12 October 1948: the first Morris Minor is produced

The first of 1.3 million Morris Minors, Britain’s cheap post-war runabout, rolled off the production lines on this day in 1948.

A 1949 Morris Minor © National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
A 1949 Morris Minor.
(Image credit: © National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

When it came to affordable post-war motoring, Germany had the VW Beetle, France had the Citroen 2CV, and Britain had the Morris Minor – the first of which rolled off the production line on this day in 1948.

The “Moggy” was designed by Alec Issigonis, who would go on to design the Mini, and was an exercise in cramming the most seating space into the smallest-sized body. It had a 918cc engine producing a whopping 27HP, could hit a top speed of 64MPH and had a 0-60 time of over 50 seconds. It was remarkably frugal, however, racking up 40 miles to the gallon – something the public appreciated in the austere post-war years.

The original Minor MM was unveiled to the public to much acclaim at the Earls Court Motor Show on 27 October 1948. It was available as a two-door saloon and a convertible tourer. The four-door arrived two years later, followed by the Traveller, splendidly bedecked in wood; and the van, workhorse of the Post Office, in 1953.

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The original MM was produced from 1948 to 1952, in which time just over a quarter of a million were sold – a third of those were the convertible version. That was followed by the Series II model, produced between 1952 and 1956, and the Minor 1000, produced from 1956. The 1000 made use of such advanced technology as modern indicators, doing away with the pop-out semaphore arms of the earlier models.

In February 1961 it became the first British car to sell more than a million, and by the time production of the saloon version ended in 1970, over 1.3 million had been built. Production of the Traveller and vans ended in 1972.

It is still surprisingly popular, however – there are some 15,000 Minors of all stripes on the roads today (compare that with its successor, the abominable Morris Marina: out of the 1.2 million built, fewer than 400 survive).

The Morris Minor is no longer a particularly cheap car to buy, however. If you're looking to buy a decent example now, you'll have to fork out anything up to £15,000. With that, you could buy two Dacia Sanderos, currently the cheapest new car on sale in Britain.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.