Sally Phillips from Didcot, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom hated to have to drive in a modern car, so she bought an old Morris Minor. One thing led to the other and now she drives around in what must be one of the most beautiful Morris Minor Custom in the world.
By Sally Phillips
It all started when I bought my first Morris Minor (Bettie No.1) back in 2008. It was a gloss black 1966 2 door saloon that I bought off eBay for £700, which was all I could muster at that time. I didn’t care though, I just wanted to be driving a classic car, and having just passed my driving test, I was determined not to be stuck with a modern car that I hated. Bettie No.1 was jacked up at the back, had a red furry interior, racing steering wheel and slot mags. I was didn’t know much about the custom car scene, and had just made some new friends in the UK Kustoms car club. It wasn’t long before I knew I wanted her chopped, so, in my birthday of that year, a few of the members came to help me chop her. After a successful weekend I drove back very happy indeed! But it wasn’t to last…
I loved it, but being young and naive (and bought it without looking on eBay), I had no idea of the extent of the trouble underneath the car. Not until the MOT had expired later that year, and the garage showed me why they wouldn’t be issuing another one, did I realise. The chassis legs were rotten right through (the guy showed me by poking his screwdriver clean through it), sills rotten away, only having the outer sill holding them together, and we found strange lumps of newspaper with grey gunk, being held in place with chicken wire as fixes to these problems. This was pretty much the end for Bettie No.1.
1963 Morris Minor 2 Door Saloon is what Sally’s unique Custom is based on.
Bettie No.2, ‘Bettie Bitch’ (the one that you see in the pictures before you now) came in 2012. She’s a 1963 Morris Minor 2 Door Saloon and when I bought her, was an absolute mess. There were no panels, it had been sat outside a workshop for 12 years, there was a huge dent in the roof, the floor pans had rusted out, the wheels had seized on and there was no engine, no interior and no glass. Even the back axle had rusted through. Talk about a mammoth project! But I got it for £200.
This is how it all started in our small shed beside our house. Stripped from everything and braced with rods to make sure the body would hold its shape when the top would be removed. 5 inches where marked and removed from the A-Pillars.
However, prior to finding Bettie, I had found love with John ‘Chopper’ Phillips, an amazingly talented and renowned custom car builder in the UK, famed for building the Copper orange Austin A50, ‘Koppa Kruiser.’ It was at this point that I started to discover my love for custom cars in greater depth, and particularly, those of the 1940’s and 1950’s. John and I always talk about cars, even before we got together, so when we did; it was only a matter of time before it was in the pipelines for us to build something together. I’ve always loved British classics, which prompted me to choose the Morris Minor, but even more so, I adore the American customs of the 1940’s and 1950’s. I wanted to bring the two together, and for this car to look like a ‘tail dragger/lead sled’ custom of the early 40’s, but to still be a British car. I wanted to make it appear longer than it actually is, so we jotted down some ideas, which included a hefty chop and coupe.
The roof was completely removed, the A-pillars cut and then we put the roof back one, tacked the A-Pillars and looked how much needed to be removed from the rear of the roof for the flow and coupe feel I was looking for.
New panels were shaped to finish the rear of the roof and the new longer catwalk. With the real fun part of creating the overall shape of the body behind me I was able to get started on the bit less fun stuff… rust repair. The floors were really bad, and needed quite a bit of work. The engine compartment was completely cleaned and repaired where needed.
Here you can see the unfinished roof/catwalk section next to the near primer ready body. Lots of work to get it all shaped the way I had it in my mind. The B-pillars were angled forward for the instant speed look.
The relatively small body made it easy to put it on its side in the shed so that I could do the work underneath the body. The fenders where going to be molded in to the body, but I widened them almost and inch first. The new floor is nearly finished and the tunnel was raised.
