Looking back to early 1980 when the idea of a local Morris club was first suggested, we all lived in a different country where Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister, and New Zealand taxpayers owned the Electricity Department, the phones, railways etc. The public service was being ridiculed by Roger Hall in “Gliding On”,
and if schoolchildren had written WINZ they would be told to improve their spelling. At the time, owners of
old cars would never have imagined the hassles that they would have to face with the LTS A bureaucracy.
The country has changed out of sight since then, and in the grand scheme of things it could be said that the Morris Enthusiasts Car Club of NZ has struggled on with very little to show for all the work put in by members. I guess the Business Roundtable would find the profits laughable, but twenty years of helping good folk use and enjoy their old cars has its own rewards.
The original intention of the club was to assist Morris Eight owners in the Wellington area with encouragement and a few parts, and hold the odd social runs. Well, we got that wrong – the club now has members spread from Auckland down to Owaka with a great range of Morris models, and the parts shed and clubrooms at Otaki are full of
goodies. What has been amazing is the strong participation of members at the club events held in all parts of the country.
Contrary to what the news media may tell you, the best “Fun Runs” in New Zealand are not held along Tamaki Drive in Auckland, but are organized by the enthusiastic members of the MECC showing us the sights in their own backyards. We drive along backcountry roads away from the Kamikaze motorists, seeing the best parts of NZ with hardly a Tourist Campervan in sight. On occasions, to make the event interesting and cement the relationship between Driver and “Navigator”, a competitive element is introduced. Participants will tell you that the enjoyment of straight-line navigation is best appreciated when no other car has been sighted for 30 minutes, the road seems to continue into the hills endlessly, the instructions make less sense the longer they are argued over and your stomach tells you that the lunch stop is overdue. Then, around the comer and you find a gathering of cars with crews enjoying the camaraderie of shared experience. To make the disposal of prizes possible a winner has to be found. Because members of the MECC seem to know everything, a set of instructions containing questions about the route that have no logical answer must be included, the prize going to the most creative answer. Great Fun!
There have been some mechanical difficulties but in most instances members’ breakdowns have been fixed, with inventive genius demonstrated in some instances, and they were able to finish the run. However, there have been a couple of engine blow-ups resulting in a
tow. On one of the very early runs, we drove up the Upper Hutt side of the Rimutaka Incline before it was turned into a walkway. At the lunch stop at the old Summit station we discovered that the owner of one of the cars had fitted a new steering box rocker arm so tight in the bush that it had become almost impossible to turn the wheel. However the rest of the box was still very sloppy. No one was keen to take the box out in such an isolated location with the weather threatening, so with frequent squirts of CRC the car was driven back home. It would have been an interesting experience correcting the wander of the vehicle with a frozen steering wheel – Armstrong Power Steering. That owner’s tinkering stopped at that point!
The events with an overnight stay have proved very popular with those members able to get way for the whole weekend. ‘Bushy Park’ north of Wanganui had a special charm, with Jurriaan deGroot’s 78 records on the gramophone providing the musical accompaniment at the evening meal, and many of the diners dressing up in period costumes. However, the potluck dinners held at some remote locations
certainly demonstrate the resourcefulness of members, with the magnificent repasts prepared from materials carried in the heavily loaded little Morris vehicles.
It is no coincidence that many of the photos taken on runs that appear in the Newsletter feature members tucking into a meal. On many runs Maurice Costello has been able to demonstrate his skills in seeing a situation developing, and being able to capture the magic moment on film before any one else present understood what was happening. What sticks in the mind is the sound of a convoy of little Morris’s winding up a lonely valley road, echoing through the slowly breaking early morning mist. The best way I know to turn petrol into pleasure!
I saw a pertinent expression in an American Car club magazine many years ago that seems very appropriate with the MECC: “It’s the
Cars that bring you into the Club, but its the People that make you stay.”