Monday, November 7, 2011

Media Coverage

At MiniFest yesterday, I was summoned to the Traveller by a call over the PA. It was for a brief interview with a local journalist and to pose for a photo. Neither are something that I relish, but I did what I was told. There was quite a big article about MiniFest in the paper today, and on "The Mercury's" website. I think the photographer captured the Traveller's good side. Click on the image to see the full article.

I should say that I don't always wear loud shirts, but that's my Moke Californian shirt, custom made by the Moke Owners Association of Victoria. I only get it out on special occasions. The orange T-shirt is from Dean Wilhite's Dooderwear in the U.S. I have one of his Moke design and a Woody one. Click the buttons below to see the full design.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Grand Day Out

The Traveller holding Sarah's baloon
 I'm pleased to report that the Traveller behaved perfectly for the trip to MiniFest 2011. Barry, my father-in-law, followed me in my Moke as moral support and emergency tow vehicle. But it wasn't needed. The engine ran even better today, and giving it a run seemed to clear some of the cobwebs out. It was haemorrhaging oil, the exhaust was blowing and there's a lot of interior trim missing so it was noisier than it should have been, but I had a beaming smile as I drove it in. There are a few hills and a steep climb over the bridge, and it did get slowed down by them. I also realiased that I'd forgotten how to drive a 3 synchro gearbox, but they're minor issues.

This was the fifth MiniFest, the Mini Car Club of Tasmania organise the show at the same time every second year, and each time they seem to get bigger and better. The theme for the show is "Any Mini, any condition" but each show seems to have fewer rusty wrecks than the previous one, as they're replaced with shiny restored and original cars. My Traveller scrubbed up OK, but was still one of the worst looking. The paint is an old re-spray and is pretty poor, there are large areas that are flaking off and a lot of visible rust staining (although not much rust).

A nice early 850, in a traditional colour.
Its interesting to look at the cars and see how fashions have changed in restorations. A few years ago it was acceptable to paint Minis in lurid metallic colours, fit big wheels and do horrible things to the interior with weird choices in upholstery, but these days there are many more cars being repainted in their original colours and looking well kept rather than over restored. I like it that way.

The most Travellers ever seen together in Tasmania?
Two other Travellers attended, coincidentally both are green. The woody's owner recently moved to Tasmania from the ACT. It is nominally also a 1961 like mine, although there's precious little left from 1961. It has been re-shelled and fitted with the running gear from a late model injected Rover Cooper. The steel sided Traveller has been converted with all the running gear from an Australian 1275 LS, it seems pretty good mechanically, but I reckon that it really needs to be put right. James, the new owner agrees, but like me probably isn't in a position to rush it!

Mine's the orange one.
The day was unusually hot and being held in a large open area with no shade everyone got lightly toasted. It was great weather for Mokes and about 14 turned out. Barry didn't enjoy driving mine very much. The clutch is almost out of travel and he's not used to cars without power steering anymore.

The show ended with a ceremony to award a large number of trophies and I was pleased to be awarded "The car with the most potential". The guys presenting the trophies did wonder if this was a consolation prize.

MiniFest always ends with a cruise in convoy. In previous years it has been through the city, but this year was out of town on the highway. I'm not sure that it worked terribly well, and we all stopped in a very dubious location for a convoy photo, but it was still good fun. Barry and I took went in the moke, the Traveller's temporary permit didn't cover the convoy and it was further than I wanted to risk driving it.

A portion of the convoy at the photo stop. I was too lazy to walk to the front to try to get it all in.
 All in all it was a very successful event. I had a ball driving the Traveller and there was a lot of interest in it, I was photographed and interviewed by the local paper and I also got a couple of possible sources for a replacement 850 powerunit from the correct period.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More Brake work and It Lives!

