The British Automotive Industry reached a hugely important landmark on the 4th January, 1961. That day was earmarked for the launch of a limited edition Morris Minor aptly named the ‘Morris Minor 1,000,000’, by the British Motor Corporation Ltd. The occasion was the production of a million vehicles of the same basic design. This was a remarkable feat and one which, up to that point in time, had not been equalled by any other British motor manufacturer.
The accompanying publicity gave an indication of the magnitude of this achievement: “‘The production of 1,000,000 vehicles of a common design is a feat never before achieved by British Industry, the magnitude of which can be exemplified by saying that if all the units which have left the production lines at Cowley were spaced at intervals of 407 yards 11½ inches, the first would rest in Oxfordshire and the millionth would have its wheels on the moon.”
The Morris Minor, designed by Alec Issigonis had burst upon the scene in 1948 and proved to be an instant hit with motorists at home and abroad. In a twelve year period, during which there had been updates and upgrades, sales expanded beyond all expectations until the magical one million figure was reached.
In order to celebrate reaching the historic land mark of one million sales of the Morris Minor worldwide the BMC Publicity Department decided that the actual 1,000,000th car should be used in a special way. To do this the assistance of the press was enlisted in a somewhat novel way. At a specially convened Press Party held at Grosvenor House in London on the 3rd January, 1961, Mr J.R. Woodcock, the Deputy Chairman of the Nuffield Organisation, who was accompanied by Alec Issigonis, handed over the Millionth car to the Chairman of the National Union of Journalists, Mr. Magnus Williamson. The intention was that the car would be used in some way to support the Union’s Benevolent Fund.
In the event, a special competition called the One in A Million Contest was organised in the National Press. Proceeds from the competition entries were earmarked for use to support the National Union of Journalists Widow and Orphan Fund. The competition was hastily arranged under the auspices of the Lavenham Press and followed a simple but effective format.
The actual Millionth car survives and has recently undergone a full restoration. It remains in private ownership.
[Editor’s Note: Any AROnline readers with a spare half-hour over the Christmas Weekend might enjoy listening to a programme by Martin Wainwright called Merry Christmas Morris Minor! which marks the Morris Minor Million’s 50th Anniversary. The programme was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11.00am this morning but can be re-played on BBC iPlayer via the link above for the next seven days.]
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