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Homepage. This page: Adrian's memories of buying and driving some pre-war 8hp Morris motor-cars in the 1950s.

Adrian's Morris 8s.

Firstly, a big thanks to Adrian for putting finger to keyboard and sending over his happy memories of owning and driving various Morris Eight saloons in the 1950s and 1960s. First-hand memories of driving pre-war cars, at a time when they were (relatively) cheap modes of transport, ie during the '50s and '60s, I find really fascinating. While owners of brand new cars, such as Ford Zephyrs, Vauxhall Crestas and Jaguar 3.4s for instance, may have found small 7hp and 8hp cars from the pre-war years an inconvenience due to their sedate turn of speed, the availability of affordable pre-war cars enabled many people to take to the road for the very first time.
Morris 8 in a field
One of Adrian's Morris 8s, with Series II wheels fitted.

Adrian's first Morris 8, reg. BLN 644.

In all I had three Morris 8s. I bought BLN 644 for 32.10s in 1958 from a chap down Gasworks Road in Reading. I did not then have even a Provisional license. I've a view of me in BLN 644 with L plates but I can't find it. The vendor drove it to Brock Barracks, the other end of the town, down the Oxford Road, and I had a few miles of barracks roads to drive on. I'd learned how to operate a car years before, driving recently arrived cars in a scrap yard.
I was stationed in Albany Barracks, Newport, Isle of Wight, when my driving test came up so I had a couple of lessons from the BSM and passed the test in a 1959 Standard 8. A tinny little thing compared to a Morris 8. I learned to repair electrics and mechanicals with the Morris, taking the engine out, changing a clutch, grinding in the valves, adjusting them - 3 hands ideally required for that job. Being able to do all the necessary work on your car was definitely part of the enjoyment.
Warming the engine
In the bitterly cold winter of Jan-March 1962, 15 degrees below freezing for weeks, I was a signalman at Uffington signal box, being required on duty at 5.50 a.m, 1.50 p.m and 9.50 p.m. I was never late for work because of the Morris 8. Being a sidevalve engine the cylinder head was exposed - 13x 5/16th Whitworth nuts on protruding bolts - and so I used to place an electric iron, plugged into the mains by a long lead, on top of the nuts and thus the engine was always warm and started instantly. There is so much I could write about BLN 644 and BKX 865 - they were absolutely part of my life.

Being a shunting engine driver prior to the Morris' arrival.

I am a steam engine person and was from a very young age. I always rode on steam engines at Reading station and later I was taught to drive one when we moved out to the west end of the county in 1953, I was 12 - so I was a competent shunting engine driver a bit before I started driving motors cars in the local scrap yard. Driving a shunting engine is very skilful requiring a good sense of timing. I picked up a lot about driving steam engines on long distance trains from my footplate friends, and when I became a motor car driver (a bit of a come down) I found that I drove steam engine style - shutting off and coasting, anticipating gradients and getting into hill climbing mode prior to the ascent. One hardly needs to bother nowadays but with a weak, sidevalve engine and a 3-speed box skill was needed to get the best b.h.p out of the little engine, and this again was a source of much enjoyment.
The thing to do was to 'learn the road' as a steam engine driver did, learn what speeds bends can be taken at, what 'line' to take around bends, how to come down a hill fast but with the throttle eased off so that as you got to the bottom of the downhill you began to press the pedal down until you hit your best torque just as you started to climb. The engine needed to be pulling up to its maximum bhp just as you started the climb and then keep it at it - but as speed fell off ease the throttle slightly so as not to choke the engine.
Camping with a Morris 8
Camping trip with the re-painted Series I Morris 8, BKX 562.
My favourite road in those very early days of car driving was from Reading to Wantage and especially the length from the left-hand fork after Streatley, across the roller coaster along the edge of the Berkshire Down. I could really make my '8' fly and I once beat a new, Mk.1 Cortina between Streatley at Harwell, Rowstock crossroads because I could judge the bends and the hills better than him. Today I occasionally get the chance, usually late at night, to let my 2 litre turbo Citroen off the leash and make Fakenham from Barton Mills in 'even time', especially after I've cleared Brandon. It's a matter of knowing just how fast I can take each bend without getting over the white line.
Driving is not a lot of fun these days. Too much traffic and there's no point in burning vast amounts of diesel to overtake and them run up behind the next car a mile up the road. So one just has to follow along - but, as I say - occasionally I can do a Morris 8 over 50 miles of road I know absolutely intimately. In Morris 8 days I had the car's engine perfectly timed - using a couple of wires and a 6 volt bulb across the points and the SU adjusted just so. I have read that one of these cars top speed was 45!! I used to get mine up to 70 over Cotswold main road, long and straight with long down grades.
I could go on! There were no worries, I had a good job on the railway, I was only 20 or so and all I had to spend the wages on was the car and me.
The view of RD 8568 (at the top of this page) I took after I'd worked out a plan and driven her about 12 miles across Berkshire Downs grass and plough - no roads of any kind - cutting the barbed wires fence I came across here and there. That was quite an epic but the little old car handled it perfectly. The weather was fine and dry and had been so for some time. 'RD' was the Reading registration.
There is a picture of BKX out camping in Gloucestershire. I think I was on my way to the Forest of Dean - I was having two day week-ends photographing railways. I'd painted BKX in battleship grey because she was 'a wolf in sheep's clothing'! Oh dear! 'KX 'was the Buckinghamshire registration.
The third view shows two extremes - a mass produced Morris 1935/6 and a 1952 Lanchester with a coachbuilt Barker body and of course a pre- selector gearbox. Carefree days!
All the best, Adrian.
Morris 8 and Lanchester LD10
One of the Morris 8s, parked with a post-war Lanchester.
Thanks again for your story Adrian!
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more stories like this, including another owner's recollections of owning a Morris 8.
Various pre-war Morrises feature in the vintage gallery on this site, to see more photos similar to Adrians simply visit the Morris 8 Series 1 and Series 2 pages in the gallery.

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