One family’s love of the Morris Minor has spanned generations and taken them overseas as their hobby has become a way of life.
‘We’re like any other family’ comments Richard, as he looks out the kitchen window with a row of Morris Minors parked on the flagstones, ‘we just have a bit of an interest that got out of hand!’.
Like many families across the UK, the O’Brien family have a cross generational love for the Morris Minor. Ian O’Brien worked for the world-famous Morris Minor garage ‘Charles Wares Morris Minor Centre’ in Bath (later Bristol) and was known by everyone for being a man who could fix anything. From floors that resembled cheese graters to engines past their prime, there was no Morris Minor Ian couldn’t work his magic on.
Richard, Ian’s eldest son, says all his earliest memories are of Morris Minors and watching his dad not only work on the cars at Charles Wares, but doing odd jobs at weekends. ‘You could say our lives were powered by A Series back in those days, but we did love a side valve too!’.
Ian can’t divulge his client database but tells us he’s worked on Morris Minors owned by virtually everyone, from household celebrity names through to clergymen. Richard tells us that’s the joy with a Morris Minor, it’s a car which appeals to everyone and celebrity owners include Chris Evans, Steve Coogan and Keeley Hawes; who once said it was her most treasured possession.
Richard added ‘I’ve poured over old family photographs which feature Minors borrowed for weekends, ones we owned for months at a time and my Mum’s beloved Traveller and absorbed all the number plates. I get a real kick when I go to a show or a rally and see a car Dad has fixed up from scrap and think – wow – that’s here because of his hard work!’
It will come as no surprise that Ian’s passion for the humble Alec Issigonis creation soon inspired Richard and he spent many lunchtimes at school browsing the MMOC (Morris Minor Owners Club) forums for potential first cars. Connecting with other users from across the world, Richard found the club members not only shared his hobby but spurred him on to his first Morris Minor purchase; a rose taupe saloon called ‘KUD’.
The car was not only Richard’s first car, but as a learner, the car he mastered the basics in. Falling in love with a car 50 years his senior, many scoffed at Richard’s first motor and said he needed something far more modern, but Richard couldn’t disagree more.
‘The Morris Minor is EXACTLY the right first car for a learner!’ Richard argues passionately ‘The car teaches you (whether you like it not!) mechanical sympathy, great problem-solving techniques and most of all, a driving style which looks a lot further down the road than many modern drivers seem to have nowadays.’
The car also inspired Richard to travel further than many would dare take their modern car and with newfound friendships in the MMOC, Richard set off in 2017 at the tender age of 19 on his first overseas trip to France. Having never dared venture further than a straightforward day trip, Richard relied on the community of Morris Minor owners also on the trip and convoyed with acquaintances who have since become lifelong friends.
As the 2023 season opens, Richard tells us he’s got a jam-packed diary for the year ahead with it being 75 years of the Morris Minor. From the MMOC National Rally to a trip to the South of France for Minors on Tour plus a whole range of shows and social visits! It seems Richard’s humble Morris Minor not only gave him the means to get from A to B, but a whole new life to boot!
‘My biggest goal this year is to get my early Lowlight Minor from 1949 to the MMOC National Rally to celebrate the 75 years. At the moment it’s a bit of a project and I’ve been working on it for the last few years and I’m hopeful to make history and take it on its first public outing since it was taken off the road in 1967’.
Commenting on his son’s passion, Ian said ‘it’s become more of an obsession now than a hobby, but as long as he’s happy and doesn’t take up too much of the workshop, it keeps him out of trouble! We’re delighted the car has given him such a brilliant social life and set of memories over these past few years.’
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