Morris Minor, Filling Some Of The Gaps.

 

Spares to a daily.

From buying the Morris Minor to driving to the Northeast, a jump worthy of any postmodern film or book.  When I studied creative writing 10 years ago, we were taught show don’t tell.  Yet how did Mog and I go from oh my god to being able to do a round a trip of 1200 miles?   Morris Minor Road Trip, Part One.

The simple answer would be with a lot of hard work and many breakdowns. Perhaps not the most descriptive or in depth blog post especially for one that is theoretically about cars. This post is a less detailed overview of experience Mog and I shared during those months.

After Getting The  Morris Minor Home. 

After towing Mog back behind Tug from Exeter I was allowed to borrow a driveway to work on her. 15 years before and 3 weeks after buying my Triumph Spitfire this was the same place I changed the gearbox.  I said a week then and I did it.  Again, I said a week and 6 days after I started welding Mog was solid enough to drive down.   Buying a Morris Minor.

During that time, I didn’t just weld but also had to fit a new thermostat, water pump and a few other parts. But we made it, sadly the dynamo stopped working, but thankfully Jess had a spare so we swapped them over. If at that point I thought it was over, and it would be possible to enjoy the pleasure a new car how wrong was I?  

 

Ignition Issues. Road Side Solutions. 

I spent the day doing little jobs and just as it was getting to late evening was about 6 miles away from home Mog died.  Her ignition switched fell apart. In fading light and with my phone battery low I had to find a solution. This was made far harder due to inexperience with Morris Minors. What would be easy a few months later was a struggle.  
 

An older car needs fuel and ignition. If I could get those working there was still time for us to get back safely before it got dark.  Thankfully the Morris Minor design came to my aid. The bulkhead has the fuel pump on the left, battery in the middle and coil on the right. Even with my lack of electrical knowledge it was a simple question of running a live feed to both the pump and coil.  We made it back. The following day I made the repair a little more permanent.  It held until last few miles of my return from the North.   

The Muppet Factor. 

Nigel popped down the following weekend. Quickly getting the indicators working and one or two other little issues.  We then settled into a two-week cycle, something would break. I’d fix it  then two weeks later something else would.  https://youtu.be/VaRNZn4OYh4

The next major thing was down to my own muppet factor… With Sheldon from Classic Britain I showed how good the brakes were. In the Process breaking the engine mounts. Not only was this caught on film, but also it meant Mog had to get recovered. With no local specialist parts were ordered and the wait began, the combination of parcel farce 24 and Cornwall meaning that it could take up to 5 days for anything to arrive.  The job itself not difficult. Repairing the radiator taking longer, as the steel fan had clipped the top.  

Cylinder Head

Having repaired her and after a few days, she started to run badly and misfire whilst in Falmouth. Managing to make it back safely and after few days I took the cylinder head off. There was a crack between the combustion chambers of number 3 and 4.  Once again Jess came to my aid. After upgrading his engine last year from a 948 to a 1275 he let me have his old engine for a good price.  The swap was soon complete and Mog was running once again.   

Lack Of Preparation, More Problems. 

A simple job of changing the rear leaf springs became far harder to a combination of my lack of preparation and the parts supplier mixing nuts of the same diameter but different threads together.  Again, once bitten, twice shy.   This sums up those months, simple jobs often made far harder due to previous repairs, (bodges,) my lack of Morris Minor knowledge and the main parts suppliers being a long wait away with parcel farce.  

Axle Issues. 

I mentioned during the introduction of Morris Minor Road Trip Part One the axle was changed.  The day before I was due to go to Liskeard and Bridgewater to pick up some spares.  I decided to change the driver’s side oil seal.  This was a mistake, after tapping the locking washer flat the nut holding the half shaft on was loose. Praying the threads were worn on the nut and not the axle casing, of course the casing was worn. I spoke with gent at Liskeard and he did have an axle for sale as well at a good price.  A few days later I spot welded the nut to the casing.  Something which I wish I’d thought of on the Saturday.  

