I have always had a love for the Morris 8. In the mid 30’s my grandfather bought one new (ACC 210). It was used at weekends and holidays and like most cars was put on bricks during the war. My grandfather was not known for his extravagance, he kept the car for many years after the war. My father, meanwhile, had a series E. I liked the old Morris 8 and travelled many miles in it. Disaster came one cold March when the sump heater set fire to some covers over the engine; luckily the fire was spotted so damage was confined to the front of the car. The insurance wrote the car off and that finished my Grandfather’s driving. As a postscript, in the late 60’s a Morris 8 passed in front of me on an island about 10 miles from home, it was our old “ACC”. I followed it through the suburbs to Harborne and it was within a 100 yards from our home when it went round an island and returned back in the direction from whence it came.
We now go forward to the late 70’s and I was attending shows with an Anglia my father had stored. The attraction of having a Morris was strong and I began to look around for one, but there were not many for sale. I finally bought my Morris (FFC 22) from a Rover dealership in Brecon. It had been in storage for some time, thankfully the car was still intact including the original engine. Over the next eight years it was gradually rebuilt, a home job, but with parts going to professionals and finally the car being sprayed in a body shop.
I had a long fight with Swansea to keep the registration and was finally successful with a non-transferable V5. During research I found out that it was the earliest series 2 in the register (chassis 6) being on the production line on the first day, 20th July 1937. The car went into Morris Garages showroom and was sold on 1sst of September 1937. In the early 90’s I was at a show in Kidderminster when a lady came up to me and said that she had owned the car in 1965, the number plate was easy to remember. After a month her son wrote to me with the car’s history up to 1965. It has spent those years on the Hampton Court estate in Hereford, and then it was sold by this lady to someone in Crickhowell. I contacted the dealership in Brecon where I bought the car and the letter was passed on to their father, who had meanwhile retired. He told me the car came into their Crickhowell garage for some minor work, but was never collected and when he took over the dealership in Brecon they took the car with them. On a final note, my Grandfather didn’t keep the toolkit in the car; hence a complete tool kit is now to be found in the Morris along with his AA badge and the pre-war car rug that kept us warm.
While the Morris was under restoration, I acquired a 1937 Ford “Y” for some pre-war motoring. It had no known history, but it had not been tampered with or restored. A good little car in which I have had several holidays touring around Europe. In 1997 I bought a P.4 110 Rover that had been previously owned by a doctor in Capetown and in recent years I took possession of a 1933 Rover 10 sports saloon.
I am a member of other clubs for the Morris, Ford and Rover, but my main activities are with the Stourbridge Pre War Car Club, all the cars are used regularly, enjoying club events.
DICK CHATER’S GREY LADY – THE FIRST THREE YEARS
My car an Alvis TC21/100 “Grey Lady” Mulliner saloon was first announced at the 1954 motor show and had a guaranteed top speed of 100mph.
This particular car OOR353 was one of the last off the production line and was bought by Alvis Director . Viscount Harcourt MP in 1955. He became economic minister at the British embassy in Washington, Chairman of Morgan Grenfell and UK executive director of the IMF. The car was driven and maintained by his chauffeur, John Sturmey who has stated that the only major maintenance work was carried out on the clutch.
On Harcourt’s death in 1979 ownership passed to another politician, Sir Michael Macnair Wilson, who reportedly only drove the car in the summer months, storing it in the House of Commons heated underground carpark in winter.
On his death in 1992 it passed into the hands of the Crick family at Burton on Trent. Over the next 10 years the family drove 10,000 miles and spent £11,810 mainly on a new clutch, new front suspension and new exhaust and general maintenance .Most of the work was carried out by Red Triangle.
It was then bought by Mr Gordon Boyes of Uckfield. Over 8 years he spent just under £25,000 . mainly on bodywork repairs, repainting ,replacing the headlining and general engine maintenance. Again most of the work was carried out by Red Triangle.
After 8 years he part exchanged the car for a Mark 2 Jaguar at Nutley Sports and Prestige Centre in Sussex. I bought the “Grey Lady” on 19 June 2013.
I had assessed the car before purchase and had ascertained that much mechanical work would be required..
The Alvis was delivered to my house on 25th July. As a retired Chartered Engineer with over30 years of motor manufacturing experience I was confident that I could carry out much of the refurbishment myself.
The first job in August 2013 was to replace the tired battery and associated cabling with heavy duty equipment.
Work on the engine started in December 2013. The engine and gearbox were removed and these were stripped down for detailed examination. It was clear that a major reconditioning of the engine was necessary and so the cylinder block was shipped to Halesowen Engines for this purpose. The crank was reground, new oversize pistons were obtained from Red Triangle, together with new main and big end bearings and a new timing chain. The block was rebored 20 thou. oversize.The half engine was returned to me on 5th December cost(£2763.23) and I mated it to the cylinder head which I had already refurbished.
