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We’ve covered the history of Morris Minors in many IDRIVEACLASSIC videos before, so in this one, I thought I’d tell you a little of the interesting history of this particular car, because unlike my Morris Minors which are the most frequently spotted, this one isn’t one you’d expect to see in the UK and had a rather interesting start to life.
When the Minor was unveiled at the Earls Court motor show in 1948 it initially came as either a two door saloon or open ’tourer’ (convertible). The four door saloon as you see here was announced pretty much exactly two years later was launched as a slightly more upmarket better equipped and consequently more expensive version of the car and took advantage of a slight reworking of the side valve engine not long after the four door model’s launch which after engine number 77,000 now had the added ability to be run with a water pump, thermostat and of course a much appreciated interior heater. Previously the earliest versions were thermosyphon only ‘USHM2’ engined cars, the only way a heater could be fitted to these was by using a Smiths auxiliary water pump kit that mounted on the dynamo body with its pulley spring tensioned to the outside of the fan belt.
Engine wise this car uses the - Morris four cylinder side valve engine USHM3 engine, 27.5 bhp, 918cc engine originally designed for and used in the Morris 8 and then used in the Minor when launched before being replaced with the first generation of Austin’s A series engine in 1952 after the companies merged to form BMC.
The car is a very early example of the four door Minor that was introduced in late 1950. It still has a lot of lowlight ‘bits’ like the cowling on the front of the inner wings where the lowlight head lamps either side of the grill were shrouded to protect them. The often referred to early ’short bonnet’, replaced with the far more common full length bonnet by the end of the year.
It also has some very unique features only seen on early four doors such as chrome trim around the rear window rubber and swivel type ash trays inserted into the front door cards for a bit of added luxury! The painted grill and hubcaps are because of the Korean war causing a nickel shortage reducing amount of chroming that could be done.
Consequently Morris being Morris they decided to just paint a couple of the normally chromed items in the body colour as a short term solution so car production wasn’t impacted. By the end of the year the supply problem had been resolved so to have a car with these surviving painted items is a nice rarity.
However, this particular car is not a ‘normal’ Morris Minor that you would normally see in the UK especially as it had an interesting start to life when it was made in 1951 as an export left hand drive four door series MM Morris Minor and finished in the paint shade Thames Blue. The Thames Blue shade used briefly by Morris on their range from late 1950 to mid 1952. The other colour options at the time were Mist Green, Gascoyne Grey and of course good old Black which was offered continuously unchanged through pretty much the entire time the Minor was in production! The four doors were the first Minors to have trim colours entirely coordinated with the exterior colour, with the previous policy (and one that carried on for a bit on the two door and tourer cars) being trim supplied in the same shade with different coloured ‘piping’ used in the seats but all using the same main beige material colour. Initially the four door was only available as an ‘export only’ model so the fact this car did end up being sold on the home market when it was certainly makes it a bit of a ‘red herring’ to look at to those who aren’t right into their early Minor history.
Export was absolutely the name of the game for the initial post war British Motor industry with steel supplies rationed and companies only receiving their rations if they promised to export high amounts of their products, this was all to earn vital foreign currency and try to rebuild the countries economy and finances which had been decimated by the war. Issigonis’ Minor was seen as an ideal candidate being a small well engineered modern but not overly complex or frail car that foreign markets would have buyers in. Consequently demand did outstrip supply for the first few years until production figures steadily climbed and demand was met. In 1951 reached their highest level with 95% of Morris cars produced going abroad. The Nuffield organisation distributed cars to pretty much every corner of the globe with no continent off limits with cars finding use from locations such as South America to Central Africa to the streets of Hong Kong or the Australian outback.