Before the Mini made its mark as one of the most iconic British cars ever produced, Sir Alec Issigonis had already established a sterling reputation for brilliance with the Morris Minor. The first car built in the United Kingdom to sell more than one million units, the landmark Minor has been hailed as a design classic that combined an essential English character with utility and performance at an affordable price.
The first truly global British car, the Minor made its debut at the London Motor Show at Earl’s Court in 1948 with a ground-breaking blend of qualities that made it the perfect car for a world still reeling from the effects of World War II. The original MM series car was sold until 1953 and would eventually encompass a range of two and four-door saloons along with a convertible touring car. The front suspension used the torsion bar layout from the Morris Oxford and adopted a similar semi-monocoque bodyshell. The 918-cc engine was sourced from the Morris 8 and although horsepower was initially limited (27.5 bhp) it was an economical unit that delivered almost 40 mpg.
The MM series was an unqualified success with more than 250,000 cars sold and as the size of the engines fitted increased the performance grew as well. The ubiquitous A-series engine made its debut in 1952 as a result from the merger with Austin to create BMC. Despite lower specific output, the new engine felt like an improvement and would go on to power successive generations of the car.
The popular Traveller also was introduced in 1952 and featured an external ash frame for the rear bodywork and two barn-style doors. Commercial versions soon followed and the Minor name encompassed several varieties of unique cars. The Series II Minors with the A-Series engines offered spritely performance and even better handling than earlier cars equipped with the side valve engines. The 1000 series cars debuted in 1956 with the 948-cc engine and one-piece windscreens. Detail changes occurred on a regular basis to keep the car fresh and the market continued to buy the car in increasing numbers.
The Morris Minor passed the magic million mark in sales in 1961 with 350 special edition cars built to commemorate the occasion. The next year saw an even larger version of the A-series engine (1098-cc) along with revisions to the interior and improvements to the heater. Amazingly, even though the Minor was born in 1948 just years after the end of the war it managed to live long enough to see men walk on the moon and then some. Although the convertible and saloon cars were withdrawn from the market in 1969 and 1970 respectively, the Traveller and other commercial versions soldiered on until 1972 with more than 1.6 million cars manufactured in total.
Images courtesy of Minor Times.