Mark 1 Mini Morris Traveller

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Morris Mini Traveller

June 2013, they say one false mouse click can get you into trouble

The first Morris Traveller left Longbridge in July 1960, its sibling the Austin Countryman was already in the dealerships. The multipurpose Mini sold well for a decade.

Handsome Harry - Total Traveller

‘My Mark 1 Mini Traveller was called ‘Harry’ long before we acquired it’ restorer and current custodian Malcolm Cooper explained. ‘Evidently a previous owner ran a fish and chip shop in Hampshire, we hoped it may have a connection with Harry Ramsden?’ Research showed it most unlikely as the supplier of the great British supper, Yorkshireman Ramsden actually died the same year Malcolm’s Traveller exited the showroom of Westover Garages in Bournemouth; the first owner paying £627 6s 6d in 1963.

Travellers Time-Line

Morris Mini Traveller Mk 1

Closer inspection always results in bad news

Officially launched September 1960 with breath-taking confidence, as the press release proclaimed ‘It’s wizardry on wheels, the Morris Minor Traveller dual purpose vehicle ‘par excellence’ with room for four adults and with the rear seat folded no less than 35 ½ cubic feet of luggage space’. BMC had a right to be bold, at the time there were very few models able to compete with such a package at £623 including heater, over-riders and wing mirrors. Interior mirror and seat-belts were still optional at this time. The following year overseas buyers were able to order the ‘all-steel’ non ‘Woodie’ version and the fuel tank was re located under the floor at the rear for all Travellers. Constant, small but significant changes continued throughout the models production life, including an automatic gearbox option and replacing the flat roof, as this suffered from noisy vibration; a ridged version introduced in 1965 eliminated this. A Mark 2 version arrived in October 1967 largely unchanged but featuring the improved 998cc engine; the price also had altered very little from launch 7 years earlier at only £629. The following year, August, saw the last major alteration within the Traveller range when an all-synchromesh gearbox became standard. 207,000 Countryman and Traveller vehicles were built between 1960 and 1969 and the final Traveller left Longbridge just prior to the 70’s, its production line taken over by the Mini Clubman, also available in an estate version.

Retirement Project

A very tidy twin SU set-up adds a few more BHP

A very tidy twin SU set-up adds a few more BHP

Malcolm along with daughter Lindsey was scouring the worldwide web for anything Mini in May 2013 when Ebay presented ‘Harry’. ‘That would make a good retirement project’ Malcolm observed just as wife Caroline came into the room. ‘Retirement project?’ Caroline questioned, ‘let me have a look’ moving Malcolm from the prime bidding position. Although he protested Malcolm was not in charge anymore and with just two minutes left on the clock a bid was entered. When asked what she was doing Caroline replied ‘getting you a retirement project’ the clock ticked down and they had purchased a Mini Traveller, the winning bid just a £10 improvement on the next highest. Like most folk, Malcolm considers buying from a photographic image not ideal and on viewing his purchase for the first time, he confirmed that given the choice walking away would have been the cleverest option. Alternately, Caroline was fine with the three-year project ahead; her attitude was ‘that should keep him out of mischief’. The new owner though does have a vast knowledge of the early Mini and spent much of his younger days wielding spanners at all things BMC, his memory and abilities were going to be put to the test on this restoration. ‘My heart sank when I first saw it’ Malcolm confessed ‘I realised immediately a new front end was required and the floor pan was full of holes but on the plus side it came complete with the earlier flat roof, a good set of rear doors and the original number plate; these made it worth saving’. The new owner also planned some sensible upgrades that would improve the abilities of this 52-year-old in today’s traffic, those included fitting the later 998cc engine with Cooper cylinder head and twin SU carbs. Brakes would benefit from twin leading shoes on the front with servo back up, these upgrades combined to offer a safer ride whilst the Traveller lost none of its character.
Malcolm’s most satisfying part of his resto is this superb interiorMalcolm’s most satisfying part of his resto is this superb interiorVMalcolm’s most satisfying part of his resto is this superb interior

