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A Car Is Born
The Minor was introduced at London's first post-war motor show at Earls Court in October 1948, after a gestation period of more than five years. Designed by the legendary Alec Issigonis (later knighted and better known as the designer of the Mini), the Minor offered a range of technical innovations at a budget price.
Advertising for the new Minor made much of its 'big car' features. The 1949 sales brochure proudly trumpeted that the new Morris was "the world's supreme small car" and "designed on big car lines then scaled down to make it the most economical Real Car ever to be built anywhere in the world". The marketing people concentrated on the new features, including the mono-construction body, independent front suspension and seating arrangements, with all passengers seated within the wheelbase.
Some of the Minor's so-called 'big car' features now seem rather quaint - for example, 'safety doors, hinged at the front, with private lock to driver's door and safety catch to passenger's door', 'an internal bonnet lock with ingenious safety catch at the front', an 'alligator bonnet' and 'hinged safety glass panels on leading edge of door windows for controlled ventilation' were obviously seen as influential selling points in 1949.
Strangely, one of the Minor's best features, its superb, pin-sharp rack-and-pinion steering, does not rate a mention in the sales blurb other than in the technical specifications tucked away at the end of the catalogue.
The Minor was known as the Mosquito during development.The original plan was for it to be powered by an air-cooled, horizontally-opposed 800cc four-cylinder engine. For a number of reasons, including the relaxation of Government legislation which had taxed larger-capacity engines, production models were actually fitted with the reliable old 918cc sidevalve unit that was first introduced in 1934 in the Morris 8 models. The small sidevalve motor looks almost lost in a cavernous engine bay clearly designed for a bulkier air-cooled unit.