The next problem was the gearbox. On test it proved very noisy and the syncromesh was not working properly..During strip down I found that there was a lot of play in the main bearings. These were replaced as was the 3rd gear synchro-cone.
The gearbox was mated to the engine. The clutch and clutch plate were found to be in good condition and required no replacement. The complete engine and gearbox assembly was then reinstalled in the car. On test it proved to be much quieter but gear selection was still difficult. On investigation this was found to be caused by a modification someone had made to the clutch pedal linkage, the object being to reduce the pedal load at the expense of clutch actuation travel. This was put back to standard.
While work on the engine was underway the opportunity was taken to clean up and repaint the chassis prior to reinstallation and to fit sound deadening felt under the carpets. The rear engine mounting was also replaced as it had succumbed to oil impregnation.
Attention then turned to the car interior. Although the previous owner had commissioned a new headlining, new carpets and refurbished the fascia , the front seats were badly damaged and the fascia showed signs of cracked shellac.
All four seats were removed and taken to J.M.Grant Ltd. Of Rubery for retrimming in leather. Grants did an excellent job at the total cost of about £1600.
The fascia panel was removed, stripped of varnish and revarnished using multicoats of International two can yacht varnish and then polished The door cappings were also treated.
I acquired a Philips semi-transistorised radio from 1956 and modified the fascia slightly to accommodate this. However it was negative earth while the Grey Lady was positive.The problem was resolved by fitting a DC/DC 12 volt to 24 volt converter. A traditional style extendable antenna was mounted on the A post panel below the windscreen.
In August 2014 I decided that brake refurbishment would have to be tackled .There were signs of rear axle oil leaking into the rear drums. Removal of the rear hubs proved very difficult. They are fitted to the axle shafts by way of tapers and woodruff keys. My extractor facilities were totally inadequate.for the job and I asked the local sports car garage to do the job to no avail. I then turned to a local commercial vehicle garage with a heavy hydraulic puller which proved successful. One of the hubs was distorted during the removal procedure but I was able get a good used one plus the relevant new seals from Chris Prince(a good source for Alvis parts).
Replacement of the rear brake cylinders, brake shoes and rear seals was then a relatively simple procedure. However there seemed to be something wrong with the master cylinder, it was not resetting when the pedal was released. It was replaced and a remote vacuum servo was added to the circuit.This involved modification to the engine flitch plate.
Boot trimming was the next job. Some black carpet was purchased from Woolies and fitted over sound deadening felt. This improved “in car” noise substantially.
Although the engine had been rebuilt, there was still a nasty ticking from the valve gear. Resetting of the rocker arms removed the problem for a short time . I had heard that a fellow Alvis car club member had had a problem with detaching valve seat inserts so the head was again removed and taken to Halesowen engines. All six inserts were replaced but this did not solve the problem. The valve gear noise persisted and crisis point reached when one of the pushrods broke through the base of the cam follower thus running directly on the cam. Off came the head again and with the help of Halesowen Engines the cam follower was extracted from the block. A replacement cam follower, second hand, was sourced from Chris Prince and the engine now runs very smoothly and quietly on tick over.
As the Alvis bowls along on the motorway at 70mph my wife had been unhappy for some time about the lack of seat belts. I therefore designed and built a strong sub frame comprising 2 longitudinal bars bolted to the fore and aft chassis cross members with a stout steel strap bolted to these and passing over the prop shaft. The centre seat belt wires were bolted through the transmission tunnel to the centre strap. The B posts on the Alvis are aluminium castings and presented no problem for fitting the inertia reel units.
Damage to the windscreen meant the car would not pass an MOT without replacement.Vale Windscreens sorted the problem with a new laminated unit which they fitted in my garage.
In 2016 I discovered that the sunroof was difficult to open and would not lock in place. The steel screws in the assembly were found to be loose and corroded. They were replaced by larger ones and any potential rattles eliminated.
However much I loved the Grey Lady I was continually having problems with manoeuvring the car due to incredibly heavy steering and the long overhang behind the rear window.
If I was to keep the car these problems had to be resolved and they were. A reversing camera (Christmas present) solved the overhang problem but more importantly I had electric power steering installed by EZ Power Steering Ltd of Dawlish in Devon at a cost of£3718.The installation is superb and is virtually invisible being installed behind the dash. It completely transforms the cars handling and eliminates back pain. A brilliant innovation.
Oh yes and I reconditioned the petrol pump.
TOTAL EXPENDITUREOVER 3 YEARS :-£11,431