Look at that lovely stainless steel gleaming
I got the master cylinders and rear wheel cylinders back from being re-sleeved - the front wheel cylinders had been done previously. The quality of the work is excellent so they should be right to last another 50 years. I sent them off to Leon, whose business is appropriately named Quick Service Brakes. He apologised about being too busy to get to them immediately but still only took just over a fortnight to do them. We discussed what to do about the reservoirs. The two ports in the side of the master cylinders need to be drilled after the sleeve is inserted. This is usually done by drilling right through the side of the reservoir and soldering the hole up afterwards. The alternative is to un-solder the reservoir and put it back on later, but this is labour intensive and adds considerably to the price. We agreed that I'd take the reservoirs off and put them back on myself. This gave me the chance to clean them up and repair them while they were off.
Hexagon top master cylinders - looking a bit better than in the 'before' photo
 I refinished the master cylinders, not by plating but by tinning them with solder. It may sound odd, but all of my research into how to replicate the original dull tarnished light grey finish drew blanks. Everyone I spoke to said something like, "maybe its zinc", or "perhaps its some kind of cad". I consulted a local plater and he said, "I don't know what it is and I can't  replicate it". The breakthrough came when I was heating up the spare one to practice on. As I heated it, little silver beads of molten metal appeared out from under the dull grey finish. Not just on the tin-plate reservoir but from all over the cast iron body as well. I didn't have it hot enough to melt zinc, so It must have been solder. Thinking about it afterwards it does make some sense. Solder typically oxidises to a dull grey white finish over time, and the body would have needed to be tinned in order to solder the reservoir on. After a soak in my derusting bath and a thorough clean, I painted them with Kemtex B916 tinning compound and heated them until it melted. A wipe with a clean cloth and they were looking much better. I just need to work out how to encourage the grey tarnish to re-form quickly now. Soldering the reservoirs back on was a bit tricky but in the end I was pleased with the result. The reservoir from the brake master was pretty bad so I replaced it with one off a spare. As a result its much shinier, whereas the pitted clutch one looks fairly dull. Hopefully they'll even out over time.

New pistons, seals, bleed screws, stainless sleeve - better than new.
I had to solder up one of the original tin master cylinder caps. It doesn't look as good as it might, but I had no choice it was badly corroded and pin-holed in several places. Luckily I managed to get a good nearly new cap on ebay, for the brake master cylinder because the one that was on there crumbles when I undid it.

I figured new clevis were needed after seeing the one that came out
I rebuilt the rear wheel cylinders using new pistons ( a slightly embarrassing story I may reveal one day) and new seals and put the whole lot back together again. The master cylinders went in reasonably easily. I used R clips on the clevis pins which is much easier than messing about with split pins.

It was when I went to bleed them that the problems started. Firstly I discovered that the thread for the bleed screw in the driver's side front whelle cylinder had stripped out. With some tools loaned to me by the local thread repair specialist, I managed to get it working again by drilling and tapping it for a helicoil. It worked OK but weeps a little unless the bleed screw is really tight. I'm either going to have to replace it with a bleed screw insert, or get a new wheel cylinder. Once that was repaired, I discovered a serious leak where the front brake line meets the brake hose on the passenger side. It meant that the radiator had to come out again in order to tighten it up. The tube nut on the end of the brake line has been abused over the years and is rounded off, which makes it nearly impossible to tighten. When I recondition the subframe the brake line will be replaced so it looks like new tube nuts are needed too.

Gunson's Eezibleed hooked up - the black hose gets pressure from the spare tyre.

I eventually got it all bled, I bought a Gunson's Eezibleed, and it was excellent. I bled both the master cylinders on their own first, then connected them up and bled the clutch and brake systems. It was so easy, I could hardly believe it. It took a couple of goes around, firstly before adjusting the brakes, then again afterwards. They'll need adjusting after they've bedded in but are pretty good for now.

