A few thoughts about wheels
As I look at the different cars in the Club, I have always been interested in the different tyre and wheel combinations available, particularly the Morris Major rims which many of the cars have. When I first registered my car back in the early '90s I was offered a set of widened 13" Austin-Healey Sprite rims with good 175 series tyres – the stock wheels I had were ratty, so on they went!
This made a huge difference to the handling of the car, almost as much as the addition of the front anti roll bar and the rear shocks had done. There was a couple of problems though, the speedo over- read by a fair bit, the engine was revving hard on the freeway and I always thought the wheels looked a little small (in diameter) compared with the wheel arches.
What I really wanted was a set of late model van rims, which were 14" diameter and 4" wide with Minor centres, but are extremely rare in the UK (and expensive too!) so I stayed with what I had.
When I moved here we did a fair few long trips in the Traveller, and the over-revving was getting tiresome. I have the 4.22 diff already and didn't want to change it particularly, as I'd still be stuck with the small wheels, so I went searching for a set of stock 14" wheels. When I changed over, it was like I had an overdrive gear! The engine was happy buzzing along at 70mph, and the steering was much lighter. There was one drawback – the skinny 145 series Michelin tyres didn't have a lot of grip, and even my stock 1098cc could break the rear end free in a corner if I really put my foot down. So I was back with the idea of the Morris Major rims. (For those that are reading this internationally, the Morris Major was an Australian built version of something very similar to the Austin Lancer and the Wolseley 1500 - You can read more about the Morris Major by clicking here)
I had 2 Major rims already, and managed to get another pair from a club member called George before he moved house. Are they the same as the late model van rims? The answer seems to be 'no'. In a 2011 issue of Minor Matters (the MMOC mag) you may have seen the article on van rims, and the measurement you can make on the outside of the rim, to check the distance between the rim and the wheel centre, to confirm in they are the van rims or not. The Major wheels don't have the same offset between the rim and the centre, meaning that the tyre will be (slightly, perhaps 10mm) more inboard with the Major rims than with the late van rims. I wonder why they are different, as otherwise they have the same centres and are both 4" wide?
Anyway, I found a stockist of 175/75/14 tyres at a good price. They are getting harder to find now, by Tyre Land in Wetherill Park in Sydney stock them at $75 fitted. Now I know that I am preaching to the converted as so many of you have them on your cars already, but what a difference! They combine the advantages of both wheels – the grip and handling is almost as good as the 13" Sprite rims, the look and steering lightness is as good as the stock 14". They also fill the wheel arches nicely, and make the car look a bit more 'seated' on the road than the 3" rims. So it is Major rims all the way for me!
Webmaster Note — For those in the USA and Canada, you can also Search TireRack.com for tires near this size.
Andy, '70 Traveller
Originally printed in "Minor Torque", the Morris Minor Owner's Club of New South Wales Newsletter