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See Homepage. This page: Norm looks back at his first car, a post - vintage Morris Minor two seater from 1932.

Norm's 1932 Morris Minor.

Norm contacted me in 2010, with details of a new book on automobile advertising that he's published, and also his recollections of the first car he owned - a 1932 Morris Minor. Here he takes up the story of the £5 Morris and other related observations, as he looks back at his motoring past.

Memories are made of this?

I have always loved old cars, so it isn’t just old(er) age that forces reminiscences on me - or is it?
This year I passed my seventieth birthday, which came as a bit of a surprise I must confess, as somehow I never thought I would last this long! It also marked the first year of a new career as editor of a new publishing venture, and the first hardback book under my own name outside my text books. Following a lifetime in Advertising, the book Vintage Advertising – Old Automobiles, was both a revelation and a memory maker.
In past years on my regular peregrinations to assorted Motor Museums, including the most recent open to the stunning French National one in Mulhouse, and which I still prefer to think of as the Schlumberg Obsession, I have grown used to seeing displays of old cars that were part of my youth. When I lived in Brussels, I was often drawn to the Centennial Park Museum complex, where so many examples of my old auto friends now reside, and I would regale my ever-suffering wife with stories I recalled from the days of ownership.
One day recently I found myself constructing a list of the various cars I have owned over the past 50 driving years, and was staggered to discover that there were almost 30 models that I could recall, which seemed rather a lot until I recalled having a mad year or so with a good friend in Australia, who allowed me much license in trying out assorted models. I am sure he really did think I was mad, as I was rather like a kid in a sweet shop, being able to buy and trade-in so consistently and so cheaply (friend he was, but profit is profit when all is said and done!).
Yet, I have to make a confession. I was, and always have been a total mechanical cripple. Even, when I understood what was wrong and even knew what to do about it, the repair never seemed to work. This is a notorious skill that has stayed with me and is evidenced by today’s computers. I also never quite came to grips with the technological terms that were used, and again as with computers I am sure this is deliberate ‘jargonese’ to keep us idiots from messing things up even more than necessary.
So my car ownership was punctuated by frequent trips to enthusiastic friends, who usually knew about as much as me, and made things worse, or to garages who must have rubbed their hands with glee at my arrival. ‘Here he comes again’ springs to mind.

The non-running Morris 2-seat motor-car arrives.

I should have known in reality that this was to be my life, and stems from the very first car I ever owned in 1957, which was a 1932 Morris Minor 2-seater, open ‘Tourer’ with a torpedo back and it came in a startling Canary Yellow, with shiny black trim. I adored it – and it never travelled a single kilometer (or mile as it was in those days in England) whilst in my possession! I knew then, even less than I know now about the combustion engine, but the innocuous little metal box that was revealed to me every time I lifted the engine flaps (one each side), really did seem inoffensive and simple. Such is deception.
Morris Minor 2 seater car
It also cost a mere £5.00 to buy, and being someone of a highly visual persuasion, I thought it was a delight, even though others derided my obviously perverse pleasure.
Maybe I should have just loaded it up with flowers and made it into a garden feature. But then again, we didn’t have a garden worthy of the name, so that wasn’t a genuine option.
It was an illusion of course, but I could stand and gaze at the Morris for hours on end, and if my ignorance of matters automotive was abysmal, my sense of design was highly active and even developed for my age. I suppose in retrospect it was the alter ego of the Austin Sevens that were becoming quite popular with young men of my age, and these were even startlingly being prepared as racing cars! Obviously not Formula One or even Formula Twenty-One I suppose, but as with my non-participant Morris, the Owners loved them.
Curiously I could appreciate the engineering features, even if I didn’t quite understand what they meant or were supposed to do. I recall being intrigued by the forward facing leaf-spring suspension, and the multi-directional knuckle joints that held the spindly wheels in place. I also recall spending happy hours cleaning each prong of the wire wheels, which seems odd even now, as the wheels never turned.
Two tiny bucket seats, an elongated floor mounted gear change, and the simplest of fascias, which if memory serves me had just two dials, although quite what they revealed has vanished in the mists of time. A split, too small windscreen, which had two little ‘wig-wag’ indicators attached that always seemed to work when the little lever in the centre of the steering wheel was clicked, made up the luxury end of the business.
I suppose in a way it was pathetic, but I was a relatively lonely young man, and I could sit in it and have my fantasies of life on the open highway, and away from the drudgery of the poverty of our council estate. I could envisage being amongst friends that I didn’t know yet, and belonging to a Club of enthusiasts. It was never to be.
Whatever, it was that little car started me on a lifelong love of the motor car, and also into my next phase of my car life which was the cheaper option of buying and making plastic models from kits.

Enter the plastic kits.

Old Airfix plastic car kit
A typical Airfix plastic kit, of the type that Norm collected.
There must be still many out there who did the same as me, and at the time the toy shops were quite well-stocked with them, as well as the metal mini-models produced by Dinky Toys and later, Lesney models. But the plastic kits were the ones I wanted, and I was even allowed a corner of our one and only table for an hour or so each evening to work on my latest acquisition. Provided, as my Mother would warn me, ‘I left no mess’ behind me. Quite a challenge with plastic glue, paints, and shards of plastic pieces. There was no Father in our house, and my elder brother was did not share my fascination in this direction, so it was me and my dreams once again.
It is one of the weird things of my memory at least, and one that has stayed with me throughout my life, is that my mother used to have the radio on, and we didn’t have one of those new-fangled televisions until years later, and as such my mind was split between working on my little models, with another part of my mind listening to ‘Dick Barton – Special Agent’ or other such shows. I now have almost total recall of each model car I made when I hear one of these old shows again, and I have recently sourced many of them for my own, dated delight. In my later creative career the same has happened, and when I design or illustrate anything, it will always have the associated music or show I was listening to somehow impregnated into the work. Well, at least for me it does.
I can even recall that I even followed the historic progression of the automobile as far as I could, and the first ever model I made was the Cugnot Steam Wagon, and one of the next was the curious Lanchester 1903 that was so close in appearance to the old Hackney Cab horse drawn taxis.
I am sure this is just the start of my reminiscences, as even now the shapes and forms of many others are swirling about in what I still think of as my brain. But for now, it is time to stop.
Norman Clark
‘La Musardiere’
45 Impasse de la Valiére
71580 Savigny-en-Revermont
Tel : +333.857.44203
Mosaic Books.
Thanks for the memories Norm!
Visit the motoring memories pages at oldclassiccar for more stories like this.
Photographs of several pre-war Morris Minors, both vintage and post-vintage, can be found on this page in the vintage gallery.

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