Mor­ris Mi­nor cel­e­brates its 70th birth­day


It was one of Bri­tain’s most pop­u­lar cars, it was de­signed by Sir Alec Is­sigo­nis and it wasn’t the Mini. And it is also 70 years old this year.

It is, of course, the Mor­ris Mi­nor and it made its world de­but at the Earl’s Court mo­tor show in Lon­don on the 20th of Septem­ber 1948.

The seeds for the de­vel­op­ment of the Mi­nor were sown in 1941 when, despite a wartime ban on civil­ian car pro­duc­tion, Mor­ris Mo­tors’ vice chair­man, Miles Thomas, de­cided that the com­pany needed to start plan­ning for its first car af­ter the war was over.

A promis­ing young sus­pen­sion en­gi­neer named Alec Is­sigo­nis had at­tracted Mor­ris’ chief en­gi­neer’s at­ten­tion with his in­no­va­tive ideas, so was bought on board the small se­cret pro­ject – code named ‘Mosquito’ – and was largely en­tirely re­spon­si­ble for the de­sign.

Is­sigo­nis’ brief was to de­sign a prac­ti­cal, eco­nom­i­cal and af­ford­able car for the gen­eral pub­lic that would ‘‘equal, if not sur­pass, the con­ve­nience and de­sign qual­ity of amore ex­pen­sive car’’, and what he pro­posed was pretty rad­i­cal for the time, in­clud­ing in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, rack and pin­ion steer­ing and uni­body con­struc­tion.

He also pro­posed a rad­i­cal en­gine – a water-cooled hor­i­zon­tally-op­posed four­cylin­der that Is­sigo­nis favoured be­cause its shorter over­all length would mean more cabin space, some­thing that he was ob­sessed with.

While the en­gine would end up be­ing a bit too rad­i­cal for Mor­ris, and the rear in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion would be re­placed by a con­ven­tional leaf-sprung set up, the rest of Is­sigo­nis’ ideas were im­ple­mented and in 1948 the Mi­nor was un­leashed on the world.

Only a two-door sa­loon or tourer were of­fered ini­tially – at a cost of £358 (roughly equiv­a­lent to NZ$25,000 to­day) – while a four-door ver­sion was added in 1950.

It would go on to be­come the first Bri­tish car to sell more than 1mil­lion units (around 1.6 mil­lion were even­tu­ally built) and would be made un­til 1972.

The first gen­er­a­tion Mor­ris Mi­nor MM was built be­tween 1948 and 1953, with more than quar­ter of a mil­lion be­ing made.

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