- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

Meet Miss Iris.
This prim and proper lady with wooden sides is veddy British but has a sense of humor and can be sassy if mistreated.
She is a 1966 Morris Minor Traveller that captivated Joan Dallas at their initial meeting at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in 1998.
Mrs. Dallas and her family moved to England in November 1996 when her husband, Lt. Cmdr. Dave Dallas, was assigned to Northwood, just outside London. There she met another Navy wife, Carrie Aragall, who had a Morris Minor convertible. "That was the cutest car I've seen in my life," Mrs. Dallas said.
Cmdr. and Mrs. Dallas had been shopping the new-car showrooms for a needed second car until the encounter with the friend's Morris Minor, which quickly changed the plan.
"I had fallen in love with my friend's Morris Minor convertible," Mrs. Dallas said.
"I loved the body of the Morris with its curved bonnet and wings, and its small size would also be perfect for maneuvering down narrow roads and parking. I wanted a Morris," she said.
From October 1948 until April 1971 a total of 1,619,958 Morris Minors designed by Alex Issigonis were manufactured. The ash-framed Traveller model was introduced in October 1953 and was the last Morris Minor off the assembly line in 1971.
That's why the Dallas family was attending the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Morris Minor at Blenheim Palace in 1998. "I figured this would be a terrific opportunity to see lots of Morris Minors, talk to their owners and learn more about these cars," Mrs. Dallas said.
She acknowledged that they went to the gathering looking for a convertible. However, she said, "My son, Benjamin, and I became quite taken with the ash-framed Traveller wagon."
She was so taken with the car that she became the seventh owner of a 1966 almond-green Traveller that she bought at the show. Bumper-to-bumper, it is 12 feet, 5 inches long, 5 feet, 1 inch wide and a half inch more than 5 feet high. The car rides on an 86-inch wheelbase supported by 5.20x14-inch tires.
The Morris was immediately put into daily use, Mrs. Dallas said, "except when the weather was really bad. It handles beautifully and it's the easiest car to drive."
In July 1999 Mrs. Dallas delivered her beloved car to Southampton where the 1,821-pound car was loaded onto a ship bound for the port of Baltimore.
Earlier she had discovered that among the Morris Minor aficionados in the United Kingdom there were certain "accepted-practice engine, transmission and suspension modifications."
Her car's original 0.7-liter, four-cylinder engine had been replaced with a later-model 1.3-liter Marina engine fed by a single S.U. carburetor. Zero to 60 mph acceleration with the original engine was 30 seconds but improved with the more-powerful engine to 25 seconds.
Such improvements are common along with suspension parts to match the new power plant. The car now rides on 13-inch tires and has telescopic shock absorbers with servo-assisted front disc brakes.
Before shipping the Traveller to the United States where the car was likely to encounter roads that could accommodate a sustained high speed, Mrs. Dallas followed the advice of her mechanics in London. They replaced the original Morris four-speed nonsynchromesh gearbox with a Ford Sierra five-speed transmission.
Mrs. Dallas happily retrieved her car at the pier and drove it home to Dumfries, Va., without incident. The car had made the trans-Atlantic crossing with no damage.
The car came with the Deluxe package that includes the padded parcel shelf under the dashboard, the passenger-side visor, the rear-seat armrest, the heater and the rear floor mats.
After a couple of years the then-35-year-old car was showing signs of wear. "The front fenders were getting tatty," Mrs. Dallas said, "and the original structural wood was deteriorating."
In June 2001 she placed her Morris Minor Traveller in the hands of John Tokar, owner of Vintage Restoration Ltd. He stored the car for six months before work began.
"My car had never broken down on me," Mrs. Dallas said. "It's the most reliable car I've ever owned." She took it to the restoration shop to ensure the second 35 years would be as good as the first 35 years.
The wooden part of the car is integral to the structure and needed to be replaced.
Mrs. Dallas telephoned old contacts in England to obtain a raw wood frame kit that she was able to finish herself before delivering it to the restoration shop.
The inset panels are aluminum with an aluminum rear roof panel that is bolted to the front-end assembly.
The ash-framed rear doors also have aluminum panels.
Once started, the restoration took seven months.
As parts were needed Mrs. Dallas would find them through friends she had made in England via telephone or e-mail. The parts were usually delivered within five days.
Now that her Traveller is completely restored, Mrs. Dallas finds her like-new old car delivers 37 miles per gallon.
The fuel tank has a 6-gallon capacity.
"The car is like furniture," Mrs. Dallas said. It has two sliding windows on each side and one jackport to lift both wheels on a side. Additionally, the engine hood has a pair of chrome external hinges.
The rear barn doors are hinged with external hardware. On either outboard side of the doors is, from the top:
Reflector.
Amber turn signal.
Red tail/brake light.
Mrs. Dallas was surprised during the restoration process when an axle shaft was required and none of her United Kingdom suppliers was able to respond.
Amazingly, she was able to find the part in Benton, Ark.
The 95 mph speedometer in the center of the dashboard on the right-hand-drive vehicle is optimistic. The forte of this car, which can be turned in a 33-foot circle plus an inch, is its nimbleness.
Mrs. Dallas' husband is never at a loss on gift-giving occasions. He has already honored her birthday, Mother's Day, Christmas and anniversary occasions with a radiator, Lucas sports ignition coil, anti-roll bar and exhaust.
Mrs. Dallas is always looking for ways to improve Miss Iris. "I just love my car," she said.


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