I spent the afternoon madly working to get the Traveller running well enough to drive to MiniFest 2011 tomorrow. Big  Mini shows only come around every two years here so they aren't to be missed. I had a few small problems getting it started and running smoothly, but managed to get it to run well enough to risk the trip. It needs a thorough tune up, but should be OK. The brakes are a little spongey still but aren't as bad as I expected. The Traveller is unregistered so I organised a temporary permit which covers me for the duration of the event. Today's road testing was done on my personal test track, of course.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Little Bit of Progress

Single Leading Shoe Wheel Cylinders
I've been working on the braking system lately. The master cylinder and the rear wheel cylinders are away having stainless steel sleeves fitted, they were all quite pitted internally. I was lucky with the front wheel cylinders. On these early cars with single leading shoe front brakes, the front wheel cylinders are like a larger version of the rear ones. Naturally, they are an unusual size (15/16") and are quite hard to get now so that means expensive. Fortunately both of mine already had stainless sleeves inserted, so I cleaned them up and ran a hone through them to scrape out the rust staining, then put them back together with new seals sourced from Somerford Mini in the UK.
Nice new bits and pieces

When I stripped the brakes down I found that the hoses were very old and perished (perhaps  they were even the 50 year old originals) and most of the fasteners, springs etc were pretty badly corroded, so Somerford also supplied new brake springs, hoses and a number of the smaller hardware items for the brake system.  I managed to source some 'oversize' brake shoes. These are normal brake shoes that have been re-bonded with linings that are thicker than standard. They are a bit old fashioned now so were hard to find, luckily Minisport in South Australia still get them made. The drums are away being skimmed. Hopefully they have enough material left on them to be machined 60 thou over (the maximum legal oversize), so I can keep the date stamped original drums. SLS front brakes are notoriously bad so I want them to be as good as I can get them.

Not pretty, but hopefully functional
I surprised myself with how quickly I was able to re-assemble the shoes and springs back onto the hub. It has been several years since I did much mechanical work on Minis, but I guess I have put a lot of sets of brakes back together over the years. My fingers seemed to remember the little tricks and techniques even after all this time. The finished hub doesn't look very pretty - its just going to have to wait until later to have the cosmetic stuff done, but hopefully once the drums and master cylinders come  back and its all bled and adjusted they should be functional and long lasting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mini Estate History - Inception and Launch

BMC had long wheel base Mini variants in the pipeline even before the Mini sedans were released in 1959. The van, estates and pickup underwent development together. According to the Pressnell bible “The design was put together during 1959 in Dick Gallimore’s Longbridge body experimental shop, Doug Adams doing the essential of the work, to the directions of Issigonis, before passing the projects to John Sheppard to be drawn up.” Where the Mini sedan was to be a car for the district nurse, early Traveller advertisements show it as a car for the family man or even businessman. Estates were only to be available in one trim level, to match the more upmarket De-Luxe sedan of the time.

Presnell suggests that this may have been the first and only prototype, it is badged as an Austin which was common for most of the Mini prototypes developed at Longbridge. XOJ registration numbers were used in Birmingham between November 1958 and May 1959. At this stage the design is fairly complete. If you ignore the tacky aftermarket hubcaps the main differences are that it has squared off corners to the rear windows and one piece side windows. Photographs of it from the rear show that the doors are solidly framed all around - possibly made of sheet aluminium with a structural timber frame, like the Morris Minor Traveller.

BMC were of course a mongrel crossbreed of former competitors - primarily Austin and The Nuffield Group (Morris). At that time there was a large number of dealers who held either Morris or Austin concessions and the buying public still held faithfully to the model of car they'd always bought. As a result most BMC cars came in more than one flavour (six in the case of the 1100). The Mini estates escaped the worst of this badge engineering, being marketed as either a Morris Mini Traveller, or an Austin Se7en Countryman (later Austin Mini Countryman). Both names were drawn from previous estates in the Mini's ancestry, most obviously the Morris Minor Traveller and the Austin A30 Countryman.

1955 Austin A30 Countryman
1955 Morris Minor Traveller

For several years, Morris and Austin Mini sedans were built in separate plants, Cowley turned out Morrises while Longbridge turned out Austins. However most of the variant Mini models, including the coopers, pickups, vans and estates were assembled at Longbridge, regardless of marque. The bodies were built, painted and trimmed by Fisher and Ludlow at their factory in Castle Bromwich,  then transported to Longbridge by rail to have the mechanicals installed. In other words my Morris was built by Austin.

