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Project Marina, A Pleasant Surprise

Here I was, Monday night, sitting watching a movie with my Wife when suddenly I get a text message… “I’ll deliver the Morris off tonight about 9:30”. A few days ahead of schedule, awesome!

I wasn’t expecting the car to be picked up until late this week, but with the potential for chaos due to the latest Covid19 level change and risk of the Ferry being booked out or cancelled, my job was pushed forward and here we are.

Sure enough, a couple of hours of completely cool, calm and collected waiting…

I hear a truck pull up and calmly walk outside to greet Brent.

Of course it was pouring down with rain and pitch black, but that didn’t matter. It was Marina time.

“Movers Of Fine Automobiles” – Yup, not wrong there!

One of the many good things about Brent is that he is very experienced and has the right gear. When I asked if he might be able to winch the car straight into the garage he barely flinched; of course he could. He backed the truck up to the drive

And then just laid the whole deck down my steep driveway, meaning the car only had to be winched off the deck and then down about two meters of the drive before it was in the garage. So easy. Better than pushing it with flat tyres and no brakes.

And then I got a first look at what I had. Brent scared me a little when he asked if there was no engine in it! Of course there was! it’s just, small.

Meet Alex, the 73 Morris Marina Coupe.

We had a good chat about cars, and he had a look over the TVR we pushed off the truck 18 months ago, which attended its second British Car Day just the day before.

After bidding Brent farewell, I had a poke around.

The interior was full of bits that had been removed from the car, and the seats aren’t bolted down. Unfortunately between the leaking windscreen seal and the window partly down, the interior was a bit wet and stinks of old wet stuff.

The boot was tied down (as requested) as the boot lock is missing

Overall it doesn’t seem that bad. There is rust, and its a shame there is so much shitty primer over the existing paint, but it looks fixable.

Of course, having the two Brits in the garage I had to take a photo. I’m aiming for the most “interesting” two-car garage in the neighbourhood. I think I win.

I was going to leave it until the next day but curiosity got the better of me. What was in the boot?

Goodies. That’s what. More parts that had been removed from the car, the spare wheel, and a bunch of old spares like a carb, inlet/exhaust manifold, starter, and alternator.

I then tucked the cars away for the night and dreamt of bashing Marinas around the back roads, like the good old days.

The next day I got stuck into pulling the parts out and seeing what was in it, and what I’m missing. I also needed to get the parts in the footwell out of the water that was sitting in there.

The good news is that most of the big stuff is there. All the wheel trims appear in good shape, and the air box, RH outer door handle and window winder can be reused. There were also a couple of strange items in there too, like this Lucas Electronic Ignition box of magic. I’d love to know more about it but nothing comes up on google. It has three wires on one side, and a toggle switch and led on the other.

There was also this “HOT SPOT engine water heater” that plugs into mains. Obviously, its to preheat the coolant, but I haven’t come across one of these in NZ before. It’s generally not cold enough here for them, but they are common in the likes of Europe.

I did find a curious pair of paving slabs under the driver’s seat though. They aren’t high enough to touch the seat, so they aren’t “support”, but now I’m concerned about what’s under them. My wife thinks its a big spider.

The boot has a whole bunch of treasure in it. Icecream containers of… stuff. Some of it has come off this car, like the badges, which all seem to be present and correct (too many if anything), but also a whole lot of random screws, bits of metal, plastic etc. I’m sure some of it will make sense.

The big box in the boot was made of wood and had been carefully built to fit around the wheel arch.

It’s full of all the heavy stuff. Most of it is quite rusty, so probably useless, but I might be able to refurb some bits if needed.

One thing I didn’t expect to find was the two exterior mirrors. The reflective coating on one has failed, but the other doesn’t seem too bad. Both need a good clean, but it would be awesome to refurbish and retain these mirrors.

I’d love to know more about these mirrors if anyone has come across them before. The only marking is this on the back; DR.

Having cleaned some of the muck out, and knowing that I wasn’t going to be eaten by spiders, I jumped aboard, onto the wobbly unbolted seat, and plonked myself behind the wheel for the first time.

