Morris Minor

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Morris Minor

1948 - 1971
4 cyl.
918/803/943/1098 cc
27-48 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
96-125 km/h
Number Built:
2 star
Morris Minor
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


Seen as the outstanding economy car of its time, the Morris Minor was a best seller as well as being a long standing car in terms of production. Built from 1948 to 1971, it boasted rack-and-pinion steering and torsion-bar independent rear suspension. Its superb handling and smooth styling resulted in this car being viewed by Brits as ultramodern when compared to pre-war vehicles that existed at the time.

Initial cars used the under-powered Series E flat-head engine, as well as low-slung headlights (that were to remain in use until 1950 when cars were either a two-door, or later, a four door). In 1952 the overhead-valve Austin engine was used and in 1953 the (now highly collectable) half timber Traveller model appeared. In 1956 the engine capacity grew to 948cc and cars were badged Minor 1000. This put top speed up to 112 km/h and also made the car a standout because of its larger rear window (on saloon models) and single piece front screen.

The Morris Minor 1000

Many would have seen the new Minor "1000'' on the road without even recognising it - the only external changes were a curved single-piece windscreen and a larger window. But the otherwise familiar bodywork had a whole bag of new bits. The well-tried but underwhelming 803 c.c. overhead-valve B.M.C. engine was bored out from 58 to 62.94mm. (2.478 inches), increasing overall capacity up to 948cc (58 cubic inches). The stroke remained at 76mm., but the compression ratio was raised from 7.2: 1 to 8.3: 1, and renewable steel-backed lead-indium faring liners replaced the less expensive; but also iess durable white metal.

A full-flow Tecalemit oil filter with renewable element replaced the older bypass unit and added half-a-pint to tal sump capacity, bringing it to 7 pints. The bigger pots, and higher compression ratio brought the b.h.p. up to it 4750 revs per minute as against Series 1. Minor's 30 b.h.p. at 4800. This represented a very acceptable increase of 23 percent in developed horsepower and raises the R.A.C. rating from 8 to 10 h.p.

Ratios to Suit

Making the most of this more powerful "donk," B.M.C. wisely lowered both gearbox and diff ratios to give higher gearing all round, and strengthened the clutch to accommodate the additional load. Compare the following overall ratios of the 850 and 1000 Minors, and you could see what helped give the "1000" perform so much better. The old ratios are given in brackets; Top-gear ratio - 4.55:1 (5.375); third - 6.415:1 (9.029); second- 10.80:1 (13.909); first - 16.47:1 (21.312); reverse-21.20:1 (28.928). The diff ratio was dropped from 8/43 teeth (5.375 to 1) to 9/41 (4.55 to 1), and the rear axle was three-quarter-floating instead of semi-floating. The chassis specifications remain the same as for the Series 2, with rack-and-pinion steering, Armstrong hydraulic shockers, torsion-bar front suspension, semi-elliptics at the rear, and 7in. diameter Lockheed hydraulic brakes with a total linins area of 63.8 square inches. Tyres, too, were unaltered at 5.00 by 14 inches.

The Morris Minor 1000 Interior

Inside the Minor 1000 had a three-spoked dished steering wheel with a badge-in-plastic wheel-boss motif. The trafficators were now controlled by a lever on the steering column - but that was a mixed blessing. Located just under the rim of the steering wheel, so that the end of the lever was level with the rim, it incorporated the horn button in the tip and was extremely easy to use. However, the shortness of arm travel, combined with a light spring-loading and shallow neutral-position catch, offset its convenience. It was easy to flick over to the opposite traffic sigflal when attempting to centralise the control, or else to flick out a trafficator when intending only to press the horn button.

The dual windscreen wipers cleared two wide arcs; but they did not overlap, and so left an opaque "V" in the centre of the windscreen. An outstanding feature of the 1000 was the floor-mounted gearbox. It was a beautiful little box, remarkably like that of an MG both in looks and operation of the gearshift. And like the MG unit, it was a little "crunchy" for really fast cog-swapping, but extremely pleasant and easy to use under normal conditions.