Theo Page's wonderful cut-away drawing
illustrated the Motorsport road test.
The Countryman and Traveller were both launched on the 16th of September 1960, but had been in production since March that year. They were generally well received by the press. John Bolster in Motorsport, 9 December 1960 liked the de luxe interior trim level of the Traveller and praised the smoother gear change and less choppy ride afforded by the longer wheel base, in comparison to his own Mini sedan. The Autocar, 23 September 1960 wrote "Already holding a reputation of being a great little car, this latest version will certainly enhance this assessment. For town use it remains easy to park, and is fast through traffic because of its compact dimensions. On the open road its performance is adequate to transport four people and luggage with considerable economy and ease.".  Bolster concluded his road test report with " This new small station wagon is an extremely attractive addition to the B.M.C. range. It is not spectacularly fast, but it keeps up a remarkable average speed over difficult roads. Many families will buy it as a second car, but it will turn out to be the sort of second car that soon takes first place in everybody's affections. At £623 it is more costly than the saloon but represents remarkable value.". I find it interesting that even in 1960 both reviewers tactfully described performance as "adequate" or "not spectacular". Its very common to hear that an 850cc Mini is underpowered for modern traffic conditions, but it looks as though that was the case even 50 years ago. Scanned copies of both road test articles are available from the downloadable documents section, to the left.

Traveller at Earls Court 1960 - Image courtesy
Following the press launch, the next big public display of both the Traveller and Countryman was at the London Motor Show at Earls Court in October 1960. The Traveller was on the Morris stand, mounted at a dramatic angle on a floodlit circular dais. Interestingly, the show car wears white-wall tyres with the paint scheme of white with a contrasting black roof. A two-tone colour scheme was never available from the factory, and anticipated the colour scheme of the Mini Supers and Coopers by almost a year.

Countryman sans "Miss Austin"

The Countryman was displayed less dramatically, but perhaps equally eye catchingly, draped in a young model "Miss Austin", AKA Mandy Rice-Davies who went on to become a showgirl and friend of Christine Keeler of Profumo Affair infamy. Sadly the only picture I can find appears to have been taken after Miss Austin had finished for the day, however I did find a quote in  "An Affair of State":

 "The Mini was the most photographed car that year and many of the photographs show a cheeky, open-faced young girl with bobbed hair, thick black eyebrows, a turned-up nose and an appealing smile. Mandy was also photographed at receptions, cocktail parties, dinners, and on the way to lunch with the Mini's brilliant designer, Alex Issigonis."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Restoration has Officially Started

The BEFORE photo of the Master Cylinders
My original plan with the Traveller was to spend some time collecting up the missing parts, then embark on a commplete nut and bolt restoration, all done to the highest standards. However there has been a change of plan. I always planned to do as much as possible myself so this was never going to be a checque book restoration - however the realitys of life mean that its going to be more like a shoestring restoration now. I am not prepared to compromise the quality, so things are going to happen more slowly and I will need to make do with what I have for the time being. The plan now is for a rolling restoration. Get the Traveller back on the road and make small changes as time and money become available. Luckily the body is in excellent shape, and the mechanicals are adequate for the time being. The intention now is to address the most pressing issues that will prevent it from being registered, then get it back on the road. The brakes are the biggest problem at the moment. As I mentioned in a previous posting the pedal goes straight to the floor and the master cylinder were pretty crusty - showing signs of leaking and looking a bit tired.

