Two steps forwards, one step back!
One justification for having more than one classic car is that there should always be one working when you need it! Whilst I cycle on my daily commute, Morris Minors still form the backbone of my transport for longer distances, and ideally I need to have one working at all times. Lily, my 1967 four- door, is my winter car – it has a better heater, brighter lights and a bigger rear window than my Morris Minor 1950 Lowlight, and being more modern it is perhaps less precious too. (Does anyone else have a winter daily like this?)
As I’ve got older, time for fiddling with cars seems ever more tricky to find. Indeed, I was rather spoilt by enforced time at home during the multiple Covid lockdowns. With things back open again, I’ve found a real desire not to spend all my time tinkering in the shed. This means the new engine for the Lowlight has been waiting for a while before I got around to fitting it in the car. Naturally, when I had finally made time to do this, Lily’s exhaust fell apart. This wasn’t unexpected as we had made up a temporary exhaust from a used Morris Ital system and an old long centre branch manifold, but it meant I found myself with no transport and two cars to mend. Naturally, it’s always best to keep the working car working, so the engine fitting took a back seat once again. While I sourced a new exhaust, dad was kind enough to lend me his MGB GT for a few vital trips, which is always a welcome treat.
Buying a replacement exhaust for a modified car is always a bit of a minefield, even when you’re somewhat spoilt for choice with the number of different options available for the standard car. I did consider purchasing a big bore stainless steel system, but didn’t want to spend many hundreds of pounds on an exhaust system if I could avoid it. I also know that stainless steel systems tend to be noisier, something I was keen to reduce on a daily driver. After some searching, I managed to track a mild steel one down at Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre in Bristol. This was ordered, delivered then fitted and seems to do the job very nicely, although I’m not sure it’s as quiet as the old Ital-based system it replaced.
With Lily back on the road, I was able to turn my attention back to refitting the engine to my 1950 Morris Minor Lowlight. This proved much, much more difficult than it should have been. Despite carefully lining up the clutch plate on the flywheel using an old first motion shaft, it proved impossible to get the engine and gearbox to mate together properly. After a long session of wiggling, levering and gearbox jacking, I began to wonder if there was some terrible incompatibility of which I was unaware. I dismantled the clutch and cover to check if the first motion shaft in the car would go through the clutch plate I was using. It would, and eventually, after much persistence, I managed to get the gearbox and engine together. Hopefully it’s something that goes much more smoothly next time if I should ever have to do it again. I’m still not sure why it was so difficult. At least fitting the ancillaries and sorting out the timing was straightforward, and when I tested the engine
it seems to run well. Somehow the rear gearbox mounting came apart whilst I was struggling though, and that caused more delays while it was being replaced.
As I’ve not driven the car for about a year and a half, it was sensible to give it a service, then an MoT ahead of regular use. When I jacked up the rear wheels, I found the brakes were jammed on. I was a little surprised as the rear cylinders were new a few years ago and had not done many miles, but assumed they had seized up, which is a common problem on Morris Minors.
It didn’t take long to remove the drums, brake shoes and cylinders, but I was puzzled to find the cylinders were in excellent condition and showed no sign at all of being seized. All was reassembled, the brakes bled, adjusted and all seemed well. However, starting the engine to move the car revealed all the brakes were jammed hard on, so the car would not budge. After a cup of tea, I returned to the car and the wheels were free – until I started the engine, at which point they locked solid again.
Some Internet research suggested a problem with the servo; only then did I remember that I had knocked off the top of the servo air valve months ago when I removed the engine. I had retrieved this and refitted it, but removing it again showed I had lost the spring and the rubber seal from under the cap. This seemed a bit of a disaster and scuttled my plans for the MoT. I expected I’d have to buy and fit a new servo and re-bleed all the brakes, because it was months ago that the parts were lost and although I spent ages searching for them on the floor of the garage, it was all to no avail. However, biting the bullet and getting ready to order a new servo, I stumbled across some replacement air valves that could be quite easily fitted in situ. This was a relief, and I’ve ordered one. As soon as I get a chance I will fit this and take the car for an MoT. Hopefully then I can give Lily a rest and enjoy driving the Lowlight again.