LS1-powered 1962 Morris Minor 1000 sleeper

This mild-looking Morris Minor 1000 might not catch your eye stopped at a light, but with an LS under its bonnet, it sure can launch from one

Photographers: Ash Wilson

If cramming big things into small places butters your biscuit, then Graham Coles’s LS1-swapped Morris Minor 1000 will surely get you salivating. Shock is the initial reaction this Morrie seems to muster when the lid is popped to unveil the feisty V8. “I wanted it to look like a sleeper,” Graham says. “If it was sitting in a row of Morrises, you’d think it was stock apart from the wheels.”

First published in the April 2023 issue of Street Machine

Working at the same auto wreckers for 35 years proved a massive advantage for Graham when piecing together the build. “I had to think outside the box. I got old, recycled parts from other cars and figured out how to make them fit,” the retired mechanic explains. “Give me a pile of nuts and bolts, a spanner, and I’ll make something out of it.”

After the transport mob gave him the nod of approval for the conversion, Graham brought the LS1 to life using a Holden fuel pump out of a VU and a radiator he pulled from a WB ute, as well as squeezing in 6.0-litre Commodore exhaust manifolds.

Rather than custom-making a chassis, Graham found the perfect base for the build in a Datsun 620 from the wrecking yard.

I got old, recycled parts from other cars and figured out how to make them fit

To get the modern mill’s power to the ground, Graham opted to slap a Toyota five-speed together with a Castlemaine Rod Shop bellhousing and a clutch out of a 60-Series Land Cruiser for bulletproof shifts and proven reliability. He then turned to the lads at Rod-Tech to narrow a VR Commodore diff and axles by 90mm each side.

After 18 months on the tools and sacrificing multiple donor cars, the unassuming build – which Graham calls his “little Pommy sleeper” – was ready to confuse the hell out of the general public.

Graham has been dealing in Morris Minors his whole life. From his very first car to his latest juiced-up creation, he’s had 17 Morries registered under his name and has piloted some of them across the Nullarbor on 14 different occasions. “I don’t build show cars; I build cars to drive them,” he says.

“When you overtake a semi or B-double, you get a few comments come over the CB radio! I love the reactions it gets.”

Clearly, driveability sits at the top of the priority list for Graham, and his latest Morrie has that in spades. He drove this LS-powered weapon from South Australia to Alice Springs for its Red CentreNATS 2022 debut, where he scored a trophy for Top European.

Just one week after fanging it through the desert, he ventured out to Kalgoorlie, racking up an eye-watering 9000km in just a few weeks of driving. “People have asked if I’m going to put it down the quarter-mile, and I say no, because if I break something I can’t drive it home,” Graham explains. “One day, I’ll get around to putting it on a dyno to see what it makes.”

When fitting the motor, Graham tried to keep the engine bay as subtle and as tame as the exterior. “I wanted it to look like a factory job. It’s clean, simple and tidy, and it doesn’t at all look congested,” he says.

The interior has had a similar going-over, with a set of upgraded gauges and a couple of switches being the only nod toward the engine swap.

In the back end, bar work has been fabbed up to mount a set of simple but practical grey seats. She might not be a show pony, but she’s comfortable enough for Graham, whose philosophy is, “Why buy new when used will do?”

1962 MORRIS MINOR 1000

Paint:English Grey
Type:Chevrolet LS1
Induction:Factory LS1 EFI
Sump:OEM rear hump
Fuel pump:Holden VU
Cooling:WB Holden radiator, 16in electric fan
Exhaust:6.0L Commodore manifolds, stainless-steel glass-packed mufflers, twin exhaust
Ignition:Factory coils, VE 6.2L leads
Gearbox:Toyota five-speed
Diff:VR Commodore ute
Clutch:Toyota 60-series
Bellhousing:Castlemaine Rod Shop
Front:Mazda E1600 springs, Toyota shocks
Rear:Custom leaf springs, Nissan shocks
Steering:Toyota MX32 power steering box, VP Commodore column, Toyota Tarago intermediate shaft
Brakes:VR Commodore discs (f & r)
Chassis:Datsun 620
Rims:Commodore steelies 15×6 (f & r)
Rubber:Hifly HF201 185/65R15 (f) Maxxis Premitra 205/65R15 (r)

My good friend Dave for making the headliner; Mt Barker Windscreens for tinting and fitting the glass; Josh and Joel from Autest Engineering; my old boss Brenton for helping me find so many of the parts.

Got a car that looks mild, but goes wild? Send pics, car details and contact details to: Sleepers, Street Machine, Unit 9/3-5 Gilda Court, Mulgrave, Vic 3170. Or email: [email protected].