Ben buys his back his old car after a decade of waiting
As far as life-changing moments go, it was a big one. I was only 12 when I clambered behind the steering wheel of the dusty 1962 Morris Minor in a family friend’s garage. Unusual old cars had always excited me, but with its huge wire-sprung steering wheel and gold-faced speedometer, the Smoke Grey saloon was truly magical to me. That one automotive encounter shaped my life, firing up a passion for classic vehicles that has never left me. Little did I know that I would eventually own that same Morris, not once but twice. The car is now part of my life again, after almost a decade spent trying to track it down. I’m thrilled – let me explain why.
The car was bought in 1979 by my godfather Garry, to act as cheap family transportation. After years of toiling on the lanes of Shropshire, an altercation with a dry-stone wall forced it off the road in 1987. Garry straightened the front end out, raiding a scrapyard to fit the front wings from a Traveller and the bonnet and front panels from a van. However, when the project stalled, the Minor remained undisturbed in a dry garage until I discovered it years later. By the time I was 19, I already had a Minor of my own, a worn-out 1970 saloon that I was never able to rejuvenate. However, I had never forgotten about that ’62 saloon that started it all, so it was a dream come true when Garry asked if I would like to take the car on and finish it off. I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Dad’s Vauxhall Omega made light work of trailering the Minor home, but as it hadn’t run in decades, pushing my acquisition up our exceptionally steep driveway and into the garage proved impossible. Even with the whole family enlisted, it was too heavy to push up the slope.
The solution came in the form of a very long rope. With one end tied to the front of the Morris, the rope was taken up the driveway, through the garage and then the house, up to the back of the garden and passed around a tree, before being brought all the way back to the street and tied to the Omega. As Dad drove across the cul-de-sac, the Minor was dragged up over the garage threshold and into its new home.
After this exciting start, I got on with the task of readying the car for the road. Although it was one of the last Minor 1000s to leave Cowley with
a 948cc engine, a Gold Seal factory-reconditioned 1098cc unit had been fitted in the Seventies. I got this engine running well, but its waterways were packed with rust that no amount of flushing or scouring could shift, so it was substituted for the engine from my first Minor.
The fuel tank was brimming with stale 20-yearold petrol that, as well as inducing nausea at twenty paces, had also gummed up the tank, fuel lines, pump and carburettor; all were replaced. The brake and clutch pedals were un-seized with penetrating oil and brute force, the front brakes were upgraded with later 8in drums and new rear springs replaced the sagging originals. Daubed with Smoke Grey paint, the better passenger door from my first Minor was fitted, while I scrubbed clean the duo-tone upholstery.
On the road again… or not
The result was a magnificent Minor. Sadly, the MOT tester didn’t agree, identifying numerous areas that didn’t make the grade. Some points, such as worn-out trunnions and iffy electrical connections, would have been straightforward to put right. Others, such as Seventies floorpan and sill repairs of questionable quality, were beyond my modest skills and non-existent budget. Disheartened, I sold the Minor in 2009 and tried to forget about my shattered childhood dream.
I quickly regretted selling the car. The Minor’s new owner, who had promised to restore it, had instead sold the car on and refused to help me track it down. With the trail already cold, it looked like I would never see the car again. Perhaps it had been scrapped?
Then one evening in May 2018, I spotted a familiar-looking Minor on ebay. Although its original Herefordshire registration number, 576 BCJ, was long gone, as was its duo-tone interior, by studying the seller’s photographs I was certain that this was the car I had loved and lost. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Egged-on by Minor-owning friends and with Danny Hopkins and Clive Jefferson offering their assistance with the rescue, I arranged to buy the car unseen over the phone; a risk, but I just had to get it back.
Just three days later, Clive and I were in a cow shed in Norfolk, looking at my scruffy old Morris. Seller Tom Huckle had used it every day after buying it a few years ago, but braking system niggles meant that it hadn’t been used for over a year.
Despite this, the Minor fired up without difficulty back at the PC workshop. It may not be running on all cylinders, but the 1098cc engine had enough puff for a trundle around the yard, accomplished with a huge grin on my face. The brakes leave a lot to be desired, but I don’t care; it’s mine again and that’s all that matters.
A full inspection is the next step to work out how much work I need to do in order to put it back on the road.
‘I bought the car sight unseen; a risk, but I just had to get it back’
Seller Tom Huckle says goodbye to the car that he used to drive every day. Memory Lane… 12 year-old Ben gets behind the wheel of the Minor for the first time, changing the course of his life forever.
The childhood dream became a reality when Ben was given the non-running Minor. Summer 2009 was the last time Ben saw the Minor. Barney the family dog is sadly long gone, but at least the car has survived.
The 1098cc A-series was Ben’s first experience of DIY motor repairs; replacing the worn-out timing chain was an early task.