Lowlites, Splitties, Thous and Millions Lowlites, Splitties, Thous and Millions
Lowlites - Splitties - Thou's - Millions

Buying a Minor

Or, how to avoid ending up with a lemon ...

The Morris Minor may be renowned for its reliability and ease of maintenance, but it still rusts!


Unlike with some other makes, most of the Minor's most rust-prone areas can be easily checked by visual inspection with a stout screwdriver to scrape away dirt. Overalls are also a good idea...

Starting on the outside of the car, the first area to check is the trailing edge of each front mudguard. The rear section of the guards consists of an inner and outer section and the two provide a perfect spot for a build up of mud - there is a good chance that any front guard that you find will have at least some rust in the back 50mm section, with the worst affected area at the very top of the guard. Many cars have been bogged up and repainted in this area so check carefully - if you do find some rust, it is not the end of the world, as rust repair sections are readily available, not too expensive, and reasonably easy to weld in place of the rotted section. Rear guards can sometimes rust on the lower rear section but this is much less of a problem. Look also for rust around the headlamp bowls.

Next check the bottom 50mm of the door skins and the bottoms of the doors themselves, from underneath. As with just about any car, these are often rusted out due to blockage of the drain holes. Once again, repairs are not difficult but if you don't want to go to all that trouble, sound replacement second-hand doors in good condition are available for reasonable money.

The bootlid tends to rust along the bottom 50mm due to trapped moisture between the inner frame and outer skin. Open the boot and check for corrosion just inside the lower lip of the boot opening, and especially right in the back corners adjacent to the bumper bar brackets. Now check inside the car under the floor carpets - don't be surprised if you can see some daylight, especially in the rear floors. Convertibles are especially prone to rusted floors, but don't be too concerned - repair sections are available, or you can easily make up your own repair sections from flat sheet metal if preferred.

That's the end of the easily seen bits - it's now time to start crawling under the car to look at some other common problem areas.

Start with the engine rails, two box sections which run from a point under the front seats forward to the front of the car. The two rails are joined at the front by another short box section, underneath the radiator. Minors commonly have rusted out rails, especially in the first 600mm or so, and the cross rail at the front. Part of the reason for this occurring is the tendency for the radiator to overflow and water finding its way into the box section, which also fills with dust and dirt to ensure moisture remains in contact with metal for the maximum possible rusting time.

Once again, reasonably priced rust repair sections are readily available - new rails are actually made in Sri Lanka - and it is not a difficult task to remove the rusted out sections and replace them with new metal. Since these members carry the engine and provide the mounting points for the front suspension, it is vital that they are in good condition.

If you're still under the car at this point, wriggle backwards and check the condition of the sill panels underneath the doors. If you have the opportunity to do so, remove the sloping kick plate underneath the doors (3 or 4 screws) to check the condition of these critical sill sections from the inside - badly rusted sills can be replaced but this task is probably not one for an amateur. Check also the point where sill meets door pillar - another frequently rusted area, usually from outside in.

Although not a common problem, it is well worth checking the crossmember running across the middle of the car. This component is made up of a 'sandwich' of two metal pressings and occasionally rusts from inside out. As it is the mounting point for both the engine rails and torsion bars for the independent front suspension, it must be in sound condition. From personal experience, replacement is a fairly major operation, involving drilling about 100 spot welds out of the floor, cutting through and replacing the end sections of the rails, and welding the ends of the cross rails to the sills ... you might be better off looking for a car that is not rusty in this critical area.

Whilst under the car, check the rear spring mounts. The front mounting bracket, and the rear section of the rear 'chassis rails' are both prone to rusting and may need replacing.

Although all of these rust areas can be found in a Minor, it is unlikely that any one car will have all of these problems (unless you live in the UK where cars can rust out everywhere). Unless there is sentimental attachment, there is no point tackling a really bad car - there are still plenty of cars with sound, relatively rust free body shells on offer. On the other hand, if you enjoy a challenge...