WHY MORRIS MINOR PART 6

 

 

I graduated high school when I was 17 and I had this dream to go to sea. So, I caught a Danish merchant ship out of San Francisco, headed for the Orient and further. The first thing those rough and tough Scandinavians told me was that I was a soft, fat American and I was lucky that I didn't go to sea when ships were made of wood and the men were made of steel. Somehow, the ships being made of steel and the men being made of wood, did not make the job any easier. Nevertheless, that experience never took away my love of sailboats made of wood or cars for that matter.

I've owned a few wooden boats and have refinished them, it wasn't until my late 30's that I felt confident enough to completely rebuild a Morris traveler with all new wood. This is the third time I've done a complete body off restoration. It has become one of the milestones of my life. I can do it, it will come out right, it will look good and I'm proud of my work. Now, if I could only win the lottery so that I could pay my mortgage I would do it all the time. I've found that I derive a great deal of pleasure from bringing these Morris's back from death's door.

This 1958 green Morris Minor Traveler was on the road for 11 years and then seemed to drop out of life until 1998. It's last registration was 1969. It had spent most of its time in a variety of storage places, finally ending up in a Culver City body shop with another white traveler. The owner, unable to pay the storage bill any longer, lost the cars to a lien sale. The cars had no engines or transmissions and were filled with various parts of wood and pieces from other long dead Minors. 

The white traveler was sold off immediately and its whereabouts are unknown. The green one was purchased by an employee of Bruffy's Towing; the local police impound. It was original paint and the wood was complete except for it had been consumed internally by termites. Ken, the owner, had intended to build the car into bunk beds and a toy chest for his mentally challenged children. The metal was much too nice to cut up and the wood not strong enough to use as is.

One morning, a couple of weeks before our trip to England for the 50th anniversary of the Morris Minor, a tow truck arrives at my house as I pull into the driveway. This always frightens me. More than once have I been given a Morris unannounced with a note and the pink slip in the glove box saying, "Please... I don't want to send Horris the Morris to the junkyard..."

Bruffy's tow yard is actually a few blocks from my house in Marina Del Rey and Ken had looked me up to see if I could help him with his bunk beds for his kids. Funny enough, this car sat covered in an open yard that I passed every day for a year. I never even noticed it. I must be slipping.

After much deliberation and negotiation, We traded. He got some cash a Russian pedal car and a replica of a 1928 Mormon racer pedal car and I got the traveler. Just what I needed. In my mind, I got rid of two cars for one, even though they were 1/5 the size.



Whenever I got another Morris there is usually a strange coincidence or a sense of fate that comes with it. This is the strange coincidence for Warbucks. A couple of months later I get a call from Mark Ethridge of Motor Guzzo Classics. "Randy, someone just dropped off a box load of Morris parts. I don't want them, you can have them for $500." They were the parts that were missing from this traveler, including the original ID tag. I could not believe it. 

This car sat in my storage for almost a year before I realized what a solid and easily restorable Morris it actually was. The body, almost perfect, never wrecked, no rust, no modifications, none of the terrible afflictions that a 40 year old Morris might have suffered. I promised myself I wouldn't get carried away. A simple, clean yet modernized restoration......

Without adding all the usual cosmetic embellishments, I ended up with a very beautiful green Morris Traveler with a 1098 drive train. Morriservice provided the strong running engine with dual carbs and headers. Classic Gearbox of England provided the rebuilt transmission that seems almost new and the 422 rear end came from British European in San Pedro. New paint from Imperial. A beautiful gray interior with wine color carpets. The wood kit was from Steve Foreman of Woodies. A new interior. Five radial tires, disc brakes and some beautiful trim rings from Minor Developments.

This Morris restoration was the simplest one I have done in years. It's difficult not to treat them all like art projects. Yet on the other hand, Morris Minors are beautiful and I find the simplicity is part of the beauty. 

I did make some subtle additions: a gauge cluster that mounts under the dash that passed the approval of some of the more purist members of the club. Wooden boats have a tradition that when they are rebuilt or built new, they are given a launch party which I plan to do when the last details are finished. I have a little bottle of airplane wine to carefully brake on one of the bumper guards.

Why did I call it Warbucks... It is British Army green and the name reminds me of that old Army saying," K.I.S.S."
Randolph Williams

 

 

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