Johannesburg Morris Minor Owners Club cars on an outing to the Vaal in January 2024.

A pleasingly muted burble of exhausts (not unlike the low F-sharp of a trumpet); the whine of straight-cut gears; and (if you’re close) the tickety-tick of SU fuel pumps. Just some of the sounds set to tickle ears in KZN’s Central Drakensberg when fans of a much-loved British motorcar gather. Matthew Hattingh reports:


KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (20 February 2024) – Morris Minor enthusiasts enjoy a knees-up as much as the next fellow and Terry Wilson is no exception.

The 76-year-old Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) man has been to all but one Morris Minor Owners Club of South Africa national rally since 2000. So you may well imagine how a recent fall that tore the quad muscles from his knees and left him house-bound for six weeks ahead of the club’s biennial get-together had him rattled.

“I nearly went crackers,” says Wilson.

The Cotswold resident tells how he slipped while out walking the dogs. The pain was excruciating. “I just saw white lights,” he says, recalling how he lay in the mud for more than half an hour before someone found him and came to his aid.

The retired Telkom project manager turned part-time mechanic and tour guide (he shows cruise liner tourists the local sights and game parks) is on the mend now.

Terry Wilson on the day he acquired Chris Spinks’ Morris Minor Traveller. Note the EC number plate already fitted ahead of the journey from Johannesburg to its new home in PE.

Trouble is, the rally looms.

The get-together, the 21st edition, runs from 17 to 21 March at the Nest Hotel in KwaZulu-Natal’s Central Drakensberg and Wilson still can’t bend his knees beyond about 80 degrees. That makes getting into and out of the relatively tight confines of his Morris hell, never mind enduring two long days at the wheel that the drive to the Drakensberg entails.

But you can’t keep a good man down.

Wilson says he’s been doing plenty of exercises to speed his recovery and has put a backup plan in place: he says he’ll hitch his wagon – his Morris is a Traveller, one of the sought after station wagon variants, colloquially known as Woodies – behind his bakkie. With the extra space the bakkie’s modern cab affords, Wilson is confident he can make it to the mountains, accompanied by his girlfriend, Jo Robberts.

The couple haven’t quite decided on their route, but are leaning towards travelling by way of Nqanqarhu (Maclear) and Matatiele, depending on road conditions, before pressing on to Underberg.

It’s a fair old drive, but leaving aside Wilson’s injuries, pales beside the many miles facing Western Cape rally-goers.

Frikkie Muller, 72, of Kuilsrivier, will be setting off at 4am with a friend, Emma Carpenter, in her Trafalgar Blue, concours-winning 1969 two-door Morris.

Joining them in convoy will be John and Pat Birkett, in a red Nissan 1400-powered 1959 Traveller, and Ron Clark and Mitford Roberts in a black 1959 two-door.

They plan to meet Oudsthoorn Morris man, Nico Mienie and his wife Alicia, en route and to overnight in Bloemfontein, where they are hoping to persuade Free State members to join them for the final leg to KZN.

There must be something about these not-so-young men and women and, dare we risk the cliché, their magnificent machines, because Muller betrayed not a hint of anxiety about the trek when we spoke recently.

Certainly he’s not fazed by the possibility of a breakdown. He counts seven Morris Minors in his own backyard in different states of readiness and restoration, including a panel van and a Traveller.

The cars are reliable and easy to work on, says the retired technical school teacher, who tells me he cut his teeth as an apprentice mechanic repairing Land Rovers – “horrible to work on” – and other British cars.

OK, so breakdowns aren’t necessarily a big worry, still, won’t driving all that way in a car from an era when ergonomics was in its infancy take the wind from your sails? Consider too that many of the rally-goers are older than their cars.

Not a bit of it, says Tommy Smith, 67, a founder member of the Johannesburg Morris Minor Club.
He rates Morris Minors, “pretty comfortable”.

“I have no problem driving 1000km a day,” says Smith, who with his brother José, will be bringing a 1971 Traveller and a recently restored 1960 bakkie to the rally from Alberton.

Johannesburg Morris Minor Owners Club stalwart Tommy Smith with one of his bakkies.

The retired diesel mechanic turned health and safety auditor, says that with modern oils and regular servicing (note: no-antifreeze), the Morris A-Series engine is “bullet-proof”. Nevertheless, he’s careful to pack a spare fuel pump – “I’ve been around the block.”