Brake and Clutch Master Cylinders out and cleaned up a bit
 So a few nights ago  pulled out the brake master cylinder and stripped it for inspection. It looks pretty good for something that has held brake fluid for 50 yeras and I would probably would have got away with just a hone and a new set of seals, but with the philosophy of not compromising quality I decided that it really should be re-sleeved. Having decided to do the brake m/c, I figured I should do the clutch one as well, so last night I did the old under-dash limbo and pulled it out too. I found that the piston had seized in the bore so it does need doing too. I have found a local brake specialist, named Leon, who will re-sleeve them in stainless steel for a reasonable price, but there is a snag. After the sleeve is inserted the ports from the reservoir need to be drilled through it, but the tin reservoirs cover the ports. The reservoirs can either be sweated off (unsoldered) then replaced afterwards or he can drill through the side of the reservoir then insert a rivet and solder over it afterwards. The problem is that the cost of unsoldering and resoldering more than doubles the overall cost of the work, which is not cheap anyway. These master cylinders are a special feature on the early Minis (see below) so I don't want visible bumps of solder on the side. I have arranged with Leon, that I will remove the reservoirs before sending them to him, then replace them afterwards. I am slightly worried about this, but hey, whats the worst that could happen? Once the cylinders are sleeved and the reservoirs replaced they will need to be replated try to achieve an appearance similar to original.

Tapered top and hexagon top master cylinders.
So why don't I just use the reproduction lockheed master cylinders that are available? Well the reason is that these master cylinders are different from the much more common later ones. The 1959ers had a master cylinder with a large threaded sleeve on the very top of the cylinder and a metal cap on the reservoir, these are often called nut top master cylinders. Some time around 1960 - 61, but apparently only for a short period, they changed to this style which has a hexagonal shape which echos the nut, but is just part of the body of the cylinder. These also have the metal cap. After that the style changed again (perhaps when the bore of the cylinders was reduced in size). The top of the cylinder is now tapered and the cap is plastic. The photo on the left shows the cylinder off the Traveller beside a later Mini one. You can easily see the difference.

Both the clutch and brake cylinders have a bore of 0.75". Later cars had all sorts of variations and swapped bore sizes back and forwards. The same outwards appearance could range from 0.75" through 0.70" to 0.625". There are also two variations in the main seal style. These early ones use a ring seal and a cup seal, but later they converted to two ring seals. Luckily seal kits are still readily available, although the brake one is harder to find in 0.75" than the clutch. I got mine from Somerford Spares in the the UK.

Unfortunately the metal cap for the brake cylinder is badly corroded and falling apart. These are virtually impossible to find replacements for, but are essential because they are a unique feature of the older Minis. There have been a few sold on ebay in recent times for insane prices, but luckily I managed to 'win' a single one a few years ago, that is in pretty good shape and although it was expensive was way under what some are selling for. The clutch one is a bit corroded but I think it will be servicable.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Documents Uploaded

I've uploaded some scanned copies of documents that I've collected over the years. The documents are  hosted on the Google docs site, clicking the links in the box on the left hand side of the page will take you to the individual document. The documents can be browsed on line, downloaded or printed. Some of them are quite big files so might take a while to download.

So far I've uploaded two documents:
AKD1431 The Morris Mini - Traveller Service Parts List, January 1961 . This is a really useful document as its a full parts list for early Travellers. If you have a copy of the BMIHT CD of PDF files for the Mk1 Mini that you can still open, you will find that the parts manuals in it are for the van and pickup as well as the Traveller/Countryman and that there are separate books for mechanical parts and body parts. My scan is of a single book just for Travellers which includes mechanical and body parts. It also includes AKD3004 The Morris All-Steel Mini - Traveller Supplement, June 1961. I bought it a few years ago on ebay. It came in its original binder, which is unusual in being a long thin 'landscape' profile rather than the usual 'portrait' shape.

Parts lists are great for seeing how things go together because they have a lot of exploded diagrams, they also list the correct parts numbers, which can help you locate spare parts.

Reference M.7/1 Morris Mini Traveller Finishes and Upholsteries, April 1960. This is the colour cards and swatches mentioned in the previous blog post.

