1979 Morris 1700 (Marina Mk3)

Back in the days when people were giving away free Morris Marinas, I placed an ad in the local "Buy/Sell/Exchange" offering to buy a Morris 1700. That is a Marina Mk3, but they were locally badged as the former. I figured that if people were thinking of getting rid of one, they would prefer to sell it than give it away or wreck it.

I received a call from Blenheim - a few hundred miles away. A chap had been in Christchurch and bought a cabbage that was wrapped in a page from the Buy/Sell which had my ad on it. He had a Morris 1700 in his shed, but he certainly wasn't giving it away.! My son and I drove up to check it out.

As found.

The car proved to be a very nice example that had been fussed over by several owners. With only 78,000k on the clock, it drove very quietly after some jumper leads coaxed it into life. I was seriously tempted to buy it - even though the asking price was $1500. We returned home, and after a time of 'stewing' over it, I decided it needed to be mine. I already owned a few such models, and they had proved to be extremely capable everyday cars despite their bad reputation. I offered $1600 if he would include a wof and full rego. That would have cost him about $200 at the time. He agreed. Deal done.

Sue and I took a train to Blenheim on the arranged date. We walked from the station to his house, to find the car on the jack with a rear wheel removed. It had failed its wof because the rear wheel brake cylinders were seized. His monthly drive around the block had failed to bring this to light. As we had no choice but to drive it home, I suggested he leave it as-is, and I would repair it later. He could refund the $200. He agreed. We shared a cuppa with he and his wife before leaving. She asked me what "E2" meant. I was not sure, but suggested it was the symbol for energy. She said she had read it in my teacup.! Hmmm.


We left Blenheim heading for the West Coast. I had a romantic idea about staying the night at "formerly the Blackball Hilton", so we had a few miles to do. I knew the car had spent some time in storage, but figured it had plenty miles up it's sleeve, and was sure it would cope ok. It was May, and cooling fast. A bit of rain thrown in - as the West Coast does best - so we had wipers, heater, lights all on for the duration. All went well, although about 5 miles from our destination, I smelt burning rubber. Could not tell if it was within or without, so having ensured all gauges were normal, we continued, and soon were checking in.

In the morning we checked under the bonnet, and could find nothing out of place. It fired up happily in the cold air, and the photo above was taken as it warmed up. We headed towards Arthurs Pass, still raining and very cold. We were considering whether or not we would try to locate a friend who lived in Otira. We figured he may have moved on by now. As we neared Otira, I noticed the wipers were going very slowly. Suddenly the car began to misfire. Wow. We're running out of 'E2'.! We swerved into the derelict township of Otira, and the engine cut out. We were outside the only house showing a light. While I checked under the bonnet, Sue went to the door and knocked. It was the home of our friend.! Meanwhile, I had found a loose fanbelt. The pulleys had been slipping under load - hence the rubber smell the previous night - and the battery was now flat. Jed had a battery charger, so we hooked it up while enjoying a cuppa. An hour or so later we refitted the battery, having adjusted the fanbelt, and it fired up happily. Here goes nothing.!

Looking for the problem with a stream under the car..

The road from Otira heads up a steep gorge and then over the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass. Not a place to break down - especially in such weather. My confidence in the car was not misplaced, and we sailed on without a hitch. 'JF' was duly treated to new brake cylinders, and a few other refinements as befit an old Marina. The bodywork was in terrific shape, although the front screen rubber was definitely not, and we had been mopping up a fair bit of water during the trip home. It was filed under 'fairweather vehicle', and used sparingly.

Christmas 2005. We decided to drive JF up to Nelson to visit friends. I had finished my mechanical work on the car, which included lowering it and fitting some superlite alloy wheels. It drove very nicely. Engine and transmission were absolutely fine, and the brakes and steering had been upgraded by me. On the trip home, we suffered an engine failure. We had stopped to sightsee, and after resuming our trip, the engine totally lost power about a mile down the road. I investigated under the bonnet, and it seemed there was a fuel problem. I found that the aged fuel line had cracked at the carb, so I shortened it an inch, and we were good to go. Next stop, exactly the same routine. 1 mile after starting it cut out. I presumed this was 1 carb full of gas. Fuel line had split even further. Too short to cut any more off. I found we had an old supermarket plastic bag in the car, so I bound it tightly around the fuel line. Suction was restored.!

The bag man..

We made it to Kaikoura, where I purchased a few metres of fuel line. We found a grassy park on a slope, and with the nose up hill, I was able to remove the old fuel line without losing fuel. I have subsequently found the same problem with a number of Marinas, and now replace the fuel line as a matter of course. JF completed the trip with no other issues, but because of it's leaky screen rubber, it was refitted with standard wheels and assigned to the shed.

Fast forward to 2010. The car had covered no more miles except to qualify for an occasional wof. The Classic Car Show was approaching, and it had been decided that the club would show a pair of Marinas. I cleaned up a few, but none were tidy enough I felt. I had come by a fairly good looking screen rubber from a wrecked Marina, and discovered that Shane and Jim both had experience with car windscreens. I asked if they would give me an opinion as to whether this rubber was worth using again. They agreed it was, and offered to fit it for me.! Fantastic. I took JF around to Shane's one Saturday, and the new rubber was duly fitted along with new finishing trims front and rear. It looked great. Obviously, this was the Marina for the show. Much gratitude chaps.

The ugly duckling makes good.

Since then, the car has only been driven a few times. It was my best you see. As such, it was afforded the ultimate luxury - a shed.! Last February, we had the second of a series of violent earthquakes. All my Marinas outside in the yard escaped injury. JF got clobbered by a falling swaybar as it careered off a shelf in the shed. Dang.! I then had to move, so it now sits on a lawn under snow as I write this. I hope I can find a way of preserving it for quite some time yet, as it's wonderful condition deserves. I'm working on that...

Home away from home..

A small admission. You can see in the photo that the car had been fitted with an 'immobiliser'. Its a combination lock handle that fits over the handbrake lever. This car later spent so many years in the shed, I forgot the combination - and had to hacksaw the end off it...

As it is today.