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As Pakistan Day approaches on March 23, it is fitting to pay homage to Pakistan’s first affordable ‘family car’: the Morris Minor.

Produced from 1948 to 1971, the Morris Minor was the first British car to attain a production figure of one million. The car, which typified ‘Englishness’, was first exported to Pakistan probably as early as the 1950s, where it found acceptance amongst the country’s urban upper middle class, primarily due to the fact that it was the first affordable car to be available.

The years passed and thousands of Morris Minors were seen in all the major urban centres of Pakistan; its rounded shape, easy to drive features and good fuel economy made it a household favourite.

As the 1960s rolled to a close, Islamabad became a destination for travellers. Taxi drivers bought Morris Minors from their owners, and painted them black with a yellow roof. Thus, the car was reinvented as a taxi; in fact, the word ‘Morris’ became synonymous with public transport. Its creator, Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine ‘Alec’ Issigonis, would have been proud.

In 1970, when film director Iqbal Kashmiri made the 1970 hit Taxi Driver (starring Habib and Rani), he chose a Morris as the hero’s chariot; the film probably contains the only archival footage of the car in Pakistan.

With the end of its production in 1971, after a run of close to 1.7 million cars, a new wave of Japanese cars made inroads in Pakistan. The little British car was now seen as too slow and staid. And by the mid-1980s it was all over; Morris Minors were now on the endangered list.

Today, the few remaining Morris Minors can be spotted as they are driven by loyal enthusiasts. Owning a Morris, as one proud owner says, “makes you instantly chic and trendy”. Taqi Shaheen, a local film director recently made a film paying homage to the car; a clip of it called Morris Mata can be viewed online.

– Romano Karim Yusuf

First published in the Adbuzzzz section of the DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 18, 2012.