I will soon be uploading a sales brochure (its huge I have to scan it in pieces and splice it back together) and some original road tests and reports dating from when the Traveller was released.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Colour Finishes and Upholstery

Morris Mini Traveller Colour Finishes and Upholsteries, April 1960
To my way of thinking the Traveller has three main components that need to be in top order for this to be a first class restoration. The bodywork and paint, the timber and the interior trim. So I was very pleased to pick up a set of cards showing the colour finishes and upholsteries that were available in 1960 when the Traveller was released. These are fabulous, there are three cards (the first one is double sided) the second and third card have nice big swatches of paint and pieces of upholstery vinyl stuck to them. The cards show the three paint colours available at the time of release, curiously they are just labelled white, red and blue, whereas the colours were official known as 'Old English White', 'Cherry Red' and 'Clipper Blue'. Likewise the interior trim is either labelled red or blue, but were called 'Spanish Red' and 'Spanish Blue' elsewhere. My car is old English white (OEW), with grey fleck and Spanish red trim. The cards are dated April 1960, which was well before the September 1960 release, but after production had started.

The best thing about the cards is that they have been stored in the dark all this time so shouldn't have faded or discoloured. This will be a great help when it comes to matching the original colour, there were at least three variants of OEW used by BMC in the sixties. Likewise I will be able to compare the original vinyl swatches to  the reproduction trim available today.

Once I have worked out how to store the files online, I'll post up a link so that anyone who wants a copy can download them, although the colour reproduction is not terribly good so they may not be much help. I have some parts manuals I'll try to scan and make available too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Researching some History

One of the nice thing about British built minis is that the factory records were retained in an archive and its still possible to have access to the details for your particular car. These come in the form of a heritage certificate supplied (at quite a lot of expense) by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust archive service. Almost as soon as I got the Traveller I applied for a certificate and received it a few weeks later. It isn't much for the money, but its a fascinating glimpse of the car's early days and provides some clues to its history.

The heritage certificate gives me a few useful bits of information. It lists the car/chassis number and the engine number confirming the original numbers on the car and it gives me a date of manufacture, which will help when it comes time to replace missing parts. It also lists the heater as a factory option and describes the original trim and colour scheme.

The heritage certificate also tells me that the Traveller was built for the UK home market and was despatched to Derbyshire Motors Limited on the 31st of January 1961. Derbyshire Motors were aparently part of a larger company that were Morris dealers in Derbyshire, UK. Thanks to a member of the Mk1 Conversions Forum I've found their showroom in Google maps, unfortunately there's not much to show what it was.

Apart from being my father's 19th birthday, the date of despatch is significant in that it is about 8 weeks before the Mini went on sale in Australia. Manufacturing was already underway here at that time, but the Mini was not officially released until 23 March 1961. Assuming my Traveller was exported early in its life, it was one of the first Minis of any body style in Australia.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Home at Last!

Plans Finally approved by Council
Throughout 2009 I'd been working towards having a garage and workshop built. We were having an extension built onto our house and it seemed a good time to build the dream shed. I went through many iterations of plans trying to come to the best compromise between, space and cost whilst trying to preserve as much of our yard as possible and keeping the local council happy.To get as much floor space as I wanted without losing too much yard, I'd need two storeys but the council rules meant that the higher it was, the further it had to be from the boundary, it was going to end up plonked in the centre of the yard. Then I discovered the loophole, wall height is measured at the eaves so a Dutch barn is only the height of a single story building. It may look silly and be inappropriate for our size of yard but its BIG.

Traveller and Moke about to go away for a few more months
It took over a year to be ready to occupy. It actually only took about 10 days to be put up, but there were dozens of delays. I could not believe how many excuses the supplier could come up with, but I had a deadline. My work was sending me to Antarctica for most of December, January and February, and I wanted to be able to get the Traveller and all of my other stuff out of the expensive storage sheds I was renting. Even though it still wasn't finished - over one very busy weekend I moved the Traveller and two classic bikes, plus a huge pile of furniture and workshop equipment out of storage and into the shed. The Traveller was at home at last. It was a momentous day!
Two days later I was in Antarctica.

