A Personal Tribute to Micheal Wortley From Dennis Holt01/10/2017
On leaving school, Michael trained as a car mechanic with Gillots of Loughborough before joining the Army in the early ‘50s. After seeing active service with the Royal Leicestershire Regiment, he returned home and continued his career, becoming passionate about old cars. Michael joined the Bullnose Morris Club some 50 years ago with his Morris Oxford Hoyle bodied Flatnose Saloon.
In 1966, the Club wished to restrict membership exclusively to Bullnoses; this idea was rejected by the Flatnose members and Michael agreed to represent them as the Flatnose Secretary on the Club committee. Over a number of years, he worked hard to raise the profile of the Flatnose Mor- ris and established a place for them within the Club. Those of us who own Flatnose Morris cars owe a great deal to Michael for his persistence all those years ago.
He enjoyed going to the rallies with his wife, Margaret and children, David, Robert, Joanne and Jonathan. He had success with his Flatnose, winning prizes and it was during this time that his reputation for vehicle restoration grew. In the late ‘60s he restored Brian Moore’s Morris one ton van and with Brian’s further encouragement, Michael went full-time with his restoration business in 1973.
Michael’s restoration portfolio included a wide variety of cars from all eras. Michael showed that he was an intuitive and ingenious engineer, restoring and maintaining sports cars, veterans, vintage and classics. A number of Club members will know Michael for his special expertise with Morris cars and the restoration and maintenance he carried out for them.
After his first Flatnose, Michael’s own cars included a Bullnose (two seater with dickie), another Flatnose Saloon and later a Flatnose Tourer. In the ‘80s he became well know for his red two- seater 1927 Morris Oxford Sports ‘Yeltrow’ Special which he designed and built himself. Michael
and Robert campaigned the special in Vintage Sports Car Club events with some success and they was to be seen at many Club rallies.
Through his passion for Morris cars, Michael submitted many articles for the Club magazine show- ing his immense technical knowledge and enthusiasm. He organised a number of rallies for the Club, showcasing his beloved home county of Leicestershire on each occasion.
Michael held a lifelong passion for motorsport and was a very early member of the Brooklands So- ciety, dedicated to preserving the historic race circuit and airfield; indeed Brooklands’ survival as a museum today is a testament to those founder members. He maintained his interest for cars throughout his life, later going on to enjoy a Wolseley Messenger and a Traction-Avant Citroen Light 15. Michael concentrated in later life on his passion for local history. He gave ‘Magic Lantern’ slide shows of historical pictures of his home village, Shepshed, raising many thousands of pounds for local charities.
For my part, I owe a great deal to Michael; people often ask “How did you get involved with vintage cars?”. It was through Michael, who was restoring Brian Moore’s Morris vintage van back in the late 1960’s.
Some woodwork needed to be repaired on the body and Michael asked for my help. I also just happened to have a newly built garage (and no car) and so worked on the van body at home. I enjoyed the project and in the spring of 1971, after the van was fully restored, Brian Moore invited Michael and me to accompany him on the London to Brighton Commercial run, where, to our satis- faction, we won the cup for the best restoration. And so my love affair with old cars had begun!
Brian asked me if I would be interested in owning a vintage car of my own and having said that I would, he contacted me informing me of a Morris Six that was for sale but in need of full restora- tion. I told Michael, and full of enthusiasm as usual, he arranged for us to go and see the car which was in Surrey. Using money from a recent Premium Bond win, I bought the car from the el- derly owner (there were in fact three cars, one complete with the others in bits). Michael gave his expert advice and so began the long process of restoration with his help. Seven years later, I had a magnificent 1929 Morris Six MM8346 which I proudly took to many Bullnose Morris events with my family in tow! Many years later, I used the spare parts to build my Morris Sports Special which I still enjoy driving along the country lanes of Leicestershire.
I have happy memories of the rallies that Michael organised during his time with the club. On one occasion we visited the famous Taylors’ Bell Foundry in Loughborough. Another time, in the evening we all met for our meal; the chef accidentally set fire to our steaks, with the whole kitchen and later the restaurant being consumed with smoke! There was a lot of hilarity, but despite a little discomfort it was all taken in good part and eventually the meal was enjoyed, maybe with the help of the local Ruddles County Ale… On another rally organised by Michael, we were all invited to go around the local hosiery factory where thousands of socks were produced each week. They even made the members especially designed socks with the Bullnose Logo as a gift. In the evening we all climbed aboard a steam train at the famous Great Central Railway in Loughborough, where we had our dinner overlooking Swithland Reservoir as the sun went down – what memories?
There are many owners who enjoyed the services and help of Michael, myself included. When my Morris Six Special was finished, he told me that I had done a good job and that compliment meant a great deal to me. Yes! Life’s journey has been made richer being alongside Michael (my wife’s cousin). He was a generous man; with his time, knowledge, family and friendship. We will miss you Michael so much!