My Firt Car: Holidaying in Morris Minor uphill challenge

Maurice Hayward with his 1951 split windscreen Morris Minor.

Maurice Hayward with his 1951 split windscreen Morris Minor. - Credit: supplied

Maurice Hayward tells of the ups and downs, highs and lows of an action-packed holiday in his fully-loaded Morris Minor.

After two years of riding motorbikes in all weathers, I sold my Norton 16H and the Matchless 350 in favour of a 1951 Morris Minor with a split windscreen.

The first thing my wife did when we got the car home was to polish the leatherette seats and so, for evermore, back-seat passengers would almost slide off them when we skidded round corners.

The car was in immaculate condition, except someone had put lino on the floor which we thought rather odd, but soon discovered why, as each time we went through a large puddle water came squelching up around our feet.

We had belonged to the Dagenham and District Motor Cycling Club and, even though we now had the car, we still belonged to it and went off every Sunday to the coast or surrounding countryside.

Making a foray into deepest Kent via the Woolwich ferry, we spent a lovely day up and down the hills, past the hop fields and fruit orchards, thinking how lucky we were to be enjoying such luxury when, without warning, the clutch refused to work. There we were miles from home, the Woolwich ferry to be reconquered and no way of changing gear.

I managed to drive by putting the car in first gear, turning the key and then changing gear by trying to match the road speed with the engine revs. This worked and we got home – even on and off the ferry.

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The clutch rod from pedal to gearbox lever was metal and would and have to be replaced about three times in all until I found a piece of fencing wire was the best solution. This lasted until I eventually sold the car.

We decided to go on holiday to Looe in Cornwall. So, with mother and father-in-law, young brother Tony, the two of us and everything including the kitchen sink, we set off from Essex mid Saturday morning.

The car – its top speed was sometimes 53mph going downhill with the wind behind you – crept towards the West Country and before long, loaded down, the tyres began to complain. I think we got our first puncture in Surrey, and then one in each county across England, so it was at midnight that we all stood around the car, on Dartmoor, while my wife and I changed and repaired yet another smooth tyre. Eventually we made it to Looe.

The bungalow we had booked was halfway up the steep Barbican Hill and the Morris refused to even go up the first few yards. My wife, father-in-law and Tony pushed and with a spit and a cough the car gradually made its way to our final destination which was in complete darkness overlooking the harbour and town of Looe. What a journey!

Next day we gave the Morris a rest, unpacked the boot and roof rack and admired the magnificent view, all of us wondering how on earth we were going to get around Cornwall's hills, let alone back to Essex.

The beauty of the Morris Minor's design was the exceptional roadholding with its wheels solidly mounted on each corner. Snow, ice, torrential rain were no contest. The car stuck to the road even when I regularly did a hand brake turn at the end of the road and into the drive of our house which was in the corner. Great fun!.

When I had had the car for about five years, I heard that someone in East Ham, London, had a spare Morris Minor engine going cheap and, as mine needed some TLC, I shot off to buy it. It was loaded into the boot and with Tony, aged 12, we made our way home but, trying to stop at a pedestrian crossing, the brakes failed and we narrowly missed a few people and cars, arriving home safe but not quite sound.

Every weekend there were repairs and, as the engine was so small and light, I regularly took one out and put the other straight in.

The car still looked good but had seen better days. It had done us proud and we always look back at it with fondness. Whenever we see one on the road, we always say 'There we go'.

You never forget your first car so share your memories of adventures and disasters. It doesn't matter how old it is, just email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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