by Brian Allison
Been a long time since my last blog, so a quick catch up, in fact it might be better if you read the previous one first - you can do that by clicking here.
I've passed my driving test and for the princely sum of 6d (old pence) have become the owner of a non running 1934 Morris 10/4.
With the Morris safely in the basement of Trinity garage it was time for me to embark upon my mission to restore it to the road. First job was to determine what exactly was wrong in the rear axle department , so up on stands and under I went to turn the prop-shaft by hand and see what happened. This gave me quite a surprise. I was expecting to find a normal prop-shaft with Universal joint at each end as on every other car I'd worked on.
Instead, I was amazed to see at each end of the shaft what I later learned were called Layrub couplings. The drawing shows the idea better than I can describe it. The idea's the same but instead of strengthened rubber with bushes, the ones on the 10/4 was made from rubberised fabric similar to that you would find in a conveyer belt but about 3/4 of an inch thick with mounting bushes riveted in place to it.
The rear of the gearbox and the nose of the diff., plus each end of the propshaft were fitted with a three legged spider instead of the normal flat flange. Anyone familiar with the Hillman Imp or later Triumph Herald/ Vitesse/GT6 Rotoflex drive shaft couplings will immediately know the type of thing I mean. Turning the propshaft had no effect whatsoever at the rear axle, so off came the wheels, closely followed by the half shafts and finally out came the diff. to reveal one completely sheared tooth on the crown wheel, proving David's diagnosis was indeed correct.
I was under no illusion that I could just pop along to Mitchell Bros (the local Morris agent) and get the parts I needed, so set about making all the measurements I could think of in the hope of finding some other diff or even complete axle that I could make fit. the next job was to trawl around the local scrapyards in the hope of finding a axle that might fit, whilst praying that if I did find one, that I could afford to buy it.
Was I a lucky boy! The first yard I tried was probably the oldest one in the area and as such had pile upon pile of parts that had been stripped from cars of all ages. When I asked about a diff I was directed to a pretty large shed and told that if they did have one it would be in there.
One corner of the shed had a vast pile of diffs for me to sort through, and joy upon joy within half an hour I spotted a very familiar looking spider attached to a very familiar diff, all of which appeared to be in perfect nick. Fairy Godfather David had done it again, now I just had to pay for it. The owner must have been feeling generous and I walked away a mere £2-10s (£2.50) poorer.
Apart from fitting the new diff the only thing I found to do was the rear hub oil seals which were leaking slightly but had not contaminated the brake shoes. I did have one fright however when I was checking the lights. I had the headlights on main beam, and when I flicked the dip switch I heard a loud clang as if something had fallen off. It was the dipping mechanism. When you dipped the lights the offside one went out and the reflector in the nearside one was moved by an electromagnet, it was this mechanism I'd heard.
The MOT test had just recently been brought in which meant because the Morris was over 10 yrs. old I needed a test certificate for it. No problem, Eric said, Trinity was a testing station so one of the lads could do the test free, although he did say that they would not pass it unless it was fit for use. In the event I needn't have worried; it sailed through.
The next hurdle was tax and insurance. Again I was blessed. Clarry, one of the stores men worked in the evening as a salesman for a local used car dealer and said he would fix me up that evening after work. This he did giving me a cover note for a month in exchange for a £5-00 deposit. Funny thing is whenever I enquired about the actual policy he always said "It's in progress", then he'd give me another cover note. This went on for the whole time I owned the Morris.
The road tax was, if I remember correctly, about £15 for the year, more than the total cost of the car, repairs and insurance, some things never change, the government were a set of robbing b..... even then, but I didn't care, I was MOBILE!. OK, it was 8 yrs. older than I was, with nearly 140,000 miles on the clock, built by people who thought heaters were for wimps, and had this reddish patch on the nearside rear corner of the roof where the undercoat showed through due to over enthusiastic polishing but to me, even now, she was beautiful.
The ash framed body was as solid as the day she was built and the doors shut with the same sound you used to get with the old railway carriage doors, more a click than thud, and not a rattle anywhere. And being a bit of a forward sort of old girl she even had hydraulic brakes. And like today's cars she had a multi-function steering wheel. On the wheel boss you had, the horn button, ignition advance lever, and the dip switch. And full flow ventilation. Open the rear window and the windscreen and there you are.
At the same time all this was going on , again due to David, I'd been persuaded to take part in a panto at the youth club. This was my first foray into amateur dramatics and I found I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that along with carol I joined a group who staged a production every 3 months. After the last night of each production the older members of the group took it in turn to host a party, the first of which we attended taught me a lesson which probably saved me a lot of grief and which I've never forgotten.
The party was at a house about 5 miles out of town and was very enjoyable indeed, so much so that it was about 4 o'clock in the morning when we left. Carol lived virtually exactly on the other side of town which meant a run of about 7 or 8 miles to take her home, no problem in my trusty conveyance. On the way we realised that if we parked in a lay-by we had a fabulous view of the ICI works, so we decided to stop for a while and admire the view.
After about an hour or so of serious "sight seeing" we got back on the road, only to find when we arrived at Carol's that her mother had waited up for her. I expected the worst, but far from going berserk her mother thanked me for getting her home safely, and, "Would you like some breakfast". Silly question. So after bacon and eggs I finally wound my way towards my bed, but before then I had to put Betsy away. The garage I had actually belonged to a friends uncle but wasn't being used. It was basically a wooden shed, inside it was wide enough to allow plenty of room around the car but the door in one end was only just wide enough to fit Betsy through with about 4 inches either side. I had three attempts to drive in, hitting the door frame each time, and eventually decided to leave her outside. DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. A valuable lesson learned.
I ran Betsy for the best part of a year, by which time her drinking along with the smoke screen was getting to be a serious problem. I tried but there was no chance I was going to be lucky enough to find another engine the way I had a diff, and I certainly couldn't afford to overhaul the engine. Frank, who manned the petrol pumps had often expressed an interest in Betsy and when I was telling him my tale of woe again offered to buy her, promising that he'd get the engine done and keep her on the road.
He paid me £25 for her and true to his word employed Willie, one of the younger apprentices to do the work, again in the basement. After a rebore and new pistons she was soon to be seen parked in the corner of the forecourt. I almost wept every time I saw her but within a matter of days I'd bought a Triumph Renown, another non-runner, or more correctly, it ran, erratically. "I've changed the plugs and points and fitted a new condenser, checked the coil and it still won't run right", a quick look and for £20 I had a Renown. One distributor cap later and I was in business.
Betsy meanwhile hadn't fared so well. Within a matter of weeks she threw a con rod. I don't think Frank ever spoke to Willie again, and Betsy was consigned to the scrap yard.
A sad postscript to Betsy's tale came about a year later. I was in a scrapyard in Bradford looking for parts for my mates Fordson van when I came across a complete engine in a corner. "That was done up and never fitted, been there for years".
If only I'd known in time.
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