MORRIS MINOR CONVERTIBLE REVIEW

For many this represents the ultimate cool British tourer, but finding an original condition car or quality conversion can be troublesome. Here’s our guide to avoid the pitfalls.

The Morris Minor convertible or tourer has always been seen as the cream of the crop and as such demands a premium – especially if it is an original white one.

Perhaps it represented a sturdier answer to the sportier tourers of the day or was it the constant lovable TV exposure through series from Man About The House to Lovejoy?

The Morris Minor was memorably launched at the 1948 Earl’s Court Motor Show, available initially as a two-door, four-seater saloon or convertible. While Alec Issigonis was rightly praised for this new ‘modern’ car, the name revived that carried by a vehicle dating back to 1928, while the idea of an open top tourer was also a homage to the pre-war Morris Eight tradition.

While not perhaps an obvious choice as a competition car, BMC were deliberately selective what events they entered tourers in, i.e. ones in which they thought they might stand a ghost of a chance. The late Pat Moss, sister of Stirling, successfully rallied Minors and owned a green 1966 convertible.

Souped-up and modified Minor convertibles appeal to those wishing to turn-round the traditional matronly image of the much-loved classic.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

The Morris Minor monocoque body is a well-known harbourer of rot that often begins on the inside and works its way out. As with all Minors, the whole underside needs careful inspection, together with the rear chassis extensions, rear spring hangers and front chassis legs. Sourcing replacement bolt-on panels and parts is not often a problem, but if there is too much that requires replacing it’s best to look at another car.  With a convertible it is obviously necessary to check the triangular strengthening panels at the base of the B posts, double-strength boxing plates inside the sills, and the strengthening gussets welded at either side of the dashboard. Sagging or misaligned doors should suggest further investigation.

A properly carried out conversion offers nothing to be afraid of, but there have been some poor attempts that can frankly result in a potential death trap. If you are in any doubt, either leave the car alone or get an expert to inspect it for you. Check the cut of the panel at the top of the window screen, on a genuine convertible the panel will be spot welded into place and there should not be any holes for a courtesy light. The chassis number for later genuine convertibles (June-1958 to June 1969) should carry the prefix MAT… The final convertible chassis number was 1254328.

Tourers shared the same trim as their saloon equivalent but because of their exposure to the elements, are potentially prone to more discolouration, wear and tear. It can prove to be expensive to replace. Some original materials, such as the Carvel style carpet is no longer available and while modern substitutes are offered, they rarely match the quality of the real thing. As the position of the gear lever changed with successive model updates, you need to check you have the right fit when ordering carpet sets. At least you don’t have to worry about a headlining!

The state and fit of the roof, its frame and lifting mechanism obviously requires careful checking. Due to the age of the cars in question, many convertibles will have had either work done to them or been replaced – so inspect them carefully. See the roof in both the raised and lowered position and check for fit on the outside and inside. As well as the mechanical side and ride values, another reason for taking a test drive is to see how effective the hood fits and also to experience what its like with it down. Replacement vinyl factory style hoods and frames are available from specialists. It is possible to fit a new hood yourself, but it might be best to leave it to the experts. An original item was a hood-bag to cover the hood when it was folded down and there was even a special storage bag to hold the detachable side screens for the early models.

In all other aspects, the convertible shares everything with the saloon. Very early models are rare and there’s much to be said for a car with a 948cc engine (1956-1962) with contemporary gearbox. The later 1098cc engine (1962-1971) fitted cars will help you keep up with the traffic. Some Minors have been subjected to 1275cc engine transplants and if this is the case make sure the front brakes have been upgraded to discs.

White is the preferred colour for Minor tourers and many have been re-sprayed to meet demand, so just make sure they’ve made a good job of it.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

ENGINE 948cc/4-cylOHV

POWER 37bhp@4750rpm

TORQUE 48lb ft@3000rpm

MAXIMUM SPEED 73mph

0-60MPH 19sec

FUEL CONSUMPTION 36-40mpg

TRANSMISSION RWD/four-speed manual

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OUR VERDICT

For many the Morris Minor convertible is the ONE to own – reflecting a true-Brit passion and potential miscalculation of the number of days you want to drive around with the top down without the back-up of a decent heating source.

Early tourers took the prospect of driving along with the ‘wind in your hair’ to a new level with their detachable celluloid hood screen sides. Fixed rear window were introduced from June 1951.

There is such a big parts and club support network for Morris Minors, that you are never alone with a ‘Moggy’. A growing number of specialists can provide essential items such as replacement vinyl hoods and frames, while offering a fitting service for those requiring it.

Production of convertibles continued until June 1969, so ironically the most sought after models was the first variation to go. With a finite amount of original convertibles available, the number of conversions on the market has obviously increased. A well carried out conversion provides a suitable alternative, just make sure it is a pukka job.

There’s no doubt that the Morris Minor Convertible is one of the great British classics – as the smile on any long-term owner’s face will confirm.

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