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An Unusual Car from my Childhood

Many years ago, when I was about 9 or 10 years old and living in Dover, DE., a couple of boys with whom I spent some of my growing-up years had a very small old black car in their back yard that belonged to their father. I had seen a picture of this type of car, a British-made Morris, in a 1961 Encyclopaedia Britannica that my parents used to have (they had the complete 1961 set). In the encyclopedia, the pictured car was white, with no trunk to speak of (like a Mini-Cooper), and was called a “Mini-Minor 4-Seater”. I recognized the front of the neighbor’s car, with a Cooper-shaped “egg-crate” style grille, to be the same as the Morris I saw in the big book, only his was black and had a short, stubby trunk. I asked the man what kind of car it was, and he just called it a “Morris Minor”. I assume that a car that size, in 1961, would have had a small 4-cylinder engine. I’m not even sure if the little old car was in running condition as I never saw the man drive it; perhaps it was a project car. I’m curious to know if anyone out there ever had, or has, a 1960-61 Morris Minor, and/or knows about any technical data/specifications on this car. I was also wondering if Morris made a small pickup-truck version of the Minor. Any Takers?

In the late sixties, a friend had a Morris Minor “woody”. It was a tiny version of a woody station wagon/panel truck, probably from the early sixties.

The Mini’s were great handling unreliable cars . The transmission shared the engine oil supply and was noisy and the oil got chewed up by the gears !
BMW makes a version of the car now with most of the faults designed out .

@Drifter62 - search for Morris Minor on Wikipedia, there should be lots on information.

It’s a very different car than the old Mini.

It’s easy to get the oldies mixed up. The Morris Minor was actually very different from the Mini. The Morris Minor was a small English version of typical American sedans of the time. The Mini was actually very different and way ahead of its time.

The mini was the first car to use a transverse engine with a transaxle driving the front wheels, along with McPherson struts instead of double A-frames, to get maximum space in the interior on a small vehicle. They also moved the wheels as far out to the corners as possible for the same reason. That resulted in a tiny car with a surprisingly usable interior. It also resulted in surprisingly fun handling, creating its own race class. Nowadays, transverse engines with transaxles and McPherson struts are commonplace, but they didn’t become so until decades after the Mini used them. And we all remember the Chrysler ads of some years ago that bragged about having moved the wheels out to the car’s corners for better handling and stability and more interior space.

The Mini didn’t have McPherson struts, it had double a-arms in the front. Early mini’s had rubber cones for springs instead of coil springs. It also had the radiator mounted in the left side wheelwell so the engine driven fan would work. Revolutionary in the day, nonetheless. Sir Alec Issigonis was a genius. He created the framework for a good bit of today’s small cars.

I have a Hayne’s manual titled BLMC Mk I,II & III, 1100 & 1300, 1962 thru 1974. The title page indicates that there were 9 BLMC models built on that platform; Austin America, Austin Saloon, MG Saloons, Morris saloons and Estates, Riley Kestrel salons, Vanden Plas Princess Mark I&II, Vanden Plas Princess 1300 Mark III, Wolseley Mark I and Mark II, and Wolsely 1300 Mark III. In prior years those cars had 950cc engines based on the Bugeyed Sprite.

A high school friend owned an Austin and I struggled to keep it running for several years but it was a nightmare. It was a lot of fun when it was running though. The wiring diagrams in this old manual are well worn. The British never were able to build a reliable wiring harness or generator.

Thank you for the correction, mustangman.
Yeah, I remember that radiator… it looked like a piece of burnt toast! The man truly was a genius.

“The Mini’s were great handling unreliable cars”

That may be true, but the Morris Minor and the Mini were as much alike as…chalk and cheese…to use a British expression. I doubt if the Minor and the Mini shared any parts at all, due to totally different design concepts.

I remember the car well. There were two nameplates–the Morris 850 and the Austin 850 The cars ere identical–just the name plates were different. The Morris 850 was also called the Mini-Minor. These cars were front wheel drive, had a transversely mounted 4 cylinder engine, had slide windows as opposed to roll-up windows, and ran on very small wheels–probably 10". The Desoto/Plymouth dealer where my dad did a lot of business picked up the English car line as well and sold the cars. The owner of the agency had my drive one when I was a college student. He was convinced it would be a perfect car for me. I barely had enough money for a replacement inner tube for my bicycle tire, so I was in no position to buy a car. I think the price may have been around $1100. The Morris 850 handled very well and despite its 850 cc engine, accelerated amazingly quickly. It certainly handled better than most U.S. nameplates at the time.
The Morris Minor, also known as the Morris 1000 was a completely different car with rear wheel drive and torsion bar front suspension. The engine in these cars was 1000 cc and mounted in the conventional, longitudinal manner. This car also handled well for the times.

