Secret Morris Minor comeback thwarted

| 10 Apr 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Secret Morris Minor comeback thwarted

It’s been revealed that the much-loved Morris Minor came close to making a comeback.

Classic & Sports Car’s colleagues at Autocar have exclusively uncovered plans showing that, almost 20 years ago, the Morris Minor name could have returned following MG Rover’s bankruptcy.

Three bidders were vying for what was left of the marque in April 2005, including the hardware to produce the Rover 25, 45 and 75 models, plus the K-series engine, and it’s understood the revived Morris Minor concept was part of a plan led by Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation (SAIC) and late former Ford of Europe and Maserati boss Martin Leach’s Magma Holdings consultancy.

Classic & Sports Car – Secret Morris Minor comeback thwarted

The Morris Minor Million is one of the more eye-catching models

It is thought the Morris Minor proposal, which would likely have been key to MG Rover’s revival, wasn’t included in the Magma-SAIC bid to keep the idea secret from rival investors.

The new-for-the-21st-century Minor would have been powered by the Rover K-series engine, with the potential for drop-top and Traveller versions, just like the original that made its debut at the Earls Court show in October 1948 and remained on the market until 1971.

A certain Alec Issigonis was key to the Morris Minor’s development, and when it broke cover, consumers were impressed by the model’s monocoque construction and sophisticated front suspension.

Classic & Sports Car – Secret Morris Minor comeback thwarted

In all, 1,619,958 examples of the Morris Minor MM were built

Around 2005, a new Morris Minor would have been a keenly timed launch, given the era’s other retro-inspired newcomers, such as the BMW Mini (R50-R53) of 2001, 1997’s new take on the Volkswagen Beetle and the Fiat 500, reborn in 2007.

Of course, Nanjing Automobile Corporation of China bid higher and secured MG Rover’s assets, meaning this plan remained under wraps – until now.

The Morris Minor has long been popular, as a classic car and when new, and today its thriving owners’ clubs are testament to the enduring appeal of this model.

As a similarly nostalgic rival to the BMW Mini, there’s a chance a 21st-century reimagining of the Minor could’ve been a success.

You can read the full Autocar reveal here.

Images: Autocar/Tony Baker/Luc Lacey

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