Martin Morris

Martin Morris

22/3/1931 - 24/2/2006

Motor Racing was certainly in the family genes as his father Oscar was a successful driver at Brooklands before the Great War. Martin started his motoring career early and kept a motor bike hidden at a nearby café while he was at school at Radley and continued to use bikes while doing his National Service in Northern Ireland. It was in Northern Ireland where Martin honed his four wheel skills on armoured cars (with pre-selector gearboxes) and a Big Six Bentley he had acquired. With little money Martin rescued bald tires for the Bentley from scrap yards and enjoyed the challenge of learning to keep the Bentley on the slippery wet Irish roads. It was during his National Service that Martin fell in love with the Le Mans Replica Nash after seeing them racing in the T.T. on the Dunrod circuit. It is slightly ironic that perhaps if National Service had not intervened Martin could perhaps have got his Motor Racing career off along side the likes of contemporaries such as Stirling Moss.

Instead his family business, Ambrosia Ltd, the creamed rice business was beckoning and thoughts of racing were put on hold as he joined United Dairies to learn the engineering side of the business. In 1957 he purchased a much admired Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica and after two years of everyday use he started competing in Hill Climbs. Martin also found in a junk yard for ¤25 a Speed Six Bentley that had been turned into a break down truck during the war. After recommissioning the Bentley was also used in competition and later became the tow vehicle for his beloved E.R.A. R11B affectionately known as ‘Humphrey’. Purchased in 1962 it is the E.R.A that Martin was perhaps most closely associated with, scoring many victories in vintage and historic events in England and overseas. Martin had an enviable race craft with a laid back appearance and super smooth style that invariably saw him at the front of the pack. He was and still is, the only person to win both the Historic Seaman Trophy and the Vintage Seaman Trophy on the same day, a feat that he achieved at Oulton Park in 1973. In total Martin and ‘Humphrey’ scored 11 Seaman Trophy victories: to these, his elder son, David, has since added another six. In the early 1960s Martin would often get into the top ten runs for the RAC Hill Climb Championship with the E.R.A. despite the car being 30 years old!

As well as racing his E.R.A., Martin also competed extensively and successfully at home and abroad in his other cars, his ex- works D-Type Jaguar OKV 3 and his ex-works C-Type Jaguar LFS 672 as well as guest spots in cars such as Type 51 Bugatti and Talbot 105. The most modern racing car in his stable at one stage was an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Some other highlights of his career include victories at historic races in Monaco in the E.R.A.  in 1979 and D-Type in 1983, he also took fourth place with the E.R.A. in 1982 while only running on 5 cylinders, and made fastest lap in John Marks’ Type 51 Bugatti in 1984 before clutch problems intervened. In many of these races, he was on pole position and posted the fastest lap. Martin also took place at the Retrospective Races at Le Mans in 1973 and 1978, finishing third on each occasion, and achieved the highest speed ever officially recorded by a D-Type on the Mulsanne straight- 187mph. In the classic 50s tradition, he regularly drove to events, including Monaco. In 1976 he took OKV 3 on a tour of California and won the ‘Tribute to Jaguar’ meeting at Laguna Seca beating ex World champion Phil Hill in another D-Type. In 1978 he was named Jaguar Driver of the Year.

Martin raced successfully throughout the 1980s, including a trip to New Zealand in the D-Type where he competed in nine races and covered 4,000 miles on the road.  Unfortunately heart problems meant he had to surrender his racing licence in 1990. He retained a speed/hill climb licence which he used to the full, and took every opportunity of using his cars particularly the E.R.A. and Frazer Nash. International motoring trips included Ollon Villars in Switzerland, Tunisia, Angouleme in France, New Zealand and Australia while at home he continued to drive at various hill climbs and speed events such as Aintree. His last competitive hill climb event was in 2005.

In addition to racing the cars Martin did virtually all his own race preparation and no doubt passed this talent and interest to his oldest son David who runs his own historic race preparation business. His other son Miles also became heavily involved in the racing car world and runs his own specialist historic car consultancy and brokerage business based over in the USA.

With thanks to Miles Morris. Click below to visit his web site.

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