Minor Van surges ahead
We have made a lot of progress recently, but with summer on its way and other projects rearing their heads, it’s beginning to look like finishing the 1970 Morris Minor Van will have to wait until next winter. Allowing more time should make the whole project far more enjoyable anyway, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Like the editor, I have been disturbed by the events in Ukraine, and for all the problems in our own society, I feel immensely privileged to live in a peaceful country where I can immerse myself in the luxury of restoring a vehicle I don’t desperately need to drive.
Although the deadline for completion has been moved back, we have still been working on a lot of jobs, which have been both satisfying and fairly straightforward. The heater went back into the cab nicely, so the dash is almost finished, except for the gloveboxes. The electrics are tested and working, though sharp- eyed readers may notice we are using Land Rover rear lights. This is because they have a much larger lens than the original tiny Morris ones, but still fit in the same holes and look alright. The van has had these fitted for as long as I can remember, and anyway it is part of an attempt to make the van suitable for use on today’s roads – stoplights have got much brighter in the last 50 years, and anything we can do to avoid a bump in the rear is a good idea. Equally importantly, it’s how the van has always been, and we don’t feel particularly inclined to change it for the sake of it.
The petrol tank was sandblasted and painted with zinc paint before being connected up, while the differential has been swapped with a 4.22 one which was originally in my 1967 saloon prior to changing that to the Marina set-up in 2020. The van originally had a lower 4.55 ratio differential which made it especially noisy, but contributed to excellent acceleration (comparatively speaking!). My mum still talks fondly of how easy it was to roar from one lane to another in London traffic, although it’s possible that the dented, scruffy appearance of the vehicle may have persuaded other drivers to give way as well. Mind you, that was in the 1980s; the van won’t be driven like that anymore!
Although the engine seemed to run well when we took the van off the road getting on for eight years ago, it was worth looking at the carburettor etc while the vehicle was in pieces. This was, in fact, in very poor shape. The butterfly spindle showed a great deal of wear and must have been leaking air in, upsetting the mixture. Fortunately, rebuild kits are readily available from Burlen, so one of these was purchased and used to overhaul the HS2 carb.
One job that proved annoyingly difficult was getting the rear doors to fit properly. They had been extensively adjusted before being painted, and before dismantling the hinges had been carefully marked to ensure they went back into the right place. However, when we came to reassemble them, they just wouldn’t fit right. In the end we had to resort to filing some of the bolt holes slightly and packing the brass balls in the hinges with thin washers. None of this will notice from the outside, but it’s nevertheless incredibly frustrating.
There is not a great deal left
to do on the van and it could be running after a few weeks of solid work. However, experience has taught me that little nonessential jobs on a working vehicle never seem to get done, so it’s best to leave it in the shed until it is fully completed. One modification we’re doing is fitting some folding seats out of either a Morris Marina Suntor or an Austin A60. These were obtained many years ago and will enable it to be used as an occasional camper van. Naturally, the process of fitting them isn’t as simple as hoped and is slowing things up. Some soundproofing and lining the rear with plywood and perhaps a few shelves should finish this off nicely, but this is also more work to be done.
Turning my attention back to the 1950 Lowlight Saloon, the spare 1275 engine due to be fitted has been partially dismantled, fitted with new crankshaft bearings and a timing chain with tensioner. In order to fit the Ital/ Marina engine into a Minor, the front plate has to be swapped due to different engine mounting points. The rear engine plate is also different as the starter motor has to be higher to clear the chassis leg. Hopefully, this engine will live up to dad’s promises of being a good runner. It will enable me to get the car back onto the road, but I could do without having to rebuild the old one and fit it as I want to turn my attention back onto the 1950 Tourer. The replacement engine is complete and ready to fit, so hopefully I’ll find the time to do this in the next month or so.
Some readers asked what happened to the A35 van featured previously. This was sold to a local Swanage Railway member and experienced A35 enthusiast, who will keep the vehicle on the road with the signwriting and improve it as necessary. He has, of course, found far more rust than he expected and is busy welding. He has also decided to replace all of the shock absorbers, both rear springs and fit MG Midget disc brakes. It should prove to be a useful little vehicle.