Beetling about in a Morris 8 Series E called ‘Coleoptera’
- Credit: supplied by Martin Smith
Martin Smith christened his first four-wheeled car 'Coleoptera' because the Morris 8 Series E looked like a beetle.
This is the tale of my first four-wheeled car. To explain, I helped at a motorcycle shop from about the age of 14. Bikers would come in to show off newly-acquired 650s one week then return with broken limbs – and bikes – the next.
Deciding that wasn't for me, when I reached 16 in 1965, I bought a Bond three-wheeler – 250cc of soft-top freedom. All went well for about six months until I was stopped by a policeman who asserted I wasn't allowed to drive it – in those days, at 16, you didn't argue and accepted a policeman knew the law. Now, I'm sure he was wrong.
Anyway, I sold the Bond and bought a 125cc MV Agusta which went rather well but I always felt vulnerable, even though I only 'dropped' it once.
As soon as I reached 17, a 'real' car beckoned so I sold the MV and used the funds to get a black Morris 8 Series E.
You may also want to watch:
The reasons were that it was within budget at £15 plus £15 insurance, a school friend already had one, it came as standard with a cool opening sunroof and, probably the main reason, it wasn't a Ford which, at that time, were mainly three speed with rod brakes and pneumatic wipers. The Morris was the height of affordable sophistication with a four-speed gearbox, hydraulic brakes and electric wipers.
OK, it also had six-volt electrics, so rubbish lights, wooden floors and no heater – demisting was accomplished by opening the windscreen a tad, if it wasn't raining too hard.
- 1 Caravan owners furious after park suddenly blocks sales of properties
- 2 Roadside restaurant aiming to re-open before Christmas
- 3 Five former MoD homes go up for sale near Norwich
- 4 Met Office issues warning for thunderstorms in Norfolk
- 5 Seal charity to take 'unprecendented' action to protect Norfolk seal colony
- 6 Two people arrested during police operation in south Norfolk
- 7 MP and parents concerned over traffic and parking chaos outside school
- 8 Furious Scout group demands apology from council in unpaid rents saga
- 9 Two fires in two hours on mid-Norfolk road
- 10 Christmas Lights Walk with toasted marshmallows coming to garden
It only had one real flaw. When starting off it would jump out of first gear if not held in with the gearstick. Not a problem, except on hill starts – hand on handbrake, knee under gearstick and foot on clutch.
Amazingly, I passed my driving test, including a hill start, in it – the examiner sold me a reconditioned gearbox and a 'Silvertop' high-performance alloy head. As its reward, I fitted the gearbox and head, repainted its bonnet and roof a fetching maroon and christened it 'Coleoptera' – the genus of beetles as the Morris 8 looked beetle-like and it was a play on 'Cleopatra'.
I never did see any performance improvement from the alloy head. Acceleration was best described as torpid – probably a godsend given the handling with beam axle on cartsprings.
The Jet garage sold petrol at four shillings and 11 pence (24p) a gallon and open pint glass bottles of thick oil – it used a few drops.
It never broke down and saw me through my college days. I eventually sold it to a college friend and bought £28 worth of Morris Minor.
Some time later, it came back to have a holed piston replaced and was then sold to another friend – the driver in the picture. To my regret, I didn't take photos of any of my early cars.
Tell us about the adventures you had in your first car – email your memories with a picture of the car to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to Andy Russell, Archant motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.