You may have read about an event run by the national club called the MOT which stands for Minors On Tour. This event usually sees Minors crossing the channel and touring around France, stopping at interesting locales along the route. The MOT UK is a remodelling of the same idea only in the UK.
It all started when members of the MMOC message board (have a look under www.morrisminoroc.co.uk and click on message board) thought it would be a good idea to try and arrange a week of touring within the UK. Arranged by Bill Hewitt it was decided to camp in the Lake District and spend the time exploring how steep a hill a Minor could actually get up!
David McCullough and I decided to have a go at this event. So fresh back from the national rally we packed up all the camping equipment, sun lotion (yes, you sometimes need it for the Lake District!), clothes and boat tickets into David’s two door and headed for the boat.
Once on dry land we headed for Lancaster and then further North to the Lake District. The drive up was fantastic with some marvelous vistas and steep hills. We set up camp at the picturesque Gills side campsite and met up with the other people on tour. There were about 18 or so cars with most either camping or caravanning.
The first few days we were left to our own devices and David and I toured up North to Keswick, Penrith and Kendal. We stopped off at Windermere and everywhere in between. The weather stayed good then got wetter as the days went on but it was still great fun.
The first organised event for everybody was a day out on a steam railway with a tour on Lake Windermere. The rain stayed on but still the views and company made the trip. The train took us to Lake Windermere where we all got on board a boat to the other side of the lake.
David and I had visited this area last year and so we lead the group for lunch at a carvery in true MMOC fashion we piled our plates as high as possible! Well, we do have a reputation to keep up. The return trip allowed us to view the beautiful houses and scenery on the lake.
The next arranged event was run to Keswick down to Ambleside and up the infamous ‘Struggle’ to finish at the Kirkstone Inn at the top. We started off all together and headed to Keswick and Ambleside.
I had acquired a 1950’s guide book and decided to be like Richard Wilson on Britain’s Best Drives and decided to research the route beforehand. The ‘Struggle’ is a 1 in 4 gradient from Ambleside with little or no run up from a roundabout at the very bottom.
The road is very narrow and twists and turns it way to the top, with a steep turn near the top. It is said to be the steepest ascent from any town in England rising 1476 ft in 3 miles! Some of our new friends decided to head up first to get photos of everyone going up. The Minor went up with no problems and most of the time in second gear, but we were still grateful when we got to the top. A Morris Oxford MO was also on the run with us and was actually steaming up the ‘Struggle’ literally!
While on tour we met Andy in his 1275cc updated Minor who, after the ‘Struggle’, decided on a more adventurous route which David and I decided to do as well. The two Minors would head back down the ‘Struggle’ to Ambleside and head towards Ravenglass via the Wrynose Pass and Hard Knot Pass. Again looking at the guide book, this route is described as follows…
WrynosePass … any fair sized car of moderate horse power, driven with nerve and skill can get over the pass head. Hard Knot Pass … only sporting cars are likely to get over… terrific corners and gradients.Stephen’s Guide Book
So off we set. Wrynose Pass turned out to have 25% gradients but the views from the top were fantastic. Between the two passes is a flat stretch reaching off the Hard Knot and here we stopped for lunch. Hard Knot Pass has 30% gradients and very, very steep slopes and drops. Add to this the potential brake fade on the way down and only a 1098cc engine, we said our goodbyes and set off with Andy to follow 5 minutes behind to pick up the pieces!
Going up the pass I held the gear stick in first and David had both hands free to tackle the steering. Going up was bad, with suicidal sheep and modern cars coming at you all the time, but going down was worse. The top again showed breathtaking views as well as the 4 or 5 hairpin turns all at 30% gradients and all with sudden drops off the end if the brakes were to fade! With engine braking, the smell of brake linings and clutch we headed for the first turn.
The brakes started to give out with a squeal from the brakes and us we just managed to get round the turn. Bit by bit we edged down the remainder of the pass to the bottom. Andy had caught up and at the bottom we waited to cool the brakes and us off. Needless to say we headed home the long way. The next few days seen even more fantastic scenery before we headed south to the boat and home. We covered around 700 miles from the boat.
A big thank you to Bill and the rest of the MOTers for a fantastic time. Can’t wait for next year!
Stephen Gordon, Morris Minor Owners Club Northern Ireland
PS. No Minors were injured in the writing of this article, the only casualty being my camp chair which snapped after a 4 course meal on the Thursday!