Wilkins Aerodrome, Wilkes Land, Antarctica

All of a Sudden ... Nothing Happened

When I first brought the Traveller home I didn't yet have a proper garage or anywhere to work, so I had to put it into a rented storage shed. That was in February 2007...and then life got in the way. Its boring but in a nutshell, my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary, sold a house, bought a house, had a child, finished a marathon 13 year renovation of another house, sold that house and another flat then renovated our new house (more on that later). That brings us up to late 2009. During most of this time the Traveller languished in storage. I spent a fair bit of time researching, planning and tracking down elusive parts on ebay, but I didn't do anything to the Traveller for over 2 1/2 years.

 In November 2009 there was going to be a big Mini show "MiniFest 2009", for the 50th anniversary. I decided that I wanted to have the Traveller there and that I was going to try to drive it. I had pieced together many of the missing parts I would need to get the car running. At that stage it had an engine, but that was just sitting in the engine bay, without any of its ancillaries fitted. The radiator and most of the cooling system was missing as were a number of smaller mechanical parts.
Mini Fans not Admiring Eddie

Over a period of several weeks I took my lunch break at the storage shed, which was just near my work. I bought an engine crane and used it to lift the engine out, I fitted a replacement radiator and cooling system, dropped it back in and connected everything up, using bits and pieces I already had plus some I borrowed and scrounged. Finally on the Friday before MiniFest I had it all re-assembled with a new battery fitted. I just needed to get it to start. It took a huge effort- there were at least half a dozen things preventing it from running, ranging from a wrongly aligned distributor drive, through to a cockroach egg blocking the fuel line. My lunch hour ran a bit over time that day - in fact I ended up spending nearly all afternoon lying on the floor in a pool of leaking petrol - but eventually it fired up, filling my storage shed with black smoke. It even settled down to a reasonable idle. Unfortunately the brakes were completely stuffed, and with no time to fix them, I had to trailer it to MiniFest.

Tasmania's answer to Monty Watkins

My Sister's old 1971 Mini K
MiniFest was a huge success, the Traveller got a lot of attention, particularly from the real mini aficionados. I was surprised, and very pleased, to be awarded a trophy for "The Car with the Most Potential", I'm glad the judges could see it the same way I do.

To cap it off I was asked to be lead car for the parade of Minis through town - only driving my Moke, not the Traveller. Unfortunately once the show was over, I still didn't have anywhere for the Traveller to live at my house, so back into storage it went for just a little longer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Eddie to Tasmania

Being collected in Sydney
Getting my Traveller from Steve and Mikey's place in Sydney back to Hobart was a lot more difficult than I  expected. Tasmania is an island off the south eastern corner of mainland Australia. There's about 1200km of road plus a 450km sea crossing between here and Sydney. The Traveller was up there, with its engine out, no radiator and no brakes. All I needed was a transport company prepared to move a non-running car from Sydney to Hobart. There weren't any. I could find a few companies that would ship a running car to Tasmania, but I could find only one company prepared to transport a non-runner, and they wouldn't bring it across the strait. I would have to go across on the ferry and tow it home from Melbourne. The transport company wouldn't hold it in their depot for me, but luckily Brett (who first pointed me to the ad) generously offered to store the Traveller at his place near Melbourne until I could get over to collect it. After a lot of mucking about (and a substantial up-front payment) it was collected from Steve and Mikey's place. Steve sent me some pictures of it on the back of the truck.

...Then it disappeared...
Literally 'dropped off' at Brett's
 Brett would have liked to have been home when it was delivered, he would have liked to have known which day it was arriving. He would like to have had it delivered into his driveway. However the transport company went very quiet. They wouldn't return phone calls, and they couldn't be specific about when it would be delivered,even more ominously they didn't seem to know where it was. After many days of both Brett and I trying to get information out of them it turned up at Brett's, without much warning. Brett wasn't home, it didn't arrive when they said it would and it wasn't in his driveway. Instead they seemed to have thrown it off the back of the truck as they drove past his house. They left it where it landed, with one wheel on the footpath. Brett had to push it out into the road and use his 4WD to tow it up his driveway, but at least it was safe again (although it was filthy!).

