrificing a lot of economy. This was now the heyday of BMC, and so the seating was a choice of vinyl or vinyl (which on a hot day can get very hot!). The last saloon rolled off the production line in 1970, while production of Travellers and commercial vehicles ceased in 1971. In total 1,619,857 Morris Minors were produced, which is a heck of a lot of cars! So what is appealing about these cars? The first thing that they have in their favour, apart from unparalleled spares availability, is ease of maintenance- they do not require a computerised tuning system and the BMC A Series engine is almost b
ombproof. Replacement wooden frames for the estates are widely available, if a little pricey, and the one thing I absolutely love, and something I will do when next I get a Morris Minor, is that 2-door saloons can be turned into open-top convertibles for around £2000. That is a real saving if you really want to savour the rare hot summer’s days that we occasionally get. So what problems exist? There are one or two- I am not completely blind to the car’s faults! They need to be looked after, and here I go all ‘Fast Show’ and start writing like Swiss Tony: ‘Owning a Morris Minor is like making love to a beautiful woman. You need to pamper her then she will not let you down, you need to make sure she looks good, and you need to make sure that you have got oil on your dipstick, and that your trunnions are lubricated.’ The other major problems are on the floor. For some inexplicable reason you will find the brake fluid filler hole underneath the driver'’ carpet. The other problem just takes a bit of getting used to. The headlamp dimmer switch is a button located just to the left of the clutch pedal. Now we get to the tricky bit. How much to pay for one of these little beauties. I will give approximate values for each of the cars in 3 conditions. Condition 1 cars are in excellent condition. While they will not win a concours, they should give trouble-free motoring. Condition 2 cars can be used regularly. They should have an MOT, but will need work to reach condition 1. Condition 3 means that the car will need a lot of work. It will probably be driveable, but major work is needed. MM Saloon C1 3000 C2 1600 C3 500 MM Convertible C1 4250 C2 2500 C3 950 S II Saloon C1 2500 C2 1200 C3 350 S II Convertible C13800 C2 2250 C3 800 S II Estate C1 3400 C2 1700 C3 500 1000 Saloon C1 2900 C2 1650 C3 400 1000 Convertible C1 440
0 C2 2650 C3 950 1000 Estate C1 4000 C2 2000 C3 500 Insurance costs should be cheap. There are specialist classic policies available. In terms of car tax, every single minor will cost nothing for the tax disc. Unleaded conversions can be undertaken quite easily. But is there any backing to my claim that they are used widely in the media to show that they are quaint country cars. Well, in the 1980s Shell used colour drawings of cars set against the landscape to advertise, and the only non-sports was a morris minor estate. Where have you seen them on TV? Well, here is a selection of appearances: 'Some Mothers do 'ave 'em'- In one episode Frank is hanging off a cliff holding onto the exhaust pipe of a Minor 1000 saloon. 'Lovejoy' - One of Lovejoy's regular vehicles is Miriam, a battered Trafalgar Blue convertible. 'Open All Hours' - Nurse Gladys Emmanuel drives an ivory Minor saloon. 'The Borrowers' - The film, not the TV show, features a town full of nothing but minors so that it can successfully evoke both nostalgia and quaintness. 'George and Mildred' - in the series they had a Morris Minor convertible in Snowberry White with a red leather interior. Oooh, smashing! The official website for the Morris Minor Owners Club is http://www.morrisminoroc.co.uk If you want to read further on the car, try to grab a copy of ‘The Secret Life of the Morris Minor’ by Karen Pender, published by Veloce (ISBN No. 1-874105-55-3) If you want me to cover another classic car, please let me know. One thing I will say in conclusion is this. How many modern cars do you see on the roads of Britain that bring out a smile even on the foulest of days?