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My First Car: Slip sliding along so simple in my Morris 8

07:02 26 December 2015

Graham Smee with his first car, a Morris 8, in 1955.

Graham Smee with his first car, a Morris 8, in 1955.


Graham Smee recalls the fun and frustrations of running his 1934 Morris 8 and keeping it on the road.

In 1955, while doing National service and stationed at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire, I fell off my motorcycle on to an icy road. Picking myself up, I rode on into nearby Grimsby, found a garage and did a straight swap for a 1934 Morris 8.

The registration number was TV 9383 and this vehicle had a side-valve engine, a four-speed gearbox, hydraulic brakes and headlights which dipped by a solenoid-operated mechanism which swung the reflectors downwards and to the left.

The engine burned a lot of oil so a billet mate, whose father was in the motor trade, got me some Wellworthy Duaflex piston rings and helped me to fit them. This turned out to be a very effective cure and, despite the fact that we reused the old cylinder head gasket, there were no more engine problems.

There were other difficulties. After a period of standing, the scuttle had to be thumped hard in order to wake up the petrol pump, which contained a cork float and suspended piston. The handbrake cables had stretched and so I made shorteners from scrap parts out of practice bomb cradles.

Having no money to buy Lockheed brake fluid and resisting the temptation to raid a plentiful supply of aircraft Girling hydraulic fluid, I foolishly topped up with linseed oil as a temporary measure. This attacked and expanded the rubber seals in the brake shoe operating pistons so that, although the brakes would apply, they jammed on hard. Luckily, it was not while I was on the road.

The main bearing oil seals leaked oil on to the clutch, causing it to slip badly. On one occasion the slipping clutch caused me to exit the upslope of the Mersey Tunnel at 15mph with a furious queue of traffic behind – understandable as there was a minimum speed limit of 30mph in force at the time.

To rectify this afterwards, an inspection plate on the floor was discovered. This gave access to the clutch bell housing, so that, by squirting acetone on to the clutch plates, they could be cleaned to give another few hundred miles of slip-free operation.

On another occasion, having taken a corner too fast, a rear tyre came partly off the rim. I jacked the car up, removed and deflated the wheel, trod the tyre back on to the rim, refitted the wheel and inflated the tyre and drove away. Things were so simple in those days.

This car took me all over England and Wales and only broke down on the road once, breaking a half shaft fairly near to home. I was able to coast downhill to a garage at Stoke-by-Nayland, near Sudbury. They fixed it whie I waited and this dealer later bought the car from me for £20

Happy days!

Tell us about your first car – bright spots, breakdowns, delights and disasters. Email your first car memories, with a picture if you have one, to


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