Ashley Cleave's Morris

In 1974, I was offered the chance to buy Ashley Cleave's hillclimb car. This unique competition car started life in November 1936 as a series II Morris 8 saloon. Ashley acquired it shortly afterwards from an insurance company as a burnt-out, written-off wreck. He rebuilt it, supercharged it, hammered it up the road and promptly broke the diff. The final drive unit was a weakness of the Morris 8, even with the original, rather gutless, sidevalve engine, so he redesigned the diff, using a Ford diff cage, which was much stronger.

Here is the author, hillclimbing the Ashley Cleave Morris at Shelsley Walsh on 6th June 1976 At Shelsley Walsh

Ashley used the car both as daily transport and as a competition car in local and national events. It was a particularly good trials car, with ample ground clearance and skinny, large-diameter pre-war wheels and tyres. He also raced it at Brooklands, and in hillclimbs, sprints and speed trials.
During the war, motor sport was suspended, so Ashley took the opportunity to replace the engine with the larger, ohv unit from a Morris 10/4 M. This had the same XPAG block as the T series MGs, so it was amenable to a wide range of tweaks designed for MG owners. Continuous development was the name of the game, so by the time Ashley Cleave retired from active motor sport in 1974, the car had telescopic shock absorbers, 13" diameter wheels carrying low-profile tyres and a lightweight aluminium, 2-seater body, not to mention a 14 gallon fuel tank, giving it a full-tank range of over 400 miles. In this guise, it was not so clever at trials, but as a hillclimb and sprint car, it took a lot of catching in its class.

The Ashley Cleave Morris at Prescott. Prescott

When I bought the car, I was serving in the RAF in East Anglia, and ran it for about 3 years at Shelsley Walsh, Prescott and Curborough. Today's speed event classes do not readily accommodate this car competitively, but I had a lot of fun hurling it up the hills, and it is more than capable of giving modern roadgoing sports cars something of a surprise.

Updated 13 September 1996

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