The driving position is… interesting. As mentioned in the HubNut review of a MK1 Marina, the steering wheel isn’t flat. It’s centered in front of the driver, but the LH side is closer to the driver than the RH side. It’s subtle, but noticeable.

Just part of its charm. The clutch is seized solid, and the brake pedal goes to the floor, so there is some work to do there. The throttle is actuating the carb, but the pedal seems to sit low and has little travel.

Once I was done with sitting and making brum brum noises I assessed what else was going on with the dash.

The gear knob is in good condition, and the gearbox although a bit vague goes into all gears OK. No doubt there will be a bush I can replace.

The cluster is partly disconnected and the center dash speaker is currently hiding behind it. The old gutter mount antenna is sitting on the dash.

Like most, the dash plastics have aged and cracked. Other than the missing corners on the ash tray it’s quite minor though. No factory fit radio here.

The driver’s door card is awol, so I’ll need to source, or make, a new one. The passenger’s side is a custom fibreboard job. The linkages have been bent from people trying to open the door, since the exterior handle has been removed. The RH door has quite a bit of play in the top hinge, so I’ll need to weld in a tube to address that wear.

Both little vent windows open and latch though, which is awesome. Can’t wait to drive with these open. The top hinge on the RH side has a bit of play in it but seems secure. It’ll probably vibrate in the wind or something.

They need a damn good clean, but the gauges look good. 91,137 original KM. Note it is a KM speedo too, being NZ New and Aus spec.

Unfortunately the longer I poked around, the worse it got. The front floors have had some creative patching with plates and rivets, and there are some holes showing in the driver’s side, so both floors will have chunks cut out and new metal welded in.

In the big scheme of things, thats easy to do.

The harder to fix rust will be this little section in the B-Pillar on the LH side, which will require the window to be removed

There is also rust under the bottom of the rear window, so that will need to be removed too (and the front windscreen needs a new seal, so I’ll probably remove all the glass)

The boot has its fair share of rust too, thanks to various leaks and traps. The bottom of both rear quarters are showing bubbling, as is the rear valance panel. Those will be a pain to fix, but the lip for the boot seal is probably the worst, I don’t think there will be a lip once I remove the seal.

The obvious rust is really the LH sill. Its the whole way along, so definitely a whole sill panel, but shouldn’t be too bad to do, hopefully.

I haven’t had a poke around under the car yet, but from what I could see kneeling on the ground, it looks vaguely ok. Its got to be done, so wherever the rust is, it will be fixed. At the end of the day though, for a 48 year old car that’s been off the road for almost half that, it’s doing pretty well. Much better than it would be had it lived in the UK, no doubt.

The last thing I did before packing up for the day and letting the car dry out, was to trial fit some of the badges and check I had them all. It appears I do, even if a couple of the holes have been filled.

There should be another MARINA badge on the Lh side of the boot lid, but currently there is a just a large dent filled with cracking off bog, so I’ll need to bash that back out first.

Looking at the primer all over the car, I suspect it’s painted straight over the yellow. Its also had another respray at some point, because there is a ton of yellow overspray, and things like brake lines in the engine bay have been painted. I’ll want to clean all that paint off the various bits it shouldn’t be on.

Since the paint is a mess I suspect it will be going to bare metal at some point, or very close to it. I’m still in two minds if I paint it myself, or outsource it to someone with more skill than me (but also more cost). I’ll see how I go once all the good metal has been glued in.

This will be a slow project, initially. All my money is tied up in the TVR and Corolla, so the only progress here will be things that don’t cost money. I do want to get the engine started soon, just to see what condition that’s in, but I need to source an oil filter first.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the name earlier, yes, the Marina is called Alex. We’ve been working on names for it since I bought it, but nothing really stuck. Alex comes from Alexandra, which according to the paperwork I found in the car, was the town the previous owner had the car re-registered in back in 1995.

Unfortunately, the paperwork doesn’t mention why the car was re-registered, but what I can tell is that it has done 1400km since it was re-registered back in 1995, and hasn’t had a warrant inspection since. I’ve reached out to the seller to see if he knows the back story of why his dad re-registered it, and then it never got used again.

Once again, a HUGE Thank You to Brent at Classic Towing. He never fails to impress. If you need a car moved anywhere in NZ, give him a bell.

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