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.  

Classicaraddict Does YouTube…

Classicaraddict Does YouTube…

Wow, what a week that was. On the 24th of April, I left my little home town in Cornwall to first visit the Rhondda Valley. Then off to see my mother at Redcar before the MX 5 Owners Club meeting the record attempt at Elvington.

 

 

Space to Breathe Academy

 

Well, this is really Esther Nagle. As the accompanying YouTube video shows, we recorded some footage on the Bwlch Pass and got Esther to drive Bel, my little MX 5.  Sadly the footage of her driving didn’t come out the way I hoped, but we did manage to record her response to that initial driving experience.

 

Editing Software… 

 

Esther Nagle downloaded Movavi editing software and told me to go and play.

Over the next few days, when I had a chance, I did try to learn how to use it.  Much like when I went to Falmouth University, it is a vertical learning curve for me to get my head around this new set of skills… This required that I popped back into Wales to see Esther once again on the way back…

 

Key Words… 

 

This when I really appreciate just the knowledge of friends. Esther kindly showed me how to enter titles, create fade-outs, and add clips of footage together. This has meant that now the first Youtube video is live.
She also taught me more in half an hour of tuition about the importance of keywords in blog posts than I ever learned at university. The rest of the Classicaraddict now will be gone through to allow me to make it more suitable for algorithms.

Please Subscribe…

Now we have the Youtube channel working there will be more much-combined content. Expect Suzuki Vitara posts, Mazda MX5 content, motorcycle uploads and much more.
At heart, I’m still a writer, and this will be the main focus. Yet this new medium is exciting for me to explore and share.

Thank you for reading.

Bye for now.

Alex.

Carry Essential Spares…

A couple of day’s earlier my friend rang me up with an issue with his 1957 Morris Minor. My gut instinct told me that it was either the points or the condenser.  I heard my voice saying the best thing to do was to carry spares…Now those words had come back to haunt me…

One of the reasons I’d come up to the North East was for the MX5 owners club record attempt Elvington on the 28th of April… In the past, I have been too car club meetings and I will admit that they are generally not my thing.  Yet… Once again MX5 owners are different. As I made my way down the A19 the number of MX5’s started to increase. Oddly a lot of owners seem happy to sit at exactly 70 mph. I remember a friend who had driven rally cars in the 60s and 70s saying that all cars have a natural cruising speed. Another dear friend who has had both 1.6 and 1.8 MX5’s saying that they like 80 mph… 85 and they get twitchy, 75 to 80 and they will run all day. I agree, when both you and your vehicle like a similar pace, driving becomes much more relaxing. 

So there I was, going along at 80, roof down, overtaking the odd other MX5 until I joined the back of a long line of them.  I only found when I and a few other fellow MX5 drivers followed them into a service station a few miles from the meet. They were from the Tyne Tees group… And a very nice gent in a red NB that had been following came up and said hello. I will admit leaving the service station and arriving a little earlier at Elvington. After following a car from Scotland in were lined up initially 3 across but due to the number of cars that turned up that became 4 across.

After registering, Bel receiving number 255… I met Sid GoPeform and his custodians.  I then had an hour and a half to wait before the record attempt. One way to do this was to queue for the toilets. More than one person was heard to comment that this was another record they had decided to attempt to break. It was then a question of going back to where Bel was… Not as easy it would be normally when far as the eye could see there where was MX5’s.

I did wander about looking at the whole range of cars on the track. From scruffy NA’s and NB’s to the restored, immaculate early ones, daily drivers and pristine later cars. Oh and a few customised cars.  Each car special to its owner. Oddly, Bel did stand out a little, her mismatched bonnet, gaffer tape on her rear quarter panels, rack and wearing her patches with pride.  I chatted with Brett from Total MX5 about the joy of owning a scruffy everyday car. One that is reliable…Oh how that came back to bite me… Yet one that we can jump in and drive a few hundred miles. 

It was then time for the record attempt. I’m not going to say much about with this post as I think it deserves a separate one with video.

I left after the record attempt and decided to drive across the North York Moors. Putting Saltburn into the satnav I set off. Soon the little number of MX5’s decreased until it was I was alone in following the instructions. I have a rough idea of the geography, but it is certainly not extensive.  I pulled over at a couple of spots to take photographs and enjoy the scenery. As I pulled away the second time, her alternator belt started to slip…

This was then my words a few days ago came back to haunt me. A few seconds later her belt snapped.  Now I was stuck, on the moors with no real idea of where I was.

