The Mumford Marina Convertible

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An open-air family car

So far as we know this Government has yet to tax fresh air and those with sufficient energy and time can continue to exercise their limbs in beautiful parts of Britain far removed from the Whitehall bureaucrats. But what of the rest of us, those with little energy and/or time who also enjoy fresh air, but whose exercise is restricted to pushing pedals, and turning wheels? In the ’50s and early ’60s many British saloon cars were available from the manufacturers in convertible form but gradually they disappeared until only the Minor 1000 and the Herald/Vitesse remained. Now they too have departed and there is not one mass-produced, saloon-based, full four-seater convertible available from a British motor manufacturer.

This sad state of affairs has been a profitable one for Crayfords of Westerham: for those who cannot afford a Jensen or Rolls convertible or even a Stag (which, with its restricted rear scat and boot room does not fit into the argument for a saloon-based converitable), Crayfords have produced for many years a range of convertibles on a wide variety of saloon car shells. In 1973 they were commissioned by W. Mumford Ltd., the West Country British Leyland distributors, to develop a convertible based on the Morris Marina Coupe, which has subsequently been put into production by Mumfords at their Plymouth works. The conversion is available on all the Marina coupes-1.3, 1.8 and 1.8TC —and before the weather broke early last

Autumn we were able to enjoy a brief spell with a Mumford Convertible based upon the ordinary 1.8.

A combination of white hood and purple coachwork embarrassed us, but other than this touch of effeminacy we found this clever conversion not unattractive, particularly with the hood down.

A novel feature is the broad, fixed, double anti-roll bar, which has fixed windows in between the side-pieces and a tinted window in its upper section. This adds stiffness and strength as well as safety and the “chassis” too is stiffened to prevent banana-shaped Marinas. Wind-up side-windows in the rear quarter locate in the rear edge of the roll bar. The standard screen and pillars are retained with a strengthening piece along the top to which are anchored the “up-and-over” clips for the hood. Faced with the problems of incongruous and possibly dangerous door window frames, Mumfords simply remove them.

Unlike most “saloon convertibles”, the Mumford Marina retains the full-width of its back seat, for the hood pivots above the seat line and the hinges when folded sit above the bodywork rather than disappearing into recesses on each side of the seat, as they did in the Herald, for example, Most of the roof section of the hood folds down into a hood compartment behind the seat, where it and the hinges are covered by a neat, metal-stud attached bag.

Operation of the good-quality PVC hood is reasonably quick and easy. The two buttons, one securing the frOnt of each of the rear quarter panels, are undone, the “up-andover” clips released from the screen rail, the front half of the hood, including the rail above the door, is folded back to the roll-bar, to which the hood fabric is attached by Velcro strips, the fabric is pulled out from between the hinged rails to prevent trapping, and the whole lot, including the Vybak rear window, is folded away into the hood compartment.

We had expected plenty of rattles, draughts and leaks from this large hood, but apart from mild drumming at speeds over 70 m.p.h. there was nothing to complain about. A spell of torrential rain failed to penetrate, although given a powerful enough storm against the side of the parked car we’d expect some trickles down the insides of the windows. The only real drawback to the hood proved to be poor rearwards visibility, massive blindspots being created by the rear corners. Not that the standard Marina coupe can offer a much better view rearwards.

Many of Crayfords earlier convertibles severely lacked torsional rigidity. The same cannot be said of this design they have produced for Mumfords, the secret of success being undoubtedly that roll-over bar. If there is any body flexing there is so little that it can be regarded as insignificant.

Because Mumfords do not touch the running gear there is little point in dwelling on the characteristics of the Marina in general except to say that on re-acquaintance with British Leyland’s oft-criticised model we were surprised how much better the later ones handle than those dreadful early models. The single-carburetter 1,798-c.c. engine the test car was quite surprisingly quick, revving easily and feeling quite unfussed at over 90 m.p.h., the gearchange was quick and accurate and the brakes were reasonably good. The “sow’s car” is certainly much improved.

Mumford’s conversion on any of the three Marina coupes costs £550, so that the total cost of the 1.8 tested would be £2,156, no longer a ridiculous price to pay for a fairly exclusive motor car which offers something others do not. Mumford convertibles can be ordered through British Leyland Morris Dealers and Distributors and other inquiries should be directed to W. Mumford Ltd., Drake House, Lairs Bridge Road, Plymouth (Plymouth 68411).—C.R.

Brighton Run, 1974

A nice pictorial souvenir of last year’s Veteran Car Run has been published by Lodgemark Press Ltd., the Karting publishers, at £1.40. It contains 112 clear pictures of veteranists undergoing their ordeal in last year’s Castrol/RAC event, for which MOTOR SPORT got neither the offer of a car, a seat thereon, nor even RAC passes for covering it. So we note with interest that all the cars did not have full crews of celebrities, as the VCC implied when we innocently inquired if a ride was available! Each picture shows a car in full cry on the Run, and it is interesting to compare subtle differences in those of the same make, type and year, the garb of the crews, etc. One error is captioning Sears’ 1904 18/28 Mercedes as a single cylinder car, which seems to have been picked up from the Official programme, while a Winton, and a car numbered as Mrs. Sister’s Panhard-Levassor (which is doubtful), are written off as “unidentifiable” by the caption-writer. But I like this one— similar photographic records of this and other old-car events should find a ready market. If you pay postage, you can buy these 112 pictures (including Poison’s 1894 Benz on the cover) from Bank House, Summerhill, Chislehurst, Kent—it works out at not much more than 1p a print.—W.B.

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The new Hon. Sec. of the flourishing Morgan 3-Wheeler Club is W. H. Lear, Flat 2, The Grange, Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA5 2LD.

* * *

Alfa Romeo introduced a 1.6-litre economy version of the Alfetta at the Brussels Motor Show last month. In all respects other than capacity it is identical to the Alfetta 1.8. Also announced at Brussels was the Alfasud L, the L denoting a more luxurious specification. Neither will be available in Britain until the early summer.