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How an engineer traced his beloved three-wheeler to the USA - 50 years after he sold it

PUBLISHED: 09:50 17 May 2020

John Knights, from Taverham, in his beloved Morgan Three Wheeler alongside his sister, Joyce. Picture: Courtesy of John Knights

John Knights, from Taverham, in his beloved Morgan Three Wheeler alongside his sister, Joyce. Picture: Courtesy of John Knights

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On reaching the age of 17 in 1945, John Knights’ uncle - also named John - was permitted by his parents to buy a Morgan Three Wheeler.

John Knights (left), from Taverham, with his beloved Morgan Three Wheeler alongside his brother, Sonny. Picture: Courtesy of John KnightsJohn Knights (left), from Taverham, with his beloved Morgan Three Wheeler alongside his brother, Sonny. Picture: Courtesy of John Knights

For several years the vehicle was Uncle John’s pride and joy, until family life intervened and he reluctantly exchanged it for something more practical in 1958.

But in the decades that followed he often wondered what became of his beloved, metallic blue two-seater.

So, in around 2008, with the help of family member Matt Kennedy and the Morgan Three Wheeler Club, Uncle John set about tracing what had happened to his first ever car.

“When Uncle John became a family man he had to sell the Three Wheeler,” his nephew said. “But it stayed in his mind and, some years later, he mentioned he’d like to find out where it ended up.”

The Morgan Three Wheeler once owned by John Knights, from Taverham, had been spray painted yellow by the time it reached Iowa, USA, in 1981. Picture: Randy AndersonThe Morgan Three Wheeler once owned by John Knights, from Taverham, had been spray painted yellow by the time it reached Iowa, USA, in 1981. Picture: Randy Anderson

The search team discovered the Three Wheeler was in Iowa, USA, and being renovated by current owner Randy Anderson.

It transpired the Morgan had been sold by Uncle John to automotive writer Ken Purdy, before being acquired by Glen Anderson Jr in 1981 - by this point spray-painted yellow - and inherited by his son, Randy, in 1993.

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Uncle John and Mr Anderson established contact and, as many transatlantic conversations ensued, the pair struck up a friendship which lasted until the former’s death in 2019.

John Knights and Randy Anderson, from Iowa - who eventually inherited Mr Knights' Morgan Three Wheeler - met in Taverham in 2008. Picture: Courtesy of John KnightsJohn Knights and Randy Anderson, from Iowa - who eventually inherited Mr Knights' Morgan Three Wheeler - met in Taverham in 2008. Picture: Courtesy of John Knights

On one occasion Uncle John, a skilled motor engineer, was able to diagnose a mechanical fault by listening to the engine note over the phone.

And, in 2018, while visiting the UK, Mr Anderson made a special effort to meet his Morgan’s former owner in Taverham, where he lived.

“They were in regular contact for years and finally met at Wensum Valley Golf Club,” added Mr Knights.

“Randy said at the time of Uncle John’s funeral last year he would start up the Morgan in his honour.”

The Morgan Three Wheeler once owned by John Knights, from Taverham, was restored to its original form by Randy Anderson in Iowa, USA. Picture: Randy AndersonThe Morgan Three Wheeler once owned by John Knights, from Taverham, was restored to its original form by Randy Anderson in Iowa, USA. Picture: Randy Anderson

Mr Anderson has restored the car to a high standard - in the same black livery as when it left the factory - and proudly exhibits the Three Wheeler at various car parades and displays.

And the American’s connections to Norfolk do not end there, for he is also part of the group which recently purchased a bike from Swaffham motorcycle enthusiast, Keith Parry.

As featured in this newspaper in February, the last surviving Iowa State Patrol motorbike is returning to the US and Mr Anderson will be responsible for its restoration.


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