The Morris Minor is a motoring milestone. As Britain’s first million seller it became a “people’s car,” staple transportation for everyone from nurses to construction workers. Designed by Alec Issigonis, the genius who later went on to pen the Austin Mini the new Series MM Morris Minor of 1948 featured the then novel unitary chassis-body construction. The 918cc side-valve engine of the MM was rather more antique, a carryover from the prewar Morris 8. Its handling and ride comfort more than made up for the lack of power.
With independent front suspension and crisp rack-and-pinion steering it embarrassed its rivals and even tempted the young Stirling Moss into high-speed cornering antics that lost him his license for a month. Of all the 1.5 million Minors the most prized are the now rare Series MM convertibles.
Ragtops remained part of the Minor model lineup until 1969, two years from the end of all Minor production. They represent only a small proportion of Minor production. Between 1963 and 1969 only 3,500 soft-tops were produced compared with 119,000 two-door sedans.
Morris bean counters dictated old-fashioned live-axle and leaf springs at the rear.
Original MM Tourer had side curtains, replaced by glass rear windows in 1952.
With no door pillars above waist height, semaphore indicators were mounted lower down on the tourers; flashers eventually replaced semaphores in 1961. Few Minors today have their original semaphores.
Both front and rear fenders were easily replaced, bolt-on items.
The original 918cc side-valve engine was replaced progressively in 1952 and 1953 by the Austin A-series 803cc overhead valve engine, then by the A-series 948cc, and finally the 1098cc. Power outputs rose from 28 bhp on the 918 to 48 bhp on the 1098.
Space and easy engine access make the Minor a do-it-yourself favorite.
In 1950, the headlights on all Minors were moved to the top of the fenders. Earlier models such as the car featured here are now dubbed “low lights.”
Even on cross-ply tires the original Minor won praise for its handling; one journalist described it as “one of the fastest slow cars in existence.”
So desirable are these open tourers that in recent years there has been a trade in rogue ragtops—chopped sedans masquerading as original factory convertibles.
At 61 in (155 cm) the production car was 4 in (10 cm) wider than the prototype. At its launch the Minor was available as a two-door sedan and as a convertible (Tourer). A four-door, a wagon, a van, and a pickup later completed the line.
The fillet in the bumper is another sign of the widening of the body.
The split windshield was replaced by a curved screen in 1956.
Sales literature described the Minor as “The Best Little Car in the World.”
This simple early dashboard was never really updated, but the speedo was later moved to the central console. The sprung-spoke steering wheel was traditional, but rack-and-pinion steering gave a crisp, light feel.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Morris Minor (1948–71)
BODY STYLES Two- and four-door sedan, two-door convertible (Tourer), wagon (Traveller), van, and pickup.
CONSTRUCTION Unitary body/chassis; steel.
ENGINES Straight-four, 918cc, 803cc, 948cc, and 1098cc.
POWER OUTPUT 28 bhp (918cc); 48 bhp (1098cc).
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual.
SUSPENSION Torsion bar independent front suspension; live-axle leaf-spring rear.
BRAKES Drums all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 62–75 mph (100–121 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 50+ sec for 918cc, 24 sec for 1098cc.
A.F.C. 36–43 mpg (12.7–15.2 km/l)