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?
I’d love to have a Moggy Minor, all original outside, but would definitely need more power! Dad owned one briefly when our family first emigrated to Canada, but found it way too slow for the work commute; even in 1968 British Columbia. It was the color of Pea soup and I can still recall the smell of the interior; I think the seats were leather.
I wouldn’t want a Morris Minor, period, automatic or otherwise. Ugly little things. I’d rather have an East German Trabant.
Baby blue is definitely not the color for this car, I think the Minor looks better in a more subdued hue.
As far as I know there wasn’t a factory auto.I’ve seen a home brewed hot rod Minor with a Rover V8 and autobox at a show.
The factory never produced an auto, 4 speeds manually shifted was the only choice, easy cars to drive and a lot of fun to drive too fast on gravel roads, I got my licence at 15 in a Morry thou.
I would give a Minor a try. But never an automatic. Four cylinder engines and automatic transmissions (particularly those made before 1990) should be a prosecutable offense.
My 59 Hillman was available in automatic a Smiths gearbox apparently they didnt suck power from low horsepower engines, not popular very few sold here I know of no survivors though I do have a technical publication on that trans I got from a former dealer its well thumbed so I suspect he had close contact with one.
Was that the one with the electro-magnetic coupling? I vaguely recall something about these “Manumatic” transmissions which promised driving ease and mechanical efficiency but, apparently, delivered neither. My grandmother bought an automatic Minx in the mid 60s and that had a conventional automatic. Time for a full Hillman expose, Bryce? I might have to dredge up the “confidential salesman’s guide” I found a while back.
The only problem I see with running the Minor today is nothing to do with the car, but more the increased volumes and impatience of traffic generally.
The Mk1 850 Mini certainly came with a 4 speed automatic option ..the engine was beefed up a bit to overcome the power loss ..it had a bigger SU HS4 carb (in place of the manual trans SU HS2) and it had a higher compression ratio cylinder head as well
I converted my sister’s one to run with a 1098 short block and a 998 Cooper head but retained the SU HS4 carby on it. Used a better duration ‘268’ cam i think it was ..biggest issue was cooling and had to run an electric fan in the left guard valence and an oil cooler in front of the oil filter assembly to catch every bit of frontal air movement (ran the radiator coolant through the ‘oil’ cooler ..worked!!
Then we had an automatic Mk 1 Mini that could ton-up . . but the doors ‘opened-up’ a decent air gap between them and the roof above the top frames at that speed ..lol
That would be the Rootes Ëasidrive. There were two series of it. Yes, they shifted electrically. They had a number of Lucas relays. Need I say more?
indeed. Fortunately thanks to the wonders of eight-speed automatics and forced induction it’s now possible to buy a four cylinder car with an automatic that will be very sprightly. The BMW 228i springs to mind.
You could get automatic briefly on early Mk1 Escort 1100s, but the combination was embarrassingly slow even by the standards of the time. (It’s a sign of the technological progress of the past 50 years that the least powerful of Ford’s new 999cc triples is exactly twice as powerful as the old 1,098cc Kent and at least as economical.)
While I have to agree that the “original” Mini, at some point, got an automatic option, it was well after these Minors went out of production. So it’s about as valid as asking why these never had A/C or cruise control if a Mini would eventually be equipped with those options.
I used to own a 92 Integra with automatic, an okay car but the automatic makes that nice car “gutless” at low speeds. Yet I drove a 97 Civic with automatic that was fairly decent.
Oh, yeah, owned a 73 Capri 4 cylinder with the C4 automatic….not the Borg-Warner unit used on earlier cars, and it was fairly decent.
I’ve learned not to blanket rule out an automatic transmission in a small car without at least a good test drive.
If I recall correctly, the Mini got the automatic option in late 1965.
It seemed to function quite well ..gave us no problems that i can recall .. 🙂
(manufactured by ‘AP’ UK) ..even when the engine was considerably beefed-up ..it was also used in the 1100/1300 range of course .. 🙂
The blue paint reminds me of the Panda car our local Policemen drove.They had a white band round the roof and doors.I can’t remember if it was a 4 door though.Panda cars were sent to incidents were a pursuit was unlikely such as bar brawls and shoplifting.
My brother spent a bit of time in the back of them usually for fishing without a licence and riding motorbikes round the allotments as a 14 year old tearaway.
🙂 ..always wondered … what does ‘Panda’ stand for?? (‘polite and normally docile angels’??) ..imm :)))
I think they were called panda cars because of the 2 tone paint’s resemblance to a panda
Cute little thing ! .
I was looking at my poor little Morry two door to – day , I hope I’ll soon get caught up enough to get back to it , the ” Might As Wells ” are horrendous on this poor little thing .
Here in America, Datsun B210 engine and gearbox swaps are very common , either four speeds or the JATCO three speed slush boxes , either is a dead simple drop in .
My Morry has a 1275 C.C. engine from a Spridget and the improved rib case Spridget tranny too .
These are funky little cars , endearing to many , horrid to others .
I don’t know how anyone can call these cute cars horrid,probably the sort of person who hates puppies and kittens.I was surprised they were sold in America.
LOL Gem ;
Remember : there are Folks who don’t like ’57 Chevys , or old A Bopdy MoPars , any pickup truck ever made and so on….
Me , I like the basic , crudity of old British Cars , I grew up during that post WWII Boom when pretty much anything sold in America ~ you had to bhe here to understand I guess , plenty of people freezing their butts off in noisy cheap little imported cars that didn’t go fast , were often poorly assembled and forget about parts or Dealer support & service ! .
Nevertheless , Folks bought them in droves until they remembered that for the same $ (about $1,800) they could buy a four door AMERICAN MADE Sedan that had a real heater , plenty of room and usually even a radio .
Little British Cars tend to leak water in and oil out too….
My Sister just wrote me last night asking if My Morry would be ready to drive in the next time she visits…
I was born in 1957 and not everyone had cars in the UK.Most cars were small and British because petrol was expensive and foreign cars generally cost more.We usually had larger 6 cylinder cars as we were all tall(there’s some Dutch in us from a long time back).
Though crude these cars could generally be maintained by the owner and were easy to fix.As well as topping up oil and water you sometimes had to top up electricity
Yes Gem ;
I didn’t mention how older LBC’s were designed to run O.K. on low quality fuels and lubricants , handle terrible roads and almost zero proper Service in The Colonies ~
Talk to any Gray Hairs in an old British Colony and they’re always remember the LBC’s quite fondly .
RE : DIY maintenance , the owner’s booklet on my ’59 Hillman Husky detailed how to do a routine valve job and to add a _fourth_ piston ring to the bottom of the piston skirt to control excessive smoking…
If you take any sort of care of these plebeian cars , they’ll reward you with _DECADES_ of reliable inexpensive transportation .
Most Americans have no clue as to how expen$ive Gasoline was/is anywhere but America .
There are several Morry Thous in daily use around here, its hard to believe they are out of production, one of the drivers where I’m working has a Datsun 1200 powered flat deck pickup as a toy, this one is overpriced $3995 for an unregistered Minor is dreaming you can pick up minters for 2k or less they will never be rare or really collectable in NZ.
Morris Minor 1000 saloons were built well into 1970 and the Traveler survived into 1971.
Obvious way is install a Marina drivetrain, but its going to give a true Moggie experience if you do