1963 Morris Minor 1000

   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 by 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.

The Morris Minor 1000 series (1956 to 1971).

   The car that became the much-loved Morris Minor 1000 arrived in October 1956. Soon to become a favourite as an economical second car for the wife to run around in the Minor 1000 was a radical transformation of the MM. Thoroughly modernised and all together more solid and user friendly it also became increasingly popular in the United States.

   The split screen was swapped out for a larger one-piece front windscreen and the rear window became bigger too. There was an overlapping period were the previous clap-hands windscreen wiper system of the split screen cars remained in service until eventually moving to the now conventional pairing system. all round visibility was excellent, in the dry at least. Other visible differences include smaller rear wheel cut outs, larger front side-light/indicator and rear-light/indicator combo’s. New “Minor 1000” logos for the bonnet sides and the boot lid.

   On the inside the dashboard layout was upgraded with one, or even two, lids for the glove boxes, not that the one on the driver’s side was actually helpful! The steering column was redesigned to house the indicator stalk rather than the earlier, slightly awkward, switch under the dash arrangement. A new heater was fitted with a different frontage and the more modern two spoke black steering wheel replaced the dished wire spoke one. Other changes included the gear lever and handbrake being reduced in size, the gear lever moved backwards and the handbrake moved forwards to make a more ergonomically correct layout.

   The Minor 1000 title was marking the new version of the A series engine now being installed. 948cc of inline four-cylinder engine provided 37hp @ 4,750 rpm. At the same time a new gearbox was also fitted and suddenly the nimble little car was quite nippy too. Being able to maintain higher speeds was not only a boon on the new British Motorways but the Americans with their long freeways and expanse of space found the particularly appealing.

   As a matter course the Minor 1000 was constantly being improved. Fuel capacity was increased in March 1957 with a larger six-and-a-half-gallon tank replacing the old five gallon’ one. It did push its way into the boot space a little but journeys could now be extended and worrying about the fuel level was a little less urgent. The ride was softened by reducing the rear springs from seven to five leaf units; although this did have a less than positive effect on the cars handling characteristics. Around this time the Traveller got a roof upgrade in that a canvas roof lining took the place of the earlier Rexine board. Convertible’s, on the other hand went from having canvas hoods to having ones made of plastic!

   In 1959 the interior was the centre of attention a wider parcel shelf fitted under the dash’ and the horn button was relocated to a much more convenient position in the centre of the steering wheel. Indicator stalks became self-cancelling and had a large green repeater bulb on the end of the stalk. I a small upgrade of the exterior all road wheels and grills were painted pearl grey. 1959 proved to be the best year for sales in the U.S.A., a total of 14,991 being sold in America alone.

   The landmark moment for the Minor 1000 was the production of the millionth Minor. Rolling of the production line at Cowley, on the 22nd of December, 1960, a 2-door saloon, in King's Road lilac, made the Minor the first British car to reach this level of production. Such an achievement deserved to be celebrated and Morris decided a run of commemorative replicas of this millionth Minor should be made. 349 additional special cars, painted “Minor Millions Lilac” and featuring white upholstery, went onto the market, a good amount of which survive to this day. A final total of 350 “1,000,000th” Minors were produced; why 350? One for each Morris dealership in the UK. One special, but unobtrusive change was the bonnet and boot lid badges which for this run read "Minor 1,000,000" in place of the regular Minor 1000 logos. As part of the promotional campaigns Morris donated the millionth Minor to the National Union of Journalists to be a competition prize to raise money for the union's Widow and Orphan Fund. Morris also provided a celebratory Minor for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London. This one was even more special though, it was made out of cake.

   Evolutionary changes continued through the Minors life. In 1961 the semaphore type trafficators were replaced by modern flashing indicators. These were combined into new larger lighting units front and rear, the front combined the side lights and indicators, the rear as one cluster in which the indicators made up about a third of the unit so the new rear lights are a third as big again as the out ones. Two-tone Vynide upholstery replaced leather on the deluxe range, standard range was the same but in single colour. In another odd reversal the lids for the glove boxes were dropped leaving open storage again.

   In October 1962 the Morris Minor engine was uprated again, this time up to a 1098cc. BMC had decided that the Austin-Morris engine ranges should be standardised around three different sizes. As the new Austin-Morris 1100 range was now on sale the larger engine, developed with tuning specialist Harry Weslake, it made sense to use it in the Minor as well. Basically, a larger A-Series engine it had a new taller block allowing an Increase in bore and stroke.

