Friday, 28 August 2009

Old Skool

I was going through some old family photographs recently and found these shots of some of the first cars I owned. The pictures were taken around 1979.

The Morris 1800 was purchased to replace a Jaguar(!) as it had a boot big enough for a school trunk and a tuck box. My brother’s equipment then went on the roof rack for the run to school at the beginning and end of each term. The ‘S’ version of the 1800 mkII had big 2-pot brakes and an MGB spec. ‘B’ series engine offering all of 98bhp.

I remember acres of interior space, a floppy gear lever, a strip speedo and a handbrake that you pulled out from under the dashboard. No tacho was provided, you just changed up when it the power stopped increasing or it hit valve bounce, although I suspect the result was more noise than anything else. Shortly after purchasing it, my father replaced the bus-sized steering wheel with something sporty from Motolita.

I learned to drive in this car, building miles and experience on the 45 miles drives to school - probably to the horror of the other occupants! After the family had finished with it, it became my car, I think probably after the Lancia Fulvia coupe (that didn’t move off the driveway) and before the first MGB. The Morris was a big solid old thing, and I distinctly remember displaying to a girlfriend its ability to understeer across a wet road, over a verge and into a tree! It eventually went as a result, not because of the bodywork damage, which was minor, but the bodyshop's failure to re-attach an earth strap, which lead to engine damage when it earthed through the throttle cable causing it to stick open.

By contrast the E3 BMW was a sublime thing with 150bhp from its creamy small bore ‘six’, and capable of a comfortable 100mph motorway cruise. The BMW also became mine once it finished with family duty – my dad replaced it with the white Porsche 924.

It did have the old style BMW swing axles though, it would spin the rears under acceleration in a straight line, as a result the back would start to slide down the camber, somewhat alarming for the overtakee, let alone the driver. It would also exhibit roll-oversteer after turn-in on faster corners. I thought that was perfectly normal at the time, but in hindsight the damper were worn out.

You can also just see the front corner of a dark red Jaguar XJ6 series III. It belonged to a neighbour (and father of aforementioned girlfriend), and I used to chauffeur him up to London and back every day in exchange for a lift.


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