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)
I’ll definitely take the Triumph. The 1964 TR4 in my garage has been in the family since 1975. The car is great to drive. It is the first car that I drove on the road. It is the first car that my son drove on the road (legally). Mine has little problem running for extended periods on the highway at 70. If you are able to get an overdrive unit, it will be even happier. They are easy to work on and the parts are easy to get. The Roadster Factory is a better source than Moss. That rust can be fixed pretty easily and the car will be worth about $40k if it is done right.
I can control myself well enough not to make any “Why do the British drink their beer?” jokes but nothing but nothing can keep me from commenting on the weirdness of regularly having to oil your carburettors*
*Yeah “carburettors”. Seriously. Oh, and they have “dash pots”. Carburettor dash pots.
Don’t believe me? Here: (Just the first 30 seconds will tell you everything you need to know).
Drink their beer warm. Why do the British drink their beer warm? Because they don’t have f’n edit buttons!
Fun fact. Minors make a farting noise as you change gear.
I’ll take the drop top with the big eyebrows
TR4 all the way.
I may be old, but I’m in no way frumpy enough to be driving a Minor.
A ’72 MGB @ 19, and a ’67 Sunbeam Alpine @ 24 booked me a lifetime of fun.
But now that austere dash and curves from the lost garage are calling sweetly.
Maybe it’s time to buy a Meerschaum pipe.
I rode in a Morris Minor whilst hitchhiking in New Zealand. I feel like the category “noise, vibration, and harshness” was invented to describe that vehicle. The amount of metal-on-metal grinding, the body-jarring vibration, and the deafening engine and gearbox noise were like nothing I’d experienced before. It made the 1970s Australian-built Dodge I rode in next seem like a Rolls-Royce by comparison. Good memories.
All fixed up and shiny and ready to roll – then Triumph all the way. In the present conditions – voted Morris
The Minor for me due to there being less rust.
The minor is in better shape, but I have to go with the TR4. While neither is fast by modern standards, the TR4 will do 0-60 in about ten seconds and give you a fun little push in 2nd at 3000 rpm. The Minor will modestly accelerate on first and second, but flip to glacially slow building up speed mode in 3rd and 4th (never had a Minor, but have had Sprites which use a modestly tuned version of the same motor) and will do 0-60 in about 20 seconds.
Anyway, the Minor may provide a unique experience to putter around in, the TR4 is a true rip roaring sixties sports car (with quite a bit more oomph than a contemporary MG I might add). I have owned a couple Michelotti TRs including an old TR4A and a current TR250.
Voted for the Morris Minor for a purely heart-over-head reason: my grandfather drove one. I never knew him, but he seemed like a remarkable man, not least because he drove it having contracted polio as an infant, so didn’t have the use of his legs. His car was adapted, and was probably one of the first in Ireland. My mother, her parents and her five siblings were all driven around by my grandfather in that Morris. So, they’re a pretty significant thing in my family history, so that’s why it gets my vote.
The Minor is just an objectively better purchase, but heaven help me the TR4 causes funny feelings down below. So I’m going to think with the wrong brain and vote for the TR4 because no matter what a disaster it is, it’ll be more fun.
Could not agree more!
“…enjoy driving a car with proper wire wheels and a tonneau cover.”
Although both of those features are indeed immensely enjoyable, I learned the hard way that proper wire wheels quickly become an expensive proposition when the splines wear out, especially if the hubs are affected. Good maintenance will slow, but not eliminate, the wear on the wheels and regular inspections will stand a good chance of catching the damage before the hubs are also destroyed, but all things considered my vote is for the Morris. Besides, I like the BMC A-Series.
As the owner of a Triumph Spitfire, I too take exception to all the bashing of Lucas electronics! I’ve had very few problems in my Spit that can’t be explained away by a simple poltergeist or cross-dimensional rip.
Frankly, I opted for one of Lucas’s pacemakers and not once have I had a pro
I’ll take the Minor…prefer the unique body style better
I’ll take the Morris, it’s so cute and frumpy looking. It looks like something that Mr. Bean would drive.
Very true, but Mr. Bean rocks a McLaren F1.
Or did. I think he sold it a while ago.
Well, yes, he sold it. but, before he sold it , he crashed it! (☉̃ₒ☉)
I just want to run up and hug it like a floofy dog.
If I’m going to be in pain, I’m going for the one that looks to be the most fun – the TR4. It’ll ruin me for sure, and it’s not safe in the slightest, but if/when it runs it’ll always put a smile on my face.
The Minor was a 20 year old car in 1967, and should have been replaced long before. I think the ADO 16 (1100/1300) is really it’s successor. So I think the later minors is just sad “dead man walking” cars.
The TR4 was a new and fresh approach in 1962, so I’ll take one of those. And deal with the rust of course, but enjoying every open sexy roadster second it DOES drive.
I love the Minor but I am reluctantly going TR4 for two reasons: it can move with traffic and Giovanni Michelotti. And yes, other than some interior cleanup and mechanical reliability improvements, it will be driven as-is.
I think they’re both overpriced for what they are, that Minor wasn’t green when it left the factory as the dash color tells you what it was originally, and I don’t believe the miles but the TR4 is far more fun to drive, so I guess I’d take the rust bucket you know vs the one you don’t.
I’ll take the Triumph.
I’m making a note here: huge success.
Its hard to overstate my satisfaction.
As an owner of a Triumph GT6, I must go with the TR4.
Bonus: going in the TR4’s favor, it kinda’ sorta’ looks like a Trabant.
How is this even a question? The TR4 is a rusty death-trap, while the Minor is a non-rusty death-trap. Morris Minor all the way. Just look at how charming that little car is! The interior looks fantastic as well. A lick of paint and you’ll be sitting pretty.
I’m British (the worst kind of British too: English).
I want nothing to do with either of these. The list of British cars I’d own is very short, and they’re all Lotuses.
Maybe I could be talked in to a Jag XJ-C, or an XJR-15. Maybe.