I have owned the Morris 1000 Traveller for almost nine weeks. It was not love at first sight. Prior to taking delivery of the car I had not driven for about eighteen months and before that I had owned a succession of larger vehicles with bigger engines to match, which had a much heavier and more substantial “feel” about them from the driver’s point of view. At first the Traveller felt rather light by comparison. The front doors closed with a rather “tinny” slam rather than a more refined click and engine noise levels in the car were louder than I had been used to in my previous BMWs. These are not criticisms of the Traveller though, as most small cars of the ’50s and ’60s were much the same, or worse, and it is worth remembering than the Morris Minor was designed in the 1940s. The problem was that I needed to become accustomed to the car.
Having concluded, most reluctantly, that I needed to own a car again I decided on my budget and I did consider a few modern cars. Nothing interested me enough to catch my attention for more than a few minutes and I was haunted by the long-held belief that most affordable modern cars are doomed to last only a few years thanks to built-in obsolescence, an early decline in spares availability and an inadequate supply of restoration skills and facilities in the average local garage. So my best bet was a well catered-for classic car which would be affordable and user-friendly to a DiY oriented owner, so that I would have the choice of taking it to a specialist or doing work myself when it becomes necessary.
The Traveller fulfilled all of these requirements. It helped that Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre at Bristol, arguably the leading specialist in these cars, is only about an hour from here by car or public transport.. Secondly, I needed the ability to carry larger loads than would fit in a smallish saloon car and, thirdly, if I bought a good enough example to start with, it should be that much easier to preserve its condition during my ownership and thus avoid significant (or perhaps any) depreciation if I kept it for a few years.
To my surprise, I felt a marked lack of excitement on taking delivery of the car. I gave it a cursory inspection and put it away in the garage, from which it emerged every few days for short shopping trips. I think the problem was that I really didn’t want to own a car again but it had become a necessity.
After a while it began to grow on me. I had to admit that it always starts without delay and has no difficulty in keeping up with the modern traffic in town. It is very easy to drive and to park, being relatively compact and quite nippy. It is also very comfortable, especially since I acquired a couple of special cushions for the front seats so that the passenger and I could enjoy a slightly higher viewpoint on the scene around us. The front seats shown in the picture below are from a modern Mini and form part of the upgrade to the “Series 3” models now being built to special order at the aforementioned Morris Minor Centre. The Traveller puts smiles on other drivers faces and has started more conversations with total strangers on our local supermarket car park than I have experienced in years! How could it not grow on me?
After a month or so it became dusty and was treated to a wash and polish, by hand. I am sure that the woodwork had been more than adequately treated at Bristol but, a few days later when the car had dried thoroughly, I decided to add a further coat of Rustins Danish Oil. Apparently, varnish dries hard and eventually cracks as a result of temperature variations and general weathering. The cracks not only allow water to gain access to the wood but actually retain it while it helps to promote rot in the wood. Danish Oil, I understand, remains flexible enough to avoid cracking. However, it does need further applications twice a year, each consisting of several coats applied by brush. I was keen to ensure that there were no potential water traps along the inner edge of the wood or in the joints, So I took my time to apply the oil to all the wood, not wiping it on with a rag, but applying it generously with a half-inch oil painters brush which, as you would expect, did rather a good job!
Whenever I have acquired a “new” car, even decades ago when I knew even less about cars than I do now, I have always been keen to inspect the beast from end to end, checking on oil and water and hydraulic fluid levels, and on the wear in brake shoes and pads, among other checks. It is a familiarisation exercise as much as anything else. I also make a point of obtaining and carrying the tools and spare parts that are most likely to be needed. It’s called “be prepared” and it’s ever so good for the peace of mind.