V8 Morris Minor gasser

A Morris Minor built for the Mud Run is a tribute to a major hero

Photographers: Peter Bateman

SCOTT Ribbons was one of the most fun-loving and free-spirited builders of nostalgia gassers in Australia, and he was also Les O’Connor’s cousin and childhood hero.

“Scott’s my cousin and he was also my dad’s apprentice mechanic,” says Les, who still struggles with the loss of Scott to a heart attack last November. “I remember being six years old and sitting on Scott’s lap driving his V8 Holden ute into Castlereagh Dragway. He was the one who got me right into cars. I was his shadow; I used to follow him everywhere.”

Scott built and ran cars with character. Having owned several tough Holdens over the years, he chose straight-six power for his two English-bred gassers, the Austin A40 known as ‘Wat Da?’ and the ‘Dorris The Morris’ Morris Minor, while his German-built Lloyd 600 was laid over a Suzuki chassis and fitted with a 350 Chev.

The last big memorable car event that Les and Scott attended together was the 2016 Mud Run in Gresford, NSW, where their sons actually rolled the Lloyd.

“Scott’s son Chad and my eldest son Lachlan rolled it, so the Lloyd’s a bit trashed at the moment,” Les says. “And since last year’s Mud Run was our last big outing together before Scott passed away, I decided to put a car together for this year. Because I know I’m struggling, and so his young bloke and his daughter would be struggling 300 times harder, so I thought: ‘Let’s do something.’”

Les contacted Scott’s son Chad and suggested they get a Morris up and running, and build it like Scott would have built it, which, according to Les, means “just putting it together with stuff you have at home, no big expense”.

The car, the motor, the diff and other bits were all donated. The Model A front end was a spare that Les had lying around, while the auto ’box was the old one out of his daily-driver ’52 Nash.

“My mate Mick Mann asked if I wanted a 400 Chev motor, because he was involved in a Morris gasser build but the plans had changed,” Les explains. “So I said: ‘If you give me the 400, I’ll buy the Morris.’ He made a few phone calls and the dude that was in it with him said: ‘Just give it to him.’ So I got the 400 as well as the Morris!”

Unfortunately, the 400 wasn’t a runner, and time was a factor, so Les and Chad plonked in a 327 Chev donated by fellow Death Dodgers member Paul Burke. Craig Richardson provided the WB one-tonner diff, steering arms and other pieces, and Gav Mellin lent a hand with the signwriting.

“It took us six weeks all up, from picking up the car to getting it on the trailer for the Mud Run,” Les says. “It was a big mission. But it felt important for me and Chad to be working on the car together and talking about old times. I think we got a bit of closure, y’know.”

And how did she go in the mud?

“The only way to drive it is flat-knackers,” Les says. “Hold it full noise and just steer it.”

Scott would have loved that.