On Rod's Trailer behind the Mighty RAV4
All that was left was for me to make the road trip and the two overnight ferry crossings, over and back, to bring it home. I took a day off work, accompanied by my brother-in-law, James and we headed north. I stopped off at Rod's place near the ferry port to borrow his trailer, which was a very important part of the equation. Rod's trailer is the perfect size for a Mini, its built to exactly fit a Moke which is important on the ferry because the trailer is charged (a great deal) by length, and this whole process was becoming very expensive. Apart from a terrible sleepless night in the cheapest accommodation on the "Spirit of Tasmania" (a cinema seat) the rest of the trip to Brett's house was uneventful. Rod's trailer is so compact that towing through an unfamiliar city was a dream. After buying half of Ikea (a compulsory stop for Tasmanians visiting the big city) we arrived at Brett's. My Traveller looked great sitting in the shed next to Brett's. It was the most Travellers I've ever seen in the same place at once! With Brett's help we soon had Eddie snugly tied down and ready to head home.

The return trip was not so great. I got sick - really sick - on the ferry, I'm not certain whether it was the Swedish meatballs for lunch or the fish and chips for dinner. Another sleepless night (spent mostly on the toilet) didn't help. Back on land Faye, Rod's wife, came to my rescue with some good drugs and after another  few hundred kilometres with James driving while I tried to maintain control of my bodily functions we rolled Eddie into my hired storage shed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finding a Traveller

The Clubman that got away - later saved by an enthusiast
I've wanted a Mini estate for years. I've owned Minis since I started to drive and have had several different versions, sedans, Mokes and a Mini Van. The van was great, it could fit a fridge in the back, but it was bit limited for seating. The estates seemed to have the perfect compromise of seats and practicality. Over the years I'd checked out a couple, a slightly rough red Austin Countryman (with steel sides, no wood), which was around 5 times the cost of a comparable sedan, and a Clubman Estate that needed a bit more work than I was capable of at the time - it was only about 3 times the price of a comparable sedan. In hindsight I should have bought either of them. The thing was, I really wanted a woody.

One of the photos from the original ad
There's probably only a dozen or so woodies in Australia so I'd more or less given up on the idea of  finding one locally and was toying with the idea of having a holiday in the UK and bringing one home with me. I mentioned this on the old yahoo Minilist Forum, and quickly got a reply from Brett (bnicho) to say that one was listed for sale on the Ausmini forum (link to original ad). As it turned out it was a nice early woody, I knew these were a bit more special so that really sparked my interest. The sellers, Steve and Mikey, were well known on Ausmini for their fabulous collection of early Minis. The only problem was that they were in Sydney, 1200km by road plus a 450km sea crossing away.  I spent a long time studying all the detailed pictures they had in their ad and it looked to be in remarkable condition for its age so I eventually decided that it was worth the punt. I won't tell you what I paid, but several friends told me I was mad to have paid so much for a mini that was nearly 50 years old, and didn't even run.

Getting the Ball Rolling

This blog has been around nearly as long as I've had the Traveller, so its time to get it started I think. I've owned my Traveller since January 2007, but am only now starting the restoration - I don't like to rush these things.

An introduction:
This is my 1961 Morris Mini Traveller, he's a woody so is affectionately known as Eddie, after Edward Woodward. Eddie rolled off the Longbridge production line on the 31st of January 1961 (my Dad's 19th birthday).

The heritage certificate shows that he is still in his original colours and he still has the optional extra heater fitted, when he was delivered to Derbyshire Motors Ltd, in Derwent Street, Derby.

Fuel tank on the left and spare wheel well and battery in the same location as the sedan.
Travellers are very rare in Australia, they were never built here and only a handful came in as private imports. Mine is even more unusual in being an early 'internal tank' model. For the first year of production Morris  Travellers and the similar Austin Countryman had the fuel tank in the rear, in a similar position to that of the sedans, with a filler cap protruding from the left hand side rear panel. A year later the under floor tank of the Mini van was adopted, with its filler recessed into the right hand side rear panel.