The Lancashire Morris Minors Owners' Club and the beauty of affordable nostalgia
In January 1981, a group of Morris Minor enthusiasts gathered at the Richmond Hotel in Southport to form the Lancashire Branch of the Morris Minor Owners' Club. On the cusp of celebrating its 40th anniversary in January 2021, the group now boasts around 100 members and is still a much-loved focal point for motor-based nostalgia-lovers across the county.
"There's a real affection for the car," says Andrew Whittaker, the group's secretary. "When I drive my Morris Minor, people smile and wave; some actually come up and say 'my granddad used to have one of these' or 'I learned to drive in one of these'. It really is one of the most recognisable and well-liked vehicles outside the upmarket classics like Jaguars and Aston Martins.
"Last year, I met my son at the pub and parked up next to an Aston Martin," adds Andrew, who grew up in Rimington, Clitheroe and now lives in Euxton. "I had to pop out to get something from the car and I found a crowd of people looking at the Minor, but no one was looking at this £150,000 Aston! People just love them."
Tony Fennell, who joined the Lancashire MMOC after moving from the Midlands seven years ago, agrees.
"My partner and I have had Morris Minors for quite a few years and we just love them," says Tony. "They're straightforward, simple, accessible cars with an element of nostalgia which takes us back to our youth. Lots of people remember them from their childhood; in fact, my model from 1949 is virtually the same age as me!
"You always turn heads when you're driving one and when you pull up in a petrol station, it's like bees around a jam pot," adds Tony, who runs the group's website and produces the renowned monthly Newsletter. "If you open the bonnet, that's you stuck for a good hour what with people coming up and wanting to talk to you about it. You wouldn't get that with very many other cars at all."
Offering a wealth of passion, mechanical know-how, and friendship in equal measure, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the MMOC hosted regular meetings featuring guest speakers, quizzes, bring-your-car nights, auctions, and raffles. They also held a monthly Mechanics' Day in Garstang to which members would bring their Minors for repairs whilst also enjoying a cuppa, pie and a chat.
"The beauty of the Morris Minor is it's quite a simple car and, while classic cars can often cost an arm and a leg, it offers affordable nostalgia," explains Andrew, who joined the group in 2014 and got his Minor as a retirement present. "And they're a sociable vehicle which people use as an everyday car, whereas people would never just bob about in something like a Jaguar XK120 or an Austin Healey 3000."
With members boasting a wide range of models - over 1.6m Morris Minors were produced during the course of the car's 23-year manufacturing lifespan - the group is a haven for classic car enthusiasts. But, echoing Andrew's point, Tony says the thing which has made the group and the car so popular is how relatable it is and how affordable it remains to this day.
"They're not flashy supercars which are out of almost everybody's league and they're not swish, they're good old-fashioned vehicles with loads of nostalgia which people can relate to," Tony says. "Everybody knows somebody who had one if they didn't have one themselves and, in the group, they're the common interest which brings together people from different walks of life and sparks off memories and stories."
Embracing the digital realm during lockdown, the group has been offering their members the chance to stay in touch with their fellow enthusiasts via Zoom meetings which have gone well, according to Andrew.
"We've kept up the social side of things over Zoom, which is a great way of staying in touch; we've had octogenarians absolutely loving it!" he says. "There's real camaraderie in the club and people are chomping at the bit to get back to normal events when it's safe to do so."
For those interested in joining the Lancashire MMOC, Andrew advises that you do not need to own a Morris Minor to join the group. For more information, head to www.lancashiremmoc.co.uk