BRX 275


The Morris

BRX 275 at her debut  -  May 2007

A few members of the LCC may have seen my pride and joy (a 1939 Morris 8 Tourer ) which I finished restoring in late May 2007.

Soon after that, our worthy chairman Geoff Mullins asked me whether I would bring it along to the Grand Fete 2007 and put it on show  on the front lawn, as an item of interest.   Well of course I agreed and as a mild money raiser I came up with the idea of getting people to have a guess at the price of the car when bought new in April 1939.

The cost of a guess was only £1 and the prize would be a modest £10  - anything raised in excess of this would go to the Rowan’s Hospice.
Well if you recall the day of the Fete in 2007 was a stinker and when it wasn’t raining it was drizzling  - which kept visitor numbers down, and consequently there weren’t many takers for my ‘guessing game’, disappointingly only £16 was raised which meant that Rowan’s would get a mere £6  -  an embarrassing sum.

But astoundingly the anonymous winner  guessed the exact price of the Morris : £135.00 and very generously waived his prize when he learnt of the otherwise paltry sum which would be going to Rowan’s Hospice.

All this is a preamble to the main event: a potted history of the restoration of the Morris  -  as requested (let me make it clear) by our ‘Wizard of the Website’; Debbie Wilsher.

I have deliberately played-down the technical aspects of this article hoping that this will make more interesting reading.

It all started some 26 years ago when a fellow member of my vintage/classic car club the SHVPS (South Hants Vehicle Preservation Society) told me of a shabby 1939 Morris 8 Tourer for sale.

The Morris before Restoration

I went  -  I saw  -   I was conquered

Mikes first restoration

1956 Morris Minor  -  My first restoration

But at the time (1982) I was already well into the restoration of a 1956 Morris Minor Convertible.  So, until I could give it my full attention the newly acquired Morris 8 went immediately into dry storage to prevent any further deterioration.
Even after the Morris Minor was finished (early 1984) nothing happened with the restoration of the Morris 8 (well, I was still enjoying the honeymoon period with the Morris Minor!)

As a result of this rather prolonged honeymoon the restoration was delayed until about 1990 when I made a tentative start on various  items on the car, upon which I had bestowed the grandiose title of ‘The Immaculate Contraption’  -  obviously with a hopeful eye on the eventual outcome. I reasoned that all the time I had a ‘Club Eligible’ car there would be no spur to restore ‘Imma Con’ ; to resolve this situation I stupidly sold the Morris Minor  -  something I regret to this day.

With no ‘Club Eligible’ car to distract me I ought to have been able to get down to the restoration in earnest, but I had no idea just how long a job this was to be.   I continued to restore various parts: the engine, gearbox, electrical items etc.   But all the time putting off the hard job of pulling the bodywork apart and making all the necessary repairs.

By about 1993 I was suffering the lack of a  ‘Club Eligible’ car and I rather fancied a Sunbeam Alpine.   After much hunting I eventually found a 1963 model mendaciously advertised as ‘restored’.  However I must admit it looked great although surprisingly enough the handling left much to be desired .

Sunbeam Alpine

Beautiful but disappointing
Sunbeam Alpine


Suffice it to say it soon became clear that innumerable corners had been cut in the course of this so called ‘restoration’ and the upkeep of this car was taking too much time and money  -  both of which would have been far better spent restoring the Morris 8.  

 I was forced to the decision to sell this money-pit of a Sunbeam, having concluded that the only sure way to get a properly restored car would be to do it myself.  Unfortunately I had lost the best part of twenty years in the meantime to that well-known thief of time  -  procrastination.

By 2003/4 my on/off restoration efforts had covered such things as the upholstery, instruments, steering gear, brakes, lamps, chrome plating of all the brightwork, the wooden floorboarding and lots more

The sheer number of the restored parts presented a problem: where to store them? Well I can tell you all sorts of places were used, depending on the size and shape of the items themselves for example: for some years the front glass windscreen complete with frame was stored under our bed And numerous other bit and pieces were stored under other spare beds. The restored upholstery in particular was kept in  the loft where the mice enjoyed a meal or two before I discovered their attentions.   Obviously the heavier lumps such as the engine, the gearbox, axles etc had to be kept in the garage and workshop, but for the storage of smaller items all sorts of  nooks and crannies where called into service

In fact the situation got to the stage where I had to make a list of what was stored where, otherwise I would have lost track of many of the parts and I would have spent hours trying to locate them.

I also needed a means of gauging my progress to banish the feeling that I was getting no where, so I compiled a sort of graphic plan, which I could update as the work progressed: eg this shows the state of play at 11th January 2002.

Mikes Plan if what needed doing

This showed me not only what needed to be done but more importantly what I had already achieved  - a useful boost to my morale when it was flagging.

