Major muscle Morris Minor
Special to The Union
When you think of muscle cars, Morris Minors don’t usually come to mind.
With a 59.7 CID engine that produced a whopping 37 HP in 1960, they weren’t exactly neck-snappers.
But when Eric Dodson was in high school, his girlfriend’s brother had a Morris Minor pickup that he thought “was the cutest thing.”
The car, not the girlfriend — or so he said — with his wife listening in.
While he liked the Morris Minor, he realized that it “didn’t have any power.”
He also had friends with a Hillman Minx that had a 289 CID Ford engine dropped under the hood and another with an Austin Healey that had been transplanted with a 327 CID Chevy.
So, when he spotted a Morris Minor on a used car lot in 1990, Eric stopped in to check it out.
The price on the ‘60 Morris Minor was $500 and Eric offered to buy it.
In a bit of serendipity, it just happened that the car lot owner had lost his lease and was just trying to get rid of everything.
He responded to Eric’s offer with, “Naw, I’ll give it to you.”
While this was generous of him, it was not overly so.
The car had a seized-up Fiat engine with the rear end jacked up to accommodate a Chevy rearend “with tires sticking out both sides.”
The car had been sitting for 10 years and, Eric said, “Was kind of ugly.”
The price, however, was right.
In 1995, Eric finally got a chance to start working on the Morris.
At the time, he was in a complex of shops, many of which were auto-related.
One of them was John Beck Vintage Hot Rods, who built a 383 CID Chevy stroker motor with roller rockers and a Holley 700 cfm carb that would pump out about 450 HP for the car.
“I worked on it slowly,” Eric said. “It depended on energy and money, mostly money. I did a lot of trading work.” Still, Eric did most of the work himself.
The Morris hot rodding had a pause when Eric moved to Grass Valley and opened Sierra Custom Upholstery. “My motto for what I work on is ‘Anything that rolls, floats or flies,’” he said.
When he got time, he kept at the Morris.
First came putting in a full-perimeter chassis.
Then he did all the body modifications, including removing drip rails, frenching ‘39 Ford taillights into the rear and cleaning up how the hood mounted to the body.
Behind the stroker engine, Eric installed a beefed Turbo 350 with a shift kit.
He tubbed the rear (cutting into the inner fenders for tire clearance), installing a Ford 9” rearend that he bought from Roamin Angel Landon Schadel with a Strange Engineering “pumpkin,” or differential gear pod.
With 14” wheels in the front and 15” in the back, 12” wide B.F. Goodrich T/A’s, Eric said, “I crammed as much as I could under the fenders.”
He used a tubular-arm front suspensions with coil-over shocks and Mustang II-type steering.
Although he used a GM tilt, telescoping steering column, he plans to replace it with a cut-down, simpler one from a ‘65 Chevy truck.
For the interior, Eric was in his element as an upholsterer.
A set of Pro-car racing seats, the door panels, the rear panels and the headliner were redone, “custom by me,” Eric said.
For safety, he welded in a 10-point roll cage.
For gauges, he went with Autometer.
Although there are “a few things here and there” still to do, such as finishing the wiring and redoing a couple of rough patches in the body work, Eric got his Morris on the road about three years ago.
As an interesting aside, as the Morris sat in Eric’s shop for a number of years, it was entertained by live music.
Drummer Eric and his ‘50s and ‘60s nostalgia rock band, Road Test, practiced there at night.
Maybe like plants are supposed to be influenced by music, Eric’s Morris got a hot-rod attitude from the sounds.
Whatever the case, it’s a Morris with an attitude.
“It’s quick, it’s awesome and has a lot of torque,” Eric said.
He likes to drive it on weekends to car shows and such, but he trailers it if it is too far out of town.
The high gear ratio and ground-thumping engine make it just too loud to endure for long stretches.
And he will be driving it alone.
Although wife Connie loves the way it looks, she won’t ride in it.
Eric said his muscle-bound Morris “scares her to death.”
Ron Cherry’s latest novel, a Celtic saga entitled “Three Legs of the Cauldron,” is on Kindle Scout.
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