Meeting an old friend and colleague a couple of days back rekindled in me fond nostalgic memories about a ‘minor’ motor car owned by him for about 45 years from the late 60s; a Morris Minor 1951 four seater four door sedan made in England. The car is KLE 7488 in its original greenish shade common for Morris Minor cars of the period. The car with a side valve engine had its head lights mounted on the wings instead of down in the grill console as in the earlier models. Morris Minor cars were common on Kerala roads in the 50s and the 60s especially in bigger towns like Kozhikode, Cochin, Trivandrum and so on.This rather slow moving car, compared to the present day cars , was but very convenient to drive in the crowded city roads as well as through narrow by lanes of residential areas owing to its compact size and easy manoeuvrability.
I have been seeing this car of my friend ever since he bought it. In the early 70s he was transferred to Bangaluru and posted in the same office in which I was working and took up a house on rent next to the house where I was staying with my family. I still remember his arrival in Bangalore in the Morris Minor driven all the way from a northern centre of Kerala. He stayed in this house for a few months with his family before shifting to a house near to the office. During this period in particular and thereafter till I was transferred out of Bangaluru in 1975, the two families had travelled in this car extensively to every nook and corner of Bangaluru be it the Cubbon Park , the Lal Bagh, Vidhan soudha, residential colonies like JayaNgar , Rajai Nagar, Wilson Gardens , restaurants like the MTR, Brindavan, Nilgiris etc and so on. My friend, like me, was fond of films and it was mostly in his car that the two families went for films except on those occasions when my 1967 Standard Herald was taken out. Our rides through the long roads of Indira Nagar, Double Road, M.G.Road, walks on the Brigade Road and Commercial Street after parking the car are all still fresh in memory.
The car was well maintained with every problem attended to promptly. Even in the 70s spare parts were not easily available. Once we had to go around the whole of Bangalore to get a set of special screw type wheel bolts. I also remember a complete overhaul including a fresh coat of paint done to the car at Bangalore. My friend who wore only white clothes had always kept the car clean and tidy with the seats covered with white Turkish cloth! He drove the car with effortless ease and we used to marvel at his ability to reverse the car through narrow curving roads! During the 80s also when we were working at Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulam I had travelled in the car frequently.
While I had changed my car several times by buying ‘new’ second hand ones, my friend continued to keep the Morris Minor and after his retirement towards the end of the 80s he settled down in Trivandrum. We continued our contact and the car used to come up in our conversations often. A few years after my retirement in the year 2000 I had visited him at Thiruvananthapuram and he dropped me back at the Rly.station in his Morris Minor . Years passed by and when I went to his house again two years back the car was very much there and I had taken a couple of casual photos on my mobile.
When I met him at Kozhikode on the 5th of this month, I enquired about the car assuming that it was still with him. To my utter surprise and disbelief he told me that he had sold it off a few months back. A sudden thought that I could have purchased it instead of it falling into some other hands entered my mind. But it vanished faster than it came when it was revealed that it was sold for a fancy price to a vintage car collector who had been pestering my friend to sell it to him for several years. The reasons for selling off the car which was close to his heart for so long , after refusing to do so for years, were strong enough. The ophthalmologist had declined to give a certificate for renewing the driving licence; getting the driving licence of an 85 year old renewed is next to impossible; the re-registration and insurance were falling due; practical difficulties for future maintenance are many; above all his son’s advice to sell it off for a good price coupled with the thought that it was going into safe hands clinched it. Yes, a vintage car collector’s garage is the best destination an old car can hope for. Old cars seem to be better placed than old people for whom the mythical heaven is the only, though futile, destination to hope for.
Tail piece:-How I wish I had retained my first car, the Standard Herald 1967 Model two door Sedan MSQ 84 which I sold off in 1978!!