Restoration Story 2
Richard Mortlock

1961 Internal tank Austin Countryman restoration
LGL 311 was one of the first Mk1’s made, it being ordered by S.A. Fuller Ltd. of Bath. The commencement of build was 13th January 1961 to be despatched to Bath on 18th January 1961. It was first registered on 24th January 1961.

The list price of the car was £623.0s.10d (£439 plus £184.0s.10d purchase tax – price “includes heater”!) It had been ordered by Mrs Sybilla Rowley who eventually passed the car to her niece, Ann Birkby in 1969.

There would be no more changes of ownership for a while at least, as the car was driven almost exclusively by Mrs Birkby for the next few years. The MOT certificate shows that in 1971 the Woody had travelled only 34,305 miles in its ten years on the road.

It travelled about the same amount of miles in the next seven years but, as Mrs Birkby found it more difficult to drive, it was finally retired from the road during the latter months of 1978 with 67,388 miles on the clock. The last tax disc expired on 31 August 1978.

The car was garaged in Bury St Edmunds where it remained for 30 years (with a colony of mice making their home in the back seat!) before being brought out into the light on 8th August 2008 (Yes, 08/08/08 – a lucky day for the Woody!).

After rescue from the garage, the Woody was stripped of all exterior and interior fittings and those that could be, were saved for re-use later. Much of the chrome was restored and reused but much of the interior finishings were damaged by time, were beyond repair and had to be replaced.

From the first photographs taken it seemed a new bonnet at least would be needed but most was surface rust and after removing the badly rusted wings, inner wings and A panels, this was all that was replaced, although some welding was needed on the floor pan. The scuttle panel was not even replaced. All seats were sound and even the covers were cleanable. The front subframe was reused as it had suffered from the usual oil covering from the engine! The rear subframe was not in a fit state and had to be replaced. The 10 inch wheels all scrubbed up nicely and were re-painted.

The wood had the worm very badly and mice had made a home in the rear seat, so new wood was needed and the rear seat had to be re-filled. Work on the bodywork was carried out over the weeks and the final colour (known back in the sixties as Speedwell Blue) was chosen as the present speedwell blues are not quite the same. We were able to find areas of original paint colour under the removed wood to get the match.

The engine was left in until some of the undercoating was completed then removed and stripped down. It was at this point that the original owner mentioned the problem with first gear as the Mk 1’s did not have synchromesh on this gear. The cog was badly worn and we could not find another suitable Mk1 gearbox so a Mk 2 was chosen, this having synchro on first – always a bonus! Apart from that and a refurbished radiator, the engine was rebuilt satisfactorily. The wiper motor cleaned up, as did the air filter box but reconditioned dynamo, coil and starter motor were fitted. We even found the original bottle type jack and this was cleaned up and painted the original red.

Early on in the rebuild it was decided that a new wiring loom would be a good idea, especially after seeing what the mice had done to the rear seat. This proved to be the main problem and a long wait. This had to be fitted before any interior finishings or engine could be replaced. Eventually the new loom was added and various bits and pieces, like Mk1 wheel trims and window sliders were found at Mini shows and all added to the mix. My idea was to use as many original parts as possible, hence the rather worn steering wheel, rather than make it into a completely new car and take away some of the romance (if that’s the right word!) of the original Minis.

The pull cords to open the doors had obviously broken at some time during the first years of its life and the previous owners had decided to add this new thing of a handle to both doors! I decided to keep the handles as this had obviously been a period “modification”!

She sailed through the MOT on 19th May 2009, was taxed on 21st May and was taken on the road to its first show (Norfolk Mini Owners Club day at Fakenham) on 24th May. She won “Best in show”!

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 Great job Richard and thanks for sharing your restoration with us.