City Sighting – Morris Minor, Jor Bagh
A ‘purple vomit’.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One evening The Delhi Walla came face-to-face with a Morris Minor. It stood on a quiet lane in central Delhi’s tree-lined Jor Bagh.
The Wikipedia describes the aforementioned vehicle as a “British economy car that debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show, London, on 20 September 1948.”
The poor dear must have made a long journey to the Indian capital. It was parked in front of a ‘No Parking’ sign and looked wealthy and well-groomed. The rear windscreen carried the sticker of Coorg Wildlife Society. The license plate WBD suggested that the car’s original owner might have been a resident of Calcutta (WBD was used for West Bengal until 1973).
Morris Minor was designed by Alec Issigonis, a British-Greek designer of cars. Initially codenamed Mosquito, its prototype was famously derided by Lord Nuffield, the company’s owner, as resembling a poached egg. The first model came off an automobile factory in Oxfordshire.
In 1971, the four-wheeler was discontinued, aged 23. But it continues to be sighted — on roads as well as in books.
In his 1995 novel The Information, Martin Amis referred to it as the ‘gentlest of cars”.
In July 2006, a leader appeared in The Guardian under the title “In praise of… the Morris Minor”. The introductory passage was a letter of love:
“There was once a Morris Major, too, but it is the postwar, bulbous, trustworthy Morris Minor that will be remembered as the nation’s favourite family car. Even the youngest example on the roads is now at least 35 years old, and many have reached their half-century, still chugging along, and this week voted the most British motoring design of them all in a survey ahead of the London motorshow – beating the London taxi and Routemaster bus.”
Three years later, Ray Newell, an authority on the Morris Minor and national secretary of the UK-based Morris Minor Owners Club, published his book Morris Minor: 60 Years on the Road. He wrote:
“The very mention of the words Morris Minor – let alone the sight of one of these all-time favorite British cars – evokes personal memories and recollections in people from all walks of life, both in Britain and around the world.”
A year earlier the veteran British journalist Martin Wainwright had paid homage to his beloved in the form of Morris Minor: The Biography. Reviewing it on the pages of The Guardian, author Kathryn Huges described the subject of the book as her “sole/soul car”. She wrote:
“In this gentle potter of a book, Wainright tracks down as many of the surviving Minors as is practical. He chases them up suburban drives and finds them languishing under tarpaulins on the Irish coast. Elsewhere we watch as a caravanserai of Minors climbs wheezily up the Yorkshire Dales for a cancer charity rally, and spot one chuntering along a country lane to deliver a bride to the church on time. Wainwright even goes in search of the semi-mythical Morris Million, 349 of which were produced to commemorate the moment in 1960 when the millionth car rolled off the assembly line. Only 63 “Millions” survive today, each conspicuous by its limited edition shade known within the Minor community as ‘purple vomit’.”
The Delhi sun had begun to set. The golden rays infused the car’s colour with a pinkish tinge. Only a Minor member could confirm if this Mosquito spotted in Jor Bagh is a ‘purple vomit’ or not.