Mirabelle Classic Cars

...cars for every occasion...

Make Minor White One - Minor Monthly February 2008

We are all aware of the universal appeal of the humble Morris Minor which would quite happily sit on the drive of a council house in Salford, or a stately home in Somerset, which is why they have become so popular for use as wedding transportation. Off the top of my head I can't think of any other family saloon from the same era that has such appeal, normally for use on such a prestigious occasion you have to look for a luxury vehicle along the lines of a Rolls Royce or an old Bentley. The Minor has for a long time been used for weddings but it seems in recent years they have become even more popular, to find out why we took a trip to see Andrew and Judith Bywater who between them run Mirabelle Classic Cars who specialise in providing Morris Minors for any occasion.


1. What wedding cars do you currently have in use?

We currently have two matching Olde English White convertibles fully restored to Series 5 specification. SSJ 367 (Mirabelle) and JYC 447D (Maribelle). Maribelle has just been completed ready for the 2008 season, and is to replace our Snowberry White convertible (381 XKL) which we plan to sell in the spring.

2. How long have you used a Morris Minor Convertible?

We have owned Mirabelle since 1999. She was acquired in order to be restored for the purpose of wedding hire, which enabled us to have her spec'd and painted to our requirements. This followed an inspiring story by Roger Martin who was hiring cars down in Sussex at the time, and we thought it would be a nice way of developing a business from our hobby. Right from the beginning we've been conscious of the fact that in this very public situation, we are acting as ambassadors for the Morris Minor, and as such have been anxious to present them in the best condition possible.

3. What year, model, colour etc is the Minor?

Mirabelle (SSJ 367) is based on a 1960 genuine convertible shell. She was originally grey in colour but as she was rebuilt for the purpose of wedding hire, we had the opportunity of changing the colour to Olde English White with red hood and interior. We were also able to make other changes to post-1964 specification, such as flashing indicators, parallel windscreen wipers, bigger brakes, along with a 1098cc engine and gearbox. We were also able to incorporate some safety features, such as front and rear inertia seatbelts and a laminated windscreen. Maribelle (JYC 447D) is a 1966 car, and was originally Trafalgar blue. Again an original convertible, but unlike Mirabelle, being a '66 car, she was already our ideal specification. She came to us as a rolling shell painted again in Olde English White, but we were able to match the exact colour from the glovebox lid of Mirabelle, and again she has red hood and interior, inertia belts and laminated screen. To see both cars together makes quite an impression, as you might see the occasional convertible, but never two quite so closely matched.

4. Did you have the car restored/rebuilt for you, if yes what was done and who did it, if no what is the history behind the car and where did it come from?

Each car was restored by a different Minor specialist - Mirabelle was a complete restoration, and Maribelle as stated earlier as a rolling shell for Andrew to fit out. Although both restorations turned out alright in the end, we had to overcome a number of different issues with each restorer.

5. How popular is the Minor?

We find that the Morris Minor fills a niche market in the wedding hire situation, rather than being mainstream like limousines etc. People who find us through our website www.mirabelleclassiccars.co.uk are generally motivated to find something a little bit unusual or different. Quite often we find that individuals have spent some time looking for that "special car" initially not necessarily a Morris Minor. This then presents us with the challenge but also the pleasure of having to travel some distance to provide their transport, which is better than driving to the local church every weekend. It means we can get out and about and visit new places and enjoy the cars.

6. What type of people go for the Minor?

It's difficult to generalise as all people are different. We do tend to find a lot of our clients are university educated and for some reason we're particularly popular with teachers and nurses. Quite often we are hired by people who don't currently own a Minor, but remember being driven to school on the back seat of one and wish to relive this experience on their special day. Our Minors have given us the opportunity to visit some very "well-heeled" venues where the guests all drive Mercedes and BMW's, and the bride is looking to arrive in a car that provides a characterful contrast. Recently we've seen an increase in the number of people booking for civil partnership ceremonies.

7. Why do you think it is such a popular car?

Unlike most modern cars, the Minor has a "face", ie two eyes and a smiley face, and in this respect, it is seen as having a personality of it's own, which we try to perpetuate by naming our cars. It is also quintessentially British, and looks particularly good outside a traditional stone built church in a typical country village, and because of this we have been booked on a number of occasions by brides and grooms who have foreign partners, particularly Americans.

8. Have you had any problems with it breaking down or not making it to a wedding?

Thankfully, no, and long may it continue! As they are simple cars, there's less to go wrong, especially if well maintained which ours are. Andrew is our mechanic and chief driver!! To date, we've only experienced a few small faults which haven't prevented us from completing the weddings, such as a puncture, a dynamo bearing, a fuel leak, and a broken fan blade in well over a hundred weddings.

9. Do you have any funny/unusual stories regarding the Minor in use?

In the many weddings that we've driven for, we've experienced many amusing incidents, in some cases amusing after the event, such as: a bride splitting a seam in her dress with Andrew trying to pin her back in outside the church; a number of very pregnant bridesmaids - interesting with speed humps and Minor suspension; on one occasion, the best man took the bride's dress to church in a suit carrier which he thought contained her "going away" outfit; and a bride who upon arriving at church asked me to turn around and head back home much to the consternation of onlookers as she'd forgotten her veil.

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