Meccano on four wheels

Morris Minor towing a National 12ft dinghy.

1970 was an eventful year for me. I was promoted to a position of land surveyor in High Wycombe, having completed five years’ training in Maidstone, Kent.

There was a transport element included in this promotion. I had to sell my nearly-new BSA motorcycle and buy a car as a working tool. I had saved a reasonable sum of money for a racing dinghy, but this cash had to serve as a deposit for my new car – a Morris Minor.

Well before 1970, the engine size for the Minor had increased to a 1,098cc version of the much-respected Series A engine.

My colleagues in the drawing office were surprised that a 24-year-old should choose such a vehicle, as they expected me to buy something a little more racy. The reason was simple: I was a motorcyclist during my training and used to completing my own maintenance. I wanted to continue this practice after the one-year guarantee expired. The Minor was like Meccano on four wheels and therefore would be an easy machine to service.

The cost of the car from Rye Hill garage in High Wycombe was £729 and eight old pence. I still have the BMC retail order form, plus the receipt from the garage, stating the price, including under-sealing, seat belts, tow bar and temperature gauge – all were extras.

At the first 500-mile service I had a foolscap-sized piece of paper filled with faults that required correction under warranty. None of the faults stopped the car from running, but they were annoying, particularly the water leak that filled up one of the rear footwells. The garage never managed to solve this particular problem, but eventually my father and I traced it to a hole in a welded seam halfway up the bodywork!

The engine failed only once, in a torrential thunderstorm. I had fitted a locking fuel tank cap and had missed the instruction concerning removal of a rubber seal for tanks that vented through the cap. There was a huge whoosh as air entered the tank when the penny dropped, and I removed the offending cap. Removing the rubber seal restored the fuel supply permanently.

One photograph shows the Minor passing through the ford at Great Walsingham during a visit to my parents, who had retired to Norfolk. The other is of the car towing a National 12ft dinghy, which I restored during 1970 and raced for a number of years. This photograph was taken on a bridge over the M2 motorway in Kent.

The Minor was in my ownership for nearly three years and covered some 33,000 miles with very few problems. It was traded in for a Volkswagen Beetle that was extremely well built and ran faultlessly with no leaks.

During retirement we enjoyed 10 years with classic motorcycles before hanging up our helmets and buying a 1956 Austin A30, fitted with an original 803cc Series A engine. There are few differences between the A30 and the Minor, but both share the ease of maintenance that I first sought in 1970. Like the Minor, the A30 also has a water leak!

Andrew Dawson, Sheringham.

We’d love to hear your own story of your first car. If you’d like to see it on our drive24 blog, send your memory with a photo to Sadie.Jennings@archant.co.uk.

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