Morris Minor MM, 1948

Unveiled at the British Motor Show at Earls Court in 1948, the Morris Minor was, for a time, one of Britain’s best-kept secrets.

The ‘Moggie’ had been conceived much earlier, in 1941, in a bid to have a new car ready for production when the war was over. However, because work on civilian cars was forbidden by the Ministry of Supply, the project was known only to a small group of people which didn’t include company founder, Lord Nuffield.

A promising young engineer, Alec Issigonis, was chosen to design the car (codenamed ‘Mosquito’) because of his progressive ideas. His original concept included unitary construction, four-wheel independent suspension, a new, flat-four engine and rack and pinion steering. It also featured a ‘wheel at each corner’ layout to maximise interior space, an approach that would later underpin his most famous design, the Mini.

The draft design had a narrower track but, quite late in development, was increased by four inches, leaving a distinctive centre line down the bonnet and cover plate in the bumper. For cost reasons, the existing Morris Eight side-valve engine was adopted for production along with a conventional live axle at the rear, but the independent torsion-bar front suspension, rack and pinion steering and small, 14-inch wheels would be retained for what was Issigonis’s first complete car design.

Lord Nuffield disliked the car, calling it a “poached egg” but, despite his scepticism, the Morris Minor was the most successful British small car until the advent of the Mini, and the first British car to sell one million units. The Series II followed in 1952 powered by a new, Austin A-Series engine, a version of which would later power the Mini. The Series III Minor 1000 was launched in 1956 and production of the Minor continued until 1972.

This is the very first production Minor, finished in Platinum Grey. Used as a press car and then sold on, Morris re-acquired it in 1961 in exchange for a ‘Minor Million’ built to mark the production of the millionth Morris Minor. To launch the Minor Million, a competition was held to find the owner of the oldest surviving Morris Minor: the lucky prize winner was a Mr Cyril Swift of Sheffield and that oldest Minor happened to be the first-ever Minor!

The car was kindly loaned by the British Motor Museum, Gaydon