Morris Cars

Morris cars have been a major (no pun intended!) part of my motoring life. Including my parents, my wife and myself, our family has owned a range of Morris cars spanning 37 years.

The first was a 1925 "bull-nose" Morris Cowley, a "4-door" model that my parents acquired in 1939. It was the family car when I was born in 1950. Curiously, there were no doors on the driver's side. There was an outline of each door pressed into the bodywork, but no actual doors. I always thought that was strange.

The brakes operated only on the back wheels, which caused a problem one day when descending a steep hill. When my mother applied the brakes a back wheel locked and the car skidded down the road, scrubbing a flat-spot on the tyre that went down to the canvas. That must have been exciting!

In about 1954 my father rebuilt the engine. I still remember the crankshaft, along with several other components, being spread out on the kitchen table. I'm sure my mother was impressed with that!

By 1958 the Cowley was well past its use-by date and was replaced with a 1940 Ford Prefect. That was all my parents could afford at the time, and it needed a lot of work to get it properly roadworthy. Dad tried selling the Morris, but no-one wanted it. The radiator was sold for scrap and the front wheels, springs and axle were sold to a neighbour who was building a trailer.

The car remained in our yard for many years, with its front sitting on the ground, giving me an interesting place to play.

The next Morris in our family was a 1962 Major Elite, which was given to my father in 1965. Dad wanted to up-date the 1951 Ford Prefect he had at the time but, being a pensioner, was having trouble finding a suitable car that he could afford.

It happened that he was good friends with an elderly couple who owned the Elite. When the wife, who was the only driver, died, the husband ended up giving the car to my father. He explained that since his wife had died there had been a constant stream of relatives (who he referred to as "vultures"!) asking if they could have the car. He was very upset by this and became determined that none of the family would get it! Instead, he said he would give it to someone who had been a true friend, was in much more need than any of his relatives, yet had asked for nothing.

The old chap was a keen gardener so, as a gesture of appreciation, we used to gather horse manure from paddocks near where we lived and deliver it to him for fertiliser. I remember this well, as I was the one who had to shovel the manure!

I got my licence in the Elite and, much later, taught my girlfriend Jan (now wife) to drive in it - gaining her licence in it.

In 1967 Morris number three entered the Jordan family; a 1954 Morris Minor. Dad bought this for me after I crashed my first car, a Goggomobil. It cost $110. I loved it, but the 803cc A-series motor was showing its age. After descending a long hill, or if left idling, it blew a cloud of smoke that would make James Bond proud! I used an oil-additive to reduce the smoke.

The previous owner had re-painted the car, but not very well. The paint had been applied too thick and had a dimpled surface rather like an orange-skin. He had also covered the dash in woodgrain "contact". Yes, very tacky, but I liked it. I fitted a pretend-leather steering wheel cover and also took the hub-caps off and painted the wheels "chrome", which was really just a slightly brighter shade of silver-frost! Amazing the things a young bloke does to "improve" the looks of his car.

Although having the Elite and Minor in the family at the same time, it wasn't until many years later that I learned that the Major had originally been built on the same floor-pan as the Minor. But I remember looking at the photo I took of them parked side-by-side and thinking that the overall width and front track of each looked very similar.

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