If this was at home, I know enough people where I could leave Bel and get her fixed later. This is not the case. Sadly, if the alternator belt goes, the water pump stops working. You can limp a car home a few miles if you know how to drive gently. First thing I did was to switch off all unnecessary electrical equipment. I then switched the engine off going downhill and bumped started her at the bottom. With my heart racing and driving very carefully I made it back to Redcar.  I pulled into a well-known tyre supplier a mile from my mother’s house and she refused to start after. Two passing boys helped me push Bel across the road and I rang my mother who came out with some jump leads. Half an hour later Bel and I were back safe. I started to strip her down hoping that her power steering belt would be the same size at her alternator one…With a choice words… It turned out that it wasn’t. Close, but not close enough… About 3 cm too small.

If I had a spare belt it would have been easy, yes, my words had come back to haunt me.

I’ll cover the belt change in another post, but there was a chance I had cooked Bel’s engine.  I’m pleased to say that I didn’t.  As for MX5 meetings, this was my first, it won’t be my last. But there will be a spare belt in Bel’s boot just in case.   

Magic Moment.

The rider was leaning slightly forward as the large bike swept around the corner towards us.

I was about 14 years old and a passenger in my mothers’ car. That rider on that sunny afternoon in Cornwall has defined motorcycling to me ever since.

This was mid 80’s and the bike as an older Kawasaki Z1000, painted matt black. The rider was wearing Doc Martin’s boots, black jeans, old black leather jacket,  gloves, shades, open face helmet and the biggest grin I’d ever seen. The speed was not excessive, but enough to be making progress. He was riding for pleasure, fully present to every aspect of the moment.  

I’d already started helping my mother’s friends husband restore vintage, veteran and pioneer motorcycles. This was before at 16 that I could ride on the road. At this time, we lived in a bungalow in Perranporth, there was a private lane system from the bottom of the hill to the top. This was relevant because it meant I could legally ride the moped I acquired after saving up from my paper round. One moped led to another as addiction finally found a way of expressing itself beyond every magazine and book I could lay my hands on.

One of the sons of mechanic opposite came past one day as I was tinkering. He was a good guy, but in the past had taken something that affected him. He knew what was lost, and that it was down to him. Yet, he was a gentle soul.  We greeted each other, and then he gave some advice that has stayed with me ever since.

“Stick to the bikes, once I used to ride, now I can’t.” He spoke with sadness and wisdom.

Oddly 10 years later I was meeting friends in Perranporth, at the time I had an orange Triumph Dolomite 1500. I had been enjoying it fully and she smelt of hot car, warm brakes, etc.
As I parked, I heard, “It just had to be you, didn’t it…!” There was my friend who had given me the advice years before, with a smile on his face. I grinned and waved. Clearly, I’d listened to his wisdom and that moment I hope showed my appreciation.

There are times that help define, guide and create our understanding. Those two very different ones have stayed with me. 

Finding a Unicorn Car for a Friend.

I’d put it off for far too long.  Early January and my friend wanted to replace his very high mileage Toyota Yaris with something a little better.  To be fair, we found him the Yaris about 5 years before and it had provided amazing service yet now at almost 200000 miles, the end was nigh. That amazing little engine had developed a death rattle…

Over the last year or so my friend had mentioned how he would like a 4×4. Now I’ve had Tug, my little Suzuki Vitara at that point for 18 months. So, I do feel that  I can comment. The trade off for 4×4’s is the extra weight of the internals, extra driveshafts etc… That some have separate chassis, the fuel consumption is bad. They handle worse on road. Now if you have a use for one, like I do, they are amazing… But.

I’d already talked him out of a Jeep Cherokee… Too big, expensive to run, and Jeep reliability.So not ideal. 

At this point. I thought I’d put him off the idea… Yet, once again here he was asking me to help. We are good friends, what could I do? The gardening doesn’t really start until the first full week in the new year. So first it was research time. The only choice that really covered the bases was another Toyota, this time the Rav4. Oh, and just to make life a little more interesting, my friend wanted an automatic.

Why a Rav4? Simply because Toyota made its best cars from the 1990s to the middle of the first decade of this century and they were the most reliable in the world.

