Why the cult classic rules the roads
Forty five years after the last Morris Minor rolled off the production line the car remains a cult classic loved by motorists everywhere . Steve Rose, secretary of the Lancashire branch of the Morris Minor Owners Club, explains the enduring passion of the icon of the road.
It is said nostalgia isn’t what it used to be but it certainly is if you get behind the wheel of a classic Morris Minor and drive along a leafy Lancashire lane. With the driver’s window down and the quarter light open the scents of the countryside breeze in to mingle with those of the leatherette seats and warm oil. Such an experience transports you back to the 1960s when these cars were a common sight and motoring life was much more pleasurable.The first post-war Morris Minor was introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1948 and became an immediate best seller. There were only two models to start with, a two door saloon and a convertible, originally known as a Tourer. In 1952 a four door saloon was introduced and the following year these three models were joined by the Light Commercial Vehicle (Van and Pick-Up) and the Traveller, the wood framed estate car. Between 1948 and 1971, when production of the Minor ended, more than 1.6m Minors were produced. Five years after production ceased it was decided to form the Morris Minor Owners Club and the first national rally was held the following year at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire. Members were encouraged to start local branches of the club and in January 1981 the Lancashire Branch was formed. The first meeting was held at the Richmond Hotel in Southport and the branch was originally to be called the West Lancs Branch. Two months later the meeting venue changed to the Ley Inn, at Leyland, and the name changed to its current one Morris Minor Owners Club Lancashire Branch. Some of the original founder members are still with us today and we now meet on the fourth Monday of each month (except December) at the Fox Lane Sports and Social Club in Leyland.The branch has been very involved nationally over the years. Each summer there is a week long trip abroad, usually to France, known as ‘Minors On Tour’. One of our families has taken one or two minors to more than 20 of these holidays and more than 100 Morris Minors can be at these events often turning the French countryside into a scene from ‘The Borrowers’. Members attend the National Rally each year wherever it is held in England and eight branch Minors were at Catton Hall, in Derbyshire, for this year’s rally. Two branch Minors have had the honour of taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London and various members have walked in the procession over the years. Branch organised trips have been made to the Isle of Wight to attend the local branch rally and members have been twice to the Isle of Man. In 2008 we saw the Diamond Jubilee of the first post war Morris Minor being produced and the national club decided to mark this event by raising funds for the Marie Curie cancer charity. Branches were encouraged to devise ways of raising funds and we, in conjunction with our neighbouring North East Lancashire Branch, produced a Women’s Institute style calendar which raised Â£4,000, and a lot of eyebrows. This year sees the 40th anniversary of the national Morris Minor Owners Club and to mark it Marie Curie Care has again been adopted as its charity for the year. A 1962 four door saloon has been given to the club with the proviso that it be used to raise funds to fight cancer. In September this Minor will be driven from John O’Groats to Lands End on a trip that will last for four weeks. During this time it will visit every branch of the national club, including those in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight, and also every Marie Curie hospice. At each venue the Minor will stop for around two hours when it will be on display, along with local branch Minors, and members will make a bucket collection for the charity. The car will be on show tomorrow from 12.30pm to 2.30pm at the Tesco Extra Supermarket at Towngate, Leyland.As we are celebrating our branch’s 35th Anniversary this year we have held a number of events to give the public a chance to see these cars both on the road and on display. The main one was our annual rally held in conjunction with the classic car show at Leighton Hall, near Carnforth, in July each year. Here we had a stand with more than 20 Minors on view. In April we held a 35th anniversary run when 17 Minors went on a tour of the Fylde visiting nine windmills on the way and ending up with a meal in the evening.One key aim of the branch, as well as using our cars, is to keep them on the road. One Saturday each month we meet for a ‘mechanic’s day’ when members bring there Minors along to service them and to do repairs. There are always owners there to help anyone who does not have a lot of technical knowledge and it is a great opportunity to learn how to maintain the relatively simple mechanics of these vehicles. Minors lend themselves to modifications and members have fitted larger engines, five speed gearboxes and servo assisted disc brakes to cars thereby allowing them to keep up with modern day motorway traffic. It is very encouraging that the MMOC is attracting younger members with its thriving young members register as these owners will ensure a bright future for these cherished cars. Perhaps sometime in the future one of them may repeat a construction that took place in 1974 when a keen owner, Edwin Law, wanted a new Minor but as none were available he arranged for his local Morris garage to build one specially from spare parts. This they did at a cost of Â£3,625, almost exactly five times the cost of the last saloon produced which had been priced at Â£729. Such is the dedication of some owners.Wherever we go the sight of a Morris Minor brings a smile to people’s faces. They will stop and reminisce about how they learned to drive in one, how their parents or grandparents owned one and we even get tales of them being used for a spot of courting. Anyone with an interest in Morris Minors can join the MMOC or the Lancashire branch as you do not need to own one to be a member. Full details can be found on the branch website at www.lancashiremmoc.co.uk.