Morris Minors

Every car nut has a Morris Minor story. Here’s mine

The Morris Minor might be 70 years old but it still has legions of fans to this day

MORRIS Minors. I feel like I’ve spent the past few days living and breathing them – but that’s no bad thing.

I’ve been helping to put together a 12-page newspaper supplement to mark the Moggy’s 70th anniversary, and apart from my eyes going square from all the proof-reading in front of computer screens a couple of things have really jumped out.

Chiefly, it’s one of the few truly old-school classic cars (by which I mean ones with chokes, chrome bumpers and an appetite for Castrol 20w50) that you can still pick up for buttons, and it’ll be welcomed into virtually any car show across the land. The other thing is that because it was the first British car to sell over a million, and with roughly 14,000 of them still on Britain’s roads today, virtually everyone with even the vaguest interest in old cars has a Morris Minor story. Including me.

Even though I’ve never owned a Moggy, I very nearly bought one at the age of 16 – well, technically we very nearly bought one, as I would have been part of a car-loving consortium of petrolheads too young and too skint to know any better.

The Morris in question was a slightly crusty two-door 1000, being advertised by a chap in Ainsdale for ‘offers’. Four of us got distracted enough from our GCSE revision to seriously think about sticking in an offer for it, and things ended up going far enough that two of us ended up going to view the car, without a clue about remedying rotting sills or replacing its kingpins. It was almost certainly a long and expensive restoration in waiting, but in my head it’d be up and running in six months, perhaps with its 1098cc A-series lump replaced with an MG Midget’s engine and some electronic ignition to make it go as well as it’d eventually look.

In the end the logistics of sharing a car between four people – namely, whose name would go on the registration document – undid the deal long before we put a proper offer in and the car went to someone older and more sensible, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Moggy ever since. It is one of those cars that seems to go on and on, propelled by a legion of people who love fettling with them on Sunday mornings and taking them to shows.

Anyone see that scene in Blade Runner 2049 where one person still has a Volkswagen Beetle in an impossibly futuristic Los Angeles? I imagine it’d be the same if they’d set it in Liverpool, only with a Morris 1000, of course. Probably with me still trying to buy it.

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Lupo GTI a classic? You bet

Long before the Up, VW nailed the small hot hatch with the Lupo GTI.jpg

IF YOU want to know who the gatekeepers are when it comes to what is – and what isn’t – a classic car you have to think literally. Often, it’s the people in hi-vis jackets manning the entrances at your nearest car show.

Normally if I’m approaching in my MGB, I could put my house on being waved through with a warm smile (unless it’s a show catering solely for hotted-up Subarus, of course), but I’ve approached in many a car where it could go either way. At one show I was given an appreciative nod because I’d shown up in an MG ZR, which for all its rock-hard suspension and mesh grille is basically your mum’s Rover 25 with a snazzier badge. Yet barely a week later a Ford Puma, a swoopy coupe that did wonders for Ford’s image when it was new, met with a solemn expression and an outstretched arm pointing me in the direction of the public car park, alongside all the Vauxhall Insignias and Kia Cee’ds.

So what advice could I give the chap who emailed from Crosby the other day, pondering whether his beloved Volkswagen Lupo GTI has made it to classic car-dom? This petite hot hatch is essentially the early Noughties predecessor to today’s Up GTI, and shares its no-frills, lightness-added sense of fun. A lot of what made the original Golf so much fun lives on in both.

It has an awful lot going for it, but because it’s the equivalent of an 18-year-old queuing up for a nightclub with a freshly-shaven face, wearing trainers – I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being turned away at the door. The Lupo GTI has a few years yet before it’ll be accepted just about everywhere – turn up at Goodwood or Brooklands in one, for instance, and the gatekeepers will probably laugh – but show up to one of the many Veedub-specific shows across the country this summer and it’ll be met with appreciative nods and quiet mutterings of what a corking – and rare – car it is.

Despite the Government’s best efforts there is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes a classic car, and I’m glad that there isn’t. One of the questions my Lupo-owning friend pondered was whether cars made between 2000 and 2010 now count as classics, but it’d be too simplistic to argue that a mid-spec Toyota Auris, for instance, is one simply because it was made in the same era as the little GTI. The Teletubbies got to number one barely a few weeks after The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony didn’t – but does that mean it’s stood the test of time?

Some things become classics overnight, and for some it’s a slow-burning process that takes decades. I’ve always reckoned the most important thing is how much time and love people put into them – and it’s the same for VW Lupos, Morris Minors, Triumph motorcycles, steam locomotives, and copies of Bitter Sweet Symphony.

Just be prepared for a man in a hi-vis jacket to disagree with you.