Journal: This Hopped-Up Morris Minor Was Restored By Father And Daughter

This Hopped-Up Morris Minor Was Restored By Father And Daughter

By Erik Olson
May 13, 2016

Photography by Erik Olson

When Greg Wold bought his Morris Minor at the ripe age of 16, it’s fair to say that he had no idea what life, let alone the car, had in store for him. It was 1972, and he was already turning out to be pretty ambitious when it came to cars having just sold a “bug-eye” Sprite he’d fixed up in order to fund a new project. His life was just beginning, as was his relationship with cars, but ironically enough this Morris Minor would sleep through most of it.

Similar to the fate of many old cars, this 1967 Minor was disassembled after a few years of enjoyment and put in a garage with the intent of a restoration. When Wold’s career picked up and he had to move, the car always came with…only to be stored somewhere new. Finally, in 1984, it was resurrected enough to be given a paint job before being put back into travel from Minnesota to Iowa, Chicago, Georgia, and back, only to be put right back in storage once again. At this point it’s likely the poor little Morris had more miles logged in moving vans than on the odometer.

Despite the neglected car, Wold’s ambition was, and is, ever present. In fact, he’s one of those guys that almost seems as if he has access to more than twenty-four hours in a day. He’s managed a successful career, he’s a runner, campaigns a very successful 1965 Mini Cooper S at tracks across the country, and he’s spending a portion of his retirement restoring a Lola for vintage racing…and vintage Minis for a select few.

Cars have come and gone through it all with stories to tell for each one, and standing in front of a wall of mostly black and white photos near the entryway to the workshop causes a lot of those stories to surface. Stories include races that have gone well, and those that haven’t, cars that he wishes he’d kept next to those he’s happy are gone, the days of Can-Am when the rules and safety restrictions were different, and so on.

Perfectly mixed in, yet somehow also a little out of place is a picture of some kids standing in front of a quarter-midget racer. It’s a color photo, and it doesn’t actually look that old.

As it turns out, Wold is as much a family man as he is a car guy. He introduced his two daughters to the car world by buying a quarter-midget racecar and putting them on the track. As he tells it, they actually did quite well and learned great driving skills. The best part being that the cars can be bought fairly cheap and usually sold for enough to break even, making it a pretty economical introduction to racing. Next to the pictures are a collection of plaques and trophies, so it’s fair to say that they took to it pretty well. The days were coming when those kids would be teenagers, however, and it wouldn’t be long before they’d be trading the race track for the street.

First cars should likely be slow, boxy, safe, and Scandinavian, right? Unfortunately, these choices are also extremely boring, especially if you’ve had the good fortune of racing on a track. Boring just wouldn’t do. And so it was, with a few years to spare, Wold decided to resurrect the Morris Minor in time for his oldest daughter Kate to drive when she turned 16. He knew it was an ambitious plan, but even though the car was in storage, he was constantly gathering parts and making plans. Though neglected at times, the car was always in the back of his mind and he now had the best reason of all to give it some effort.

Another new paint job had to happen first, and then it was off to the parts bin to make a few improvements, with Kate pitching in the whole way. An Austin Healey Sprite provided a 1275-cc engine and front disc brakes. Modern seats with headrests were reupholstered to look more correct while also adding an element of safety, along with slightly wider steel wheels for better tire selection and improved handling. Apart from that, the car remains largely original. Enough was done to make it a better driver, but the original feel was retained to keep the driver engaged with the car. The choke would still have to be managed, first gear has no synchros, there’s no power steering. This car was built when the driving experience had to be managed mostly by the driver, which meant Kate would be interacting with the car. It’s actually a pretty brilliant thing to hand over to a teenager, right?

Firing it up these days provides a wonderful sound that can only come from vintage British engines, especially those fitted with a header and otherwise free-flowing exhaust. It winds through the gears with a wonderful growl that makes you feel like you’re going much faster than you actually are, though it’s by no means slow. The paint still shines even though it’s 12 years old, and the body remains free of any dings or dents. That’s pretty remarkable when you remember that when Wold finished the car, its first job was to survive two years in a high school parking lot. That’s truly a sacrificial restoration if there ever was one, but as it turns out the car earned quite a bit of respect and managed the entire time without a scratch.

These days the little Morris Minor has returned to its days of sitting more than driving. Life took Kate out of state, so Wold himself drives it on occasion to keep it in tune, even doing a mild engine refresh over the winter—it’s far from neglected. It also gets to live in a nice, clean shop surrounded by other lovely classics—until Kate visits next.

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8 years ago

I got into so much trouble in my Morris Minor in the late ’80s… Note aftermarket steering wheel and additional gauges for temp and charge.

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers
8 years ago

Manual steering and a transmission with non-snychro first gear. That sounds like a good way to keep your teen’s hands off their cellphone while driving.

Jake Palmer
Jake Palmer
8 years ago

Now you see that what i love about these cars and one of many reason i own a classic, when your driving it you are actuality driving it and your feeling the car and working it. A friend one said there no button and things to play with in your mini don’t you get board. NO! when i go for a drive i DRIVE!

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