Burlen, the world’s sole manufacturer of genuine Skinners Union (SU), Amal, and Zenith Carburettor brands, celebrates 90 years since an SU carburettor was fitted to the new side-valve Morris Minor, and its subsequent stunt PR vehicle, in 1931.
The 1931 side-valve Minor was fitted with a brand-new 847cc engine designed by Leonard Lord, designed to allow the Morris Minor to compete directly with the Austin 7. The new engine was offered with the outgoing OHC unit until 1932, with Morris having to work hard to convince buyers to specify the newer engine as it was less powerful than the OHC, but far more reliable. However, Morris was keen to avoid drawing attention to the unreliability of the older engine when listing the benefits of the new one.
To aid sales, it was decided the new model would be offered at a lower price of £100, a price drop that inspired Sir Miles Thomas to come up with an idea to further improve showroom appeal. Bill Morris had often advertised the Morris Cowley as a car that would do 50mph and 50mpg, Sir Thomas bullishly announced that he would double that with the Minor. The 100mph, 100mpg, £100 (Triple Ton) Minor concept was born.
Such an idea would not be allowed in modern times, as the stunt Minor was vastly different to the road car. Not only did it have brand new, streamlined bodywork it was also fitted with a specially built , highly tuned 847cc side-valve engine fitted with a supercharger and large SU carburetter to achieve 100mph. The supercharged engine would be removed after the high-speed runs to be replaced with a standard side-valve engine, with smaller, leaner SU carburetter, for the economy runs.
Driven by Bill Von der Becke at Brooklands on Wednesday 12th August 1931 the record was set achieving 100.39mph over two flying mile runs. 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 15.3mph.
Morris never claimed the 100mph and 100mpg was achieved using a standard production car, but they did advertise the showroom models with the headline £100/100mph/100mpg and ran a series of magazine and cinema adverts as well as extensive dealer promotions. The Triple Ton Minor also received significant coverage in the motoring press.
The stunt worked, 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.
It is worth noting that George Herbert Skinner, the inventive genius who had designed and patented all of the SU constant depression carburetters died in 1931, with all motoring press of the time publishing an obituary to the man who invented the carburetter as we know it today.
In 1991 Burlen became the sole global distributer for SU products, purchasing the dormant company name of The S.U Carburetter Company in 1996. That same year Burlen negotiated an agreement to manufacture the SU range of electric fuel pumps and HS range of SU carburettors – comprising HS2, HS4, HS6 and HS8. Note – Carburetter is the spelling used by the Skinner family in the early 1900s, though carburettor is a more popular method of spelling the word today.
In 1999 Burlen took over the manufacturing and marketing of all SU carburettors, fuel pumps, spares, and throttle bodies. It also purchased all tooling, jigs, and remaining stock from the old Austin Rover Fuel Systems manufacturing plant in Birmingham.
In 2002, Burlen acquired the Intellectual Property Rights to the SU product range, becoming sole global manufacturer in the process.
Mark Burnett, Burlen’s Managing Director, said “The Skinners Union brand is steeped in history, with many accolades, records and accomplishments to its name. The Triple Ton Minor is a great example of how an engine responds to different types of carburetter and we are delighted to continue manufacturing SU products to this day for distribution around the world.”