A Life In Cars

The life story of Dickie Sutherland


Mini Minor 850

Morris Mini 850 Freedom Machine

In 1965, Mum purchased a second-hand, light green Mini Minor 850 from a chap she knew at Para Motors West Terrace.  It was like new (only nine months old), just the car for a young chap like me.

Para Motors 1960s, now long gone.

In hindsight, that was the best thing, well done Mum. I had the Singer in bits and struggling to find my direction with the rebuild, and relying on the use of Dad’s FB which I believe he was finding inconvenient to meet my needs. the solution was obvious, thanks, Mum. I had to pay mum back for the deposit, and continue to pay the Hire-purchase agreement, what a great way to buy a newish car, Thankyou.

A young Lads and the need to tinker, there were there modifications? Ah, ha. Yes!

After a service at Cremorne Motors Unley, the engine was dripping oil every time I parked overnight. When complaining to my Mum her advice was to take it back and request they fix the problem under warranty. Hence I followed that advice, and contact Cremorne Motors the BMC agent who sold the mini originally. Yes bring it in, while there I chatted to a young lad about cars, he had Singer9 sports, how good was that?

Ok, all was good, however from then on the Mini began jumping out of 3rd gear. Poo! Once again seeking advice from Mum, her advice was, your 12-month new car warranty has expired but you also have a 3-month used car warranty with Para motors. Great I rang the next day they said OK bring it in on Tuesday. Right O, thanks. Well! Yes, next Tuesday I took the Mini in before work, dropped it off caught a bus to work, ok. I get a phone call at work, informing me my Mini was booked in for Tuesday next month, POO!

Eventually, I did get the Mini fixed under warranty, and no more Jumpie out of gear, BUT, yes the Oil leaks are back with a vengeance. Years later I was informed that the new-fangled Engine/gearbox one-unit thingie required the lattes gasket technology in the form of Silicone.

To improve the performance and all-around useability of the Mini, of course, I made many small modifications, starting with a sporty-sounding muffler, surfboard racks on the roof and a chrome nudge bar to the front. There were also a few small engine modifications, which really ‘hotted up’ the Mini.

The Mini proved to be a fantastic car; I drove it all over the City, Suburbs and State. It was a ‘freedom machine’ for a young lad.

Spinning Wheels

As I hadn’t been driving all that much until now I was beginning to learn the ‘craft of driving’ in the Mini.

Revving the engine out to ‘valve bounce’ in each of the first two gears with no understanding of what was happening. What was that noise?  Why was the car accelerating so slowly? 

Not to mention, I was trying to spin the front wheels (the mini was front-wheel drive).  Oh dear, what a wonderful forgiving machine, so easy to drive, so nippy in traffic. Anyways, the wheel spinning technique required had eluded me, not even a bit of wheel spin, could I achieve.

I imagined, that to spin the wheels in first gear, I just accelerated.  But sadly, the Mini could simply not muster the power to spin the wheels. Enter my good friend Roger, Roger’s technique was to rev the engine up, then ‘drop’ the clutch. This would set the wheels spinning. “Oh!  Is that how it’s done.”

Although I now could do a burnout, fortunately for the CV joints on the Mini and the tire ware’ it was not a technique I wanted to master.

Catastrophe averted

Using the Mini to ‘push starting’ the Singer.  Well ‘pull starting’, anyway, I was towing the Singer using Mini’s front-mounted nudge bar as the tow point. Driving the Mini in reverse, pulling the Singer, my friend Ian steering the Singer. All was well and good until  I reversed around a corner not noticing I was heading directly into the back of a parked car.  The Mini and the Singer came to a screaming halt, alerted by the yells of a couple who were at the time, getting into the parked car.

“Sorry,” I courteously waved, as we continued on our way, catastrophe averted.

Yet another lesson learned by this young driver; driving in reverse, at night, while not looking in the direction of travel is not a good idea.

My best memory of the Mini

One-upmanship, I lined up next to another Mini 850 at the lights. We caught a glance at each other and the lights change and we were off!

We zoomed off.

Within a few hundred yards, we caught sight of a motorcycle policeman, coming the other way.

“Oh, dear.” We both backed off the accelerator to avoid being noticed. However, as the policeman passed us on the other side, he began to make a U-turn and come after he indicated to us to pull over.

After a quick check of my car, he came over to look at me. He had spotted the 3-inch exhaust pipe.

“Can you start your car and rev it for me please driver!”

Bruuuu, umm.  Bruuuu, Ummm.  Very muffled sound. Not even a whisper from the Mini. More of a ‘Berriskerwhisper’ really. Little did he know I had built the exhaust system to run silently, and look loud, look.

Then he walked back over to the other Mini, with the same request.  BRRUUUMMMMM, BBBRRUUMMMM, it was a lot louder than a Mini should be.

The policeman walked back to me and said “on your way now, you can go”.  Bad luck all around for the other Mini chap.

27,000 miles?

Over a twelve-month period, I managed 9,000 miles in the Mini.  By comparison, my good friend Roger covered 27,000 miles in that same year in his 1952 FX Holden.

27,000 miles in the first 12 months.

The notable correlation here is the mileage Roger covered in the first year of ownership with the equivalent timeframe.  Twenty-seven thousand miles in twelve months.   This was an excellent comparison of the lifestyle of two different lads in the mid-1960s. How did Roger do it?

Well, he went into town nearly every night of the week and drove the laps.  King William Street into Grenfell, left into Pulteney Street, left into Rundle Street (now Rundle Mall), and left into King William again.  This type of cruising was called ‘Trundleing’.

That was Roger’s entertainment, a common pastime for many young lads his first car and a license to drive!

Hey did I hot up the Mini 850. Found this letter from Peter Manton.

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