Loyalty Means Driving A Morris Minor For Forty Two Years And Counting
Photography by Will Broadhead
What’s the longest you’ve ever owned a car? A year? Two? Perhaps five? How about forty-two years? I’m sure there aren’t too many of us that can say that, but Stuart Glen has owned his 1962 Morris Minor 1000 since 1975. He already knew the car pretty intimately, after harpooning himself into the back of it once on (or rather, off) his Suzuki TS125. In fact the day he bought it his face print was still in embossed into the rear bodywork; thank goodness it didn’t have the luggage rack or tow bar at the time, eh Stu? Purchased for £80 off a friend, it sounds like a great deal, but this was1975 and that was a month’s wages for a car that was mechanically sound but cosmetically challenged, as Stu puts it.
So why a Morris Minor? Why a Moggy? And why a tatty one at the time? For me it’d be an easy answer, you can’t help but love those curves, and if you’re from Oxford like Stuart, you’ll have an intrinsic link to the car’s DNA, as they were built in the city. The car is quintessentially British, with its bulbous front hood and majestic front wings that echo designs seen on larger saloons such as the Jaguar Mk2; the Morris was perceived-luxury motoring for the masses. It sold well too, with the venerable Minor being the first British car to sell over a million units. Luxury though? Well, I did say perceived, and having spent a recent afternoon bashing about the Oxfordshire countryside inside of this car, I’m convinced I shouldn’t drop the modifier.
But this isn’t a road test. Owning and running a car such as this clearly isn’t about performance or beating the next guy at a stoplight, it’s about how it makes you feel and the smile it puts on your face. It certainly does that well enough, and although the tepid air of autumn made it a little too cold to lower the top, the experience behind the dash is wonderfully whimsical all the same. Looking up from the large speedometer and over the nose of the machine’s cheery face, you get the false sensation of speed that attends any unrefined ride, or perhaps it’s just a trick of the mind making me feel like we’re careening rather than cruising, something to be chocked up to the feeling you get riding shotgun in this wonderful little car. We aren’t the only pair enjoying the Morris either, as there were compliments sent our way from all who saw us out on the road, and we even had a few near accidents from those who kept their eyes on our anachronistic automobile rather than on the road ahead.
Stuart is used to it though, and though he’s used the car plenty in the producing four and a half decades, these days the family trips to the seaside and other longer journeys are duties for other cars. As it ages gracefully, the Morris is being used less, but it’s never, and never going to be, neglected. Indeed it makes short drives with regularity, and over the years the stamp of its owner and the time the two’ve spent together has been left on the car in the form of various upgrades and additions, some standard equipment, some not. If such a thing as Morris Minor purists exist, this isn’t a car for the group that insists on everything being original and as the company intended. It probably also isn’t a car for those that like to see a machine in immaculate condition, as this particular example shows the scars and blemishes earned with age. Don’t mistake patina for a lack of love though, for each year Stuart, now with the help of his daughter Victoria, completes the necessary work to keep the Morris motoring along happily. He tells me that the next larger piece of work to be done will be a new paint job, to finally replace the thirty-two-year-old skin of the current finish that is looking a bit pockmarked and battle hardened. That said, given its age and the rigorous use over those years, it still presents in a condition that belies its full history.
It’s a long one after all, and the car has had more than one new engine swapped in over its life, as well as additions like the racks and tow bar for the holiday luggage. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that the steering wheel is from a different model, but it’s been added here not in an attempt to update, but for ergonomics; the smaller diameter allows for taller and wider drivers to fit in comfortably behind the controls. Other bits remain just as they were from the factory, such as the wood under the battery, which harkens back to a time when the integrity of these cells wasn’t quite as good, and acid would leak from them. The solution was simply a plank of wood to catch the damage rather than having it drip onto the car. What an elegant solution. Other little quirks include the heating system, which on this car is a brass vent that sends air directly from the engine. We must decide before we leave if we would like this vent open or closed, as attempting to toggle it once the engine’s hot would leave the driver with the knurled edges of the knob branded into their palms.
For me details such as this are what give cars their character. The years of accumulated patina and other marks of age and use and life do the same. Before I leave, Stuart shows me the cutting of the car’s last appearance in the media back in 1994, and I wonder how many of the other cars in that same feature are still on the road now. Because when all is said and done, that’s what is most important, surely? That the car is still seeing use, is still being enjoyed despite not being perfect.