1982 Morris Marina 575

I once bought a Marina van which I was intending to rebuild with Marina car running gear. Various earthquakes scuppered the operation for several years, and by the time I was able to proceed, there was much more grief to contend with.

2015. I spotted another Marina van on NZ's Trademe. It was in Napier but looked pretty sound for $2000. I bought it, flew up and drove it home. The engine had a leaking head gasket - but I figured it was only a stop-gap measure after all, so just nursed it home. It also consumed oil rather rapidly - no worries. Oil is cheap.

Almost simultaneously, I was offered an unfinished race car project - a Marina Coupe with an expensive MGB race engine also unfinished. I bought this and sold the beautifully prepared body to my friend who was wanting to put a Rover V8 in it. We halved the very reasonable purchase price - he got the body and I got the engine and gearbox. I planned to fit these into my new van.

I removed the suspension from the van and fitted a complete setup from a Mk3 saloon - front disc's, rear axle and propshaft. This also changes the stud pattern, so I fitted a set of widened Triumph Spitfire steel rims and a pair of much softer 2-leaf rear springs. The ride was now sublime.

I began fitting sound deadening and insulating material in the back of the van, as I would also be fitting similar in the front as I changed to car dashboard and wiring loom. The heater would also need changing, and while all of these things were removed it would give me an opportunity to repaint the engine bay. This would mean the van would be off the road for some time, and I had already begun using it for my work - a role for which it immediately proved immenseley suitable. However - it finally blew its head gasket - so matters came to a head rather suddenly. I was now in a quandry. The new race engine was still proving to be an enigma as far as what bits were in it, and how I should set it up. I began to consider swapping an engine/transmission from one of my other Marinas in order to get this extremely useful vehicle back on the road.

But there is always another plan.!

While the van was sitting and waiting for me to come up with its new running gear two things happened. Firstly our 2 litre Marina sedan got written off in an accident. Secondly the blue coupe came back into my ownership. This meant a major rehash of plans, and as it was logical to reinstate the coupe with its original bits, it also seemed logical to fit the 2 litre engine into the van. The donor car would also supply carpets, upholstery, wiring, dashboard, seats, gearbox and other niceties like soundproofing and stuff, but of course this was going to take some time. I decided I should cover the coupe up and concentrate on the van first. Sounds simple, but there were several other cars needing repairs as well, and several motorcycle projects on the go simultaneously.

In October 2018 the old 1275 engine and box came out. I had already sold the pair to another Marina bloke so they disappeared real quick.

The engine bay got cleaned up and the larger lump finally went in along with its gearbox in March 2019. Subsequently a few more bits got added and cleaned up, but progress ground to a halt with the onset of winter.

A number of factors overtook my plans and the van was sold to a friend who had recently acquired a Marina habit. I included a good number of parts for its completion.

Another friend of us both heard I had sold it, and immediately approached the new owner to sell it to him. So that took place, and I transferred the ownership directly to Zeb, who will complete it as a daily runner so his recently fully restored 575 can be kept for show purposes.

No doubt we will work on it together to some degree, as I can provide parts and knowledge for everything that will be required because of the conversion to O series engine and Mk3 sedan internals. Should be a remarkable performer I think.