Recently I've been thinking of a very real problem with our Morris Minors. Now, I'm not considering worn trunnions, weak gearboxes or the strange location of the master cylinder, but something far more serious. It's us.
Let me explain. A while ago I was filmed for CARS of AUSTRALIA. The resulting 5 minute video has been on Youtube for a couple of years and has been viewed almost 6,500 times (wish I'd thought a bit more about what I was saying and wore a different shirt, but that's another story.) What's this got to do with the problem? Well when you look at the breakdown of who has watched the video, (as I did the other day in the early hours when nursing young James) almost all of the viewers were men in the over 55 age group.
Now I've got no problems with men over 55, hey, that includes a lot of people in this club, but I believe the exclusivity of the age and gender is a problem. I'd be very surprised if it was the same age and gender profile watching a video on the VW Beetle or the Mini.
I'm in my early 40's now, and I still seem to be one of the 'younger' members of the Morris world. Why?
There's always a place for older, more experienced enthusiasts – my car runs because I'm not shy of asking for their wealth of knowledge, (thanks Barry amongst many others!) but for our cars not to be the favourite models of the nursing home there needs to be a cultural shift. I don't understand why the Morris does not have the appeal to youngsters of the Beetle, it is a similar vintage and shape, with better steering and suspension. It is cheap to maintain and easy to fix. When I drive the Traveller to school the students love the car, but they don't know what it is.
Perhaps herein lays the problem. The Beetle and its derivatives has had decades of marketing and advertising positioning it in the 'hip' and 'surfer' lifestyle. They really do say 'endless summer' like no other car, whereas the Morris seems to have been saddled with a more staid and conservative image of the refined older English gent, probably with a deer-stalker hat and a pipe. Most youngsters can't identify it as a Minor.
When considering a classic car (if they do), they assume it is unreliable, unsafe and expensive to maintain. They think it would be impossible to get replacement parts for. They don't see the possibilities for updating and refining the Minor for use as an economical and enjoyable car of the 21st century. We must take some responsibility for these preconceptions.
What can we do? I'm very aware of the keen interest in my car at the school I work at. I'm happy to show my car to the students (we actually use it when we study motion and vehicles in yr 10 and 11), and this helps foster at least an understanding of the marque and appreciation for classic cars in general.
Every year my yr 12 physics class paint a 'physics mural' for the walls of the labs, in 2009 the mural had a 'Simpsons' theme. If you have a look at the attached photo, you can see that Mr Burns has some new wheels. A small step in the right direction? I hope so!
Cheers, Andy - '70 Maroon Traveller
Originally printed in "Minor Torque", the Morris Minor Owner's Club of New South Wales Newsletter