1970 Morris Minor van restored with period livery

Posted by Chris Graham on 15th February 2024

Bob Weir meets Kenny and Jane Makepeace to find out more about their ex-museum 1970 Morris Minor van, and its extensive restoration.

1968 Morris Minor van

Kenny and Jane Makepeace’s ex-museum 1970 Morris Minor van.

Kenny and Jane Makepeace live in the Scottish borders and are big fans of light commercials. Kenny is a retired local council employee, while Jane used to work in the textile industry. They have been collecting old vehicles for many years and bought this Morris van in 2013.

“I’ve liked older cars since I was a young man, but the Morris Minor is my first commercial vehicle,” Kenny explained. “We had been looking for a van for some time and had already joined the Morris Minor Owner’s Club. We spotted XOM 12J on the internet in 2012 and I particularly liked the van’s colour scheme. The 1971 Morris belonged to the Oxford Bus Museum Trust and was up for sale, as they were running out of space.”

1968 Morris Minor van

The van as acquired, prior to makeover/restoration.

According to Kenny, the van was bought by enthusiast Clive Moss. “Mr Moss was looking to sell the van on as a restoration project,” he said. “He put the Morris on eBay in 2013.”

“XOM 12J was actually a replacement for a vehicle that had been used as an engineer’s van for the local Oxford bus company,” Kenny explained. “The original Austin Minor registered JWL 249F had been involved in an accident while on duty, and subsequently written off. The workers at the bus depot gave the museum XOM 12J to replace the wrecked vehicle, although the museum retained the original van’s 1968 number plate and Austin badge for display purposes.

1968 Morris Minor van

Body under restoration. Minor LCVs are totally different to the cars structurally, being built on a separate chassis. A new chassis was used for this restoration.

“I was coming up for retirement and looking for a hobby. We bought the vehicle ‘unseen’ which can be a bit of a gamble. I knew the van had been in storage for some time. It wasn’t a runner and hadn’t been restored.”

Once XOM 12J was delivered to Scotland, Kenny and Jane got in contact with Gordon Mathers who runs their local garage.“All we wanted at this stage was to get the engine running. Gordon runs a one-man business, and we knew he didn’t have the time to carry out a full restoration. That came much later.”

1968 Morris Minor van

A complete new cab floor was fitted. The work was carried out by Edinburgh Sports Cars, of Dalkeith.

Although Kenny admits he is not an expert mechanic, he managed to make some temporary improvements to the van, while they searched for someone who was willing to restore the Morris back to its former glory.

“It took a bit of time finding the right person,” Kenny explained. “Then in 2015 we came across Andy Doney who runs Edinburgh Sports Cars based in Dalkeith. Once he had made a thorough inspection, it turned out the van needed a new chassis, so we decided to go the whole way and pay for a full body restoration.”

1968 Morris Minor van

Front wings were removed to work on the inner wings with the cab body still on its chassis.

Edinburgh Sports Cars spent the next two years restoring the van. “We drove up to Dalkeith at regular intervals to check on the van’s progress, although we’d told Andy that we weren’t in any particular hurry,” Kenny recalls. “We decided to spend a bit extra to get the body galvanised, which seemed a good move at the time.”

1968 Morris Minor van

New inner wings and inner wing tie plates were fitted – Morris Minor panel availability is, of course, excellent.

Kenny and Jane were keen to stay involved with the restoration and supplied the spare parts for the project, via their connections with the Morris Minor Owners Club. “We contacted Charles Ware’s Morris Minor Centre (sadly no longer in business. Ed) and ESM Morris Minors,” said Kenny. “They were both very helpful and provided us with the right parts.”

1968 Morris Minor van

XOM 12J on show at the museum. The registration JWL 240F and Austin badge from the original written-off van were used on it for display purposes.

As the restoration neared completion, Kenny and Jane also gave some thought about the van’s new coat of paint. “We always thought we’d just respray the van in the existing maroon colour,” Kenny recalls. “That is one of the reasons we liked the Morris in the first place. In the end we decided to go the whole hog and replicate the livery of the Oxford Bus Museum Trust, right down to the original fleet number.”

The van at a Borders Vintage Agricultural Association rally at Kelso.

While the restoration took shape, Jane had got in touch with the Oxford Bus Museum. “They were very pleased that somebody was still taking an interest in the van,” said Kenny. “They had lost track of the Morris since it was sold in 2012 and had no idea the van had moved to Scotland. They were delighted when we confirmed that we were going to restore the Morris in its original museum colours, and they have since included pictures of the van in their regular newsletter.”

Engine bay following restoration. The engine is an exchange reconditioned unit, hence it’s BMC green in colour rather than BL-era black.

Jane was also put in touch with Graham Wareham at the Oxford bus depot. “This was where XOM 12J had originally been based,” Kenny explained. “Graham had donated the van to the museum in the first place and confirmed that he had originally brush painted the vehicle in the livery of the bus company.

The cab as restored; note the BL-era seat trim.

“Unfortunately, the bus company was no longer using the same livery, and Graham couldn’t find a record of the paint codes. Luckily, Andy had his own contacts and managed to source the correct paint, which was Tartan Red, Damascus Red and Duck Egg Green. He then made up a preview, so we could get some idea of the finished result. The van looked so good that we decided to include the museum’s lettering.”

Loadspace restored – few Minor LCVs stayed like this long when these were working vans.

This meant the van had to make the short trip from Dalkeith to DH Autosprayers based in Bonnyrigg. The work went without a hitch, and the van was finally finished in July 2017.

“At that point the Morris was still using its original engine,” said Kenny. “The performance was OK, but the unit was getting tired, and we were starting to get some oil leaks. In the end we decided to replace it with a reconditioned engine in 2019.

Side view following professional restoration. The original Oxford paint took a little tracing but looks – and is – spot-on.

“After making some enquiries we bought the engine from Bull Motif down at Winchcombe in Gloucestershire. They were very helpful. The unit was fitted by Gordon Mathers. We also decided to keep the original factory-fitted engine as we might get around to restoring it at some point. Most of the van’s mechanics including the drum brakes and back axle are still the original items.”

Kenny and Jane Makepeace have been huge Morris Minor fans for as long as they can remember.

Kenny can remember driving Morris Minors in his younger days, and still enjoys getting behind the wheel. “It’s great driving the van in the Borders, because lots of people stop and wave at you,” he laughed. “There’s something about the Minor that appeals to ordinary folk. Perhaps it’s a generation thing, because there used to be a lot of them around. Most of my friends owned a Minor at one time or other.”

“We’ve certainly enjoyed the experience although if we sold the van, we probably wouldn’t recoup all our costs,” said Kenny. “That’s often the way, if you can’t restore the vehicle yourself. We’ve certainly enjoyed rallying the Morris and met lots of other enthusiasts at shows. Many people have come up to have a chat and admire the van’s paintwork. They are also curious as to why an Oxford Bus Museum van is so far away from home!

This feature comes from the latest issue of Classic & Vintage Commercials, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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