A classic Morris Isis restored lovingly
A Barnsley man has spent the last year restoring a car believed to be the UK’s oldest roadworthy Morris Isis Series I.
Vintage car enthusiast Graham Wall, 72, bought the rare 1955/56 Morris Isis around 12 years ago. He purchased the car for just £200, and then promptly stuck it at the back of his garage and forgot about it.
It would be more than a decade before he rediscovered the family saloon car, covered over with rubbish and still awaiting repairs. Graham set to work, and spent the next year labouring over his restoration project, little knowing that it’s the oldest model in the country and the second oldest in the world.
An expert soon informed Graham that the car, which its owner describes as a “British classic”, is one of the oldest of its kind in the world.
Many people would react to this news with shock. They’d probably start to wonder how much money they could command through selling it to a car museum. But not Graham.
The grandfather-of-four is unfazed by the exciting revelation, and plans to use the four-door, 2.5-litre behemoth to tow the family caravan to the seaside for a holiday this summer, a treat for his 70-year old wife Betty, a retired cleaner.
An Act of Fate
The retired shop fitter and joiner from Barnsley talked about the act of fate which brought the car into his hands, and began his long-lasting project to restore it to its former glory. “I bought the car around 12 years ago because my son, who is a mechanic, saw it and knew that I liked tinkering with old Morris cars, because I’ve done up a few over the years.
“I put it in the garage and just forgot about it really because I was working on other things, but then about a year ago I realised it was stuck at the back covered in rubbish, so I decided to get it out and start work.
“I’d joined a Morris club and asked one of the experts what it would be worth. He checked the vehicle number and when he came back and told me it was one of the oldest in the country I couldn’t believe it.
“I was really surprised when I was told it was so rare, and finding that out really spurred me on to get all the work finished, really.
“But I still don’t think I’d sell it because it is strong enough to tow the caravan to the seaside for a long weekend.”
A Labour of Love
Graham gives all of his collection nicknames, and the special vehicle is referred to as Sissy, a play on the model name ‘Isis’. Graham said: “I think I’ve spent about £3,000 doing it up, working on it about four hours a day.
“When I got it, it wouldn’t run at all and it was pretty battered – the bodywork and the inside all needed doing up.
“I pulled out all of the seats and re-sewed the upholstery, so it’s got the original leather inside.
“I got a specialist in Sheffield to look at the engine, they updated it so it will run on unleaded because it would have been running on leaded back in the 1950s. They replaced all the valves and did it up for me. It does 27 miles to the gallon.
“Then I had to replace the bottom of all four doors, as well as the seals which were rotten, and it needed a new boot lid.
“I made a lot of the parts myself because it would be hard to find something that was right – I made the panels for the doors, the
boot and trims on the front of the car.
“I’ve been tinkering with cars for about 14 years so I’ve come to pick up all sorts of skills. My wife Betty is used to it, she likes going out in the cars when they’re all finished.
“It’s a good hobby to have and it gets me out from under the wife’s feet too.”
Mr Wall has yet to take Sissy out for a spin, as a few alterations need to be made and some new additions added. However, he has ambitious plans for the future, and plans to break the car in at its first show, Elsecar Car Show, before taking it to the seaside with the caravan and testing how it fares on the open roads.
A Growing Collection
Sissy forms part of a growing collection of Morris vehicles belonging to Graham, each with its own affectionate nickname. The car is joined in the garage by a 1952 Morris Minor, nicknamed Kitten because of the way the engine sounded when it was repaired, and a 1969 Morris Traveller nicknamed Blackbird, after the friend who left the car to him. Will any future additions be able to top this very special car?