Following the recent post about Richard Beer’s frog-eyed Austin Healy Sprite, John Love has sent us a few words about his 1953 Morris Minor
John Love – Morris Minor 1953
Reading recent posts about old cars reminded me of my first car B a 1953 918cc. side valve Morris Minor which I purchased early in 1966, a month or so before I was due to take my driving test in midMarch. At that time I belonged to two diving clubs, the Bromley branch of the British Sub Aqua Club and the Swanley Sub Aqua Club and both clubs were going away diving over Easter B Bromley down to Brixham and Swanley, a couple of weeks later, to Swanage. I was going to drive myself down to both venues (the thought that I could fail my test never entered my mind!) and I was going to be taking some of the Swanley club’s equipment down to Swanage. Panic, panic!! – my test was cancelled due to the examiner being ill and the test was re-booked for a week before I was going down to Brixham. Fortunately, my confidence did not take a bit of a knock B I passed, but then I had to contend with my parents questioning whether it was sensible to drive all the way down to Devon when I had only just passed my test. Whilst I had no qualms about doing so, I did think I needed a bit more practice and so I drove from Sidcup up to New Cross, Peckham, over Vauxhall Bridge and then up to Hyde Park and Marble Arch, which I hit at the start of the rush hour and then back home again. Imagine doing that nowadays when you just passed your test!!
Anyway, with a few hours solo driving ‘under my belt’ a few days later I set off for Brixham B quite an epic journey with no motorway and virtually no dual carriageways. As my journey proceeded I started to feel that perhaps my car was not pulling as well as she had previously and this was confirmed when I arrived at the caravan site we were staying at. The site was on quite a steep hillside overlooking the bay and my car would simply not drive up the hill, even in first gear B it just stalled and after a while there was the smell of a burning clutch plate. I remembered that reverse gear was much lower than first gear and so I turned around and managed to reverse up the hill and there the car stayed for the rest of the week. Being a little concerned about my homeward journey I contacted the RAC (those were the days when the patrolmen would salute you!!) and they diagnosed a blown piston, but as I said I had to drive home, they gave me a route which would avoid hills of any consequence!!
Eventually, I arrived home, after a long journey with frequent stops to top up with oil, and then my thoughts turned to my journey the following week down to Swanage with my girlfriend and diving equipment on board. As it was impossible to sort out the problem in time a friend suggested that I could try putting some Holts Piston Seal in the engine, amazing stuff! After driving around for an hour or so there was no longer a blue haze following me and it was unquestionably pulling better. Fast forward a few days and we were on our way down to Swanage and even my girlfriend commented that it seemed to be going better as the journey progressed.
Well, Swanage came and went and it was not until midsummer that I finally had time to sort out the engine. When I stripped it down I discovered there a hole blown right down one side of one of the pistons and the piston rings had disappeared, but amazingly, both the hole and the piston ring grooves were completely filled with a solid carbon-like material. The piston seal had worked!
A complete rebuild with new pistons and oil control rings, plus big end shells whilst I was about it and it served me well for another couple of years before I swapped it for a Hillman Imp.