Modified Moggy Traveller could get its claws into Jaguars... for short bursts

Frank and Christine Kelly with their Morris Traveller in 1971. Picture: supplied

Frank and Christine Kelly with their Morris Traveller in 1971. Picture: supplied - Credit: supplied

Engineer Frank Kelly became a dab hand at modifying his Moggy Traveller but the performance didn't always live up to the speedometer.

Newly married with seventy quid in our pocket (three times the average weekly wage in 1971), we saw the Moggy Traveller parked at the roadside twixt Putney and Wimbledon.

'For Sale' was scrawled on cardboard in the window.

Good Lady Wife saw:

Wheels!


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Travel!

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Myself, a recently-graduated engineer, saw:

Mobile test bed!

Project!

Modifications!

Speed!

My new brother-in-law and fellow engineer agreed, so the green Morris Minor Traveller, with split windscreen and 950cc side-valve engine, was purchased.

Engine changes were incorporated every other time we visited the in-laws. We went through an 850cc overhead valve engine (OHV), a 1,000cc OHV and finally a 1,098cc OHV. We could change an engine in an afternoon.

Basic checks were made and then the engine was balanced on three bricks and held steady with one hand as it was run up to 4,000rpm with just the flywheel at one end and the fan blade at the other. Minus the exhaust it was hairy, deafening and tremendous fun.

The specified carburettor was a three-quarter inch SU. Variations were tried and a one and a quarter was chosen. The one and a half sucked your bank balance in through the air intake.

The back axle and its prehistoric ratios stayed the same but the gearbox was swapped. A delightful foible was the mismatch in the speedo cable drive ratio. The iconic circular speedometer waved around anyway. Henceforward, it read double and waved plus or minus 10mph.

A leisurely return from a Sunday lunchtime pub session jerked my passenger into bolt-upright sobriety. His fixed stare at the speedo as it swung gaily between 70 and 90 as we approached Winkfield high street, near Bracknell, stopped him from drinking for more than a week.

The downside was that it would do only 60mph flat out for very short periods but 0-35mph was phenomenal. Jaguar 3.8s would be checked in for a service after they encountered us at the traffic lights. Happy days!

Tell us about your first car and the adventures and scrapes you had – email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to motoring@archant.co.uk or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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