By 2002 I could no longer put off the slog of sorting out the chassis and bodywork.  So I dismantled the bodywork and the necessary welding repairs were done by another clubmate from the SHVPS (I didn’t trust my welding !)
I then used a preparation called ‘Nitromors’ to chemically strip the entire car back to bare metal before filling and preparing it for painting (a few seconds to describe  -  but months to achieve)

The Morris under restoration

In the buff  -  back to bare metal

The Morris under restoration

All masked up and undercoated

The Morris under restoration

This last photo is jumping ahead but it
illustrates the stages of the restoration

The original electrical system ran on 6 volts but I had always intended to swap this to a 12volt system – better starting, brighter lights etc.   This meant replacing all the 6v equipment with 12v equivalents, mainly from a Morris Minor which ran on 12v anyway.

The headlamps presented the biggest problem but ingenuity triumphed and I now have by far the best set of headlamps of any Morris in the country (!).

When I originally got the Morris 8 it had been fitted with a Lucas conversion set of headlamps which looked awful (as the 2nd photo shows) making the poor car look as if it was suffering from a thyroid condition (you know – with bulging eyes) which changed the whole character of the car.

But at least when I had finished my treatment it looked as God (or at least Morris Motors) had intended, with those sloping oval headlamps so characteristic of the Morris 8 Series E.

By mid 2006 I was ready to remove the petrol tank to clean it up.  After which I had access to the underside to remove the numerous layers of bituminous underseal; the muckiest and worst single part of the entire project.  It entailed me crawling under the car on my back, with a blowtorch in one hand and a sort of putty knife in the other, and wearing a pair of safety goggles.  Then it was simply a case of: burn / scrape / burn / scrape / burn / scrape ad nauseum.   And all the while trying to dodge the hot debris falling down all over me face  -  luvverly.

However, when all this was finished the thought occurred to me that the restoration had reached a turning point - from now on the car would start being put back together again, rather than taken apart  -  HOO BLEEDIN’ RAY !!

With the underside nicely cleaned up and prepared, I was now able to renew the fuel line and the brake piping, and make a start on laying in the new wiring harness (always struck me as an odd name to give the wiring – but it’s generally termed so)

Late in 2006, before fitting the newly restored engine and gearbox I took the opportunity to replace the king-pins on the steering: a job I had never tackled before.  So I called on the expertise of another clubmate from the SHVPS  along with his specialist tools for the job.  With no engine or panels in the way there was plenty of access to make the job just that bit easier.

Towards Christmas 2006 things had progressed to the stage where the engine/gearbox could be fitted.   My son and my son-in-law were with us for the Christmas holiday, so I took advantage of their assistance and on Boxing Day 2006 we installed the engine/gearbox unit, and the three of us did so well that as a bonus we were also able to fit the prop shaft and the exhaust system.

The Morris under restoration

Well it’s one way to spend Boxing Day

The Morris under restoration

Engine/Gearbox installed

The Morris under restoration

The bodywork now largely re-united

Their help in making such progress made the most wonderful Christmas Present, and in fact I think they both enjoyed themselves.

For 2007 I had set myself some targets, so everything possible was done to take advantage of the first period of weather good enough to allow me to get on with the spray painting.  The early spring ‘warm-wave’ provided that opportunity and I went ahead with the spray-painting, following which I was able to assemble the various panels, bonnet, doors etc.

I now had problems with the electrics, which I solved by fitting a brand new dynamo and voltage control-box from a Morris Minor.

The newly fitted fuel tank had an unexpected blockage which were eventually cleared by a few good blasts of high pressure air.

After having fitted the battery, I connected the fuel line to the petrol pump, put some fuel into the tank, and eased out the choke button.   Then I turned on the ignition key: the fuel pump ticked busily priming the carburettor.   All was ready.

The moment of truth  -  would she go  -  or no ?

As I crossed my fingers, I reflected that I had waited more than a quarter of a century for this moment: and then I pulled the starter knob and  . . . 

YES she fired beautifully first time!!

After this moment of sheer elation nothing else could go wrong could it ?   What a truly stupid question !

A fine time to find it but the clutch had seized solid: to cure this I had to resort to sheer brute force which rough treatment seemed to evince one or two more stings from the old girl’s tail but enough to say that once  these niggles were overcome she was rarin’ to go.

Her first run out  in late May 2007 was to report for her first ever MOT (long ago when she was taken off the road  there were no such things as MOTs) and after surprising the tester and some of the younger mechanics she was given a clean bill of health in the form of an MOT certificate.

The Morris under restoration

Ready to go to the Salon de Coiffure

So far, she (see how the car has assumed a female personna since being reborn) has had all her works sorted, her insides re-trimmed and her seating re-upholstered, but as yet bare-headed.   The time had come to take her to the salon for the chef de coiffure to fit her with a Hood and Side screens as befits such a venerable old lady.She returned from the ‘hairdressers’ looking an absolute picture (to me at any rate) and ready to meet the world – a world quite different from the one she knew when she was laid up so long ago.

Since her renaissance she has been to France and on numerous lesser outings too.  She’s not fast and her steering is sometimes ’wayward ’but she can turn heads wherever she goes…..and I like her.


An outing to Portchester Castle

Mike Saunders

By the way:

 Mike Saunders



PS : She won  me the SHVPS cup for       ‘Restoration of the      Year’ 2007