Leonardo Da Vinci called simplicity ‘the ultimate sophistication’. Alex Issigonis, the genius designer behind both the Mini and the Morris Minor, would probably agree. But while the Mini might be the more-famous of his twin creations - thanks in no small part to a starring role alongside Michael Caine in The Italian Job - it was allegedly the Morris Minor Traveller of which Issigonis was most proud.
In a wounded post-war Britain, Issigonis wanted to create a luxurious, reliable, but eminently affordable car for the working classes. Codenamed ‘Mosquito’ before eventually being christened the Morris Minor, it was not initially popular within Morris Motors itself. Lord Nuffield, the company’s founder, hated it. He called it, rather disparagingly, the ‘poached egg’. Everyone else called it a triumph.
Since the first car - complete with the now-distinctive ash wood frame at the rear - rolled out of the factory in Cowley, Oxfordshire in 1948, more than one million have been sold. It is, without question, a British design classic: quirky, without being self-consciously so; simple in form and function, but hugely effective on both counts nonetheless.
We took one out a few weeks ago and a top speed of 65mph was no hindrance when it came to enjoying the ride. The Morris Minor Traveller is proof that speed is not always of the essence. As we slipped along Devon’s windy country lanes, flanked by green fields and dense woods, the countryside sighed past us slowly enough that we could enjoy it. And as we drove, the Morris simply kept going, on and on and on, riding as smoothly and unhurriedly as if it had just been built.
Which, in itself, is another reason to consider the Morris Minor Traveller a Great British classic. It is built to last; as ready for exploration now as it was in 1948. Indeed, many of the original million sold are still alive and purring along today. The exceptional build quality and the reliability of the small but mightily-reliable 1098cc engines are to thank for that, but so too is the tireless work of Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre, Bristol. Ware is often called the patron saint of Morris Minors - keeping thousands on the road, through thick and thin. If you are ever in the area, we thoroughly recommend a visit.
But more than that, we strongly urge you to slip into the driver’s seat of a classic Morris Minor Traveller at the earliest opportunity. It will not roar beneath your feet, but it will leave a lasting impression of a different kind: a slower-burning, longer-lingering sort of impression that, as Da Vinci suggested, simplicity has its own beauty. And just maybe - like the man who invented it - you might even find yourself viewing the Morris Minor as the more-famous Mini’s design superior. We certainly do.