Mor­ris Mi­nor

Ben buys his back his old car af­ter a decade of wait­ing

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - ESM Mor­ris Mi­nors, mor­ris­mi­nors­, 01580 200203 Mor­ris Mi­nor Own­ers Club, Dorset Branch, dorset­m­, 01202 576690 prac­ti­cal.clas­sics@bauer­me­

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.

Sen­ti­men­tal value

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.

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