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My First Car: Morris Minor repairs grew into major headache

PUBLISHED: 14:55 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:55 28 September 2018

Sharon Willmott painted her 1948 Morris Minor black while her father made it roadworthy. Picture: Sharon Willmott

Sharon Willmott painted her 1948 Morris Minor black while her father made it roadworthy. Picture: Sharon Willmott

Sharon Willmott

It was 12 years before Sharon Willmott was able to afford her first car, a £20 1948 Morris Minor, but she then kept ‘him’ for more than 20 years... with the help of her father.

Sharon Willmott'’s father, Arthur Johnson, made sure her Morris Minor never failed an MOT test. Picture: Sharon WillmottSharon Willmott'’s father, Arthur Johnson, made sure her Morris Minor never failed an MOT test. Picture: Sharon Willmott

I may have passed the driving test aged 18 but going into nursing meant it was impossible to buy and run a car. So I was 30 before I decided that I was going to have at least one car in my life – even if I kept it for only six months.

I bought a 1948 Morris Minor for £20. It was in a very poor condition, but my father, Arthur Johnson, worked hard on it to get it roadworthy and, after I’d painted it black, it looked quite smart.

I signed up for car maintenance classes, and scrupulously checked the Minor over every weekend – as well as washing it, of course.

Amazingly, he – the car was definitely male – and I spent more than 20 years together and, thanks to my wonderful father, he never failed an MOT test.

Parked in London streets, over the years pretty well everything disappeared from that car – the hub caps, the roof rack, a tankful of petrol, a rug from the back seat, even the tax disc, but the car itself was always left behind, until one horrible day when I found he had disappeared. I was devastated.

But two nights later I was woken by a phone call from tbe police. They had found him for me, and he was still in one piece! After a while I moved to Saffron Walden, in Essex, and at last he got his first garage.

When my father died I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would have to say goodbye to my car as well. Slowly, the Minor became less reliable.

One cold day a front wheel collapsed on my drive to work. Within minutes, total strangers had pulled over to offer help. One even sat me in his car and gave me a cup of coffee while he rang a garage. I hadn’t realised how much a part of the local scene my car had become.

But repair bills were mounting steadily and, when eventually I was told that £700 would be the cost of getting through the MOT test, I very, very reluctantly had to give up on him. For a while he stood in his garage, and I used the bus.

In the end I gave him away to one of the Morris Minor centres, in the hope that someone would repair him – although I suspect he was used for parts but I didn’t want to know his fate.

I like to think of him somewhere, still running around, and still catching the eyes of car enthusiasts – like once, at the top of Porlock Hill in Somerset, when two elderly men gave him a round of applause as we gained the summit together.

Tell people about your first car – email your memories with a picture to motoring@archant.co.uk or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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