Morris Minor

Nice article in the Telegraph: Classic Morris Minor.

Here's a good test of your personality: do you have a weakness for the Morris Minor? Because it's mighty hard to warm to anybody who doesn't harbour a sneaking affection for this darling of a car.  It's one of those ageing plodders you might consider a bit of a duffer yet remains a national treasure. Like Shirley Williams, say, or Emile Heskey. True, you could complete the crossword and enjoy an afternoon snooze by the time the old lump hit fifty (28.6 seconds).  But if burning off wide boys at the lights is your thing then such a tweed-skirted old girl is probably not for you.

Hubby had a 1960s Morris Minor Saloon when we started dating.  It was a green hard top with a starting handle, a speedometer that went up to 80mph, and white wall tyres.  We changed the fuel pump on the front garden of my second year student house because it kept sticking.  The engine would cut out, you'd drift to the side of the road, pop the bonnet and whack the fuel pump with a pair of heavy pliers, and be on your merry way until it stuck again.

There was an art to starting it with the handle.  The battery leaked charge in the cold and damp weather and one morning in Reading it wouldn't start.  You have to hold the handle so that it won't break your thumbs with the kick back when the engine catches, shove it round until the engine fires, while the driver waits to stamp on the accelerator to make sure it keeps running.

It was heated by a copper pipe that would recirculate some of the cooling fluid from the engine through the passenger compartment.  You had to turn the dial to a precise angle I never found to let the hot water through, and even then it would barely take the edge off the cold.  You could hear it coming a quarter mile away.  Literally.  When you changed down gears from fourth to third, the engine let out this elongated parp noise that sounded like the exhaust system had intestinal problems.

But the thing had style!  It broke down outside Salisbury just after passing Stonehenge, and three strangers stopped to offer advice while we were waiting for the Automobile Association to turn up with a spare part.  And since it used the Austin A series engine, which wasn't updated until the Austin Rover K series engine for the new Minis in 1991, there were plenty of parts.

We finally had to sell it.  It was cruising up to a £500 MOT test (yearly safety test), which was more than the car was worth.  Putting Hubby's guitar in the back doubled the value of the car.  The Rover garage had signs all over it, "Guaranteed £1000 Trade-In!"  The sales manager said if the car got onto the forecourt under its own steam, they'd give us the trade-in.  We drove off with a G reg Rover Metro (built in 1989) that lasted us until we left the country in 1998.  And it had the same Austin A series engine as the dear old Moggy...

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