1953 Morris Series II “MM”.     

   Two cars roll on British roads that are almost universally recognised and loved. The Morris Minor and the “Mini” Minor. Both the Minor and the Mini were designed by Sir Alec Issigonis and they are proof that the Issigonis mantra of “Space for passengers and payload, not mechanicals” appealed to the burgeoning throng of car owners with minimal mechanical knowledge but growing ambitions to be treated on equal terms as the upper classes, those who enjoyed the freedoms of motoring simply because they could afford it. It probably never occurred to Issigonis that either of these cars would be purchased and loved just as much by the rich and famous as they were buy the man in the street.

   While Issigonis and his team would later goon to the greater feat of engineering the “Mini”, Sir Alec’ was most proud of the Morris Minor.

   However, it should be remembered that this was not the first Morris to bear the “Minor” title. On the 1st of September 1928 Morris had launched a pretty little fabric bodied car to compete with the Austin Seven in the low-price market. It had an 847cc ohc engine that was so beefy it would make the little “Minor” the basis for the new MG company and their “midget”. This original “Minor” was superseded in 1931 by a cheaper version with a side valve engine and a price below £100! Unfortunately, the great depression hit in Britain Morris stopped “Minor” production in 1934, the title was shelved. What had been proved was that the idea of a car for the man in the street was a seller. A car that was simple, cheap, small (but able to carry a small family), strong and long lasting was something that the company would have to come back to in the future.  

   By the late 1930s the spectre of war was looming and as the war materialised the Government banned civilian car production and the Nuffield Organization, of which Morris was a part, was turned over to war production.  

   During 1941 Miles Thomas, Morris Motors' vice chairman, was turning his thoughts to post war production and wanted a new car to fill that low price, small car slot again. In discussion with the company's chief engineer, Vic’ Oak, the name of Alec Issigonis came up. This young engineer had been with Morris since 1935 and proved himself not only in designing clever suspension units but in putting forward pioneering ideas in general. Although some of Issigonis’ ideas were not initially used by Morris due to costs they were used post war on several MG and later Morris models.

   While everything at Morris was required for the war effort, Miles Thomas, Vic’ Oak, Sidney Smith (Morris' technical director) and Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis held secret meetings on project “Mosquito”. This was something similar to the goings on at Swallow Sidecars where design of the post war SS100 “Jaguar” car was taking shape. Why the secrecy? Well, for starters the Ministry of Supply was demanding everything be geared to the war effort; and, it was well known that the chairman of Morris Motors, William Morris, now Lord Nuffield, didn’t like radical ideas and had a strong dislike of Issigonis himself. Lord Nuffield actually refused to use Issigonis’ name referring to him simply as “that foreign chap”, or 'Issy-wossisname’.  


   Taken out of the Cowley works drawing office and presented with his own development workshop Alec Issigonis and two draughtsmen set about turning the ideas into useable designs. The chassis and suspension was drawn up by Jack Daniels and Reg’ Job drew the bodywork designs. Issigonis and a reputation for doing quick sketches of his ideas on whatever paper or card he had to hand at the time, these hasty sketches sometimes had more than one interpretation so the perseverance of Job and Daniels in creating proper useable plans should not be overlooked.  

   The overall concept was to have a car that: "the average man would take pleasure in owning, rather than feeling of it as something he'd been sentenced to"……. and ….. "people who drive small cars are the same size as those who drive large cars and they should not be expected to put up with claustrophobic interiors."  

   That is to say, an affordable, reliable, economical and practical car that had the same build and design quality as expensive cars. It was to be as roomy as possible on the inside, be comfortable to drive and have excellent road holding and accurate steering; not with any thought of racing the cars, simply to make them safe and easy to drive.  

   Having refined the Mosquito design and looks the battle over the costs of Issigonis’ advanced features led to Miles Thomas resigning from Morris motors. But despite Lord Nuffield's personal views most of radical features would be used, and costs would not adversely affect the final purchase price. The Cowley plant started tooling up for the new car in 1947 against concerns that Herbert Austin’s company was producing a conventional car that would be a competitor to the Minor and launching it before the Morris Minor. Although Morris aimed to launch their new car in 1949 the aforementioned concerns led the Morris board to insist on the Mosquito being ready for the October 1948 Motor Show, the first British post-war motor show.  

