Curbside Classic: 1966 Morris Mini Traveller – 1966 And All That

Finally, CC can be treated to the coolest Mini variant of them all: the woody Traveller. I had been catching glimpses of these here and there in this Mini-mad town, but it took me a couple years to find one standing still. And a pretty quirky one it was, too!

CC has covered the Mini pretty extensively by now, but not many LWB variants have been shown here. And of all the long Minis, the Traveller / Countryman has to be the most iconic. This one happens to be festooned with a pile of accessories, as well – a bit of bling always helps to keep up appearances.

And let’s face it, the Traveller is all about appearances. That timber, lovely though it may be, is decorative, not structural – unlike the Morris Minor wagons that were still being made in those years. In fact, the Traveller / Countryman was made from 1960 to 1969 only, whereas the older RWD Minor (because the Mini is also called “Minor” when wearing a Morris badge, just to add to the confusion) was made it all the way to 1971. And it was also called “Traveller,” as this was Morris-speak for “estate.”

Our feature car is one of the 99,000 that wears the Morris badge, but about 108,000 wood-clad Minis were of the Austin persuasion. A little over 8000 units were also assembled in Italy with an Innocenti badge as the Mini T (1966-70), but by and large, the woodie Minis are all either Austin or Morris. And being that they were only made until 1969, the majority of them are Mark 1 Minis (the Mark 2 arrived in late 1967).

Our time-Traveller hails from the year 1966 – a belter of a year, for all things British. London was the heart of fashion, cinemas were showing films like Alfie, Blowup and Fahrenheit 451, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were on TV, England won the World Cup, the Beatles dropped Revolver… Crazy times. Mind you, one could pretty much say the same of most of individual years of the ‘60s. The tried and true rose-tinted glasses also help, of course.

As do rose-filled fender mirrors, obviously. The Flower Power movement was already well under way, though it hadn’t yet reached through every corner of the Western world yet. In the UK, the Mini was the fashionable car to be seen in – it was either that or a Phantom V and little in between, really – so this one is definitely keeping up with then-current trends.

The presence of yet another automatic transmission is giving me pause. The Mini and the ADO16 got a 4-speed auto as an option starting in 1965, but I do wonder if any Travellers were ever fitted with one. In any case, there are just too many automatic Minis in Japan – there must be a cottage industry, either in the UK or here, to turn manual Minis into automatic ones. It seems they did this back in the late ‘80s with a lot of Vanden Plas Princess 1100/1300s, so I bet the equally sought-after Traveller must have had the same operation done.

That’s not to say that the whole vehicle was scrubbed clean of any trace of its history. Expired since 30 November 1968, eh? Imagine the pre-decimal late fees on that!

OK, now that’s a bit much. I draw the line at lanterns, or whatever these are trying to be.

It’s interesting that the Mini moniker was only actually bestowed upon the Morris variant, albeit in a hyphenated form with the “Minor” name, though folks probably never bothered with that bit. In the same vein, I doubt anybody ever called the Austin version a “Seven.”

This late Mark 1 is also supposed to feature the famous hydrolastic suspension, which replaced the Mini’s rubber cone springs in 1964. This allegedly improved the Mini’s notoriously stiff ride quite a bit, but it also drove up costs – both manufacturing- and maintenance-wise, so the rubber cones returned in 1969 (or 1971 for the Clubman) and stayed there until the end of the Mini in 2000. It was hard enough for BMC / BL to squeeze a profit out of the Mini without adding a complex suspension into the mix.

I suspect that’s also why they quit gluing bits of dead tree on the Mini wagons. The esthetics and the snob appeal of the Traveller / Countryman were outweighed, in the end, by the cost-cutting simplicity of just having one all-steel long-roof Mini, with the Clubman Estate. This coincided with the nixing of the weirdo “big butt & chrome nose” Wolseley and Riley versions, which were also replaced by the staid-looking Clubman at the end of 1969.

The first decade of the Mini was really when the model was at its most attractive and fun, which I think is very well illustrated by this Traveller. It’s not taking itself too seriously, it’s floating on hydrolastic-fantastic cushions and has a wooden trunk, which sounds redundant, but is actually cool as can be. So this not-so-little but quite Memorable Mini is definitely a Good Thing.


Related posts:


Car Show Classic: 1960 Austin Seven (Mini) – The Future Started Here, by Roger Carr

CC Capsule: 1964 Morris Mini-Minor – Passing The Sniff Test?, by T87

Curbside Classic: 1980 Austin / BL Mini 95 Van – Just More Of It To Love, by T87