The latest Retropower restomod undertaking sees our collective skills brought to bear against the Morris Minor, perhaps the archetypal British classic and car we’ve long longed yearned to put our own unique spin on.
The opportunity to do just that arose just last year, when the Minor’s owner, a long time custom car aficionado with roots firmly set in the seventies and the era of Street Machine and co, made contact with us with a proposal. He wanted us to create for him a modern take on the Custom Car feature cars he obsessed over in his youth, albeit with provision for modern sensibilities, tastes and performance. The finished car had to be comfortable enough to drive regularly but special enough to make these same drives a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
In short, we needed to imbue the Morris with the sort of precise and rewarding handling BMC circa 1948 could only dream of, and as such drastic chassis and suspension changes were always ‘in the offing.’ It was also clear that physically fitting so much extra ‘kit’ within the confines of the Morris was going to require us to think outside of the box in terms of creative packaging!
We began the process by chopping vast swathes of OE Morris metal from the car and replacing it with the ally, truss-frame chassis of the second-gen Mazda MX-5, or as Mazda itself calls it, the Power Plant Frame. We reasoned that not only would this give us the sort of proven, lightweight structure with which to work with, it would more readily fit within the confines of the Morris itself – though even then, only with some drastic surgery.
The PPF has been duly shortened at the back and modified to take a new engine (more on that below) and custom, coilover-type suspension, but it’s essentially the same structure used to such great effect in one form or another by four generations of MX-5, right down to its sub-frames, suspension (albeit with custom damper units and springs) and standard Mazda ‘back end’ and differential.
While it would be wrong to call this a performance-focussed build in the manner of, say, the Chevette rally car, the owner has requested that we present him a car with power levels above that mustered by the A-Series – not exactly a high bar by modern standards. Space was a factor of course (as it has been throughout the project) and as such it was decided early on that a modern twin-cam 16v would offer the best compromise between size, performance and reliability, hence the Ford Zetec/MX-5 gearbox combination it now sports.
Project Morris ‘Minor Threat’ has presented our metalwork team with ample opportunity to shine. All four arches have been widened by a full 90mm per side to accommodate larger wheels, but we’ve also endeavoured to preserve their original appearance by maintaining the standard arch profile and taper, as well as the factory Morris Minor doors. This is a process fraught with difficulty and more than a little frustration, and as such Callum spent many hours painstakingly sculpting reams of expanding foam (see the image gallery below) in an effort to achieve the perfect shape and relationship between arc and wheel.
Other, similarly involved metalwork alterations include revised seat mountings (and the deletion of the rear bench entirely), new front and rear bulkheads, floor pans and inner arches fore and aft. In fact, it would probably be simpler to list the aspect of the interior structure we haven’t worked on to some degree or another!
Fitting such a large quantity of revised and modernised running gear into a bodyshell with its roots in the late forties was always going to present us with a few challenges, and so it has proved. From air conditioning ducting to fuel pump placement, every aspect of the Minor’s dry build phase has been book-ended by the same mantra; will it fit, and if not, how do we go about making it do so.
Completed in the autumn of 2023, Project Morris Minor Threat has headed back up north to its home in Scotland and will doubtless make its owner very happy – so keep an eye out for it ‘blatting’ through the Highland backroads next time you’re up in that neck of the woods!