WHY MORRIS MINOR PART 3
IS THERE A MORRIS MINOR LIFESTYLE?
This is the third installment that I have written in an attempt to understand my obsession and my love of Morris Minors. I have been asking myself the question "Has owning a Morris Minor secretly manipulated me into a kind of lifestyle, unique to its ownership.
Recently, on the Internet, an email was circulating entitled "Are you addicted to LBC's?" There were several humorous antidotes, from swap meets, to hiding cars, to owning more than one. The funniest thing about the e-mail was, a few people wrote in asking, “What is an LBC?” Morris Minors qualify for being the most famous Little British Car ever built.
The questionnaire reminded me of the 20 questions that John Hopkins Hospital publishes to determine if someone is an alcoholic. I thought that maybe I should devise such a test for myself or anybody else that wondered about their addiction to LBC's. 1. Has Morris Minor ownership ever affected your family's welfare? 2. Has Morris Minor ownership ever caused you to be incarcerated or institutionalized? 3. Has owning Morris Minors made your life unmanageable?
I could not go on with it. So what, I am a Morris Minoroholic. Yes, I love them. I own them; I hide them from family and friends. I buy them when I shouldn't. I drive through strange neighborhoods wondering if there is one in a locked garage somewhere, forgotten over the years.
Forget about being an LBC addict. Defining a Morris lifestyle seems more interesting anyway. The first time I went to England was 1984 and it was late July. The friend I was visiting told me of a national Morris rally which turned out to be on my birthday. I was astounded to see 500 or so Morris Minors lined up in an idyllic park setting. Even more interesting than the cars, were the owners. No two were alike.
The old wives tale that only district nurses drive Morris's is absolutely untrue. There were doctors next to shopkeepers next to bakers, artists, etc. The only thing they had in common was their love of Morris Minors.
I have been looking for patterns in Morris ownership since then and I have found that the people that love Morris's cannot be defined by who they are or what they do, except that most of them have in common to there Morris ownership, a genuine civility.
Even Harrison Ford and Woopie Goldberg own a Morris.
So Morris ownership has nothing to do with wealth, social standing or ethnicity. The car seems to be loved by people all over the world, of all different races and of all different social status.
What is it about Morris Minors that can attract such a broad base of people so diversified in nationality, upbringing and age? I believe the answer lies in the ownership of the car itself. "It isn't so much the destination, it is the journey". What really happens when you drive a Morris Minor?
They have a subtle influence on you. You have got to come to a complete stop before you put it in first gear. You don't go too fast because the original brakes are a bit dodgy. If you park in a public place, you don't have to stand more than five minutes before someone comes up to you and starts telling you a story about a Morris Minor they once knew. Most people name their Morris's. They become members of the family like pets. I feel guilty when I neglect mine or just let it sit alone and not drive it. When something starts to brake, I try and talk my Morris out if it. "Oh please just wait till I get home. I promise I will change the part tomorrow." I take it on long journeys to strange places and even if I am alone, I always refer to the Morris and myself as "We". My Morris is always better looking than any other Morris I have ever seen. If it is a perfect Morris, I always say, "What good is that Morris. You can't drive it anywhere or you will get it dirty." I love the little spin-around ashtray, which I keep money in for the parking meter. I have a whole collection of Morris Minor models. I have all the books. I even have a notebook full of brochures. I never throw out my newsletters. I have extra parts hidden away. Every day, I try and do something to make my little Morris better, even if it is just changing a screw that has gotten rusty or to wash it, I try and do something.
Given all these facts, that I seem to share in common with a lot of other people who own Morris Minors, how does this create a lifestyle?
The most apparent thing is that I have refused to be pushed into the multi-national, corporate lifestyle where time and the carrot are the most important factors in your life. If you own a Morris, you have to block out a certain amount of time for coming and for going. I hate rush hour traffic. If I drive my Morris Minor at rush hour, it's actually as painful for me as it is for the car. I've learned patience. I enjoy talking to people and listening their own stories of Morris Minors. I will always help a Morris Minor owner in distress. I love accessorizing my Morris. When people ask me “what’s a car like that worth?” My answer is always the same, “It is a labor of love!” I own a wooden sailboat.. We have Jack Russell terriers. One of the happiest times in my life was when my entire family each owned a Morris. I love driving Morris Minors through the English countryside on summer days, up along the California coast and through the American desert in winter. I like to sail my wooden boat. I use the same varnish on my boat as I do my Traveler. I have been getting thirty plus miles per gallon for years. I hate car payments. I hate cars I can’t push or fix when they break. I think it is very vogue to own a Morris. It is an understatement in good taste.
This has been going on for over 32 years. My first car being a black Morris coupe that I paid $58.00 for, one would think I would be tired of it by now.
I refused to succumb to the reality of the modern world, and only drive my Morris on the weekends or holidays.
The fact is, it has been very difficult to maintain a lifestyle where you can drive a Morris every day and support your family. One inevitably needs to own more than one. This however is exactly what I have had to learn to do over the last five years. There is a price for non-conformity!
My lifestyle today is much simpler. I keep my overhead low. I have more time to do things that I enjoy, because I want less. This maybe the very principal that makes Morris Minors so attractive.
It is a basic car with timeless styling that was designed and engineered to last many years. Probably that is the hallmark of my lifestyle today. I keep it simple. Less is more. I have projects that allow me to fulfill my artistic yearnings. I spend time with my family. We go to a lot of movies. I am slower than the generation that is now, and I am more interested in quality rather than quantity.
In fact, this article was inspired in part by a new movie “The Fast and the Furious” an urban yarn about today’s car culture in somewhere Los Angeles. I almost titled this story: “The Slow and Serious Versus The Fast and The Furious”.
I’ve got to tell you about this movie and how I believe it relates to Morris Minors. I was so troubled, yet excited by this film after seeing it; I ordered a press kit. If you own a Morris, seeing a movie like Fast and Furious is like going to see a science fiction epic. Japanese rice rockets engineered so far past their original intentions that they need NOS (nitrous oxide system) to power them to 140 mph in less than 10 seconds.
I realized a complete generation had passed me by. I ask myself “what happened” How did things change so radically? Believe it or not the press kit had the answer:
The Director of Fast and Furious, Rob Cohen said, “there has been so much written and spoken about the place of the automobile in the development of American culture. Furthermore, the car is a symbol of freedom and mobility. There is a point in life when you are totally dependent on your parents to move around and then at 16 you finally get your license. From then on you are free. You never forget that the car gave you that freedom.”
In the Fast and the Furious, they are rewriting an old story, about freedom, loyalty and betrayal. But instead of horses, they have horsepower.
This is the very thing I got when I bought my first Morris; a sense of freedom to go anywhere I wanted, later I developed a sense of individuality for owning a car not many people could own. Car culture isn’t necessarily unique to America as Director Cohen states. People all over the world practice some form of car culture. So, if there was a lifestyle for Morris Minor owners, it might be about simplicity flavored by freedom and individuality. With a greater appreciation of the value of time and that which is more lasting…