AutoMemory #5: Morris Marina OFU157S

P81

As promised some months ago, here are fond, or possibly less than fond, recollections of a second Marina, this time a white 1.3 saloon. It was the first car my wife and I owned together and it took us to our exotic honeymoon near Filey. It also drove us to despair, received a Biblical name and required new front ball joints on an infuriatingly regular basis.

The thing about the Marina is, it’s trendy to take potshots and laugh at it as a simply dreadful car, typical of the automotive disasters produced by British Leyland in the seventies. It’s not quite fair, though – really it isn’t. Because my feeling about our white 1.3 saloon was always that when it was going well, it wasn’t a bad car. Indeed, no less a prestigious publication than the Haynes Manual described the Marina as, “a driver’s car, and a good one at that.”

The Marina doesn’t deserve to be pigeon-holed with the likes of the Allegro or the Ambassador. These, as I understand it, have a rightly-deserved reputation for being super-naff. Whereas the Marina was, well, OK. In theory.

The problem was that it frequently didn’t go well. Several days after a service, performance would drop off as the condenser across the points failed and the points began to spark and rapidly became pitted. The aforementioned ball joints, despite being given the recommended seeing to with a grease gun, would dry out and start to groan. The rear light cluster would leak, causing earth loops and strange effects like the reversing lights flashing when you turned the indicator on. And the rust; there was a lot of rust.

One Winter’s day as we drove past Rutland Water on our way to visit a relative, I took my foot off the gas only to find that…nothing happened. We didn’t slow down. Slight panic. I tried pushing the clutch in, only to find, naturally enough, that the poor old engine screamed in protest. The accelerator was stuck, the cable frozen. With panic rising I turned the ignition off and coasted to a stop. After calming down we worked out that what I should have done was to put my foot under the pedal and forcibly lift it up. Obvious when you thought about it but far from it at the time, believe me.

If it wasn’t the accelerator it was the petrol pump. I forget the details after almost 30 years but there was a saga with the fuel pump involving a repair, smelling petrol and realising said repair hadn’t worked as one opened the bonnet to observe petrol merrily spraying all over the hot engine.

Despair.

Having discovered the sprayage just before going to church, we then heard a sermon on the story of David and Goliath – the latter being, of course, an apparently unslayable giant. And the former, an unimpressive boy who trusted God and slayed the unslayable. After that, our beloved, infuriating white Marina was known as Goliath.

After more repairs and even a full respray, Goliath was finally traded in – for a vehicle which ought to have been much better but which turned out to be the least favourite car I ever had.

Intrigued? Watch out for the next exciting episode…