Manufactured by Morris Motors Limited, this British car made its debut in 1948 and more than 1.6m were manufactured between then and 1972. The original range consisted solely of a two-door saloon and a starting price of £358.
It was the first British car to sell over 1m units and is considered a classic example of automotive design, as well as typifying “Englishness”.
A 1952 motor magazine reported a top speed of 62mph, acceleration from 0-50 mph in 28.6 seconds and a fuel consumption of 39.3mpg was recorded.
In Ireland the Morris Minor was assembled by G. A. Brittain at Portabello in Dublin.
In fact, Ireland received the first Morris Minor car kits for assembly dispatched for export anywhere in the world, making us the first country outside Britain to have Morris Minor production. After Australia and the US, Ireland was the third most important market for this much-loved 1.0L car.
And so, the Minor found good homes among the Irish motoring public. It was plain enough for the parish priest, strong enough for the local doctor, fashionable enough for the sales executive, rugged enough for the farmer and handy enough for the lady driver.
It was just as much at home in Foxford as it was in Foxrock. Seldom was something so British so totally accepted by the Irish.
The basic bug shape was complimented by the Traveller, the wood trimmed estate version most commonly associated with 1970s BBC sitcoms.
There was another version: the van. This van was my first experience of the Morris Minor at close quarters. I got a lift most mornings on my way to school from the van owner. Amazingly, he was using the van in his role as a milk carter.
These days, in the early 1970s, witnessed the dying spasms of this old milk carting tradition (usually undertaken by horse and long cart), before the co-ops and the bulk takers took over.
Carting the milk churns for about six or eight local farmers in the back of his van, the driver sailed along singing the only song he knew, The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe. The interior of the grey van was absolutely rancid! Milk spillages that had occurred over the summer hardened into autumn when the resultant stench had only grown in concentration.
Coupled with this was this the smell of body odour, the waft of Sweet Afton cigarette smoke and a hint of last night’s fun. Slowly but surely, farm gate by farm gate, we picked up the cans of fresh milk destined for the creamery.
Eventually getting out of the van, I was glad of the fresh air of the school yard and relieved at the prospect of a good beating from the master for arriving late to school. I can still vividly remember the punishing smell of the interior of that Morris Minor van.
The Morris Minor always had one eye on the sales of the Volkswagen Beetle. Maybe it was a post-war UK-German thing, but whatever it was, the Beetle won out in the end. Sales of the VW were worldwide while the Minor had only 10% on the production capacity and a market largely confined to the Commonwealth. Eventually, towards the end, the last few Morris Minors were actually sold at a loss.
The Minor was officially replaced by the Morris Marina, which was developed primarily in response to Ford’s top-selling Escort. The Marina was developed under the watchful eye of British Leyland management where it beat all comers in a breakneck race to the bottom. To cut costs, rather than develop a new suspension set-up, the Marina used the obsolete chassis components from the Morris Minor.
In a 2016 report, Auto Express included the Marina on a list of the worst cars ever made, describing it as: “Unreliable, ugly and terrible to drive.”