Of the 46,000 Minors made in the UK in 1961 only 4766 were convertibles. But a folding roof had been available on the Issigonis Minor since its earliest days and the Tourer version of the original Minor of 1928 had, famously, been the first four-wheeled car to sell for less than £100, so there was a long heritage of budget motoring to maintain and it cost almost nothing to keep making the Tourer, despite its small sales.
Those production numbers may come as a surprise given the number of convertible Minors you see around today. But that’s because, however niche it was back in 1961 there’s no denying the appeal of trundling around in a well-sorted ‘Moggy Thou’ with the roof folded back on summer’s day. For that reason there’s been a cottage industry in converting saloons to convertibles for many years.
But this one rolled out of Cowley as a Tourer and has stayed that way, albeit with thanks to a prolonged and thorough restoration three years ago. While many Minors receive some light modernisation during a restoration, this one still has its original engine (extensively rebuilt), unassisted drum brakes, four-speed gearbox and lever-arm dampers. The bodyshell has been repainted to a very high standard and all the exterior brightwork (bumpers, wheel trims, light surrounds and badges) are gleaming new. The pristine maroon-coloured hood is brand new too, and the frame has been overhauled and repainted. The interior has had new carpets and door cards but the original leather seats were good enough to retain, so that irreplaceable ‘old car smell’ has survived the restoration.
ON THE ROAD
On a freezing and blustery day in Yorkshire the new hood’s ability to keep out (nearly all) of the weather was very much appreciated, and once the Smiths heater had rattled away for a few minutes the Morris was surprisingly snug. The 948cc engine had started with the briefest tug on the starter, although its faultlessly smooth running was masked by a persistent drumming noise from the bonnet sitting slightly loose on its hinges.
Every time I drive a Morris Minor I am always amazed by how easy, and in many ways modern, they are to drive and this one is no exception. Bowling along at a steady 40mph it really does hold the road like it’s on rails, with its perfectly weighted and directed steering shaming many sports cars of the era. The gearbox makes the usual hushed whirrs and swapping up and down the ratios, even without synchromesh, is a joy. The Minor goes on its way with the usual restrained bobbing motion (no saggy springs or tired dampers here), with those famous front torsion bars taking these rural roads, and even the odd level crossing, with utter aplomb.
The only way the Minor shows its inherent age is in its brakes. The little drum brakes need a firm press before they start to bite and even when you pile on the pressure they’re only, at best, adequate, and there were a couple of heartrate-raising moments on the approach to T-junctions before I adjusted and began to make the necessary allowances.
There’s no point in driving a convertible without letting the roof down, even when there are flurries of sleet blowing in off the North York Moors. Unlike the fully-framed hoods on more upmarket cars the Minor’s roof needs a certain amount of wrestling to stow – especially the awkward collapsible side frames. But once it was all piled up beind the rear seat it was obvious why the Tourer is in such demand these days – it really does add another level of enjoyment to the Minor experience and you get a full earful of all those unmistakeable Morris Minor sounds.
There really is very little original to be said about the Morris Minor – it is an utterly timeless car that is as good at being practical and enjoyable transport now as it was back in the ‘Fifties. But if you want to use a Minor as a hobby car, which probably won’t involve hacking about in the depths of winter, why not go for a Tourer?
TOP SPEED: 76mph
0-60MPH: 32 secs
GEARBOX: 4-spd man