Good morning, Autopians! Today we’re exploring the cars of Great Britain, in the form of two US-market models outside of the normal MGB/Spitfire/Midget realm. But before we can do that, let’s see which all-American ride you chose:
Van-tastic! The orange Dodge takes it. I imagine the vote might have been closer if the Camaro had the proper number of cylinders, but that’s what we had to work with.
Now, before we begin with today’s choices, I feel the need to point something out:
That is the Lucas Sport ignition coil in my own MGB GT. I installed it because the car runs a lot better with it than it ever did with the Mallory coil and ballast resistor it used to have. It also still has its original Lucas points-type distributor, starter, alternator (though I do have a Delco alternator to install, strictly for more amperage), and most of the switchgear. I only mention it because I know we’ll get a bunch of “Prince Of Darkness” jokes, and us British car owners get a little tired of hearing them. My car runs and drives just fine, thank you, and according to the sellers, so do both of these. Let’s take a look.
1967 Morris Minor 1000 – $7,000
Engine/drivetrain: 1.1 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD
Location: Los Alamitos, CA
Odometer reading: 36,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
Before there was the Mini, there was the Minor. Sir Alec Issigonis’s first mass-market people-mover entered production in 1948 and didn’t stop until 1971, surviving the corporate mergers that created British Motor Corporation, and then British Leyland. All told, they built 1.6 million of these things.
The Minor is a fairly conventional design compared to the later Mini, with its engine oriented longitudinally, driving the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox and solid rear axle. Early Minors were powered by a Morris side-valve four-cylinder that dated back to before World War II, but the Minor gained a power upgrade in the BMC merger in the form of Austin’s A-series overhead valve engine, also used in the Mini and the Austin-Healey Sprite. Displacing 1,098 cubic centimeters in 1967, it put out a less-than-neck-snapping 48 horsepower. (Fun fact: the Austin/Morris A-series engine is so British that, in a pinch, it can briefly be run on tea and digestive biscuits. No, not really.)
Inside, minimalism is the name of the game, and as you can see, the central placement of the speedometer in the later Mini was nothing new. There’s nothing here you don’t need, but nothing you might call a luxury either: you get lights, wipers, and a heater fan, but no radio. This is a left-hand-drive US export model, so you don’t need to worry about learning how to drive on the “wrong” side of the car.
Though it is a rust-free California car, this Minor could use a paint job. It has primer on the rear quarter panel for an undisclosed reason, and the green paint is looking pretty faded. But honestly, I’d be tempted to just drive it as it is. Even with the ugly blotch of primer, it’s a lovely little car.
1962 Triumph TR4 – $6,500
Engine/drivetrain: 2.1 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD
Location: San Antonio, TX
Odometer reading: unknown
Fancy something a bit more sporting? How about an early example of Triumph’s first “modern” looking roadster, the TR4? This car stirs up some memories for me; my dad had a British racing green TR4A in similiar condition when I was four or five years old. One of the neighbor kids was afraid of it, and tried to convince me that it ate kids. But I knew better. It just ate my dad’s weekends, and my mom’s patience.
[Editor’s Note: Just want to shout out the dual SU carbs, because I like them, with their weird bottle-looking dashpot design. My old Volvo P1800S had a pair of these, too, and they used to leak fuel right onto the exhaust manifold below, where it would smoke alarmingly. Still, I really like SUs. – JT]
The TR4 was an evolution of the earlier TR2 and 3 designs under its flashy modern bodywork, with a bored-out version of the same four-cylinder engine found in earlier Triumphs. It also still used a separate frame and body, in contrast to rival MG’s new unibody MGB. But to be fair, in 1965 Triumph upgraded the TR4 with independent rear suspension, something the MG never got, though this early TR4 still has a live rear axle. The seller says it runs and drives well, and has a new radiator and brakes.
It does suffer a bit from that British roadster disease: rust. It’s confined to the front fenders and the driver’s side floorboard, and the seller is including a new floorboard. But once again, if it’s structurally sound, the cost of repairs to get it repainted probably aren’t worth it. Just embrace the patina, and enjoy driving a car with proper wire wheels and a tonneau cover.
If you did want to restore it, parts are certainly available. You can throw an entire Moss Motors catalog at it for the trim pieces and carpets, weld in the new floors and patch up the fenders, and give it a fresh coat of paint. In fact, you could do all that a little at a time, in the winters, and enjoy driving it in the summers while you fix it up.
Look, I know British cars have a reputation for being unreliable, leaky rust-buckets that suck your wallet and your soul dry. But they don’t have to be. Fixing one up can be very rewarding, and few cars will put as big a smile on your face doing something as simple as driving to the grocery store on a nice summer day. You may have to spend a little more than you once had to, but cheapish driver-quality cars are out there. And they’re well worth a look. Which one of these strikes your fancy?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
Had to go with the Morris for the way it *can* look, and that cavernous engine bay can easily hide a V6 or a small V8.
This kind of swap used to be very popular: the Leyland P76 4.4L V8 (from Rover I believe) would happily drop into an MGA, and the hero of my generation (in Oz) was the guy who figured out you could put an XJ12 motor into a Bug-eye…
Hard choice but I go TR4 all day because I just really really love its looks. But it’s an uttainable dream for my big frame (6’4). If ever a Triumph Dolomite shows up on the other hand …
Best Morris Minor reference in a song: “Funky Céilí” by Black 47