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Morris Minor Buyer's Guide blog

 

  Ian Cushway profile Image

By Ian Cushway, 6th March 2019

 

Morris Minor Buyer’s Guide

 

The instantly identifiable classic icon that’s fun to drive, a doddle to maintain and still affordable.

 

The beauty with the Morris Minor, besides its excellent handling, practicality and cheap running costs, is that there’s a model in the range to suit all tastes. From the austere early MM cars right through to the pick ups, Travellers and convertibles. The only dilemma will be choosing which one to buy. To help, we’ve put together some essential tips to allow you to filter out the Minor marvels from the major money pits.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 01

Credit: Photo by Kdsphotos on Pixabay

 

BODYWORK
In truth, unless extensive restoration work has already been carried out, the entire lower section of the car is likely to be rusty. The worst hit areas will be around the headlamps, the rear and bottom edge of the front wings, door bottoms, the bottom of the bootlid and the boot floor itself. The good news is that all the outer panels bolt on and front wings cost from as little as £168. However on particularly rusty Moggies, the inner wing will be rotten too, meaning that there will be nowhere to bolt the new wing back on to – so do as much poking around as possible.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 02

Credit: Photo by ID 1588877 morris-minor-1036043_1920 on Pixabay


Oh, and due to its unitary construction, chassis corrosion can also trip up unsuspecting Moggy buyers. The key is to crawl underneath and take a close look at the two main chassis rails and the front crossmember, which supports the rear ends of the torsion bars. If you find rot, chances are you will end up having to repair the edges of the floorpan at the same time. If you view a car that’s already resembling a patchwork quilt, make sure this is reflected in the price. This is particularly relevant when talking about the rear spring hangers. But if the rest of the car is good, haggle some money off and pay for a specialist to cut out the old repairs and replace the whole section. This will generally cost around £200 a side to do.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 03

Credit: Photo by Toby_Parsons on Pixabay


Moving inside, lift the carpets and inspect the boxed sill sections and the central cross member. Sagging doors and worryingly tapering panel gaps are an instant giveaway that all’s not well underneath. You will be relieved to discover, however, that virtually all of the repair sections to make good a rotten car can be found on our body panels page. So there's no need to be put off if you are happy to tackle a project. Wood on a Traveller presents a whole host of other issues and here dark stains are the first signs of terminal rot. If you end up having to re-timber a Traveller, expect to pay around £2500 – you can check out our selection of wood parts here. As for convertibles, be sure it’s a genuine one, not a conversion. Saloon chassis numbers begin with MAS while factory soft tops made after 1958 begin with MAT. Sadly, some unscrupulous sellers have been known to switch the identification plates so also inspect the arched reinforcing plates at either end of the dashboard. On genuine convertibles it will be spot welded, on converted saloons you will find a MIG or gas weld instead. Also, most genuine convertibles didn’t have a courtesy light switch in the driver’s door shut. Convertible production ended in 1969, so obviously any registered after than have probably been converted.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 04

Credit: Photo by Moss Europe

 

ENGINE
Two engine types appeared in the Minor, a sidevalve and more latterly an A-Series unit. The former will feel slow in fast moving traffic and parts are becoming more scarce, while the latter is generally more usable and can be fixed for buttons. However the first 803cc units don’t last as long and many will have been swapped for one of its 948cc or 1098cc successors. Generally Minor engines are pretty robust, although harshness under load and noise when warm can be an indication of wear, the latter usually being due to a rattly timing chain. Fitting a Duplex timing chain kit with two rows of chains to take up the slack is a cheap and effective remedy.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 05

Credit: Photo by aitoff on Pixabay


The MM series Minor's don't come with a water pump, so be wary of overheating and check the condition of the radiator and all of the hoses. On the A-series units, any head gasket issues will be evident by the presence of a ‘mayo’ like substance when you lift the oil filler cap and traces of oil/water contamination. It’s at the back of the engine, between cylinders three and four, where it usually lets go. While it’s impossible to confirm how much oil’s being consumed when viewing a car, there’s lots you can do on a test drive. With the engine warm, crest a hill and take your foot off the accelerator to check for blue smoke on the overrun to check for piston wear. A complete reconditioned unleaded cylinder head assembly is £350, and we’d recommend fitting a copper-based head gasket when fitting it. Oil leaks are to be expected, the most common source being from the rear main bearing seal. Unfortunately, it’s tricky to replace an encapsulated metal item so it’s best to resign yourself to having to place a drip tray underneath if this is the source.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 06

