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PRE-WAR MINOR NETWORK

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Rare Minors...

The 1935 Season Prototypes

 

The late Harry Edwards wrote an article about these cars for the Autumn 2008 edition of the Morris Register Journal (see "Could have been?" PDF below). Apparently Harry had been in possession of the images for many years although from whence they originated is unknown. As to the reason why he hadn't used them prior to their belated publication in 2008 also remains something of a mystery.

There is little doubt that the Saloon was based upon the short wheel base Minor chassis, while the Two-seater body looks to have been fitted to the long wheel base chassis version. Both were probably prototypes for the 1935 Minor range, had the model remained in production. The saloon looks to have taken some of its design cues from the long wheel base Minor Family Eight model and the Austin Seven Ruby (note the rear end treatment), while the two-seater is very reminscent of the 10/4 Coupe. That they didn't enter production was almost certainly due to the launch of the highly successful Morris Eight in the late summer of 1934. (All three 1935 prototype images courtesy of Ken Martin)

 

 

 

The Australian Four

 

The first four of these very interesting images were found on an Australian web site. It is know that Morris Motors exported over 500 of the Y prefix rolling chassis to the Antipodes in 1929/1930 and subsequently exported many more after that initial batch. It is also known that a number of Australian specialist coachbuilders placed appropriate bodies upon them. Holden was certainly one such company. Unfortunately the web site from which these images were sourced, provides no more information other than the captions shown.

Whilst the quality of each image is not good, they provide sufficient detail to pick out some very interesting elements of each car. If any viewer of these scans knows any more about them then please please contact us and we will update the site.

Edited October 2008 to add: These four cars may well have been built by Cheney. The author now has conclusive evidence that the 'Sports' model did emanate from the workshops of that company in 1929 or early 1930. It is probable that all of the 'Australian Four' are Cheney built cars as the images look as if they were all extracted from the same brochure.

 

  • Minor Bullet

 

This looks like an aluminium bodied car. Obviously designed for the Aussie climate as there are no visible signs of a hood or its fixings. With a fold down flat screen and no doors at all, this car has a purposeful sporting look. This is further enhanced by the inclined radiator, louvered side valances (So Minor chassis were being 'amended' long before they were being sacrificed to make replica MG M Types!!) and the long bonnet - there could be a straight six under there! The rear of the car looks like it could have come straight from Longbridge. The side lights mounted on the scuttle also 'nod' to an earlier Austin design feature.

 

The most interesting aspect to your writer, is this car's similarity with the 'White Minor', the car drven in pre-war U.K. competitive events by Barbara Skinner. Furthermore, this Australian designed car preceeds the the Skinner car by some three years (see image no. 5) There are many similarities betwean the two cars, including the inclined radiator, double humped scuttle, long bonnet and tail treatment, although the prettier rear end is definitely attached to the Australian car!

 

  • Minor Coupe

 

The fabric bodied Minor Coupe bares some resemblance to the 1930 MG M Type Sportsman Coupe although the treatment doesn't quite capture the art deco look of the British car. Perhaps this Minor was running without a fan (ala the 'M') as the double row of bonnet vents would seem to indicate that the engine needed a lot of air cooling. Another alternative was that the vents were simply a styling item. Once again the running board struts have been removed to give the car a more sporting appearence, and the front wings also look very similar to those fitted to M Types even down to the raised ridge on the wing tops.

 

  • Minor Sports

 

This looks like another 'M' Type clone.Take away the side mounted spare wheel and the Minor Sports is a dead ringer for the 29-32 Midget. Note the V shaped split windscreen and the boat tail. The wings also echo the 'M'. The surprise is that there is no passenger door and the same could also apply to the offside, but there are no further images to confirm this. The other clear similarities are the bench seat and the TF201 rear light. If an Australian could see the appeal of a small two seater open car, why couldn't the Morris marketing men? Maybe this was another lost British automotive opportunity. The 29-32 Midget represented the ideal product to launch the M.G. marque on the other side of the Globe. The opportunity was spurned!

Edited October 2008 to add: Amazingly one of these cars still exists in Australia. The car can now safely be identified as a Cheney-bodied car the chassis leaving Cowley for Australia in 1929.

 

  •  Minor Two Seater

 

The £100 Minor launched in the U.K in late December 1930 could owe its looks to this car.  The Australian car (depicted in picture 4) certainly preceeded it and could have been the inspiration behind the launch of the British car. This is pure conjecture of course, but the factory two seater has a number of close similarities with it's Australian counterpart which, according to the caption, was a 1930 season car. Certainly the overall appearence of the two cars suggests that they are cousins. The rear end treatments reflects this, although the mounting of the spare wheel is much lower on the Australian variant. Perhaps the least inspiring of the four cars shown here, it could well have been that this design influenced the shape of the U.K. built two seat tourer for the following four years; and so instead of mimicking U.K. automotive fashion (as two of the three preceding images clearly reflect), the Australian version may well have set the U.K. trend!

 

 

Other Notable Rarities

 

The White Minor  

 

Perhaps the most famous of all pre-war Morris Minors (see image no. 5) , it did not remotely resemble any of the production models bearing the same name! It was a genuine prototype car built for competition with no road going compromises what-so-ever. Barbara Skinner, daughter of the 'Skinner' whose initial was the S in SU of S (Skinner's) U (Union) Carburettor fame (a company owned by Morris Motors), hill climbed in this car throughout the mid thirties. It had a very special engine or engines, supplied by the Morris factory and it performed well, in front of huge crowds at famous pre-war venues such as Shelsley Walsh. The car is today subject to a long and sympathetic restoration by David Baldock in Kent. Perhaps it will shortly be seen beating an Ulster or two at Prescott or Wiscombe. Let's hope so!

 

The Coachbuilt/Fabric Saloon Hybrid Prototype

 

This car is a real mystery (see image no.6). When this photo was found on eBay, the vendor made it clear that this was an official Morris Motors image, having a factory negative number printed on the reverse. It was  purchased in the belief that is was a depiction of a 1929 or 30 Fabric Saloon. Upon close examination it became clear that the top half of the body was pure Fabric Saloon, the bottom half being clad in painted metal. Knowing that no such car ever enterered production, it was self evidently a prototype; but a prototype for what? If it was only a prototype, why go to the trouble and expense of a photographic session, these normally being set up for the sole purpose of supporting a marketing and advertising campaign? So was this model ever going to see the inside of a dealers showroom? Probably not. One theory is that this car was built to establish what a steel clad car would look like at a time when the new (Coachbuilt) bodies were not yet available.While this may not be a very plausible explanation, can anyone else come up with a better one?

 

1931 Season Side Valve Fabric Saloon

 

Why should a standard Morris factory produced model, the Side Valve (S.V.)  Fabric Saloon be included amongst this list of rarities? The reason for this is that no examples are known to remain. None are recorded amongst the survivors on the Vintage Minor Register's list or upon that maintained by the Morris Register in the U.K. They were only catalogued as being available from the time of their introduction in February 1931 and their withdrawal just seven short months later in August of that year. The 1931 S.V. Minor catalogue also fails to clear up the question as to the cars colour. The calogue states that it was available in black fabric, but does not indicate the colour of the bonnet. The few surviving black and white images (example appears in gallery above) show a contrasting colour between the black of the fabric body to that of the bonnet colour. The PWMN would welcome any evidence or information which helps resolve this mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

Page last updated 21st September 2012

Could have been? by H.E.