AutoMemory #3 – Morris Marina TTE704M

P134

By cunningly injecting references to Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson in the last AutoMemory (covering the esteemed Vauxhall Viva, as you no doubt recall) I managed to pull in a bumper crop of Internet readers. (Bumper, that is, by my standards. By which I mean that AutoMemory #2 has more “hits” than #1, whereas normally an older post will always have a higher score simply by virtue of having been around longer and, I suspect, because some visitors to a new post will take a quick detour to click around the older ones – a tendency for which I am grateful, boosting so well, as it does, my fragile writer’s ego.)

Well if something works once, why not try it again? And this time round I have genuine justification, for the focus of our attention is the even more esteemed Morris Marina, a car much beloved by the TG presenters as a subject of ridicule and, furthermore, deemed a fair target for destruction by a grand piano dropped from a great height.

Those who love to smirk at our beloved British Leyland are in for a treat as this series will feature not one but two (yes, two) Marinas, the first being a 1974 1.8 Coupé in a fetching shade of mustard, not unlike our picture. This was the car that took the family down to St Ives and up to Fort William, the car in which my brother learned to drive, and the car which permanently put Dad off ever owning another Marina.

Take the St Ives trip, for example. As we cruised down the M5 there was a terrific bang from under the bonnet. Inspection at the next services revealed that the flywheel pulley had split apart, firing one half upwards like a bullet and denting the bonnet from underneath. I don’t recall the repair story, save to say that we made it to St Ives Holiday Village and enjoyed one of the finest Easter breaks in many a year (for this was, I believe, 1975 – the year of the first of two legendary long hot summers – and clearly the weather was revving up for the coming scorcher – to use the motoring simile – as early as March).

To Scotland, then. The banks of Loch Eil, roughly 20 miles by road from Fort William and the nearest shop. (Strangely, my Dad felt this was stretching the definition of “shop nearby” as indicated in the brochure.) We spent a hot but not unpleasant week in a caravan in a potato field fighting off midges and trying not to run into shaggy Highland cattle blocking the road. We took a foray into the foothills of Ben Nevis, savoured Scottish tea-rooms and called the AA out to replace the Marina’s leaking clutch master cylinder. My brother, bless him, had the joy of coaxing the Marina back to base, kangaroo-hopping at every gear change. (Those who know about these things will correct me – no doubt with great delight – if I’m wrong, but I understand that the majority of clutches are cable-operated and hence not prone to leaking hydraulics. I suspect, however, that had the Marina designers opted for the conventional technology we would have suffered a stretched / snapped / stuck clutch cable instead. I do happen to know that the Marina was vulnerable to sticking cables – but more of that in a future episode.)

Such, then, are my fond recollections of TTE704M. By a strange quirk of fate, a family trip down to the very same St Ives Holiday Village over 20 years later was severely marred when we were rear-ended by a coach at Gordano Services. Unfortunately this distress befell us a mere 15 years ago and we have yet to delve into the 80’s, let alone the 90’s. In due course you will thrill to the full gory detail of The Ford Sierra Dented Boot Tragedy. But not yet.

When the tale is finally told, however, you, forewarned and forearmed, can raise your eyebrows in recognition, give a knowing look and exclaim, “Aha! This is not the first but the second Cornwall-centric tale of vehicular shenanigans. For I do recall the sad story of the shattered pulley way back in episode #3, when we were given but a tantalising glimpse of this current tale, by which I am so utterly entranced.”

Don’t let me down now.

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