Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Major Morris

Today's featured ball cap sports the logo of the extinct Morris Motors, founded and based in Oxford, England. Many only know Morris Motors from the sports car division, Morris Garage, commonly known by the initials M.G. The shield depicts an ox crossing the Isis River (known as the Thames River further down stream), the river ford being the reason for the town's establishment during Saxon times. 

When I was growing up, my older brother (by almost a decade) owned two Morris Minor convertibles; a powder blue 1949, and a pale yellow 1958. The car I learned to drive in was that 1949 (as well as a 1959 Ford Ranch Wagon with a 352 c.i. V8, and no 'power' anything except the big V8). The Morris' were delightfully British vehicles, made outside of Oxford, England. The Minor was designed by the brilliant and innovative Sir Alec Issigonis. It was a car that had many advantages over it's similarly-sized Germanic competition, the Volkswagen Type I... and several crippling disadvantages.

There was a rare model of the Morris Minor that I've always wanted, the Morris Minor Traveller. It was the 'wagon' version, with real wood framing on the outside of the wagon box, and 'barn doors' in the rear.

Morris went on to produce the Mini Minor (again designed by Alec Issigonis), an even smaller car that revolutionized small car engineering, being the first transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive car, a design that is now almost universal, even for today's 'full-sized' cars. There was also a Mini Traveller, with the same wood-framed, barn-doored design of the larger Morris Traveller.

Morris became part of BMC, and then part of British Leyland, then part of Austin Rover, and finally the marque was split off and purchased by a Chinese company. BMW purchased Rover/Land Rover (and the former Morris plant in Oxford), and inherited a preliminary modern Mini design from Austin Rover, modified it using some designs they had done for a small FWD car, and re-launched the company as MINI. After several years, BMW created an all-new MINI, this time 100% BMW engineered. With the relaunch, a successor to the Traveller was created. having failed to buy the rights to the Traveller name, BMW called the slightly longer MINI the 'Clubman'.

I recently bought a MINI Cooper S Clubman, in part to fulfill my old longing for a Morris Minor Traveller. Still made in Oxfordshire, and to me... still a Morris at heart, even if it was designed by BMW in Munich, and not by Sir Alec in Oxford.

And there you have it.