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1956 Morris Minor – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

There’s no shame in looking for a classic car that’s simple, that has enviable parts availability and that has a big following. In fact, these can often be the best classics, as they are open to those of us who perhaps aren’t as confident on the spanners as we’d like, or perhaps we don’t have an encyclopedic of all things automotive. Maybe you just have a passing interest in classics, you want the life and the outings, but without the mechanical stresses. Well, if that sounds like you, there are plenty of options. There’s the Mini, the MGB GT, pretty much any Triumph and of course, this, the Morris Minor.

Morris, Morris Minor, Morris Minor Convertible, Minor 1000, project car, Minor

It’s about as complicated as a block of cheese, but is also just as popular. There are businesses pleny that specialise in these cars, there is a massive following for them in the classic work, parts are never more than a phone call or a mouse-click away, and they’re just great little cars in their own right. If you’re just about to jump into the classic car world, the Morris Minor is the car for you. But if you’re going to do it, why not get a convertible, too? 

What is it?

The Morris Minor was the car by which a young and highly ambitious engineer would cement his name into the motoring history books. He has shown exceptional promise in his work specialising in suspension, and because of that and his forward-thinking ideas on car design, he was given the effective lead on the Morris Minor project, alongside two other draftsmen. This young engineer’s name was Alec Issigonis. Yeah, the same chap who would go on to give the world the Mini.

Morris, Morris Minor, Morris Minor Convertible, Minor 1000, project car, Minor

The Minor was to be a compact, comfortable, practical family car available in a number of guises. There would be a two-door saloon, a four-door saloon, a wooden-framed ‘estate’, a pickup, a van and of course, a convertible. Though for the first two generations of the Minor, the convertible was referred to as a Touring. 

The car we’re looking at here is a very early series three car, though it seems the original 948cc A Series engine has been changed at some point in favour of the later 1,098cc unit, but that’s no issue, as parts availability is still good. So what you’re looking at then is a Minor 1000 with 98 extra cc. The series three car can be identified by the horizontal slat grille, the bigger indicators and the use of a one-piece windscreen, rather than the split one of earlier cars. 

Why is it a project?

If this Minor came in a box, the box would read “some assembly required”. It looks very much like a project that has lost steam, but as is so often the case in these situations, someone else’s lack of motivation can be your gain. It doesn’t look like there is any deep, technical work to do. The car is described as being solid, and it also sounds like most of the parts are there. Though the vendor does state that some bits of trim and chrome are missing, but we wouldn’t worry too much about that.

Morris, Morris Minor, Morris Minor Convertible, Minor 1000, project car, Minor

What’s been done already?

All the hard and expensive work by the sounds of things. First of all, the car seems to be solid and apparently needs no welding. Then there’s the fact the Minor has been painted already, which is good, and it’s been done in a fetching shade of red. From the pictures it looks like a good job, but one that could do with a fair bit of detailing. The seller mentions that there’s a new Mohair hood to go with the car, the carpets are all new and the interior is all there, though curiously the rear seats are described as being “a bit chewed”. We have no idea if the seller is being literal there!

Morris, Morris Minor, Morris Minor Convertible, Minor 1000, project car, Minor

It looks like you’re going to need to find a couple of bits of trim, a lot of screws and clips, and then you’ll have to put it all back together. But given that a Morris Minor is about as complex as the inner workings of a tin of soup, it should be a simple project. 

Five things you should look for:

1) Trim

The vendor happily states that all the interior is there, but that doesn’t mean you should be complacent and just assume all is well. Check the condition of the seat frames, the steering wheel and the door cards. All these things are available, but can add up if you need them all. 

2) Engine

There’s no mention of whether or not that 1,098cc engine runs. As a bare minimum you want to find out if it turns, either by cranking it or by putting a spanner on it and doing manually. Also, we’d want to enquire as to why it has a different, later engine. It’s probably an innocent reason, but never hurts to know. 

Morris, Morris Minor, Morris Minor Convertible, Minor 1000, project car, Minor

3) Repairs

This little Minor has obviously had a lot of money spent on it, but that’s not a guarantee of good quality work. Check the floors and check them with a magnet, and do the same with the floors and the chassis rails. A fresh coat of paint can hide a multitude of sins. 

4) Paint

Yes, it’s been painted, and on paper that’s a good thing, but how well has it been done? You want to check the quality of the paint, is there any orange-peel, is there a crude amount of over-spray? Does it look like a rushed job? If it does, why? A cheap paint job won’t last long at all. 

5) Roof

The reason you’re buying this car is because you want to get the lid off when the sun shows its face, so check the condition of the roof, and by that, we mean the mechanism. Yes, this Minor comes with a new Mohair covering, but it needs a good frame in order to be any use. 

What should you do with it?

If it were us, we’d start by first putting it back together, then get it through an MOT for peace of mind. After that, we’d look at getting a bit more power out of it. The engine isn’t original, so the seal is already broken, so to speak. So how about dropping a K Series or Zetec in there, match it up to a five-speed ‘box, up the suspension and brakes, make it a proper modern driver. You can get off the shelf conversion kits for all that kind of stuff, so there’s nothing stopping you.

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