Spacious, comfortable, reliable and practical, the Morris Minor is one of the easiest and cheapest classic cars to own
• Project £500-1200 • Good £1800-5500 • Concours £6000-8000 •
• Most expensive at auction: £17,000 (1968 190-mile example)
Running costs ★★★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★★★
The Morris Minor may have been utterly conventional in its engineering but it has one of the most distinctive shapes ever designed and it just exudes post-war British charm. As a result, while the Minor isn’t a landmark from a technical point of view, it’s easy to see why the car is so revered.
The Minor isn’t just about style though; it has substance too. Easy to drive, spacious enough for the family to come along for the ride and brilliantly served by an army of clubs and specialists who can provide everything you might need to keep your Morris going, owning a Minor is almost as easy as owning a modern car.
Your AutoClassics Morris Minor inspection checklist
Early cars with the sidevalve engine have all but disappeared, but if you do find one for sale the most likely problem will be burned-out valves. The 803cc A-Series unit fitted between 1952 and 1956 also offers very little power which is why tired engines are common; these small-capacity powerplants have to be thrashed to make progress.
The nicest engine of the lot is the 948cc A-Series engine fitted from 1956 until 1962, which might not be as powerful as the 1098cc lump but it’s sweeter. However, the 1098cc engine is the most usable as it’s the most powerful, although conversions to the more powerful 1275cc powerplant aren’t rare.
The A-Series engine’s conventional design means spotting a tired unit isn’t hard; just look for the blue exhaust smoke as you start up or accelerate through the gears. Low oil pressure and lots of knocks and rattles are also likely, but DIY rebuilds are straightforward enough and parts availablity to do this is excellent.
The Minor’s gearbox is its Achilles’ Heel. All Minor transmissions lack first-gear synchromesh, but if gearchanges are really crunchy, or there’s lots of whining or rumbling, a rebuild is overdue. That’s fine if it’s a 1098cc car but parts for earlier gearboxes are really scarce, which is why many Minors have been converted to a later gearbox, or one from an MG Midget.
The clutch and rear axle are strong but the latter will whine when it’s ready for a rebuild; everything is available to overhaul a Minor diff. The same goes if there are clonks as you manoeuvre; that’ll be the universal joints in the propshaft and driveshafts but there’s no cause for concern as fixes are cheap and easy.
Suspension and brakes
The front suspension should be lubricated every 3000 miles if the kingpins aren’t to wear out. To check for wear, support the car’s weight under the lower suspension arms then check for play by gripping the front wheel top and bottom and rocking it. If any play is evident it’s time for some rebuilt kingpins with new trunnions top and bottom.
At the back there are lever arm dampers, which often leak, although many cars have been converted to telescopic dampers. Because the conversion brackets are welded in place it’s possible to get the location wrong so the tyres rub on the dampers. It’s also possible to convert to telescopics at the front, with the lever arm units retained to locate the upright.
All Minors got drum brakes all round but converting to discs up front is possible, if not essential thanks to the car weighing so little. Alternatively it’s possible to fit a servo for significantly less money. Because the brake master cylinder is under the driver’s seat it gets overlooked, and because it gets showered by debris it might be the worse for wear, but replacements are available.
Corrosion often festers out of sight then appears, by which time major surgery is required. Panel availability is excellent but that doesn’t mean a car will be economically viable to restore.
Careful scrutiny is essential before buying so check everywhere. As you’d expect the sills, wheelarches and valances should be your first ports of call, along with the rear spring hangers as repairs are complicated. If both hangers have rotted expected corrosion in the floorpans, the rear chassis extensions and also the front chassis legs.
Replacement doors are scarce but there’s some interchangeability. There are two types: one for the van, four-door saloon and pick-up and another for the Traveller, Tourer and two-door saloon.
The Traveller’s wood is structural, so repairs are a big undertaking as doing things in sections isn’t possible. If you’re looking at a Tourer (convertible) be careful as conversions from two-door saloons aren’t rare. It’s possible to do things properly but such cars will never be worth the same as a genuine Tourer so don’t pay over the odds. The second letter of a 1952-1958 Tourer's chassis number will be C, while later cars used an MAT prefix. Any car registered after June 1969 will be a conversion.
Even the tattiest Minor cabin can be revived thanks to the availability of high-quality repro trim, with leather and vinyl both available. Replacement soft tops are also available along with carpet sets and headlinings.
The simple electrics tend to be reliable but some cars are now suffering from brittle wiring and poor connections. Repairs are generally easy but if the worst comes to the worst you can buy a fresh loom.
- 1948: The Minor MM debuts at the Earls Court motor show, with low-set headlights and a 918cc side-valve engine.
- 1949: The headlamps are moved to the top of the front wings, initially for the North American market only.
- 1950: A four-door saloon is introduced, for export markets only.
- 1952: Series II cars arrive, with 803cc power; it’s a result of BMC being formed from Morris and Austin merging.
- 1953: MM production ends, then a van and pick-up appear, along with the Traveller.
- 1954: The Series II gets a facelift, with a revised dash plus a new grille and lights.
- 1956: The Morris 1000 replaces the series II. There’s now a 948cc engine, revised rear wings and a one-piece windscreen.
- 1961: Just 350 Minor Millions are built, to celebrate the millionth Minor leaving the factory.
- 1962: A 1098cc engine supersedes the 948cc unit.
- 1963: There are fresh front and rear lights.
- 1964: All Minors get better seats and heating plus a revised dash.
- 1969: The final Tourer is made.
- 1970: The saloon bows out.
- 1971: The last Traveller, van and pick-up are built.
- 1974: Production of the Minor ends in New Zealand.
You’re unlikely to come across a side-valve Morris Minor for sale but if you do, buy it only if you know what you’re letting yourself in for; a lack of performance makes these cars hard work on longer journeys.
Split-screen Minors have charm and collectability with greater usability, especially if upgraded sympethatically. All of the bodystyles have their devotees, with the Traveller offering brilliant practicality and the Tourer providing top-down fun while the saloons are more affordable but just as usable.
Scruffy, badly modified and poorly upgraded cars aren’t rare, but neither are superb cars that are original or otherwise. The Minor’s simple construction make it easy to do pre-purchase checks and don’t be put off by a car that’s had a bigger engine fitted if the work has been done well.
While Minors with a Rover K-series or Fiat twin-cam engine are an acquired taste, something with a 1275cc engine, disc brakes and a five-speed gearbox will be more usable than a completely standard car – and it will look just as appealing with the bonnet up at a show, as an unmodified Minor.
Series MM (1948-1953)