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.