You might not know Burlen, or even Skinners Union, but you likely recognize the SU brand of carburetors, and perhaps Amal and Zenith as well. Burlen is the parent company of those brands, and this year is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the SU carb first fitted as original equipment in the new side-valve Morris Minor in 1931.
According to the 90th anniversary news release, the new 847cc engine offered “greater reliability but less power” than the previous model. However, the switch to the new engine with its SU carburetor by Leonard Lord enabled the Morris Minor to compete directly with the Austin 7.
To help promote the car, the Triple Ton Minor was created by Miles Thomas. Bill Morris was promoting the Morris Crowley as a car that would do 50 mph and 50 mpg, so Thomas produced a streamlined vehicle with a supercharged engine that could hit 100 mph, could be replaced with a standard engine to achieve 100 mpg, and was offered for sale for 100 British pounds. The Triple Ton also was equipped with a larger SU unit for high-speed runs and a smaller version for the economy runs.
“Driven by Bill Von der Becke at Brooklands on Wednesday 12th August 1931, the record was set achieving 100.39 mph over two flying mile runs,” according to the Burlen news release.
“On a carefully selected road between Birmingham and Coventry, the same car and driver recorded 107.4 miles on a single gallon of pump fuel at an average of 15.3 mph.”
While Morris never claimed the 100 mph/mpg vehicle was a standard production car, it did advertise its showroom cars under the banner of “£100/100mph/100mpg.”
“The stunt worked,” Burlen notes, “and sales rose in 1932. A total of 19,252 Minors sold (4,487 OHC and 14,765 side-valve) against 20,121 units of the Austin 7. While a very basic specification, two-door, three-speed Minor was offered at £100, dealers were relieved to find the majority of sales were of the higher priced, four-speed model.”
Burlen, which also produces pedal cars, notes that SU founder George Herbert Skinner died in 1931, “with all motoring press of the time publishing an obituary to the man who invented the carburetor as we know it today.”