The axle change wasn’t easy, likewise the week after almost cutting my finger off the gearbox went. Mog’s mismatched combination of early and later parts meaning that was far harder than it should have been. 

So? 

Reading through this there is an intentional dryness to the post. I’ve not written about my emotional experience of owning and driving a Morris Minor, an early one at that.  Now that is real story and will be saved for another post.  

Morris Minor Road Trip Part Two.


Part Two.


Mog and I where heading north to see my mother. For part one, please click on this link.Morris Minor Road Trip, Part One.

Fixing the Minor Issues.

After saying goodbye to my friend, Mog and I headed off towards the motorway about 15 miles away. On the way stopping to fill up with fuel and hopefully find a good motor factor. 
Being directed to a real gem of one. Karparts of Cainscross (01453 758282.) I wondered why the proprietor smiled so much as I pulled up. After walking into what must be one of the last proper old-fashioned car parts suppliers. The owner knowing every single part and exactly where it is.  After explaining my problem, he suggested I tried this type of leak sealant and perhaps a new radiator cap. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d find one unless I called into a specialist  and the nearest one of those wasn’t accepting over the counter customers.  

After quickly getting both the cap and sealant the owner came out, asking me about Mog. It turned out he has a slightly earlier 1952 Morris Minor. Talk about landing on our feet.  I changed the cap, checked Mog’s levels and headed off after thanking the gent.

Problem Solved. 

Stopping twenty miles later, the cap had fixed it. The leak sealer can stay in Mog’s boot until either I or one of my friends need it.  We headed off to drop in at the Morris Minor Owners Club at Derby to say hello.  The further from Cornwall more Mog and I caused a stir.  To see an early car on the road is unusual.  To add a paddleboard on the roof and people when driving slow down, take pics, wave and generally make us feel very welcome. The majority of other drivers showing consideration and allowing us out to overtake. Sadly, a few having no idea of braking distances would pull into the larger than normal cap.

Meeting the Morris Minor Owners Club. 

We made it to Derby and a very warm welcome from Ray, Liz  and Kate. They were more than slightly bemused to see a moggie with such a large board on the roof. With sensible covid restrictions taken into account I had a guided tour that included seeing the progress of the restoration of the last ever car.  If you have a Morris Minor, please join the club. https://www.mmoc.org.uk/

Arriving at Redcar. 


After another cup of coffee, we left, heading through the centre of Derby towards Redcar and seeing my mother for the first time in 18 months.  
 

Now with confidence in Mog, it was simply a question of taking our time.
We arrived at 5 pm, tired but pleased. My mother’s neighbour even let me borrow his garage to put Mog into. A kind act which was much appreciated. 

I’ll write about our time up there on another blog post.  

Return Trip.  

Yet it possible to include the return trip.  The following Sunday we set off, Redcar to Penryn in a  single day, 440 miles.   It would have been nice to see friends in South Wales, but with restrictions becoming stronger that sadly not possible.  We made good time, reaching Bristol for 1 pm after leaving at 9. I was sure we would be back for an early-ish dinner.  

 

In the past I’ve written about the state of driving on British Roads. How it is possible to drive across France and arrive within expected times. Yet in this country, any long distant journey is like playing Russian Roulette.  This time I lost, the signs warned of delays, up to an hour, but they lied.  

 Motorway Shut at Bristol. 

A big accident at junction 19 meant that all southbound traffic was being directed up and over the junction. We reached the tail of the jam at quarter past one.  After 3 hours of virtually sitting still Mog and I headed off at junction 18 and towards the southern edge of Bristol. Any movement being better than none. The traffic crawled and Mog behaved well. Clearly her cooling system was fine. Finally, by 5 we picked up the southern M5 again near Weston Super Mare. We had lost over 3 1/2 hours.  

