morris

I averted my eyes - Barbara's Story

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Having lived both north and south of the Yarra in Melbourne, I have innumerable experiences of the long drive along Punt Road and Hoddle Street. Two stand out for me:

Many years ago, a friend lent me her old Morris Minor in exchange for driving lessons. The car was poorly maintained but it got me around ok. One day, as I drove south on Punt Road, I saw a large truck lumbering up the hill in Toorak so I chose the right lane so I could overtake it – but I didn't allow for the slipping clutch on the Morris Minor. To my deep humiliation, no matter how hard I pressed on the accelerator, that old car could not do more than chug slowly up the hill, just keeping pace with the huge truck on my left.

I averted my eyes from the rearview mirror so I wouldn't have to see the look in the eyes of the driver trapped behind me, stuck in the slow dance of chugging up Punt Road Hill in first gear!

For many years I have enjoyed the company of my sister for dinner at my house in Thornbury. On Sunday 9 August 1987, she headed home as usual to Clifton Hill after the Sunday night movie – but called a short time later to assure us that she was safe. I was mystified until she told me that police had diverted her away from her usual route along Hoddle Street. When she arrived home she tuned in to the news to hear that armed men were marauding through her suburb shooting people indiscriminately. She was warned to stay indoors and not open the door to anyone until police could determine that all of the shooters were in custody.

It turned out that there was only one shooter, a disgruntled young man who lived around the corner from my sister. If she had left my house 15 minutes earlier she would have been caught up in one of the worst mass shootings in Melbourne's history and I may have lost my best friend.

The Morris 48 Vs Punt Road Hill - John's Story

About 60 years ago I bought my first car and was driving up Punt Road Hill. After a good run at it in third gear, I changed down to second, slowing down as I tried my hardest to climb this almighty hill. But second gear was not going to do it. I had the car halfway up but realised it was not going to make it. I stopped the Morris 48 model and engaged it in first gear. Even then I only just made it to the top.

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John's Story

Image from www.oldclassiccar.co.uk

Image from www.oldclassiccar.co.uk

I was about 7-years-old and my younger brother was 5. We rode with our father in his 1930s model Morris – a very small car with a very small engine – south down Hoddle Street. It was a bright Sunday morning in the late 1940s.

We crossed Punt Road bridge and Alexandra Avenue and proceeded to climb Punt Hill. The car ascended about halfway then stalled. We had to back down a little to the gutter, then push the car out to do a U-turn to drive back down the hill. (The little car had a crank handle to start the engine, but in this case the engine would restart as the clutch was let out when the car gathered speed.) My father thought that, with a bigger run at the hill, we could make it. 

But alas, on the second attempt the car reached only three-quarters of the way to the top before we had to stop. This time, however, my father was prepared and he stopped the car before it stalled. We could then safely back down and turn around under engine power.

My father still thought we could make it, but was concerned that if he took too big a run at the hill we would pass through the intersection so fast that we may not be able to avoid a collision if another car happened to be crossing Alexandra Ave. (At that time there were no traffic lights at the intersection so, although there was not much traffic, it was too dangerous to speed through.)

Fortunately a pedestrian saw our predicament and indicated that he would wait at the intersection and attempt to hold up any cars travelling east or west along Alexandra Avenue while we sped past! 

With the way supposedly clear, we travelled back up Hoddle Street some 200 metres past the end of the bridge, then gunned the little engine and flew through the intersection. The car proceeded beautifully up the hill, slowing considerably for the last 100 metres, then finally crested. Great rejoicing!