   It is usually expected a model’s code name, in this case Mosquito, goes on to become the actual name of the production vehicle. But the name was another of the things Lord Nuffield didn’t like about the car. His misgivings were echoed by Morris' marketing department who believed that such an innovative and different car needed a more reassuringly British name to help sell it to a cautious British public. Remembering the 1928 Morris Minor had at its time presented new and innovative features, as well as being the 1st British 4-wheeled car to sell for £100, it was decided to reintroduce the “Minor” name with this new model.  

   On the 27th of October 1948 the new Morris Minor was presented to the world at the British Motor Show at Earls Court in London. A starting price of £358 was all that was needed to purchase a new two-door saloon or for a little more a two-door tourer model could be had. Issigonis' ideas and designs could also be found on the company’s other new vehicles launched at the show. New 1.5 litre Morris Oxford and 2.2 litre Morris Six models, and more upmarket Wolseley badged versions of the same cars, were in many ways scaled up minor variants. The star though was still the little Morris Minor, a revolutionary and cutting-edge design that was shaming the rest of Europe’s economy cars which were mostly still using pre-war engineering. Just to be clear there wasn’t an upmarket Wolseley version of the Minor but a prototype Wolseley Minor, and even an MG prototype, was built. 

   More than half a million people came to the show, some searching for a chance to enjoy the joys of motoring that wartime experiences had given, other out of simple interest and yet others looking to temper the monotony of life in the austerity and rationing that was post war life. The spacious Morris Minor, that could stretch the petrol ration a little further and was within the reach of so many more people, was dubbed “the show sensation” by Motor magazine; the car was a hit with the public and press alike. If the Jaguar XK120 was the epitome of chic stylishness, then the Morris Minor was the British “people’s car”. Despite its bulbous nose and split windscreen this was a car people could actually aspire to own.  

   The public saw something very different to the entry level car we might expect today. It had only one windscreen wiper, the passenger’s side one being an optional extra, and only the driver was worthy of a sun visor. Continuing in this theme the only rear light was on the driver’s side, the passenger side had naught but a reflector. Another curious feature of the time was the British law that didn’t just dip the passenger side headlamp but required the driver’s side headlamp to switch off. These headlamps were then mounted within the grill surround and looked very different from the usual cars of the era. Visibility wasn’t fantastic but certainly adequate, at least while going forward; the rear window was considerably smaller than that which became the norm from the series II cars and on until 1970. The rush to add the extra four inches of width meant that the early production cars, already assembled prior to Issigonis’ decision were sold with a painted section at the centre of the bumpers to cover the space left in widening the cars.  

   The original MM series ran from September 1948 to February 1953 featuring just the 2-door saloon and convertible models until the four-door saloon was added in 1950. With the British government’s mantra of “export or die” ringing in their ears Morris initially meant the four-door for export only, around 75 percent of early production went overseas as demand in the UK changed the powers that be at Morris to sell the four-door in the home market too. As with all cars, changes are regular occurrences and in 1949 the cellulose paint finish was replaced with a modern synthetic paint. This paint was now used on the window surrounds where Chrome had fallen out of favour. The drivers rear light now found a partner on the passenger side and in June of ’49 both rear lights grew up into bugger units. This was followed up with two sun visors becoming standard too.  

   1950 also saw other changes to the cars, largely in response to export market needs. The cars sold poorly in the US where they fell foul of new Californian lighting and safety regulations. The head lamps had to be moved from the low inset positioning to a higher fairing on top of the wings. This position soon became the now familiar position for all Minors from 1951 onwards. Incidentally, Alec Issigonis hated the way his wing profiles had been altered and referred to this adulteration of the cars clean lines as ‘vandalism’! A further addition was an actual water pump as standard. The thermos-gravity fed system wasn’t brilliant and the new pump meant that Morris could also now add an interior heater to the list of optional extras.  

   The four-door car had been on the drawing boards from 1946 but only made its public debut at the 1950 Earls Court Motor Show. They had two windscreen wipers and were the first of the Minors to have a one-piece bumper, Morris having finally used up all the original narrower “split” bumpers. The four-door car was significantly heavier than the two-door and reduced the top speed of 60mph. Another new item was the addition an interior light and of a self-cancelling system to the trafficators. These semaphore-type turn indicators had been operated by a timed unit under the dash which had led to over hasty passengers leaping prematurely from the passenger side door hitting the trafficator and damaging it; though they were themselves often punished with a bruise to remind them not to do it again. 

   Some 1951 alterations saw the bonnet extended backwards toward the windscreen requiring a redesigning of the hinges too and the convertible now had by fixed glass windows rather than the previously removable side screens. 