The front seat was adjustable for height as well as fore-and-aft travel, which made it easy to find a good driving position, but some drivers found the gear lever positioned a little too far forward so that, while their legs were well accomodated, they needed to tilt forward to change into 3rd gear. Sit inside a "Morry" and you will note that part of the spcedo is obscured by the steering-wheel rim, but fortunately this applies only to the less frequently used calibrations, between 50 and 60 m.p.h.; the more important left-hand side of the dial was always clearly seen. The steering action was both light and positive - a feature that was equally appreciated when parking in confined spaces or pushing the car through tight corners.

What was not obvious, because the body had hardly changed, was that the Minor 1000 had more headroom for tall drivers. This was because the front seats were lower than previously (in the full-down position, of course). Although it was still necessary to make full and intelligent use of the gearbox, top-gear flexibility and staying power were definitely improved. As an indication of this, take the top-gear acceleration figures of 10-20 m.p.h. in 6 seconds, and "traffic-passing" pick-up times of 8.4 seconds for 30-40 m.p.h. and 18 seconds for 30-50. Third gear was a little pearl for all-purpose usage-for rapid pick-up, for passing, for hills, for cornering in a hurry. Such times as 4 seconds for 20-30 m.p.h. and 12.2 for 30-50 give you some idea of its usefulness.

Second gear was both powerful and fast, and would take you from 10 to 20 m.p.h. in 2.8 seconds. Over the standing quarter-mile the "1000" returned a very creditable mean average of 25.2 seconds, and a best one-way time of 25 secor. dead. This is good going for a c:.r of this power/weight ratio. Braking efficiency was in keeping with the usual high Minor standard. Doors became wider in 1959, and flashing indicators replaced semaphores in 1961. When BMC had produced 1,000,000 of the Minor a commemorative edition coloured lilac and using white seats was brought out. The final change to this car occurred in 1962 with the establishment of its 1098cc 48 bhp motor. Saloons and open-tourers ceased production in the late '60's, but the two-door and the Traveller were built until 1971.

Morris Minor

Morris Minor

Morris Minor

Morris Minor

Sturt Griffith's Road Test of the Minor 1000

A name synonymous with quality automotive journalism in the 1950s was Sturt Griffith. He would take all cars on offer in any particular year, then drive it over a punishing course to determine what was good, and bad, with a particular car. Obviously his yardstick was the best on offer in any particular year - and something we do not have the benefit of today. While we make every endeavour to judge a car on its contemporaries, sometimes it is very difficult. We refer to many of his road tests in compiling our own, but for the record, the Morris Minor 1000 review below remains as told in 1957.

The new Morris Minor 1000 has been substantially improved by a larger engine. This gives it just the little extra power that makes it more of a top gear performer, and adds a pleasing liveliness to this excellent small car. Fortunately, this increase in power and performance has not been obtained at the expense of petrol economy. The car tested had its carburettor adjusted to an "economy setting," and it gave not only an improved road performance, but a better fuel mileage than the previous model. It is interesting to note that the versatile S.U. carburettor with which this engine is fitted can be adjusted, in the matter of momen's, to a slightly richer mixture, which will increase speed in third gear up to 62 m.p.h. This will be, of course at the expense of a little fuel mileage.

Observations and Changes

The multitude of keen Minor owners will be interested in the improved hill climbing ability and speed resulting from increase in power and torque. Power has gone up by 23 per cent, and torque by 28 per cent. Hill climbing is substantially improved, and acceleration is a little better, even on the "economy" carburettor setting. Another important alteration lies in the higher gearing. Not only is top gear higher, but perhaps more important third gear is substantially closer to top. As a result, the transmission gives a higher cruising speed, greater economy, and a gearbox more suited to the car's requirements. I regard it as a tribute to good engine design that the car climbs and accelerates better in spite of this higher gearing.

In addition to greater output, the engine has been modified by a more robust crankshaft and connecting rods, and by lead-indium big-end bearings of increased size. Another pleasing alteration is the increased size of the clutch. This unit is particularly smooth in operation, and co-operates splendidly with an excellent new floor gearshift. The greater engine output results from an increase in the cylinder bore, and from the raising of compression ratio to high figure of 8.3 to 1. This high compression does not cause any complication with a clean engine, which proved to be most flexible. However, it will naturally require decarbonisation at reasonable intervals, which is not an undue price to pay for increased liveliness and fuel economy.