Malcolm’s most satisfying part of his resto is this superb interior

The Build
First task was to source a body shop to repair the shell and once completely stripped it was delivered to VVCR in Hampshire. Malcolm would restore the front and rear sub-frames, then locate a 998cc engine with gearbox plus replacement hub assemblies for the uprated brakes. Suspension would require replacement dampers and rubber cones; the design courtesy of Dr Alex Moulton. Easier to restore than the Hydrolastic version available on Mini models from 1964, Travellers though remained loyal to the original layout.  Replacement panels were sourced and found their way to VVCR from M-Machine in Darlington but the completed shell bathed in Almond Green would not return for 12 months. Delays on the shell allowed checks to be carried out on a recently acquired 998cc motor and the block went to Mini Speed in Byfleet; they supplied a balanced-reground crank after a re-bore. Re-united with the shell, wiring began in earnest with a new loom plus voltage and fuse boxes followed by master cylinders and lines. The engine received a Cooper 12G202 head already converted for unleaded with fuel supplied by a pair of 11/4 SU’s. Malcolm confirmed the most rewarding part of the restoration was the interior trim.  Firstly, a clever adaption of sound-deadening pads under the roof lining has eliminated the vibration issue expected of the early model. The Porcelain Green trim has been installed with real care and new carpets and seat covers etc. combine correctly with many of the original fittings. Keeping as much of the 60s Traveller was a priority at the forefront of Malcolm’s restoration. Replacement items were justified only where there was no alternative or if they would be of huge benefit come completion. First ‘fire-up’ was preceded with the engine coughing and spluttering but concluded with a healthy motor and much delight in the Cooper household. Finally, the job that separates the Traveller and Countryman from all other Mini offerings; the wood. Acknowledged by Malcolm as ‘the make or break element’ this was always going to be a challenge that couldn’t go wrong. Luckily the biggest suppliers of Morris ash wood frames ‘Woodies’ is located just a few miles from this Travellers home and whilst they could supply a full kit, Malcolm thought it wise to employ them to install also. The results confirm the owner’s decision was correct as the fit is precise and the finish perfect against the green that would otherwise dominate; in this case, Malcolm confirmed ‘I am so pleased I went the professional route; it looks a treat’.
Morris Mini Traveller Period brochure advertising

Morris Mini Traveller Period brochure advertising

Old-Aged Traveller
A classic, that impresses in a new-age due to its versatility, unique appearance and yet the drive is all Mini and that is guaranteed a ‘blast’. The upgrades Malcolm installed certainly help with everyday driving; this Traveller is brisk off the mark and has little trouble keeping a pace with modern traffic. Climbing the steep hills of the south downs, loaded with healthy adults is the only time the driver was called in to downshift. The ride is firm but fun and although the brakes are much improved from original they received little use as the corner speed that made the Mini famous is installed in the Travellers DNA. With the back bench folded flat the interior resembles the ‘Tardis’ and the 35 cubic feet quoted by BMC looks more impressive than it sounds. After a couple of hours around the Traveller it is easy to understand why Malcolm took on the challenge. Impressive, that he completed his restoration to such a high standard with upgrades that shouldn’t be considered detrimental to the originality. It will be interesting to see what Malcolm’s wife Caroline bids on for his next project; safe to say as long as it’s BMC the odd mini crisis won’t deter him. View from the Pilot Malcolm Cooper shares his thoughts on the purchase, restoration and travelling in his Mini……….
Original supplier’s plaque from Westover Motors sits above the instruments

Original supplier’s plaque from Westover Motors sits above the instruments

I’ve always liked the early Minis, especially the Mk 1 Minis. Like many other motorists, my wife and I owned a Mini or two in our younger days. More recently we have delighted in occasional leisure trips and travelling to shows in our 1960 Austin Mini Saloon however, our two small dogs could not travel with us which was always disappointing. The traveller is much more versatile and we were lucky enough to source a dog crate which fits snuggly into the rear load area. Now our Westies (Max and Henry) can enjoy our days out as well. ‘Harry’ is a joy to drive even if he does feel a little small and vulnerable amongst todays’ modern traffic. It’s a bit like driving a Go-kart up the motorway. With no headlamp flashers and a horn with less volume sound than a smoke detector, poor Harry does feel more than a little intimidated. Whilst owning a classic (car or motorbike) is a privilege, anyone who does so will appreciate that at the end of the day, we are merely custodians of a piece of motoring history. We all hope that our pride and joy will be preserved and maintained not just for our benefit, but for future generations to reflect on and enjoy. 1963 Morris Mini Traveller Mk 1 Specification
  • Engine: Mark 2 version 998cc OHV in-line four
  • Fuel: Twin 11/4 SU Carburettors
  • Gearbox: Four speed with synchro 2nd-3rd and 4th
  • Brakes: Uprated Hydraulic/Drum with servo assistance
  • Suspension: Rubber Cone/Telescopic Damper front and rear
  • Steering: Rack & Pinion
  • Fuel Capacity: 6.5 gallons/29.6 litres
  • Weight: 674kg or 1484lbs
  • Length: 10ft 9in Wheelbase: 7ft Height: 4ft 4in
Non-standard additions include: 12G202 Cylinder head with unleaded conversion, the addition of an extra SU carb.   This Traveller would be most welcome at any stately home The Travellers engine took up only 18in of its total 10ft 9in length The Mini range was ‘classless’ and the Traveller fitted in anywhere The Mark 1 enjoyed a ridged-free flat roof and Malcolm cured any vibration noise Seats folded flat the cavernous interior impresses with perfect trimming Restoring 60s British classics requires knowledge, skill and a local cash point On the road sympathetic engine mods offer a little extra zip to an already zippy motor Many thousands of pounds and hundreds of man hours but what a great result Family trips to the countryside, holidays and picnics the Traveller delivered Morris Mini Traveller