Moving again. 

After a quick comfort stop and filling up at Exeter, we headed home down the A30. Finally arriving at 8.30 pm.  A twelve hour trip. Those last few miles being hard on both of us. Mog’s only major breakdown being my fault for running to many amps through a switch never designed for it.  Coming to a halt outside my place. Thankfully my neighbour moved his car to allow me to freewheel back into a parking spot.

 

Arrival and conclusion.

After all the problems I’d never thought it would be possible to drive a 68-year-old car so far. Yet the only major problem was due to me.  We proved that a small economy car designed over 70 years ago is still capable of long-distance travel.   
It makes me question what we have lost and gained in those intervening years. For some reason I struggle to imagine in 70 years time a Toyota Yaris inspiring the same passion, let alone the more disposable modern cars. 

Yet, it would be possible for  a Morris Minor to still be going and that makes me smile.

Morris Minor Road Trip, Part One.


“To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.” Wrote Robert Louis Stephenson in 1881. Red in the Shawshank Redemption narrates at the end of the film, “I feel like a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”
 

Before leaving.

Two weeks ago, I loaded Mog my 1952 Morris Minor up and prepared to leave on a long journey. Here was a car that hadn’t been on the road for ten years until only a few short months before. After I completed the initial welding work had an immense amount done as what could fail did. The fews week prior had seen me change a gearbox, passenger front wing, weld in two large repair panels due to a bodge creating a rust trap, a rear axle, two brake pipes, several oil seals. Oh, and another oil change. Buying a Morris Minor.

 

In the days of tall ships, the saying was, one hand for the ship, one for the sailor. The modern version went, the boot is for the car, the interior for me. Carrying more spares and tools than some mobile mechanics.   Yes, I was overprepared, but still  not enough.  With my paddleboard on the roof, clothes, paddles, wetsuit on the backseat off we set.  Filling up at Truro the next stop would be just before the M5 at Exeter, not far from where I got Mog from.  MX5 Goodbye.

Initial 100 Miles.

Those first 90 miles were a shake down, and if not shake they certainly rattled. We headed off up the A30. Where I found to my pleasure that with all the work completed Mog would sit at 55 to 60 MPH, well unless the hill was steep… The Paddleboard affected her crosswind handling a little, ensuring a mild tail waggle in certain conditions. Nothing to worry about, just to be aware and take account of.  

Early Issues.

 No, the biggest issue was the rattle coming from the gearbox selector cup. One that amplified leading  to a deeper understanding of those who suffer tinnitus. Running locally not an issue, but after an hour or so, wearing.  Working out that the lightest pressure damped it and remembering that I had a couple of shorter bungee cords in the boot it meant that when we stopped, I was sure it could get sorted.  
 

We pulled into the well known supermarket at Exeter, 90 miles into an initial 230. Filling up cost £14 of the premium fuel, not too bad considering. After giving Mog a quick visual check over followed by her oil and water off we headed for coffee stop at Taunton Deane. With the less steep gradients on the motorway Mog would easily keep up with the slower traffic. The rattle from the gear lever fixed with a combination of bungee cord and hairband. Yet my radar pinged.

Loosing water.


It is said that those who have been around older machinery often develop a sixth sense when it comes to problems. I pulled to a stop mine was on overload. Popping her bonnet, oil was fine, but water was down. Clearly there was an issue with her cooling system. After checking all the hoses and fastenings and topping her up we pulled tentatively back onto the motorway.   Running the heater and pulling in every 20 miles or so. On the second stop there was a discarded 5 litre container.  For once being thankful for our selfish society I quickly wiped it down and refilled it.

For the next 100 miles or so that was how we travelled, slow but steady.  Thankfully not to far to our stop,  a deluxe garden shed high up on the hills in Gloucestershire.  

We had made it, tired, I  even had a paddle on the Stroudwater canal. 

Tomorrow could wait, time for a beer and dinner.