ITS PAINT WAS ALMOST INVISIBLE UNDER SLIME BUT IT HAD POTENTIAL
Colin Marflitt fell on his feet when he came across this 1966 Hillman Minx, parked in a yard in Kihikihi, “Out the back there were a dozen old cars, Morris Oxfords and all sorts,” he said. “I could only just see through the window, it was that dirty, and the inside was very tidy, even the vinyl dash had no cracks in and the ‘woodgrain’ looked almost new.”
All the way home he thought, ‘God, I want that car,’ despite the fact that the white paint was almost completely hidden under green slime. “It went from love, to really love, to ‘got to have it’, so I rang him. I got it as is, and went down with the truck and trailer to tow it home.”
That was when he realised the skin looked very sad indeed — Colin produced photos. He stuck with the original colour for the repaint, and, as the grille badge wasn’t in good condition, a club member donated another one. The window rubbers and the trim round the door opening needed replacing, and the photos prompt other memories ... his wife, Diane, says it was green with mould and stippled with snails, yet, “That wonderful ‘p’ word kept appearing — it’s got potential.”
But first there was bad news. There wasn’t a key for the boot, he only had the ignition key, but Colin found his Humber 80 key worked (the Todd Motors-built Humber 80 was based on the Minx), got it open, and thought, “Oh my God!”. He had to redo the whole boot because of rust, and Diane wondered, given how good the rest of the car was, whether it had been owned by a fisherman. Even the engine was fine. “When we painted the car we took the motor out, and the chap who painted it suggested we pull it down, but we put it back in, put petrol in, and about the fourth or fifth try it started and it’s gone ever since.”
He did have the auto gearbox redone, “they’re way beyond me.” He likes the auto transmission, something that’s rare for an English car.
The cabin was in fabulous condition. Colin was told it was found parked up in the bush, hence the slime, but it can’t have been there for too long or the cabin would have suffered, and we agree it must have been garaged for much of its life.
“These are the original seats, I haven’t done anything really, except round the bottom of the door where people have their feet.”
The carpet is a replacement, covering the original floor mats, the dash looks new and the ashtray is so pristine it seems never to have been used, “and when these cars came out, everyone smoked”.
“The only thing wrong with it is it has the wrong indicator, it should have a floor pedal to dip the lights, but it’s on the indicator, which I think is off a Hunter.”
The Minx model has a history stretching from 1932 back to 1920, with a number of variations and some sold under the Humber, Singer and Sunbeam brands. The Rootes Group-designed MkII Minx arrived in 1956 with a 1390cc engine, enlarged to 1725cc for this Series VI car. Colin says the model shouldn’t have been made, that it was to be replaced by the Super Minx, but they were too popular to discontinue. And, “I think these are the most attractive cars ever made.”
That said, alongside the Minx Colin also has a classic Holden and a 1961 Humber 80.
“I had a 1957 Humber 80 when Diane and I were courting, but now she says if I buy another I have to sell one of these, and I don’t want to sell one, so … ”
The Humber was the opposite of the Minx in that it arrived after 42 years of ownership by a family. “The cabin was stuffed. They had kids … ” Colin said. “I like a car with a bad outside and a good interior, or vice versa. Dealing with both is too costly.”
He and Diane certainly do a few miles in it. “We took this to the AGM before going round the East Cape and over to Gisborne, over the Gentle Annie, Taihape, Taupo, we did something like 1200 miles [1930km].”
It travels along at 100km/h, with no trouble at all. “I don’t push them”. And it’s used on club outings but not for simple shopping trips, as Colin doesn’t like leaving it parked on the street. “We’re going to Coromandel in it next month for a weekend, we’ve been to Whangamata for Brits at the Beach.”
Diane says it’s comfy to be a passenger in. “I go to sleep! There’s no head restraint, and only a diagonal, not a lap belt, so you roll around, but it’s comfy.”
Colin admits a manual transmission may improve the speed, “It’s only a three-speed auto, change down for a hill and you’re in second, which is pretty slow.”
But that gives you plenty of time to smell the roses …