Hill Climbing and Touring Speeds

The Minor now climbs reasonably well in top gear. If a change down is required, it has a third gear in which most mountain passes can be climbed in lively fashion. The gears used, and speeds attained, on the regular test hills were:

  • BODINGTON (average grade 1 in 11.5): Top gear at 50-43-24 mph.
  • RIVER LETT (1 in 12, maximum 1 in 8.5): Third gear in a comfortable climb at 40-27-36 mph.
  • SCENIC HILL (1 in 10, maximum 1 in 8): Third gear, assisted by second for 200 vards on the central pinch, at 50-20-22 mph.
  • MOUNT TOMAH (1 in 12. maximum 1 in 9): Mainly third gear, after a start in top, at 50-30-36 mph.
  • KURRAJONG WEST (1 in 12): Top gear at 50-37-27 mph.
The power-to-weight ratio is now reasonably good at 48.6 b.h.p. per unladen ton. Over-all top gearing yields a road speed of 15.2 mph at 1,000 engine rpm. The Minor cruises very happily around 60 mph and its engine is never obtrusive. With time to fill in the car will amble at speeds down to 30 mph in top without loss of really good response. The average speed over the test route was 42.4 mph. Weather was fine with little wind.

Acceleration, Braking and Roadholding

Owing to the fairly high top gearing, it is desirable to use third gear freely for lively results in metropolitan driving. Prompt overtaking can be commenced from 23 mph in top gear, whilst top suffices from 30 mph. Times for acceleration from 20 to 40 mph were: Third gear. 9.8 seconds.; top gear. 14.7 seconds. From 30 to 50 in top required 17.6 seconds. The maximum torque is now 48.6 lbs-ft, but this is not developed until a speed of 46 mph has been attained in top gear, and 32 mph in third gear. The Lockheed hydraulic brakes give quite a good performance. Pedal pressures are moderate and results are satisfyingly prompt.

The lining area is rather restricted at 64 sq. ins. However, the brakes are well ventilated and the drums have a high heat capacity, so that no fade was encountered on the 3.5-mile coast down from Kurrajong Heights. The handbrake proved satisfactory, and stopped the car from 30 mph down the Victoria Pass (gradient 1 in 8). The Minor remains a leader among light cars in the matter of roadholding and handling qualities. It is as good as many a sports car in these regards. Cornering is very willing, and the car shows excellent adhesion on bends taken fast, under wet or dry conditions. Roll is quite moderate, and the tyres do not complain unduly when cornered hard.

Riding comfort is good in both back and front seats, and the Minor shows out well on either broken bitumen or pot-holed country roads. The suspension did not bottom on any occasion. At an average speed of 42.4 mph over the test route, the car yielded a very satisfactory 45 miles per gallon. This is equivalent to 41 ton-miles per gallon in the loaded condition. It gives a fuel-speed factor (ton-m.p.g. x average speed) of 1,740. At this rate of consumption, the tank gives a limited fast-cruising range of 225 miles.

Driver's Layout

The driver's individual seat is well designed to give support to the back, and no trace of fatigue resulted from a full day's driving. The wheel is slightly dished, and is comfortable enough. It verges on the large size for the car. The pedals are of conventional type, pleasingly low to the floor, with a short movement. They are widely separated and have generous pads. Vision is as good as one requires in all directions. The driver's window is traversed fully by 2 1/8 turns of the handle. The gearshift is now by a short remote-control central lever, with a most positive action and a moderate travel. Although the synchromesh can be beaten by a snatch, it allows quite fast changes without a sound. The instruments, comprising a large circular speedometer with a fuel gauge and the various warning lights in its dial, are poorly placed in the centre of the fascia. The driver must lean well across to read it accurately.

The warning lights for oil, generator. high-beam and turn indicators, are only of moderate luminosity, and being disposed well out of the driver's line of vision, are not satisfactory. The five lesser controls are in a neat row along the centre of the fascia, and so are difficult to identify at night. The handbrake is very good, being a powerful pull-up lever placed in precisely the correct position at the left of the driving seat. The wipers are conveniently of the self-parking type, but unfortunately are disposed without overlap, so that a large V of unswept glass remains right in the centre of the screen to its full depth.

