The story of 10MWL
On Saturday 23rd September 1961 the Mayor of Oxford, Ald. Lionel Harrison and Mr. E. A. Ferguson, a solicitor and former City Councilor, left Oxford heading to Moscow in a Morris Mini pick-up. Fitted with a special 50 gallon fuel tank their goal was to cover the 1900 mile journey without refueling.
The journey was conceived after a chance remark by the Mayor, one of the first people in Oxford to own a Mini, earlier that summer that he would like to drive one of the little cars to Moscow, saying: "I am very grateful to Morris Motors, which is Oxford's oldest 'big industry'. As first citizen I consider it my duty to do all I can to help Oxford's first industry. I have always had their cars and I think it is only right that all traders should do the same". The trip was planned in the main by Ferguson and was made possible by the co-operation of Morris Motors and, in particular, of Mr. J. E. Whitehead, the chief experimental engineer.
10 MWL (chassis number M/AUH/134510, engine number 12H/G35X/148) was first registered on 1st September 1961 and was standard except for the huge 50 gallon petrol tank which filled nearly half of the pick-up’s rear load bay area. Painted in Smoke Grey the only extras were a transistor wireless set, a Continental touring tool kit and second spare wheel. As well as provisions needed for the journey and a pile of books to read (one of which was titled 'Trouble With Your Car?') the pair also took 100 miniature models of the Mini saloon to give to Russian children.
The fuel tank was filled and then sealed by Col. M. E. O'Gorman, the chief engineer of the R.A.C., and at around 12:05pm the pair set out from Carfax and drove to Southend where they were joined by their wives for the night before flying the car to Ostend, Belgium in the morning and driving onwards to Bonn, the West German capital. The following day they drove to Brunswick, Germany and the day after arrived in Poznan, Poland at around 7:30pm. On September 27th they reached Brest Litovsk, just inside the Russian border, before setting out for their longest and dreariest drive - the 480 miles to Smolensk. After a final day of driving covering 260 miles they reached Red Square in Moscow at around 4:00pm on 29th September.
After arriving in Moscow the pair drove to the British Embassy where the seal on the 50 gallon tank was removed by Commercial Counselor, Mr. Hilary King. By the end of the journey there were 1900 miles on the clock and 6 gallons of petrol left in the tank. They had averaged 43 M.P.G. over the course of the journey. Both men described the trip as "perfect" and stated that the only problems they encountered en route were accidentally killing a pigeon and the time Polish police had escorted them to the police station after excited crowds had mobbed them.
The mayor returned by air on Tuesday 3rd October after spending time visiting the Moscow State Circus and the Bolshoi Ballet while Mr. Ferguson drove the car back with Mr. Paddy Howells, a B.M.C. staff member.
After arriving back in England the pick-up lost its oversize petrol tank before being sold to the acclaimed automotive journalist and motor sport competitor, Gordon Wilkins, on 30th October 1962.
During the 70’s 10 MWL was owned by Joyce Wilkins as her first car. Joyce was a writer and the cover notes of one of her books, "Most Women Do It", shows a picture of her proudly stood in the rear of the pick-up . Sadly the car sat decaying in Joyce’s garage for over 10 years until, in 1986, she and her husband retired to Italy and the pick-up was sold.
At some point during it’s subsequent ownership the car received something of a restoration including a respray in a sandy orange colour and being upgraded to disc brakes at the front to replace the standard drums, body coloured Cooper steel wheels and a Downton-tuned 1275cc A-series engine sourced from none other than Alex Moulton.
The pick-up re-appeared for sale at a car auction in Buxton in April 2007 with a guide price of £5000 to £7000. Auctioned with 22,000 miles on the clock and with a full years MOT it eventually sold for £5,280. Various newspaper clippings of the Mayors adventure were included in the auction along with the original 848cc engine, which was to be collected from Wiltshire.
In early 2010 it was again offered for sale, this time at Sherwood Restorations, a classic and sports car specialist in Nottingham. A year later it was exported to Japan where it went for sale in a classic car showroom in Tokyo.
Today the car is in the safe loving and caring hands of a club member in Japan