Bryce Chessum posted these pictures of what looks to be an incredibly well-kept Morris 1000 that’s on sale. One of those pictures was titled “Manual, as if you had a choice.” That got me into thinking. Was there another option?
Strictly speaking, no. The Morris 1000 was only ever available with a manual gearbox. Who knows why? The Mini had one. It may have made them less exciting to drive for the enthusiastic motorist that cared more for the Mini’s handling than its practicality but it showed it could be done. So no dice there. But what about aftermarket automatic conversions?
If an automatic conversion seems far-fetched consider this; SVG motor sport, a British tuner specializing in classic race car conversions has a section dedicated exclusively to the tuning and preparation of Morris Minors. Chassis builder Chris Issacs (Not to be confused with Chris Issak) built a Morris Minor circuit racer powered by a 383 small-block Chevy engine producing more than 400 horsepower. All of a sudden the idea of someone putting an Automatic in one doesn’t seem that far-fetched. And so I took to the internet, knowing I’d find something interesting. My findings are as baffling as they are filled with ingenuity.
It seems the easiest way to “make” an automatic Minor is to swap the engine and gearbox from its successor, the Morris Marina (Possible donor shown above). Apparently “…the only box that fits sensibly is the Marina…” according to a Morris Minor specialist in Bristol. The automatic gearbox in a Marina is a Borg-Warner model 65 that also saw duty in the Jaguar XJ6 and the Rover SD1. Apparently the gearbox of a Datsun B210 will fit with a little more work. And if you’re really bold and willing you can do what a valiant soul on the Morris Minor owner’s forums and bolt a Mini sub-frame with the engine and the automatic gearbox. We’re talking some serious cutting and welding in that last instance.
All very nice for theoretical automatic Minors, but what about a practical example. Well, a look through auction sites got me this. An equally blue 1958 Minor 1000 for sale in Queensland, Australia. For sale at a not inconsiderate AU$ 6,200. This particular vehicle has been benefited with an engine and gearbox from a Datsun 1200 (B110). So it has 70 Horsepower to make up for the 3-speed automatic.
Inside the only thing that gives it away is the gear selector. All-in-all it seems that a lot of care was taken when converting it. So, to answer the question I presented on the top of this article. Yes, there have been automatic Minors, but you’ll have to look hard to find one or have deep pockets to make one. Now the only remaining question is, would you actually want an Automatic Morris Minor?