Friday, June 23, 2017

Keith Simpson - 3

 

MORRIS MINORS - A BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Having passed the driving test in 1960 most of my driving was accomplished in the company’s vehicles, namely Ford 100E vans and, when permitted, my father’s Ford Consul.  I passed the driving test in a then new Minor 1000 - 948cc.  I considered the Morris to be a little old fashioned and in general second rate, at least to a modern Ford Consul.  

Cycling being (apart from girls) my major activity outside work and college, it occupied most if not all of my spare time.  If there are any cyclists among us they will appreciate the best way to cycling fitness is to ride miles and it was not unusual for my friend and I to cycle 60 miles or more in the evenings after work and even more at weekends.  Goodness it makes me tired just to think about it now!  

Moving on to Easter 1962, three of my cycling pals suggested hiring a car for the Bank holiday.  Unfortunately as we were all around the same age no hirers were very interested in doing business with us (not the best risk, four young lads in a car).  It was at this juncture that I contacted the very school with whom I had taken the test and surprisingly, were I able to arrange the insurance, I could have - you’ve guessed it - the very same Morris Minor I’d used for my test! 

On the Saturday morning a four door green 948 saloon left Leicester in the direction of Llandudno.  By the time we gained the A5 I had decided the Morris was not all bad, in fact we all thought it nipped along very nicely, with very sharp positive steering and suspension, affording better handling than anything I had driven so far.  A little short of leg room, particularly in the rear, so me being the driver and the largest of the other three sensibly sat in the front.  

I should mention that being a driving school car it was equipped with dual controls, which without spanners could not be readily disconnected, so when I pressed the clutch or the brake pedals the pedals on the passenger side operated as well!  

Just the other side of Shrewsbury the long legged passenger fell asleep (I’m such a steady driver).  Suddenly the cars in front were braking to a standstill.  It seemed a good idea for me to do likewise - the brake pedal seemed very rigid and naturally feeling this resistance I pressed harder, a lot harder.  A loud squeal emitted on my left, the long legged passenger’s feet had drifted under the remote pedals during his stupor.   Realization dawned so I quickly removed my foot from the pedal, allowing him to move his foot with my quiet instruction “Shift ya feet”.  Fortunately he didn’t need telling twice and a swift braking application brought the Morris to a standstill just in time “phew”.  

Without further incident we arrived at Llandudno and immediately decided to investigate the Great Orme.  The Morris easily made the climb to the end of the road which, unlike the present as I recall, ended at a grass car park well short of the summit.  Always up for a challenge, off we went in first gear straight up the grass to the top, three big lads and me (who needs a four wheel drive when you have a Morris).  Then having slowly descended under a few disapproving eyes we spent the remainder of the day exploring Llandudno on foot before returning home.  

Day two arrived with my awaking in anticipation of another good drive.  The Peak district was our agreed destination, being cyclists the Peak district was not unknown to us, so first call was to be Matlock Bath for coffee.  Having collected my friends, off the Morris went along the A6 through Loughborough and into Derby (the M1 motorway was at this time being carved through the south of Leicestershire between Lutterworth and Leicester Forest East).  

Trolley buses were still in operation in Derby and compared to trams it was more difficult to predict their intended travel, normally travelling  along the crown of the road they would suddenly swing to the kerb and stop, their collector arms allowing much more movement than often anticipated.  Trams of course ran on lines so their travel was easily observed but getting your cycle wheels out from between the lines, without falling off, was indeed another matter.   

Following the river Derwent we arrived at the spa town of Matlock Bath, which Lord Byron compared with alpine Switzerland, hence it’s nickname Little Switzerland.  Our long legged friend had a pal there whose parents kept the petrifying well, a cave where water seeping through the rocks dripped onto a variety of everyday objects placed there by visitors.  These objects were eventually encased in stone by the mineral laden water.  

I digress - back in the Morris and across to Bakewell for lunch.  We enjoyed this always busy market town with the lovely river Wye supporting some huge brown trout.  Away again through Over Haddon and Monyash to Hartington - a picturesque village famous for it’s cheese making and quarrying areas for ironstone, limestone and lead.  It lies on the river Dove and still has a beautiful Youth Hostel where I have since stayed.  

A short drive brought us to Dove Dale and Thorpe Cloud, one of the Peak District National Park’s most visited areas.  Thorpe Cloud’s summit at 942 ft challenged us like the Great Orme, but this time a climb in the Morris wasn’t considered so we had a race to the top.  Long legs won by a small margin.  On the many occasions that I have climbed Thorpe Cloud since I have reflected looking down on that lovely green Minor and the ant sized people striding along the dale and wondered, how on earth did we manage to run without stopping to achieve the summit?  A short walk along the dale and back in the Morris for the run home to sample the beer at the Humber Stone public house in Humberstone village and reflect how enjoyable the two days in the Morris had been. 

Next morning I arose early, washed the Morris and returned with gracious thanks to the trusting owner (little did he know).  It was at this time that I promised myself that one day I would be the proud owner of a Morris Minor.  It took 33 years to realise this ambition, purchasing a 1962 two door in 1995.  I sold the car in 2009 after a long and happy relationship then purchased my present 1961 four door 1000.   


Keith and Bev Simpson with 1961 Morris Minor 1000

Happy Morrising

Keith Simpson