Considering the way things were headed with jokester Bernie Chodosh leading the way, Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter should have known he’d eventually land in lockup. The good news is that “lockup” in the United Kingdom doesn’t refer to a jail cell but to a storage unit. Inside this little storage facility is a car you’ve already met, a 1956 Morris Minor 1000 convertible named Mable.
In our fifth installment documenting Tom’s week-long search for automotive treasures in Great Britain—pre-coronavirus—we return to awaken Mable from her two-decades-long slumber.
Unfortunately, it takes a little longer than expected to bring the ol’ girl back to life. That’s a minor inconvenience (get it?) for Bernie’s sister Valerie, whose daughter owns the car. That’s because Valerie has enjoyed every minute of this unexpected adventure.
“This has been so much fun,” she says off-camera. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in years.”
“Then you haven’t been going out with the right men, have you?” Bernie says, poking fun at his head-shaking sibling, who gives him an eye roll.
After filling a flat tire and rolling Mable out of the garage and into the sunlight, Tom and Bernie assess the job ahead. While Bernie takes a peek under the bonnet, Tom accepts the job of cleaning the car. He asks for a wash bucket, but Bernie offers him cleaning wipes instead.
“This will clean everything,” Bernie insists.
“Instead of washing it?” Tom asks. “(But) washing feels good.”
They agree to use the wipes on the interior and leave the exterior for now.
Bernie sums up what’s needed to get Mable up and running again. “So the plan is, we take the battery out. There’s no point charging it; it’s been there for 22–23 years—that’s a waste of time. I’m going to pull all the plugs out, we’ll whiz it over, I’ll put a bit more oil in it—so it’s got a bit of oil in the top of the bowl. It’s got a bit of oil in the bottom of the engine and it’s free, so what we’ll do now is we’ll turn it over to make sure everything is clean and tidy, put some new plugs in … we’ll have a new battery, give the old distributor a squirt of WD40, and off we go.”
Well, that sounds easy.
Tom finds something he thinks might help. “Bernie, here’s your new hammer,” he says, handing his British friend an Irish shillelagh that he found inside the car. A what? Bernie demonstrates.
“They would walk around with it in their pocket or their jacket, and if they wanted to have an argument with somebody, they’d go, ‘Hold on a minute … whack!’”
Thankfully, we won’t be needing that today, but Bernie could use some good luck getting the engine started. While he prepares to give it a go, Tom has completed the interior cleaning and is reluctantly using the wipes on the outside of the car. “I want soap suds … cleansing … but whatever,” he mumbles to himself. Despite his complaints, the car is beginning to look top notch. “You know, I was critical of Bernie’s method, and I still am—because it’s Bernie—but it’s looking pretty good.”
“I think you’re wasting your time on barn finds, Tom,” Bernie says. “You should be a detailer.”
Bernie adds water to the radiator, which promptly begins to leak due to a cracked hose. “As long as we don’t run it for too long, it’ll be OK,” he says. “Let’s see if it’ll turn over. That’ll be a bit of fun.”
It isn’t much fun at first, however. It seems that, no matter what Bernie tries, the car won’t start. “I can’t see a spark at all,” Bernie says. “The points are opening and closing. The gap looks pretty good. I think it’s probably the coil that’s not behaving … The fuel pump is definitely not working. Let’s put more fuel in and try that and see what happens.”
“Not even a kick,” Tom says. Bernie keeps trying. “Come on, Mable!” Valerie shouts.
After more fiddling, Mable finally roars to life. “Haha!” Bernie exclaims, then turns to the camera. “Did you get it? Did you get it? That’s unbelievable!”
High fives, back slaps, and hugs all around. Definitely pre-COVID.
Tom summarizes the Morris Minor’s condition. “The fuel pump’s not operating, so we have to fill the float bowl with fuel, and it can only run until the float bowl is empty. I don’t think the ether was even necessary, to tell you the truth. The distributor is loose and needs to be tightened up … It needs a fuel pump … The coil is obviously good … It needs hoses.”
The exterior cleaned up well, Tom admits. “It doesn’t look like the same car.”
So what’s next for Mable? “In a weekend, this could be turned into a nice driving car,” Tom says. Bernie and Valerie intend to do exactly that.
“We shall go to the ball!” Bernie says off-camera.
“It’s a happy ending, isn’t it?” Valerie asks. “I’m amazed.”
Just another day in the U.K. for the Barn Find Hunter. There’s still one day remaining, too—one jaw-dropping day that you won’t want to miss. Stay tuned …