We both live in Cornwall, which means that once you find a car, the chances are that it will be at least 2 to 3 hours away… I found a couple of auto MK2 Rav4’s listed, one near Taunton, the other near Bristol. The closer one had just been sold, the seller in Bristol didn’t get back to me… Facing a dilemma… Then I found an MK1 Auto Rav4 at a dealer in Honiton, in the pics it looked really clean… My friend now was in a meeting for a couple of hours… So I rang the garage, explained the situation. They said they would hold it until 1 pm.

We left at 1.30 in Bel, my little MX5, roof down, of course.

The garage was a Rav4 specialist with mostly MK2 models. There in the furthest corner, she sat. Clearly had not been moved since before Christmas. Her body looked clean, and underneath, for her age, she was amazingly tidy.  The salesman came out and was about to start her, but I got him to open the bonnet. First, I placed my had on her engine, it was stone cold. Then a quick check of her fluids, all looked good… As I was doing this, I explained what I was looking for and why. The salesman made a joke about dodgy second-hand car dealers. Then he turned her key and she burst into life. No smoke, no hassles.

I jumped in and we set off on a quick test drive that included a blast down the nearby A30. She ran like a dream, at first the brakes ground a little, but that was just the surface rust coming off. We then swapped seat and my friend had a little drive.

Thumbs up…

We left with the car an hour later. I fear my I might have inflicted my friend with the classic car bug. We drove home in convoy, Bel in front and the Rav4 that now had been named Phoebe following. Inside I felt a sense of relief. I’d pulled another out of the bag.

My friend Andy with his new purchase…
Phoebe and Bel at Victoria Services.

Motorcycles and Renewed Friendships

When was the last we rode together?

The question hung in the air, the years had passed, more than we cared to remember.

An unexpected opportunity meant that 3 friends replicated a photo taken 29 years before.

Then there was 5 of us, each on a moped, a total capacity of 250cc and 5 cylinders. Now there was a total engine capacity of 2500cc and 7 cylinders. Where before there were 4 Japanese bikes, well one with an Italian engine and one East German one.  Now there was two from the land of the rising sun and one wearing a German badge, with an Austrian heart and a frame built in Italy.

The changes in not just the bikes, but in the riders, spoke volumes.

Middle age has crept up,  it seems bike clothing shrinks for all of us. Surely that must be the reason why once loose fitting jeans seem tight? Hair has become flecked with white, faces lined with experience. Yet, if you look closely, you will see the pleasure in friendship and motorcycles. A few moments before, we had been making a temporary repair to my bike, a little alternative engineering (bodging) that is such a part of motorcycling. Another aspect that bonds us together in more ways than we care to imagine.

Roads have become so much more dangerous than ever. The amount of traffic now combined with the brain numbing effects of satnav means that riding is more a lesson of risk management than enjoying the open road. The bikes we now ride reflect this.

Well for two of us anyway…

One of my friends has owned his 1200cc Suzuki Bandit for 10 years. The bike still looks as good now as it did we he first got it. One of the ultimate expressions of the once was known as a UJM, or universal Japanese motorcycle. But that would be unkind, the 1200 Bandit was as hooligan’s bike when introduced and can still surprise a few now. Like all things it seems, motorcycles have become larger and the 1200 bandit has shrunk, but now it is condensed, focused and understated.

My other friend has owned his Honda 650 Deauville over 3 years, has toured all over the UK and Europe two up on it. The bike is typical of the Honda being well built and thought out. Based on the long-running NTV 600/ 650, the engine will last forever. For today’s roads, it is ideal and I have no doubt my friend will still be riding it in 10 years’ time.

I was sitting on the joker of the pack, my newly acquired BMW F650. Unlike my friend’s bikes, I’m starting my relationship with it. It has already done more miles than their bikes. Being unlike anything I’ve ever owned before yet seems to work for today’s roads. I’d only ridden about 200 miles over 5 days at that point. After not been on a bike in about 2 years and enjoyed riding for far longer, I’m rusty, unlike the BMW.

Shortly after we left for a ride (scratch), clearly my friends have ridden together often. Their close formation and fast, but safe pace only one expression of that.  I was tail end, Charlie. The spot allowed me to ride at my own pace without the pressure of holding someone up.

With old friends, we have no need to prove anything. We can all ride or drive just about anything quickly, but understand it takes a few miles to truly settle down on something new. I sat back and enjoyed my own pace, keeping up, but not too closely.

With the promise of a mug of tea and bacon sandwich, we pulled into the café near Kit Hill.

The three of us once more riding together. Almost 30 years may have passed, but for us, it seems like only yesterday.

For the record, the line-up is the same from the left to the right.