History of the 1956 - 1962 Morris Minor
The post-war recovery was beginning to take hold during 1947 when project 'Mosquito' was eventually developed into the Morris Minor and announced at the October 1948 Earls Court Motor Show. Arguably the most important car at the Show, the £359 Morris Minor was an attractive, low-priced, all British, small family car, destined to be in production for the next 23 years. Alec Issigonis had designed a masterpiece that had sharp handling and plenty of room inside, over and above the prewar Morris 8 and 10 that it replaced. The Minor was to be a best-selling car with 1,303,301 units sold. Rear-wheel drive of course, the Minor had independent torsion bar front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering and a live rear axle located by 1/2 elliptic leaf springs.
The first MM Series 'split screen' models (1948-52) sold 176,002 units and were initially powered by a 918cc 4-cylinder side-valve engine. A modest 27bhp at 4000rpm provided a 62mph top speed, with 60mph coming up in 36.5 seconds. Power was not sufficient though and was soon to be increased. Alongside the saloon was the MM Tourer, produced until 1953, which is now a very rare find.
In 1952 Morris merged with Austin to form BMC, the British Motor Corporation. As a result, the Morris Minor Series II appeared in 1952 -- still with a split windscreen -- but with a side-valve 803cc overhead valve engine, direct from the Austin A30 with a single SU carburettor. Offered from late 1952 in 4-door form, the existing 2-door and Tourers still had the old side-valve engine until early 1953. Slightly faster, it was still under-geared.
The 2-door Series II Morris Traveller estate car appeared in 1953 with aluminium panelling supporting distinctive wood-straking with two vertical rear doors. To cope with inevitable loads, overall axle gearing was lowered to 5.375:1 making the engine rev harder than the saloon at given speeds.
From October 1954 the instruments were relocated as a centre-dial dash, moved from in front of the driver, and the front grille design changed to the more familiar horizontal slats rather than the original detailed vertical type. By 1956 when the 803cc engine went out, 269,838 saloons and tourers had been built.
The new curved single glass windscreen and larger rear screen arrived in 1956 with the introduction of the 948cc overhead-valve 37bhp Austin A35 engine. This model was produced until 1962, with 544,048 built. A close-ratio gearbox was welcomed as performance improved with 37bhp at 4750rpm, a top speed of 73mph, and 60mph coming up in 25.9 seconds. The post-war fashion for semaphore trafficators mounted in the 'B' post was at an end and from late 1961 flasher indicators were fitted front and rear to make signalling clearer to other motorists.
From 1962 until the end of production in 1971, the more powerful and stronger 48bhp 1098cc overhead-valve engine boosted performance with more usable torque. Slightly more than 300,000 units were built and the Tourer version finished at the end of the Summer in 1969. Drum brakes front and rear were used right to the end, as were cross-ply tyres.
Many Morris Minor restorers exist in most parts of the country and spare parts availability -- both mechanical and structural -- is second to none. Rust is an issue and the Traveller's woodwork needs to be looked after since it provides rigidity to the body and can be expensive to repair. Everything is repairable and easy to fix.
The Morris Minor Owners Club has around 12,000 members, with online forums and many regional clubs organising monthly meetings to inform and educate Minor owners on all matters.
Tuneable and fun to drive, the Morris Minor puts a grin on drivers and roadside spectators today.