Steering, Body and Engineering

Here we have a component that endears the Minor to keen drivers. The rack-and-pinion steering mechanism is most precise, and very quick. Only 2 1/2 turns of the wheel are necessary from lock to lock, yet the steering is never heavy. There is some reaction felt in the hands over bad roads, as this is difficult. but not impossible, to avoid in this type of steering gear. The turning circle of 33 feet is reasonable and the car can be manoeuvred readily enough. The front seats are of individual type and have cushions 18 inches wide. The seat is composed entirely of foamed rubber and is most comfortable even for long trips at the wheel.

The rear seat is the bench type, having an overall width of 46 inches. It is robbed of the highest degree of comfort by the fact that the squab is rather too upright. This squab folds forward, and is in fact entirely removable to open the rear compartment into the boot when no rear passengers are carried. The boot itself has a lid which opens upwards and a perfectly flat floor (over the spare wheel) with a luggage capacity of approximately 7 cub. ft. The windscreen is now of one piece and is curved, and the rear window is of similar construction. There are ventilating panels in the windows of the front doors. It is a little surprising that there is no provision for foot ventilation, although it must be admitted that the front compartment of this car is not unduly hot.

There are two useful glove boxes in the fascia, together with a full-width parcels shelf beneath it. As in the past, the interior trim of the Minor is good and the use of carpet on both floors, together with high-quality synthetic seat and door coverings, gives a pleasant appearance. The window framings are all chromium plated and the head-lining is of washable plastic material. One of the most pleasing characteristics of the Minor is the extreme accessibility of the engine and its ancillaries, in an unusually wide engine compartment. Bore and stroke are 62.9 x 76.2, and with a compression of 8.3, specific power output is good at 39 bhp per litre. The gear ratios are now more closely spaced at: Top 4.5, third gear 6.4 and second gear 10.8 to 1. Suspension remains the same, being torsion bars in front, and semi-elliptic leaves in rear. Piston shock absorbers are used all round.

Morris Minor 1000 Quick Specifications:

Engine: 4-cylinder, o.h.v.; bore 63mm., stroke 76mm., capacity 948 c.c., compression ratio 8.3 to 7; R.A.C. rating 10 h.p., maximum b.h.p. 37 at 4750 r.p.m.; S.U. down-draught carburettor, electric fuel pump, 12y. ignition.
Transmission: Single dry-plate clutch, 4-speed gearbox synchromeshed on top three; hypoid bevel final drive, 4.55 to 1 ratio.
Suspension: Front independent, by long torsion bars; semi-elliptics at rear; piston-type hydraulic shock-absorbers all round.
Steering: Rack-and-pinion, 25 turns lock-to-lock; turning circle 33ft. lin. right, 32ft. 77 in. left.
Brakes: Lockheed hydraulic, 63.8 sq. in. lining area.
Wheels: 14in. discs with 5.00 by 14in. tyres.
Dimensions: Wheelbase 86in.; track, front 50iin., rear 50 5-16in.; length 12ft. 4in., width 5ft. lin., height 5ft.; ground clearance 6%in.
Kerb Weight: 15.25cwt. as stated, 17cwt. as weighed for test. Fuek Tank: 5 gallons.
Performance: Top speed: 71 m.p.h. Flying quarter-mile: 69.5 m.p.h. Standing quarter-mile: 25.2s. Acceleration from rest through gears: 0-20, 4.2s.; 0-30, 7.6s.; 0-40, 12.5s.; 0-50, 20.6s.; 0-60, 33.5s:; 0-70, 84.0s. Acceleration in top: 10-20, 6s.; 10-30, 12s.; 20-40, 15.6s.; 30-50, 18.0s.; 40-60, 24.6s.; 50-70, 50.0s.; 60-70, 36.8s. Acceleration in third: 10-20, 4.2s.; 20-30, 4.0s.; 30-40, 5.6s.; 30-50, 12.2s.; 40-50, 7.0s. Acceleration in second: 10-20, 2.8s.; 10-30, 5.4s.; 20-30, 3.0s. Maximum Speeds in indirect gears: First, 24 m.p.h ; second, 35; third, 54. Fuel consumption: 35 m.p.g. overall. Speedo: Accurate at 30; 7.5 m.p.h. fast when showing 50, 2 m.p.h. fast on 60, 3.5 m.p.h. fast on 70, 4 m.p.h. fast on 75.
Price (1957): A£934 including tax (4-door model)
Morris Minor 1100

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Lost Marques - The William Morris Story
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