Tuesday, 2 October 2012

ME AND MY CAR/MOTORCYCLE #6

This month we have Nicky West from Hertfordshire with 'Morris' – a 50-year-old 850cc Mini Minor. Nicky is the author of Veloce's recently published book Mini Minor to Asia Minor – There and back! Please keep your entries coming in to prize@veloce.co.uk, and you never know, it could be YOU in this space next month!

It’s hard to describe Morris without an air of affection. Of care. Almost, dare I say it, of love?
Like most (if not all) classic Mini’s there’s something about him that makes Morris irresistible.
You smile when you slam the door shut and get that first waft of musty, hessian backed carpet, deteriorating silently beneath your feet. You never fasten your seat belts before you turn the key and press the floor starter, just in case he’s having an ‘off’ day and needs a little TLC. You can’t get frustrated cruising at a whopping 56mph even though the BMW driver behind you on the M25 is flashing his lights and making rude gestures. And you always whisper words of encouragement as you watch the needle drop off the fuel gauge, while feverishly scanning the horizon for a petrol station that sells high octane ‘juice’.
Oh, it could be argued that Rob (husband, Rally driver and Mini aficionado) and I are quote “Mini Mad” and if I’d thought ahead to take a pound for every disparaging comment, I’d be writing this from the Bahamas. Yes, there may be the slightest hint of truth that we are indeed ‘keen’ on this marque. And yes, Rob is fantastic at keeping these diminutive little cars going against the odds. But in all honesty there was one single reason why Morris became the vehicle of choice for an 11,000km jaunt to the Pyramids and back to raise money for charity.
The undeniable fact was … he was cheap.
Originally picked up for just over £600 as a non-runner, he’d been off the road for over 40 years and our intention had always been to restore him in our dotage. But fate, my thirst for travel and the cost of an Egyptian Carnet de Passage at that time put paid to that idea; before you could say shish-kebab Morris had become our only hope of completing the journey.
But what an adventure it turned out to be!
Who could have foreseen that the once billed ‘trip of a lifetime’ in December 2010 would be torn to shreds within two months as the Arab Spring uprising began? Country after country across North Africa and the Middle East began to tear itself apart with borders closing on a daily basis. And there were we, slap bang in the midst of it, trying to pull off a round trip to the last remaining wonder of the ancient world in just 35 days. No support crew. No other cars. Just us, Morris and a bean bag donkey called Splonk as our mascot.
Bribery, civil uprisings, searing heat, monster potholes, lost cars, wrong boats, deserted highways, congested cities, dysfunctional sat navs, famous chef’s, brass bands, breathtaking scenery, flea bitten motel rooms, elation, despair, laughter, heartache and the burning desire to get home.
We had it all.
Morris changed from being a car, a mere conveyance, to our travelling companion; a noble steed of epic proportions, the likes of which the Lone Ranger or Charlemagne would have been proud to own. And it’s his story that I’ve tried to capture in the book.
But would we do it again? Would we risk everything on some whirlwind adventure that could fail from so many uncontrollable and unforeseeable aspects? With Morris, an unrestored pale pink Mini still covered in the Arabic paint squiggles from his sojourn at the port of Alexandria?
You’ll have to wait and see …

Nicky West




Do you have an unusual car/motorcycle with a story to tell?
We want to see it! Send photos & description to prize@veloce.co.uk
We will pick one a month, and any we feature will win an Essential Buyer's Guide (worth £9.99 / $19.95) of your choice.
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