The Morris 850 or Mini-Minor as well as the Austin 850 shared the same oil between the engine and the transmission. This arrangement wasn’t entirely satisfactory, but before you condemn Morris for this, Chrysler corporation also tried this. There were some 1951 and 1952 Chryslers that employed a torque convertor as opposed to a fluid coupling in its semi-automatic transmissions. In 1953, Dodge offered the Gyro-Torque semiautomatic and the Gyro-Matic semi-automatic. The difference was that the Gyro Torque had the torque converter and the engine and transmission shared the same oil. The Gyro-Matic had a fluid coupling which provided no torque multiplication. Neither of these “lift and clunk” transmissions–you let up on the accelerator for the car to shift, was entirely satisfactory, but models without the torque converter were less troublesome. In 1953, Plymouth offered its Hy-drive where there was a torque convertor between the engine and the transmission and the engine, torque converter and transmission shared the same oil. The transmission was a three speed manual unit, but with the torque converter, one could start in high gear with about the same pickup as the early Chevrolet Powerglide or Buick Dynaflow. However, the Plymouth Hy-Drive did have a clutch pedal while the Dynaflow and PowerGlide were completely automatic. Fortunately, by mid 1954, Chyrsler offered its fully automatic PowerFlite in all its cars and abandoned having the engine and transmission share the same oil. Unfortunately, Morris did not learn from the Chrysler’s bad experience.

I think there’s been a call or two to the Car Talk radio program about the Morris Minor. OP might can find out which show it was by searching this site. There’s also a magazine titled “Practical Classics” which routinely has articles on restoring Morris Minors. They are a quite popular “classic” car to own among old car enthusiasts.

The parts supply and support for these is pretty good, you can get some parts new from India
From Wikipedia on the Morris Minor:
Closed van and open flat-bed (“pick-up”) versions of the Minor were built from 1953 until the end of production. They were designed for commercial use with small businesses, although many made their way to larger corporations. Van versions were popular with the General Post Office, the early versions of these (to around 1956) having rubber front wings to cope with the sometimes unforgiving busy situations in which they were expected to work. Both the van and the pickup differed from the monocoque construction of the Saloon and Traveller variants by having a separate chassis. They also differed in details such as telescopic rear dampers, stiffer rear leaf springs and lower-ratio differentials to cope with heavier loads.

The commercials versions were initially marketed as the Morris Quarter Ton Van and Pick-up with a Series III designation applied from 1956.[17] The names Morris 6cwt Van and Pickup was used following the introduction of the 1098cc engine in 1962 [17] and 8cwt versions were added in 1968.[17][25]

My first car was a 1960 Morris Minor, either a 1000 or 2000, can’t remember anymore. It was about 1966. It was a fun car but had been beat to death. 4 cyl, rear wheel drive, 3 speed manual. The trunk was big enough for a ten gallon can of gas since it got maybe 20 miles per tank. Not all the carb parts were there I think. I had it painted yellow for $20 after I did all the prep work. Put bigger tires on the back for the raked look, and had a WDGY sticker in the window for those from the midwest. It needed trans work, engine work, brakes, and maybe more. I paid $125 for it and had a budget of $250. When I hit $250 into it, I sold it to a guy at work. Later he nearly killed me, but I told him everything that was wrong with it. They were a very popular car in England and you can buy them pretty cheap there but in the US they are collector cars and expensive. Like usual, I wish I had it now.

Back then there was a Morris dealer in Minneapolis, right by Dunwoody or the Cathedral. They had brand new ones on the floor that had the same body style as mine. I would get some parts there but I think there was also an import parts dealer on Lake street that I got odd ball stuff like a turn signal lens.

I only had it a short time but have lots of stories with it.

I owned a Morris Minor back in the 70s although I can’t remember the year model. I think it was a 1959 model and had the semaphore turn signals on it.

Black with a huge yellow daisy painted on the roof. Apparently a hippie owned it at some point. :slight_smile:

I had purchased that thing for 75 bucks and even got a complete non-running spares car to go with it.

A good friend who looked like a cross between Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood had a 69 Mini when we were in highschool back in the early seventies. Painted a Canadian flag on the hood (the rest of the car was faded ultramarine blue). I remember two things about that car: 1) backing it up an icy hill in the winter (there was no other way to the top), 2) him putting twenty five cents worth of gas in it to handle a Saturday night’s cruising (strangely it was a bit of a chick magnet). That thing ran on two cylinders more than it did on four so I can certainly attest to the unreliability allegations.

What you’re describing sounds a lot like the Mini, originally sold under several different names, including Morris Mini-Minor. There were quite a lot of different body variants of the Mini, including versions with a conventional trunk sold as the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet. And there were pickups and miniature vans. It was a very useful platform and easy to modify with all the mechanical bits in the nose.

The Morris Minor was a completely different car that really doesn’t look anything like the Mini (or Mini-Minor or any of its other dozen or so names). It was a hugely successful car in the fifties, Britain’s equivalent of the Beetle and the Citroen 2CV, cheap cars the average family could afford even during Britain’s postwar austerity. The US economy may have been booming and we were able to afford big, flashy cars, but the British economy took a long time to recover. The Morris Minor looks like a typical ca. 1950 car shrunk to compact size. There was also a bigger Morris Major. They’re uncommon now, but even 20 years ago you’d see a fair number of Minors in the UK, most owned by little, old ladies in villages. A few made there way to the US, but they were never common here. If you saw a small English car with a trunk, it could be a Morris Minor, but I’d be surprised if you’d see any resemblance to the Mini. Even the Mini has a slight bulge in the back which varies slightly in size and shape between models with trunks and those with hatchbacks (most have trunks, despite looking like they have hatches).

These are Morris Minors. Nothing like a Mini. The body styles stayed the same for years.