1981 Morris 1700 (Marina Mk3)

I bought this car from a car sales - it was on Trademe and my winning bid was $1040. I was astounded to find it came with $10,500 worth of receipts. While it had been the recipient of a huge amount of work, there were so many things wrong with it that I wrote to the previous owner and told him to stop taking his vehicles to those mechanics, as their workmanship was downright dangerous. He later phoned to thank me, as he had just realised the same thing.

Trademe ad photo.

It had beautiful paint, lovely new upholstery and carpet. I figured those alone were worth the asking price. As with all the Marinas I acquire, I rebuilt the suspension, and in doing so, lowered it a few inches. I also repaired the gearbox, cooling system, brakes, steering, instruments.... There were so many things wrong with this car.

Lovely upholstery.

I was having trouble reconciling the contrast that this vehicle presented. So many areas had been rebuilt at great expense, but the result was not only disappointing, it was in some instances quite life threatening. I was looking underneath the rear suspension and could not see the handbrake cable. It normally runs below the axle housing and is supported by a clamp. On investigating, I found it to be draped over the top of the housing from the opposite side, where it had neatly worn halfway through the hydraulic pipe.! Surely no mechanic would do such a thing - let alone have the nerve to charge well over the odds for it.!

I decided then that I would have to go through this entire car very carefully.

The passengers do well though..

On the collection trip I had noticed a lot of squeaks from the dashboard area. I also found the heater did not work, nor did the temperature gauge. I stopped to make sure it did in fact have water. Indeed it did, but obviously it wasn't getting to all the places it should.

Later investigation uncovered a most unusual thing. Despite radiator hoses being available for these cars, someone had made a very complex stainless steel pipe as a replacement, then joined it to the engine and the radiator by use of short hoses. I removed it and fitted a new standard item, whereupon I found that after welding the stub for the heater hose to this pipe, nobody had drilled through into the main pipe - so no water could pass through it to the heater. Once again - stupendous effort with very basic oversight. Pretty well summed up the car.

The pipe to nowhere..

I removed the entire dashboard as it had been fitted incorrectly, so very few of the fixings actually did anything. In doing so, I removed the instrument panel, and found a rather makeshift repair to the wiring at the rear of the temperature gauge. I replaced it with a spare, and after reassembly, everything worked again.

I also discovered that the car had originally been a bronze colour, and that it had never started life as an HL model. It was in fact a combination of several cars. Not that it worried me at all, I am only concerned with the functionality and overall appearance. The latter was already very acceptable - the former I was in the throes of doing something about.

I always wonder about here, if it will ever go back together again..

Eventually I got to a point where I felt happy about driving it regularly. Even now there are still many things wrong with it as far as being 100% 'finished', but the main items have been dealt with, and there are no safety issues that I can ascertain.

Initially I found a set of Triumph Spitfire rims for it. Two of them had been widened to 6.5" for use on a formula ford. I had the other two widened to 7", and even found a set of the original centre caps for them. They still have the 'Spitfire' logo.


Its a very pleasant car to drive now, and I'm extremely pleased to report that the engine must have been rebuilt by some other enterprise. It really sings, and is not only very quiet in operation, it also runs very smoothly. I suspect it may have been balanced during the rebuild.

The gearbox was repaired by me, and is pretty fault-free in its use. Recently I found some diff oil leaking from behind the rear brake plates, so that will have to be my next port of call. One day I hope to have rectified all the problems.!


Currently sporting a set of superlite alloys, it is still a very handsome vehicle today. Well done Morris.!