Smith says they do about 55mph (85/90km/h) on the highway which means they get to enjoy the scenery – something drivers of modern, swifter machinery miss out on.

“I just enjoy driving them,” he says of his cars.

Chris Spinks, of Highlands North, Johannesburg, has been attending Morris Minor rallies since 1994, when the Durban club hosted the event at Hibberdene, on the KZN South Coast.

The 83-year-old will join the rally in his ’61 Porcelain Green (“the family call it ‘gangrene’”) – four-door Morris 1000. Spinks has owned the car for 30 years. “It’s still going strong; hopefully it outlasts me.”

Chris Spinks’ four-door Morris Minor at a shopping mall in Bloemfontein during the 2016 MMOC National Rally. Thankfully it didn’t leak oil, like some others did, says Spinks.

As it happens, he previously owned Wilson’s car until the PE man browbeat him into parting with it.

Spinks will be making the trip solo, albeit in convoy with other club members. His wife’s not interested, he tells me cheerfully.

ONE FOR THE AGES: Chris Spinks; grandson Talon, aged three at the time, in Spinks’ then newly restored Traveller. The car now belongs to Terry Wilson of Port Elizabeth, while Talon is a lanky teenager in Perth, Australia.

Like Smith he has no qualms about the cars themselves provided they are properly serviced and, for the sake of comfort, “make sure the seats are in reasonable condition”. But he says sharing the road with heavy trucks on the N3 can take some of the shine out of the trip.

Spinks counsels regular breaks every two hours to stay fresh; “but not every time you pass something interesting… or you tend to find the day passes and you don’t get very far.”

The “happily retired” mining surveyor looks forward to the camaraderie, catching up with old friends from across the country and meeting people.

Smith also mentions camaraderie.

He’s attended “18 or 19” rallies over the years and says meeting members from across the country can be like a reunion with “long-lost family”.

Call it bias if you must, but Morris Minor enthusiasts insist there’s something about their cars and those who drive them that’s, well, fun.

Or as Muller puts it: Other car clubs (he mentions the devotees of a number of other venerable British marques… and we shall say nothing here of BMWs) can be a little snooty, but “we are outgoing and friendly”.
It helps too that so many of the public have such fond memories of Morris Minors.

“If I stop with my car at the service station,” he says, “people come and tell me, ‘My mother had a Morris like that’ or ‘I did my driver’s licence in one’.”

The car was really the first affordable, well-handling and reliable British car to emerge in the post-war years, so inevitably found its way onto thousands of driveways in South Africa… and into countless hearts.

Then there’s its “smiling face” and “you can get it in a bakkie and a van and a convertible”, Muller says, referring to the radiator grill and headlights that give the different Morris Minor variants their cheerful aspect. 
Wilson says it’s down to the “people who have Morris Minors… you all have the same illness. Anyone who has an old car has something wrong with them. They have a screw loose.”

Apart from the people, loose screws or otherwise, Spinks says he enjoys tackling the driver’s skills tests and trials that are very much part of the rally.

A busy programme has been planned for the event, including car displays, boot sales, braais, a fancy dress, fun runs, an outing to Spionkop lodge and an optional visit to the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir.

Perhaps the highlight is the Concours d’État, on Monday 18 March. It’s a beauty pageant for cars, but one where judges concern themselves not only with the outward beauty of their subjects, but poke about beneath the bonnet and under the floorboards. They check to see everything is in tip-top shape and that all parts are authentic. Is that a modern fuel pump, I see? Lose a point. Are those nuts stainless…?

There are also categories for modified cars where the judges take a more relaxed view of these things.
Stewart Boik, of rally organisers, the Durban Morris Minor Owners Club, says the public are welcome to attend and can expect to see some fine examples of the breed. These include “half-timbered” Travellers and rare, open-top Tourers – just the thing for a spot of leisurely wind-in-the hair motoring.

Or perhaps you already have a Morris or know of one tucked away somewhere that you might borrow or buy. Although entries for the rally have officially closed, Boik says they will “make a plan” to accommodate latecomers.

To find out more email

Note about the writer: Matthew Hattingh is a freelance journalist. He hopes to take his own Morris Minor to the rally… if he can get the gearbox back in the car in time.

Good luck Matthew! We hope you get your chance to join in!

Sources: Matthew Hattingh
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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