1960 Minor pick-up restored

Posted by Chris Graham on 17th January 2022

Although this 1960 Minor pick-up looks as British as can be, much of its working life was spent in sunny California, as Russ Harvey explains.

1960 Minor pick-up

Steve Kirby’s superbly restored Morris Minor pick-up.

The Minor pick-up you see before you, resplendent in the superb livery of the West Berkshire Brewery, was originally built for export, and exported when new to North America. It has been a superbly restored by the current custodian Minor LCV Register stalwart Steve Kirby from Stockcross, in Berkshire. The photoshoot involved me visiting the brewery that, by itself, was no bad thing; trust me, visiting a brewery is always worthwhile!

West Berkshire Brewery was founded in 1995 in the rural surroundings of Frilsham, near Newbury, where Steve used to be employed as a Transport & Distribution manager. Brewing is carried out entirely in the picturesque West Berkshire village of Yattendon some eight miles north-east of the market town of Newbury.

1960 Minor pick-up

The West Berkshire Brewery produces a superb, award-winning range of traditional cask ales and bottled beers, and its reputation is built on the quality of the product. It also has a clear ethos concerning the impact on the environment, and strives to make the business as sustainable as possible;  it’s more than just a brewing process. The majority of ingredients are sourced locally, supporting the local economy and caring for the environment, most of the hops come from the only hop garden in old Berkshire and spent grain is taken by a local farmer as animal feed – recycling at its best!

Now carrying British age-related registration ASJ957, the Brewery’s Minor pick-up was originally exported to California. From the chassis number OFJ41/101755 we can ascertain that this pick-up was indeed assembled at Cowley during February 1960 and, of course, would have been built LHD. It can also be deduced from the chassis number that it was finished Dark Grey synthetic – something of a contrast to the somewhat more noticeable hue it now wears.

But a lot of water had flowed under the bridge before Steve acquired the pick-up and transformed this import into brewery ‘Old Dray No 4’.

1960 Minor pick-up

With a load. Cosmetically traditional wooden barrels would be better of course, but there are numerous practical problems with using these in the 21st century, not least a shortage of coopers.

Steve tells me that never in a million years did he think he would own a Morris Minor, let alone a pick-up! It started way back in 2003 and this is no fairy-tale, he arrived at the brewery on a Saturday morning to check the fermenters and make sure the beers were behaving. His boss, Dave, came out to meet him with a most welcome cup of coffee and the talk turned to cars, a subject very close to Steve’s heart. “This is all very nice,” Dave gestured towards Steve’s MG, but went on to say “the best car ever made was of course the Morris Minor.” Luckily, Steve didn’t have a mouthful of coffee at the time or it would have been spat out. Dave then added, “I’ve wrecked lots of them”. Steve recalls that Dave’s daily drive at the time was a Peugeot that seemed to be not too far from a similar fate!

1960 Minor pick-up

Following this albeit brief conversation, the seeds had been sown in Steve’s mind and a plan was beginning to form, he started to envisage a Morris Minor brewery dray. He set about his task to locate good pick-up as a base for the project. He spotted a small-ad by a company that imported cars from California. As Steve had lived there for a short time, as well being a frequent visitor since the 1980s, the advert caught his attention. Upon contacting the dealer he was informed that they had imported a pick-up from California seven years ago, that was owned by a friend who now wanted to sell it, and he was advised he could deal directly with vendor. Steve then made that call he then awaited the answer to his initial question after the normal pleasantries, “is its right-hand drive?”, “yes” came the reply.

So this meant he was off to Derby to see the pick-up. Steve agreed a price and shook hands he had finally purchased a pick-up. Steve was out driving the pick-up and getting to know how it ran, this was when he started to plan the transformation from pick-up to dray.

Steve’s initial thoughts was the pick-up drove well and was in a good condition, so perhaps just a re-spray with some work on the cab was all that was required. During the strip down Steve realised, however, that he was not alone in his ignorance and that many projects are viewed as easy restorations.

Classic Morris Minor engine bay. Originally designed to take a flat four, and then famously widened, with the rest of the car, at the last minute, it really is roomy. Some reckon it’s easier to remove the engine for a clutch change than the gearbox.

However the re-spray was a must as that was to give the pick-up its new identity, the colour for the bodywork was to be marine blue with black wheel arches and the sign writing was to be done in the traditional way with paint not vinyl. He stripped everything he could from the vehicle while also leaving it capable of being driven to the spray shop, where everything else came off – including the paint.

There was a small amount of rot in one wheelarch which required localised repair but once done that was it, the paint was applied. Once painted it was returned to Steve’s garage where he made a start on all the other items that were needed. Black carpet was purchased and fitted.

New plywood was cut for the cargo floor and installed after six coats of varnish had been applied. The seats originally were only to have new covers but after stripping, the frames were shot-blasted, sprayed, new straps, padding and wadding were fitted before the new covers were added, new headlining was installed and Steve tells me the end result is really satisfying, if only because you know that you won’t have to do it again!

Interior. Seats have been refurbished, and the centre speedometer made converting the export-spec vehicle to RHD was relatively straightforward. We suspect the heater may have been added here too – can’t see it being needed in California!

The transformation from a tidy pick-up in burgundy to ‘Old Dray No.4’ took Steve around four months although he left the entire engine bay for another year. With the assistance of Karen, one of the brewery’s directors, the livery and sign writing was decided upon and applied.

So the big day finally had arrived, Steve proudly reversed ‘Old Dray No.4’ into the brewery yard and I think you will all agree with me it looks amazing, the cost of the pick-up and its renovation may well have been thousands, but as Steve tells me the look of surprise of the Brewery employee’s faces, well to put it simply, just priceless!

Owner/restorer, Steve Kirby.

It is also, of course, an old commercial vehicle which can be called upon to work for a living if required, though we understand that changed business needs and circumstances mean the pick-up is now on the market.

Many thanks to Steve Kirby for making his pick-up available and for all the assistance with compiling this feature.

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