   The car that had given the working class affordable, reliable and comfortable motoring ended with just over a quarter of a million having been sold. A backdrop of financial risk and business prudence hadn’t halted the MM series cars selling well enough so when Morris lost its independence to become a part of the British Motor Corporation, alongside bitter rivals Austin, the Minor retained its place in the product range and benefited from further development ideas.  


   World war two may have been a victory for Britain and its European allies but the financial costs were crippling. Destroyed factories, material shortages, lack of money and Government imposed export requirements (to obtain permission to buy steel) strained all the motor car manufacturers and Morris was no exception. So it was that Morris, under Nuffield Organisation (which also included MG, Riley and Wolseley), and their most hated competitors, Austin, ended up combining their companies in order to remain in business. The new British Motor Corporation (BMC) now had competing lines under the same umbrella and two work forces determined not to get along with each other. The Austin 'Seven' series was set against the Morris Minor range, but, there was a silver lining to this situation; Morris now had access to Austin’s 803cc 'A-series' overhead valve 4cyl’ engine. This power unit might have had a smaller displacement, but it produced more speed for the Morris Minor. The new acceleration figure for 0 to 50mph was 28 seconds and top speed was 63mph. Still not a startling acceleration figures but an improvement all the same, adding to the fun factor with its livelier engine.  

   This was the start of the Morris Minor Series II models which were strongly advertised with phrases like "New Power for The Minor".

The Morris Minor Series II  

   Announced in July 1952 the 'Series II’ Minor was, at first glance, visually the same as the previous version apart from the engine. The new A series engine put out 30bhp at 4,800 rpm and was a very reliable unit which remained on line into the 1990s in the Austin Metros. What differences there were added up to cosmetics like the whole range now having the hubcaps with the M in the centre, previously only on the four-door cars, and a new raised bonnet badge. The four-door saloon cost £631 including taxes in 1952.  

   The Series II range was expanded in May 1953 when the ‘Light Commercial Vehicles', that is to say a ¼ ton van and a pickup, or “Ute” (slang for utility), were added to the range. These vehicles had a separate chassis to compensate for the loss of all-round strength of the cut down unitary construction, as well as the increased load bearing considerations. There rear bodywork was all in steel. We mention this as it is in contrast to the other new model launched in October 1953, the delightful wood-framed estate titled “the Traveller”. The Traveller was similar in its chassis construction to the saloon but with the rear bodywork having an external structural ash wood frame with aluminium panels, two side-hinged rear doors giving access to the load area. The highly visible wood frame was varnished while the panels were painted body colour; this whole appearance was to become iconic. This style of bodywork needed some co-operation from MG as Morris’ Cowley plant now lacked the equipment to do body on chassis style work having turned completely over to the unitary system. As such the half-built Travellers left Cowley to go to MG’s Abingdon factory where the staff still had the tooling and experience to create wood-framed bodies and put them on the chassis.  

   October 1954 saw the most extensive facelift for the Minor when the “cheese grater” grille was dropped in favour of the more modern horizontally slatted unit. The side lights moved out of the grill surround to nestle under the headlights on the wings and on the inside the gold painted dash was dropped in favour of body coloured units with a new shape to accentuate the large, centrally mounted, speedometer.  

1/24th scale kit conv'.
Built by Rod and Ian.

   Although there have been many models of the Minor from diecasts, toys, and scale model kits for some reason a 1/24th scale kit version has never been made on a production level. This model started as just a resin body shell purchased by Ian for Rod in 2015. It disappeared into his collection but resurfaced during 2017. Rod then did a lot of scratch building and between Rod and Ian the body was totally reworked and a full resin model kit produced. This is the second prototype model from the moulds and like all prototypes has highlighted areas for improvement or opportunities for conversion.

   Rod started this model in a rush for the 2017 IPMS Scale model world show. Unfortunately, the model could not be completed in time and the build stalled. Ian took over the build in late 2019 and finished the model for the museum collection but converted it to an earlier form of the 'MM' with a different front grill and lighting arrangement as well as the split front windscreen.

   The model is finished with Zero gloss black paint and clear lacquer over a primer coat of AlcladII black primer. Humbrol enamels and acrylic paints from Citadel and Deco-Art have been used for the interior and detail painting. Bare metal foil has been used on some of the chrome work along with Molotow liquid chrome pens for the smaller parts and Zero chrome on other parts.