Me & My Motors – Sam Campion

Me and My Motors - Sam Campion with his Morgan sports car. Pic by Doug Moody

Meet the man who’s taken nearly 50 years to rebuild a Morgan that cost him £50 in 1969…

My current car: Nearly 50 years ago, in 1969, I bought a 1950 Morgan 4/4 Series 1 to replace an MGYA that I wrote off whilst putting up fences on the M4 near Bath. I was supposed to pay £70 for it but it broke down a mile from the house of the guy I bought it from, so we agreed that £50 was more reasonable. In 1971, I decided to take it to bits – before it disintegrated – in order to rebuild it. It sat in a flooded, rat-infested, garage beneath a popular brothel for a year or two. I went to the Morgan factory the following year and met Peter Morgan, who was a charming and self-deprecating man. At the time, the factory was still carrying spares and I got a lot of small bits for a grand cost of £25.97. Despite taking the car with me in boxes when moving to Middlesbrough, not much happened until 1990 when I started to rebuild the engine with the help of Teesside Motor Factors before I ran out of money, though I bought a new chassis for £600 in the mid-1990s. I started to rebuild the car in earnest in 2010. I made up and fitted a new body frame from ash, rebuilt all the mechanical components, had the headlights and fog lamp restored, bought new springs and shock absorbers, and had all the chromed components re-plated. To complicate matters, in 2013 I had a heart attack and a triple bypass. I recovered and eventually the car was finished, though with many more dramas due to my amateurism! Most things I did twice – the first time to find out how and the second to do it right.

How many hours have I put into it? Thank God, I haven’t counted them, but thousands. The cost? Ridiculous!

How does it drive? The first time I drove it on the road, I was desperately disappointed. It was awful – it didn’t stop and it didn’t go either. In essence, it is a pre-war car with a poor engine, crash gearbox and cable brakes, so what did I expect? After a lot of messing around, it got better and, after Harper Classic Tuning set it up properly, it goes reasonably.

Best drive-time music: Desert Island Discs is always interesting, but otherwise Lou Reed, Nina Simone, Ry Cooder, Leonard Cohen. My wife Sue would rather listen to The Archers.

Best place to drive: I love driving in France and Spain but it is hard to beat the North York Moors. The roads around Carlton, Swainby, Broughton and Ayton are great for bikes and old cars. I have done several Formula Ford days at Oulton Park and they were great fun.

My parents’ cars: My dad had all sorts – a Morgan threewheeler, Rovers 10, 12, and 14 a Woody station wagon, a Bedford CA dormobile and a utilabrake, a terrible Austin 15cwt van, Ford 105E Anglia estate, a Mk 1 Viva estate – and on and on. My favourite was the Dormobile, because I learnt to drive in it – my first taste of freedom! When my father could no longer work on cars he used to sit on the steps at the edge of the drive and shout instructions to my mother, who would be removing a wheel or changing the brake pads.

My first car: Was a 1957 Ford Thames 5cwt van, based on the 100E. It cost me £12 – and £15 to insure. I learned how to rebuild engines and gearboxes with that van.

My favourite car: My Bedford CA van was one of my favourites, though when I took out the passenger seat to be able to get more parcels in, my then girlfriend was not amused. I bought a very early Reliant Scimitar GTE, which was the last car I rebuilt until the Morgan, before we had children and needed sensible and reliable transport.

My worst car: Sue bought a 1961 Simca 1000 from a friend. It would empty the radiator in three miles and then stop. It cost £10 and wasn’t worth it.

My dream car: A TR4A, an E Type, an XK140 – or a Bedford CA.

My worst crash: I remember finding myself upside down in a Wiltshire field in my MGYA at three in the morning. I managed to get it back on its wheels and drive it back to the caravan I was living in.

Maddest place I’ve driven: Italy, the Greek Islands and the unopened section of the M4 in 1969, where we managed to write off several cars in races.

My most memorable journey: High on the list have to be camping trips with Sue and the kids to France and Italy, though probably the best was a six-week trip through Holland, Germany, France and Spain.

Sam wishes to thank the following for their services and patience in helping him rebuild his Morgan: Teesside Motor Factors, Phil Weighell at Auto-Trimming, Dormanstown, Dave Stott Motors, Jamie at Auto-Wire, John Collins at Heritage Classics, Ron Harper at Harper Classic Tuning.