Norfolk man’s labour of love that was 15 years in the making

It was a day that had taken longer than 15 years to arrive.

On a thankfully rain-free morning, the shiny MG Midget emerged from its tarpaulin at the back of Peter Morgan's garage like a bright butterfly escaping its chrysalis.

When he first picked up the car – 'then no more than a shell and a box of bits' – Mr Morgan, 49, recalled that John Major was still prime minister and excitement was growing about football coming home for Euro 96.

Having toiled at his single-man workshop in North Burlingham, near Norwich, through the entire Blair years, Brown's brief tenure and the dawn of the coalition, he was finally ready to make the important phone call: 'Your car is ready, come and collect her.'

Sadly, the call was not made to the original owner, Simon Needham, who died before the restoration could be finished, but to his 79-year-old father Owen, who lives in nearby Blofield.

The retired Cantley sugar factory manager arrived to collect the 1970 classic from PDM Autocare at noon on Tuesday – and to celebrate the long-awaited day drove Mr Morgan in it to Reedham for lunch at the Ferry Inn.

A master of understatement, the garage owner of 26 years admitted it had indeed been a long job, but described it as a 'labour of love' that had to be fitted in between his bread-and-butter servicing and repairs.

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He explained that Simon Needham had never been in any hurry and the pace of the work had slowed still further after the bank employee's move to Germany.

Mr Morgan, who lives next to the Main Road workshop, had learned of Mr Needham's death at the age of 47 six years ago and tucked the unfinished car away in his father's barn at the village's Church farm until someone claimed it; when he finally made contact with Mr Needham's father, he said he wanted the work carried on.

He said: 'In total, I must have worked on the car for more than 300 hours. It was never going to be a viable proposition as you could never charge the true cost of the labour.'

Mr Needham, who is planning to keep the car and cherish it, said: 'It has taken a long time because it has been done very carefully and to a high standard.

'I promised to take Peter out for lunch when it was done, but I never thought I would live that long for it to happen.'

Having finally waved goodbye to the MG in his workshop, Mr Morgan is ready for his next long-term project.

Stressing that his regular customers could be guaranteed a service measured in days and hours rather than years, he confessed: 'I have had a Riley RME 1950s saloon in my garage almost as long as the MG.

'The owner in Strumpshaw is in no hurry, but now I have finished work on the MG I am hoping to start work on that.'