   Producing 48hp (36kW) @ 5,100rpm this 30% increase of power pushed the top speed of the Minor to 77 mph. With more low-end torque and a raised final drive gearing (from 4.55:1 to 4.22:1) drivers could cruise comfortably, relaxed in the knowledge of better fuel economy and haul four adults and a full load of luggage with ease. The engine increase was matched with a new baulkring gearbox and larger clutch. With more power comes the need for better braking, in this case the drums on the front wheels were increased in size. By a whole inch to 9 inches (23 cm) diameter.

   Internal changes included a new dash, featuring toggle switches and return of a glove-box lid but this time just for the passenger side which was the most practical combination, a new large black faced speedometer with white numerals incorporated an oil warning light, and an improved heater increased passenger comfort. In fact, the new 1100cc Minor had so many changes BMC gave it a new ADO development number, but, they sensibly kept the familiar Minor 1000 tag customers had come to love.

    All round performance was improved for a more enjoyable driving experience and the kept the Minor firmly in contention in the small to medium car class and attractive to fleet managers too. However, in America the US manufacturers were fighting back with their own compact models and the Morris Minor sales were falling off, so much so that BMC stopped selling the Minor in the U.S..

   Continued improvement came online year by year. In 1963 a better windscreen washer system was fitted and front seat belts became standard in response to the new laws coming into effect in 1964. For 1964 the old stitched upholstery was replaced by heat bonded vinyl, not to everybody’s liking but cheaper to produce. A neat new two spoke steering wheel was added, giving the car a modern look matching the Mini and 1100, and another feature finally given to the Minor was a combination ignition and starter switch on the dash’. Other safety improvements were the foam padding added to the front parcel shelf to protect the front passengers knees, a black plastic edging on the rearview mirror and the sun visors were now made from a crushable material to protect the head in case of accident. Practical improvements included a key operated door lock on both doors and a telescopic boot stay in place of the manual lift up bar system. 1967 became an important year for the Minor in a couple of ways, sealed beam headlamp units were introduced and in America the Japanese influx of what became called "sub-compacts" led BMC to re-enter the U.S. market. The uprated Minor gained in popularity again but in reality, the end for the Minor was already in sight.

   1968 saw the merger of the BMC with Leyland motors to create the British Leyland Motor Corporation. From this point onwards, development of the Minor dwindled as the new corporation concentrated on new models for the future; such as the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina. The Minor range was slowly phased out starting with the last convertible Minor tourer being built in June 1969. Production of the Traveller was moved to the ex-Wolseley plant at Adderley park, Birmingham the following month. This brought the Traveller under same production roof as the van and pick-up models. For a short time in 1970 the Minor was given optional reclining front seats and alternators rather than dynamos were used on some cars. Ultimately though this was not intended to boost the range. Minor production was cancelled and the last Minor 1000 was produced on the 12th of November 1970. Traveller and commercial productions continued for another year, in an increased range of colours and with steering-column mounted ignition key and a steering lock. The Traveller was finally stopped in April 1971 and the last Morris Minor 1000 commercial, a red GPO van, was built in December 1971.

   More than 1.6 million Morris Minors, in all its variants, were produced were manufactured in a production run of over two decades between 1948 and 1971. This figure includes 269,838 MM Series II cars and nearly 850,000 Minor 1000s.

   In hindsight, this end for the Minor 1000 might also be seen as coinciding with the beginning of the end for the traditional British motor. Poor labour relations, tragically bad quality and ineffectual management was endemic in the British Motor industry, try as it might to update itself the industry was killing itself from within and the beloved, quintessentially English, Minor, would be the last of its generation, and, along with Issigonis’ other miracle car the Mini, the last British car to be so affectionately remembered the world over.

1/24th scale kit.
Built by Rod & Ian

   Although there have been many models of the Minor from diecasts, toys, and scale model kits for some reason a 1/24th scale 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 first prototype model from the moulds and like all prototypes has highlights areas for improvement.

   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 April 2018 and finished the model for the museum collection as a preserved car rather than a pristine restored model.

   The model is finished with a custom mix of Deco-Art paints and Zero paints clear lacquer. 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 the chrome work along with Molotow liquid chrome pens for the smaller parts. Number plate decals are sourced from ebay