Credit: Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

 

GEARBOX
The gearbox on the 1098cc Minor is generally more rugged than its predecessors, although worn synchromesh can be a problem on all cars – as can the gearbox sticking in one gear or suddenly jumping out of gear. Noise in first and reverse is also a sign of wear, but the gearboxes can go on for ages like this if you don’t do a huge mileage. A slightly worn synchro can be lived with but more serious maladies will necessitate a replacement gearbox. Expect to pay in the region of £600 for a good reconditioned unit. A juddery clutch can usually be blamed on a worn or broken steady bar or a slack steady cable between the gearbox and crossmember but both are relatively easy to remedy.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 07

Credit: Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

 

SUSPENSION/STEERING
Regular lubrication of the suspension is essential and if there’s insufficient evidence to suggest it’s been carried out at regular intervals then expect some big bills further down the road. Wayward steering on a test drive could be down to worn trunnions, so jack up the front end and investigate if possible, the lefthand side will usually wear first. If there’s excessive wobble top and bottom, then be sure to haggle accordingly because renewing the trunnion and upright will be around £100 each side. Worse case scenario is if the trunnion comes away from the upright, the join is courtesy of a screw thread which requires greasing every 2000 miles. If this is ignored, the thread can wear and both parts can eventually separate. Minors that sit too low have either been modified or more likely to be suffering sagging lever arm dampers and rear leaf springs. You can find all our steering & suspension components here. Axle whine is par for the course but because finding replacement crown wheel and pinions is tricky, it’s likely to be a case of living with it and putting it down to being part of the car’s charm. Play in the rack and pinion steering can spoil the Minor’s otherwise excellent handling and usually it’s the rack mounts or steering linkage that need attention, or the rack itself. While looking underneath it’s worth checking the condition of the rubber gaiters, because once these have let go, dirt can enter the rack and quickly ruin it.

 

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 08

Credit: Photo by Kdsphotos on Pixabay

 

BRAKES
Minor brakes should be quite sufficient with the standard engine, but oil from the rear diff can escape via the hub seals onto the brake shoes if the diff’s been overfilled. Wheel cylinders can seize and this is particularly relevant on cars that have been left sitting around. So beware potential purchases that pull dramatically to one side while slamming on the anchors. Don’t worry too much though, because replacement wheel cylinders aren’t expensive and neither are sundries such as drums and shoes.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 08

Credit: Photo by Mabel Amber on Pixabay

 

INTERIOR
Later Minors are undoubtedly more robust inside, but all vehicles can display signs of wear and aging so bear this in mind when buying. If you like original patina, leave it as it is. Alternatively, make it look like new again – the choice will be yours. The good news is that virtually everything is available so it’s unlikely to prove a problem either way. You can check out our full range of interior parts & accessories here.

The Moggy convertible has a fixed window frame on the doors and a plastic rear screen, the latter of which will eventually crack, especially if it’s been repeatedly opened and closed in cold conditions. From 1958 the roof was made from ICI Everflex vinyl and these are still available and remain the most popular choice with owners, being easy to keep clean and totally in keeping with the car’s back-to-basics nature. The hood frame itself should be a good fit, but many especially if they’ve ‘blown up’ become distorted and let in water. You could try to straighten it (it should sit flat at the back) but buying a complete replacement frame may prove a better long-term solution.

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 10

Credit: Photo by Moss Europe

 

HOW MUCH?
Moggies have never been expensive but values are now creeping up. Early, original cars will always fetch a premium, but they’re not to everyone’s tastes – it comes down to what you want to use the car for and whether it’s likely to be suitable. Like other classics, Minor values are determined by condition and rarity, so it’s no surprise that Travellers, convertibles, vans and pick ups command a premium over the saloon.

So what will you need to pay? Well, tidy looking saloons start at roughly £3,000, although £5,000 is the going price now for a really nice one. Travellers kick off at around this money too, but expect to pay £7,000 - £10,000 to bag a tidy, restored example. You’ll need to spend a little more than this, maybe as much as £12,000 - to get a pristine convertible. Pick ups and vans will fall somewhere between the two. Project Minors will be a lot less of course. Incidentally, there’s no reason why a well-executed tourer conversion can’t be enjoyed in the same way as a factory convertible, but it should be at least 10-15 per cent cheaper. Buy wisely, have fun and you’ll be able to get your money back, and more, if you ever decide to sell your Moggy on.

 

Morris Minor Buyer's Guide image 11

Credit: Photo by Stéphane Juban on Unsplash

 

 

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