When I was growing up on a farm in the west of Ireland in the 1950s and 60s, a Morris Minor did not warrant a second glance. They were everywhere. They provided utilitarian transportation for countless families. Occasionally a convertible version driven by a British tourist would attract my attention. The top usually remained up because the visitor discovered the weather in that part of the world was extremely changeable. If the owner wanted to experience the thrill of motoring along with the warm sun in his hair he should have headed to southern France. Most British people were not quite ready for vacationing in mainland Europe at that time. Much better visit Ireland where English was spoken, the food was familiar and the natives were friendly.
Most Morris Minor owners I knew drove the standard saloon version. Some tradesmen bought the van for carrying tools and equipment. Their children sat on improvised wooden benches or toolboxes on the way to church on Sunday morning. The woody version of the van was quite attractive.
To say I was pleased to see a number of Morris Minors at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction in January is an understatement. I was quite thrilled. At last the humble family car was recognized for its worth. Yes, there were many, many more glamorous automobiles available in Ireland at the time. Even in my neighborhood there were diesel Mercedes, large Ford Consuls and a lumbering Austin Cambridge. The Morris Minor did not win the Monte Carlo Rally, get bought by film stars and pop singers or give its owner a feeling of importance. Instead it provided transportation for people who would otherwise have had to continue using a horse and buggy. (Or perhaps suffer the humility of driving something such as a NSU Prinz.) It was transportation for the masses. And it was much more liked than the Mini which practical rural Irish people considered too small.
Introduced at the Earls Court motor show in 1948 a staggering 1.3 million Morris Minors were manufactured before production ceased in 1972. Sir Ales Issigonis, perhaps better known for the Mini, was responsible for its design. He successfully combined a reasonable level of luxury and comfort in a working-man’s car. The Minor was not quite loved in its time but one never heard a disparaging word spoken against it.
When the bidding was all over at Kissimmee I watched a happy man drive his newly acquired 1959 convertible Minor out of the exit gate. He had paid $17,000 for the beautiful green car (see photo).
Another Minor sold for $15,000. It had 27,000 miles on the speedometer. It had the original 1098 cc 48 horsepower 4-cylinder engine under the bonnet (hood) and had been fitted with new brakes, exhaust and fuel pump. Parts are readily available and reasonably priced. Disc brakes are now available to replace the original drums should the new owner wish to improve the car’s retardation.