With the top done, the fenders widened and molded into the body it was now time for the full fade-away fender extensions. Here you can see it in the early stages. Every time I had to see how things really looked, like on the chop, or in this case the fade-away fender I pulled the car outside. Our shed is very small and I just cannot stand back far enough to get a good look.
The engine was completely cleaned, worked on and detailed as much as possible, then put back into the engine bay. The flow of the fade-away panels was exactly what I was looking for, to I continued…
MG Midget headlamp rims where extend with one inch and welded to the front fenders. The grille opening was completely reshaped and the hood corners rounded, it all started to look like my dream Custom Car. Very happy with the result so far.
With all the body work done its time for primer and fine tuning of the body. At this point the door jambs have already been painted gloss paint and was are almost ready for the super gloss black paint. Look at how nice the full fade away fenders work with the overall flow of the car.
The car has been painted and we are working had putting it all back together. I cannot wait to start driving it. The photo on the right is actually the first time the finished car sees the light of day… yeeeeah!
We have spent the past two and a half years building this together, despite me being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in early 2014. I have to say that the main credit has to go to my husband John. He kept on with the build when I haven’t been well, and has shown me what it is like and how, to build a kustom, from start to finish. My fondest memory has to be when we chopped and coupe’d my car, on one autumn weekend together. It was hard work, but was awesome and very satisfying by the end of it.
Finished at last… And it looks so great. with the flowing lines of the fade-away fenders the couped roof, skirted and widened rear fenders. The side trim is a modified Volvo Amazon trim… Just as I had envisioned it to be.
Front 3/4 view looks as good as the rear view. Perfect flowing lines from the fenders and the extended headlights, new grille created from modified Morris Isis grille parts, and rounded hood corners all work very well together.
And then my first night out with the finished car… so proud!
And the best thing… cruising with my husband John…
The modified Jaguar E-Type side markers look really great being used as taillights. The original trunk of the Morris had a large recess for the license plate. I wanted to have the plate mounted on the rear bumper so we removed the recess and filled it in for a super clean look. The licence plate guard is two stock over-riders and a pair of shelf brackets welded together to fit on top
It has been a gigantic project, but has been well worth it for the finished result. She is stunning. We have both worked hard on this project together, and can’t wait to start the next one.
My favourite thing about this awesome hobby is learning about the history of custom and hot rod cars. It fascinates me what the car builders did back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and I love how it is being kept alive by the cars and those who build them today. I have also met some wonderful, lifelong friends through this hobby. We all have such a passion for the cars and the lifestyle, which is an absolute joy.
John has got a Volvo Amazon which is the next project to finish, and then his 1949 Mercury, which is his dream car, that we want to finish. I would love my next project to be a 1932 Ford Coupe or roadster, something to get on the drag strip with. My absolute dream would be a 1938 Ford Sedan Convertible or 1940 Mercury (as inspired by Nick Matranga’s 1940 Mercury, built by Barris Kustoms).
Other plans include cruising around a lot!
Sally Phillips’ 1963 Morris Minor 2 Door Saloon
Body/ Custom Fabrication:
- 5 inch chop to windshield and A-pillars, approx. 7 inches out of rear roof
- Cantered B-pillars
- Catwalk extend with three inches
- Fitted rear roof section and windshield surround from earlier split screen Morris Minor
- Fade-aways added to the fenders
- Widened rear fenders with 20mm.
- Extended fender down, bumpers down (front 1 inch, welded splash panel, made new grill opening, extended back bumpers down 1 and 1/2, so splash panel meets trunk aperture)
- Frenched headlights – MG Midget headlamp rims, extended 1 inch, return added then welded to wings, with the headlight being inserted from behind
- Rear lights modified Jaguar side marker lamps
- Extended doors down to fit flush
- Rear chassis monocoque z’d
- Smoothed trunk lid
- Extended and peaked the hood and lifted top profile
- Rounded and welded front corners
- Modified Morris Isis grille
- modified Volvo Amazon trim
- Made flush fit fender skirts
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